Breaking through the loss cycle of burnout: The role of motivation


Correspondence should be addressed to Lieke L. ten Brummelhuis, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Department of Work and Organizational Psychology, PO Box 1738, 3000 DR Rotterdam, The Netherlands. (e-mail:


We aimed to study burnout as a process that develops over time. On the basis of the Conservation of Resources theory (Hobfoll, 2002), we tested whether burnout induces a loss cycle, depleting resources, and enhancing demands. In addition, we investigated whether intrinsic job motivation and externally regulated job motivation attenuated or aggravated this loss cycle. Using a sample of 352 employees who answered online questionnaires in 2005 and 2007, we found that baseline burnout predicted future burnout that results from an increase in job demands (e.g., work overload) and a decrease in job resources (e.g., social support, information). Furthermore, external regulation aggravated the positive relationship between baseline burnout and demand accumulation. Intrinsic motivation attenuated the positive relationship between baseline burnout and resource loss. We conclude that intrinsic motivation is an important factor enabling employees to break through the negative cycle of burnout.