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Entrepreneurial Burnout - Causes, Consequences and way out

Entrepreneurial Burnout: Causes,
Consequences and Way Out
FIIB Business Review
7(1) 28–42
2018 SAGE Publications India
Private Limited
SAGE Publications
DOI: 10.1177/2319714518767805
Amina Omrane1
Amal Kammoun2
Claire Seaman3
Nascent entrepreneurs are frequently subject to a great number of professional stressors caused by their work activities and thus
making them potential candidates for burnout. This phenomenon may threaten their health as well as their new ventures. Indeed, it has
some detrimental effects due to the fact that those new business owners have few resources, energy and skills, enabling them to deal
with the psychosocial risks derived from the entrepreneurial burnout. The objective of this study is, then, to shed some light on the
concept of entrepreneurial burnout and its potential contributors. In order to reach this purpose, a review of the existing literature
is used as the basis for the development of a model that could form a fundamental tool to facilitate future research. By exploring the
causes as well as the consequences of the entrepreneurial burnout, an overview of the essential factors and methods that could help
to mitigate its main impacts would be proposed.
Professional Stress, Entrepreneurial Burnout, Causes and Consequences of Entrepreneurial Burnout, Strategies to Prevent Burnout
In an increasingly complex, changing and unpredictable
environment, an entrepreneur (or a new business owner,
a creator and an organizer) finds him/herself at the origin of
job creation, innovation and wealth, as well as the contribution to the economic, technical and social development
of his/her region, territory and notably country. Indeed,
he/she plays an essential role in fighting unemployment,
arranging the conception and development of new products
and services, creating added value, enhancing political and
technological changes, exploiting business opportunities
and introducing new business ideas. These benefits are the
results of perseverance, determination and all personal
skills of the entrepreneur who is engaged during the entrepreneurial process. ‘A business leader often invests body
and soul in the creation and the development of his project’
(Lobbe, 2014, p. 121). However, if the venture creation is
a crucial opportunity for an entrepreneur initiating value,
it is also a significant source of stress and the potential for
burnout (Shepherd et al., 2010). In this orientation, Cadet
and Chasseigne (2012, p. 69) reported that ‘a new business
creation is a work that leads to the entrepreneur’s satisfaction
as well as stress’.
The challenges of entrepreneurship, as it is postulated
here, are generated not only by the new venture creation
per se but also by the reactions of the entrepreneur exposed
to such problems (Jamal, 2007). ‘Entrepreneurship is not a
career where everything goes smoothly and without
difficulties’ (Sheehan & St-Jean, 2014, p. 2).
In this context, entrepreneurship is seen as a difficult,
stressful and demanding activity for the entrepreneur.
Moreover, the roles of the entrepreneur is subject, more
than others, to psychological and nerve pressure, loneliness,
lack of time and total involvement, especially during the
first years of the entrepreneurial process. This professional
background leads the entrepreneur to go through periods of
occupational stress (Ben Tahar, 2011, 2014a). Currently,
some entrepreneurs fail to deal with the stressors of their
Note: This paper is a modified version of the paper presented at 14th SGBED Conference “Global Connectivity, Knowledge and Innovation for
Sustainability and Growth: New Paradigms of Theory and Practice” in collaboration with Montclair State University, NJ, USA, 2016.
1 Assistant Professor (HDR), FSEG, Sfax, Tunisia.
2 PhD Student and Researcher, Management Science, FSEG, Sfax, Tunisia.
3 Professor at Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, Scotland.
Corresponding author:
Amina Omrane, Assistant Professor (HDR), FSEG, Sfax, Tunisia.
E-mail: amina.omrane@yahoo.fr
Omrane et al.
professional context, which will have a considerable
impact on their behaviour and/or on the future of their
companies. These stressors often cause burnout. In this
perspective, Fish (2007, p. 33) reported that ‘burnout is
often a result of acute stress’. Ward (2014, p. 173) also
added that ‘exposure to stress with insufficient recovery
results in breakdown and burnout’.
Research that deals with entrepreneurial failure is
relatively new and has not yet clearly defined differently
the concepts of stress and burnout that appear to be one of
the most remarkable causes of this phenomenon. Moreover,
in the literature, the terms ‘stress’ and ‘burnout’ are so
closely connected that there is sometimes confusion or a
mixture between them: currently burnout refers to the
existence of stress. However, when a high degree of stress
is felt by a person, it appears to be burnout. If the key
factors of burnout among teachers (Rascale & Bergugnat,
2012; Jaoul and Kovess, 2004; Ponnelle, 2008; Sénéchal,
Boudrias, Brunet, & Savoie, 2008), doctors (Delbrouck,
2007; Evain, Mekoa, Khiari, & Vincent, 2011; Jonckheer
et al., 2011; Truchot, 2009) and police officers (Drolet,
2011; Meylan, Boillat, & Morel, 2009; Queirós, Carlotto,
Kaiseler, Dias, & Pereira, 2013) have been the subject of
a great deal of research, nothing has been so far published
regarding the burnout in the entrepreneurship field.
Actually, the scarcity of studies undertaken in this line of
research can be explained in part by the fact that most of
the research studies deal with the positive aspects of the
entrepreneur’s personality (Ben Tahar, 2011).
In the light of these various observations, it is worth
tackling the issue about the key factors of the burnout among
entrepreneurs, as well as the best means to fight this
psychosocial risk. This article sets out to provide an overview
and develop for analysis within future research. To develop
the framework, this study revolves around three key parts.
First, the entrepreneurial burnout phenomenon, its basic
elements and the major negative externalities derived from it
will be evoked. Second, there will be a presentation of its
developmental causes. Finally, the different factors, methods
and practices that should be applied to mitigate the problem
are considered.
Burnout: Definitions and
Key Concepts
Burnout was defined, for the first time, as ‘a syndrome of
support professions, inability to adaptation of the intervener to a level of continuous emotional stress caused by
the working environment’ (Maslach, 1976; cited in Maaroufi,
Rzeigui, Ayari, & Abid, 2015). Then, it was regarded by
Freudenberger (1977) as a state of total exhaustion due
to the excessive use of personal resources and energy in
the course of professional exercise. This is reflected in the
feeling of failure or even debilitation (Freudenberger,
1977; cited in Maaroufi et al., 2015). Freudenberger and
Richelson (1980) assimilate burnout to ‘a state of chronic
fatigue, depression and frustration generated by the devotion
to a cause, a way of life, or a relationship, which fails to
produce the expected rewards and ultimately to reduce the
involvement and fulfillment at work’ (cited in Roumiguié
et al., 2011, p. 1). Moreover, Schaufeli and Enzmann (1998,
p. 36) go in the same direction by adding that it is
‘a sustainable, and negative state of mind linked with the
work affecting individuals’.
A more recent and focused definition is provided by
Korczak, Huber and Kister (2010) who identify a number
of its recognized dimensions. According to Schaufeli,
Leiter and Maslach (2009), the most commonly accepted
and used definition so far in the field of research on
entrepreneurship is that of Maslach (1986) that is based on
the fact that burnout is a syndrome of emotional exhaustion,
depersonalization and reduction of personal achievement
that appears among those who are professionally involved
with others. On the basis of the definition given by Maslach,
three types of aspects or dimensions of burnout can be
identified: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and
reduction of personal achievement. The first dimension of
the burnout, which relates to the feeling of emotional
exhaustion, refers to the depletion of the emotional
resources in response to a highly professional demanding
environment (Ben Tahar, 2014b). The subject will feel
exhaustion in the form of emotional fatigue at work—
a feeling of being empty and no longer capable of giving of
him/herself as he/she used to. This dimension reflects the
deterioration of the mental health state of the entrepreneur
and represents a risk for him/her (Ben Tahar, 2014b).
Emotional exhaustion is the key component of burnout
(Delaye & Boudrandi, 2010). It is also the greatest
reflection of this syndrome. The second factor of
the burnout is depersonalization, which corresponds to
the insensitivity to the environment, to the breakup with
colleagues and customers, to psychological disinvestment,
to withdrawal into isolation and to a negative attitude
towards others (Moisson, Fuhrer, & Cucchi et al., 2010).
It also corresponds to ‘dehumanization’ in the interpersonal
relationships (Delaye & Boudrandi, 2010). The third aspect
of burnout is the reduction of personal achievement, which
is the result of the first two aspects and it reflects a state of
doubt of the real capabilities of the individual (Delaye &
Boudrandi, 2010). It refers to a decline in self-esteem, a
sense of guilt, a devaluation of work and skills, and a belief
in his/her inability to effectively respond to his entourage
expectations (Roumiguié et al., 2011). It is a feeling of not
being effective, especially in relationships with others and
methods of work.
This dimension therefore results in a lack of motivation,
a lack of rigor and absenteeism. According to Delaye
and Boudrandi (2010), each of these dimensions has a
relatively specific meaning to the degree of the reached
burnout. Among other things, a high level of an
important burnout is reflected in a high score of its three
FIIB Business Review 7(1)
In this study, we support the definition of Ben Tahar
(2011) advancing that the entrepreneurial burnout is the
result of an acute and prolonged professional stress.
It is a physical, emotional and mental exhaustion state
resulting from an investment in demanding work situations.
It includes a triptych of depersonalization, reduction of
personal achievement and emotional exhaustion. Burnout
is a real individual and organizational problem for the
entrepreneur (Wincent & Ortqvist, 2009; Wincent,
Ortqvist, & Drnovsek, 2008). Therefore, the abundant
literature on burnout produced several definitions of this
phenomenon that suggests that, whenever it is mentioned,
it is closely correlated, and sometimes even confused with
the entrepreneurial stress.
Primary Sources of Burnout
Primary sources of burnout could be either internal
or external factors implicated in its creation and
Internal Factors Implicated in the
Development of Burnout
Using the definition of entrepreneurial burnout that we
have previously dealt with by emphasizing that burnout is
the outcome of a persisted negative entrepreneurial stress
state, it can be drawn that burnout is one of the ‘entrepreneurenvironment’ interaction consequences (Ben Tahar, 2014a;
Torrès, 2013). This is mainly caused by the entrepreneur’s
inability to deal with the stress-triggering factors called
stressors that are spread in his/her professional circle.
Therefore, the entrepreneurial burnout sources are those
associated with stress. They can be related either to the
entrepreneur and the entrepreneurial team or to an individual
project or environment. In what follows, some of the most
frequently cited sources are listed.
Research that exists in the area of the entrepreneurial
burnout has largely focused on external factors that impact
on the entrepreneur and may contribute to the burnout.
From different perspectives, much has been written on the
personal characteristics of the entrepreneur that contribute
to the development of entrepreneurship. The contribution
made by the personal characteristics of the entrepreneur to
the possible development of burnout is an area that would
require further research, but it is noted here that the
entrepreneur is a key factor in the entrepreneurial process
(Omrane, Fayolle, & Zeribi-Ben Slimene, 2011), playing
an important role in the acquisition, implementation and
control of the portfolio of skills that are essential for the
development of the entrepreneurial process.
Lack of Key Resources
The collection, arrangement and selection of main resources represent an essential precondition required for
the implementation and development of a new venture
(Filion, Borges, & Simard, 2006). In fact, resources reduce
not only the job pressures and the psychological and physical
costs but also the resource constraints at work, stimulate
development and personal achievement and/or profit from
motivational potential. Three key sets of resources have
been identified as vital: financial, social and informational
(Omrane, 2015). A considerable lack of financial, informational and social resources seems as an inhibiting factor
among entrepreneurs. The lack of funding could also
impede hiring, payment of employees, production of
market goods and services, meeting the bankers and shareholders’ requirements, expenditure coverage and so on.
Moreover, the risk of failure and stress is higher for the
entrepreneurs who have no sufficient information (about
the market and the potential competitors) to know the legal
issues and the implementation of their strategies. On the
other hand, the shortage of social resources, which is manifested through the fragility of the entrepreneur’s social
networks, is reflected in the absence of customers, suppliers
and social partners who could impede entrepreneurship.
For this purpose, a lack of resources needed to meet the
entrepreneurial, personal and social expectations could
trigger a state of entrepreneurial stress (Khelil & Khiari,
2013; Khelil, Khiari, Smida, Zouaoui, & Gomez-Mejia,
2010). In this perspective, Fernet, Torres, Austin and
St-Pierre (2016) as well as Upadyaya, Vartiainen and
Salmela-Aro (2016) underlined that burnout could be
considered as a process of resource loss, accordingly with
the conservation of resources theory. Indeed, Hobfoll
(2001) reported that the continued loss of resources,
particularly after a great deal of resource investment in
work, leads to the entrepreneurial burnout.
Skills Deficit
The acquisition and development of specific skills enable
the entrepreneur to achieve an entrepreneurial project and/
or to ensure an effective management of a new venture
(Nkakleu et al., 2013). In fact, these skills are necessary to
maintain the competitiveness, sustainability and development of the entrepreneurial project. Besides, they represent
a source of sustainable strategic advantages (Boughattas &
Bayad, 2008). Four types of key entrepreneurial skills need
to be distinguished: cognitive skills (search, sorting, and
selection of information, comparison, evaluation and
synthesis of information by developing solutions to
complex problems and so on), social skills (social persuasion and emotional intelligence, behavioural flexibility,
self-efficacy, social perception, impression management
and so on), action-oriented skills (using time and resources
efficiently, self-assessment, flexibility, initiative, plans of
action development, choosing a direction and accountability) and management skills (financial, accounting and
administrative management).
Several researchers believe that the lack of skills is one of
the generating factors of entrepreneurial failure (Hamrouni &
Akkari, 2012; Valéau, 2006). However, the fear of failure is
Omrane et al.
an important source of entrepreneurial stress (Patzelt &
Shepherd, 2011). Hence, the lack of skills, or the ‘nonappropriateness’ of skills to the position, could be a
source of entrepreneurial burnout. More particularly,
several authors emphasized that some ‘negative’ sociopersonal skills, such as negative affectivity and neuroticism,
are at the origin of the burnout development (Bühler &
Land, 2003; Fremont, 2015). Fernet et al. (2016) added that
low adaptive capacity, derived from low self-esteem,
low self-efficacy and low autonomous motivation, makes
entrepreneurs more emotionally responsive to events and
situations leading to burnout.
Indeed, neuroticism refers to people who tend to
sustainably show negative emotional states, such as
hostility, anxiety, depression, guilt, the low self-esteem,
tension, irrationality, shyness, mood disturbance, sadness,
embarrassment, shame, vulnerability and disgust. People
with high levels of neurosis are prone to irrational thoughts,
impulsive behaviour and apply bad strategies to adapt
themselves to stressful situations (Liang & Lin, 2015).
They may therefore show high levels of emotional
exhaustion (O’Neill & Xiao, 2010). Kim, Shin and Swanger
(2009) emphasized that neuroticism increases emotional
exhaustion and depersonalization, and therefore the
propensity to be exposed to burnout. In the same perspective,
Bühler and Land (2003) affirm that people with a high
level of neuroticism have high scores of emotional
exhaustion and depersonalization. Besides, people who
also have a negative affectivity are more affected by
the weight of organizational stressors, which increases
the likelihood of burnout development (Fremont, 2015;
Rouxel, Michinov, & Dodeler, 2016).
External Factors Implicated in Burnout
The entrepreneurial project-related sources of burnout are
mainly those that are associated with the organizational
climate, the risks incurred by the venture’s day-to-day
management as well as with the tensions of roles played by
the entrepreneur.
Tension and Ambiguity of Roles
In the course of his/her work, a person must meet various
expectations that are more or less explicitly formulated
for him/her and are reflected in terms of tensions that have
the form of role duplication and find their origin in the
professional sphere. The tensions of roles are part of the
business life (Wincent et al., 2008). In fact, they are associated with the rise of the level of emotional exhaustion
and thus with that of the entrepreneurial burnout. Moreover,
they have a negative effect on the employee well-being
by encouraging absenteeism and performance decline
(Morin, 2010). Being regarded as accelerating factors of
emotional exhaustion and generators of entrepreneurial resource exhaustion, the tensions of roles affect the
health of an entrepreneur, especially his/her mental health.
These factors lead also to the development of an unproductive behaviour during the entrepreneurial process
(Ben Tahar, 2014b). Heavy workload, ambiguity and
conflicts of roles can cause burnout. In this same perspective, the studies undertaken by Shepherd et al. (2010),
Upadyaya et al. (2016), as well as Leiter and Maslach
(2016), emphasized the role of specific factors such as work
overload, ambiguity and conflicts of roles in the development of burnout by acting on its three components.
Being characterized by the failure to achieve in time the
expectations that are returned to the entrepreneur, the role
overload is reflected by the entrepreneur’s professional
commitment and associated with the lack of social and,
particularly, personal support (Ben Tahar, 2014b).
According to Alis, Besseyre des Horts, Chevalier, Fabi
and Peretti (2011), when an individual is in situations where
the tasks imposed on him/her qualitatively (precision,
quality and required vigilance) and quantitatively (workload,
the pressure, the mass of information to deal with and so on)
exceed his strengths and capabilities, the role overload
occurs. This overload and job stressors are sources of
entrepreneurial stress, emotional exhaustion and burnout
(Ben Tahar, 2011; Fernet et al., 2016; Fried, Shirom,
Gilboa, & Cooper, 2008).
The role ambiguity is generated by unclear expectations
or the achievement of which is not possible due to the
lack of information, whereas roles’ conflicts are a consequence of simultaneous and incompatible role requests
(Ben Tahar, 2014a; Fernet et al., 2016). The conflict of roles
derives from the overhead of the multiple roles, or even the
tension lived between several roles, and the difficulty of
coordinating the requirements of each of them. In other
words, when the worker faces professional simultaneous
and inconsistent requests, the role conflict arises.
During the first years, which are crucial for the survival
of the newly created company, the entrepreneur, as a
conductor, is at the crossroads of all the professional
activities and must be present on all fronts. He/she lives
a shared stress between daily dealing at the same time
with several functions such as the human resource,
administrative, financial, and business and supplies
management (Fernet et al., 2016). Furthermore, he/she
must enhance his/her attention on all the aspects of his/her
company’s life; bear on his/her own decisions, negotiations,
risks and choices; manage the time at a rhythm of the
activity which is not necessarily his/her natural rhythm;
and resolve unfamiliar administrative, financial and legal
problems. These different roles played by the entrepreneur
can lead to burnout at home.
According to Ram, Khoso, Shah, Chandio and Shaikih
(2011), conflicts of roles in the professional context are
sources of stress and contribute to the fall of satisfaction at
work. Similarly, the role ambiguity is a source of the
entrepreneurial stress (Buttner, 1992). Faced with roles’
tensions, the entrepreneur has not enough time to do his/
her job properly and he/she is stressed of not doing all the
FIIB Business Review 7(1)
tasks assigned to him/her. The lack of time or the inability
to manage it properly to cope with the accumulation
of several requirements, and even tensions of roles, are
sources of burnout.
The Entrepreneurial Process as
a Stress-Generator Phenomenon
The entrepreneurial process is defined as a complex process
of dynamic, additive and cumulative learning of the different
entrepreneurial skills the importance of which varies
significantly from one phase to another (Omrane et al., 2011).
Being increasingly overwhelmed by tasks, duties and high
responsibilities, entrepreneurs are struggling to keep up
with the work and the market pace and to meet the demands
of customers and suppliers with different rationales.
The entrepreneur devotes all his/her energy, time,
money and means to the design, production and evolution
of his/her activity or project. However, results do not
reflect his/her personal investment, which can be very
weakening for him/her. Developing an entrepreneurial
process involves finding oneself once again in a working
environment characterized by painful physical or mental
conditions, workload, pressure and organizational changes
(as a result of disappointment, hazard, mourning, etc.).
For entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship seems to be physically
and mentally demanding (Hisrich, Langan-Fox, & Grant,
2007). This is due to the fact that entrepreneurs are torn
between the demands of their profession and their ability
to get adapted. Pathogenic situations, or even risk, long
working hours, a sense of insecurity and loneliness can
cause a state of stress, or even of burnout among entrepreneurs
(Torrès, 2012; cited by Rossi and Berkachy, 2014). In other
words, loneliness is a response to exposure to job stressors.
It is explained by the fact that the entrepreneur, who invest
heavily in his work, must cope with job stressors and his/her
interpersonal detachment can take the form of professional
isolation (Fernet et al., 2016).
Work-related stress is a main concern for business
executives (Merck et al., 2009). This growing attention
around the subject is justified by the increasing prevalence
of disorders that are associated with it (Guiol & Munoz,
2009). In the entrepreneurship field, entrepreneurs discuss
their projects without understanding the hazards of their
uncertainty, overinvestment, decreasing rest periods,
overtime work and stress.
Some entrepreneurs think that stress is necessary and can
lead to better benefits as it enables them to take on challenge,
stimulate creativity and compete to stay flourished in their
professional lives. In this context, stress is considered to
be positive. However, for some entrepreneurs, stress is
crippling because for them it leads to burnout, solitude,
withdrawal into isolation and failure syndromes that affect
the physical and psychological health. It is a psychological
state of distress that simultaneously affects the entrepreneur
and his/her new venture (Khelil & Khiari, 2013) and largely
results from the complex process of entrepreneurial creation
(Ben Tahar, 2011; Gharbi, 2012; Khelil & Khiari, 2013;
Torrès, 2010). In these circumstances, the stress is negative.
In general, when talking about burnout, the presumption
is that what is being referred to is a negative stress. When
an entrepreneur is under negative stress, problems arise.
Risk Management and Perceived Risks
The entrepreneur is, almost permanently, subject to a huge
amount of data to be treated, to several constraints, to difficult and complex situations, and complicated problems
that may impede the day-to-day management of their
business that they have to cope with. Currently, the entrepreneur has difficulties to keep up with the technological development, work meetings and staff management.
Besides, he/she bears, almost permanently, a heavy work
burden and some nuisances.
Moreover, being committed to the entrepreneurial
action, the project founder often bears, day by day, huge
risks that generate more or less stress linked to the mounting
of his company. Among these risks, we can mention the
financial (convention not signed) or legal (underestimated
needs: delayed recipes, regulations and so on) risks, those
pertaining to the task execution (accounting errors and
so on), security (leakage or loss of data) or other risks (lack
of customers, poor strategy, necessary skills unavailable,
delivery not followed, inadequate management, ill-defined
contract documents, ill-managed purchase orders, nonachievable planning and so on). The management of these
risks is one of the main challenges for business creators
who found it extremely difficult to perform, which makes
these risks a source of burnout.
The Organizational Climate
The organizational climate has an important place in the
literature, especially due to its contribution to the development of individual attitudes, such as commitment to the
organization and job satisfaction. It is devised as a lasting
and comprehensive perception of the characteristics of the
organizational system. Patterson et al. (2005) suggest that
the hard work of the employees, the effort and pressure to
achieve the targets appear to be the key dimensions of an
organizational climate. Despite the interest in the organizational dimension, it is clear that the scientific studies verifying the links between the perception of the organizational
climate and the burnout are not many (Savoie & Brunet,
1999). An entrepreneur is exposed to various pressures
related to his/her professional context, which are sources of
stress, namely those associated with the change, the need
for success (Prottas & Thompson, 2006), with the need to
resolve many problems and tasks, with resource acquisition, etc. O’Neill and Xiao (2010) suggest that stress and
perceived pressures accentuate the level of emotional
exhaustion and therefore that of the burnout. In this same
perspective, Rouxel et al. (2016) have also underlined the
influence of work characteristics, as well as that of
emotional display roles and affectivity on burnout.
Omrane et al.
Business Environment as a Source
for Burnout
The sources of burnout related to the business environment
are mainly those related to the complexity of relationships
with collaborators, as well as the uncertainty about the
company’s future.
Relationship Complexity with the
Various Collaborators
The entrepreneur assumes, often on an urgent basis, the
responsibility of negotiations with the customers, suppliers,
bankers, partners and so on. Furthermore, negotiations with
these collaborators are usually quite complex and difficult.
Indeed, the entrepreneur can, for example, take several
weeks or months to convince the various shareholders of
the feasibility and profitability of the business, from idea to
product. Choosing to be an entrepreneur is to affirm human
contacts of which many are not pleasant. An entrepreneur
lives all his/her relationships that he/she maintains with his/
her professional entourage in a difficult and challenging
way. Relationships with others could therefore be an important source of stress for the entrepreneurs (Boyd &
Gumpert, 1983; Hechiche-Salah et al., 2003). In line with
this assumption, Leiter and Day (2013) as well as Leiter and
Maslach (2016) advanced that social relationships at work,
especially those related to supervisor and co-worker
incivility, leading to uncivil behaviours, could be an
explanatory factor of burnout.
Uncertainty about the Company’s Future
Furthermore, novice entrepreneurs are under a severe
stress, or even a burnout - when they start their businesses
because they find themselves in a new universe and
unknown environment of which they have to understand
operating codes and modes. Due to his/her status, the
entrepreneur has to alleviate all the difficulties, to remain
vigilant, to be the master of the situation in all the circumstances and to reassure and lead his/her employees.
Therefore, unforeseen problems are an important source
of burnout for the entrepreneur. Similarly, uncertainties
make the forecasts impossible for the organizations and
create more difficulties of adaptation to the novelty or the
projection into the unknown. Uncertainties and contingencies
are the factors of stress and the entrepreneurial burnout,
especially in the first years of the project creation (Lorrain &
Laferté, 2006).
The Entrepreneurial Burnout Consequences
These various sources of burnout when they incur and are
durable represent a danger for the entrepreneur’s health as
well as that of his/her company. Actually, they disturb an
entrepreneur’s concentration and prevent him/her from
progressing and thinking in his/her daily work, which
makes him/her lose his/her means. Burnout is often associated with a range of negative, psychological, behavioural
and/or social consequences. In fact, various studies emphasized the burnout deleterious effects on the individual’s
health and the causal relationship between burnout and
the emergence of several symptoms (cynicism, anxiety,
depressive behaviour and so on) and the poor quality of
work and entrepreneurial failure.
The Psychological Consequences
Burnout is related to a wide range of psychological
problems. Among these negative externalities, one could
mention cynicism and withdrawal from work (Foletti,
2012), or disorders associated with anxiety and depressive
behaviour that can drive him/her to suicide (Ben Tahar,
2011). Actually, a decline of job satisfaction (Bovier, Arigoni,
Schneider, & Gallacchi, 2009; Demerouti, Bakker, &
Leiter, 2014), sleep disturbance (Ekstedt et al., 2006),
irritability, lack of concentration (Bahrer-Kohler, 2013),
insomnia (Armon et al., 2008) and a true depression can
lead even to suicide and to the emergence of several
symptoms showing signs of mood disorders (Maaroufi
et al., 2015). Burnout generates a feeling of failure and
dissatisfaction in the pursuit of an ideal (Fernet et al., 2016).
According to Truchot (2004), burnout is related to a lower
tolerance for frustration, aggressiveness, lower self-esteem,
sadness and anxiety.
The Physiological Consequences
The physiological consequences are mainly related to
headaches, gastrointestinal disorders, muscle tension,
hypertension, diabetes, colds, flu, energy loss and sleep
disorders (Foletti, 2012), cardiovascular and musculoskeletal diseases, ulcers, psychosomatic symptoms (Burke,
Greenglass, & Schwarzer, 1996; Fernet et al., 2016;
Guglielmi & Tatrow, 1998), a decline in the level of the
mental health and the psychological well-being (Bovier
et al., 2009). Burnout is also linked to chronic colds,
musculoskeletal pain, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes and
the weakening of the immune system, making the subject
more vulnerable to viral infections.
The Behavioural Implications
Behavioural implications are reflected into absenteeism
and double presenteeism (Peterson, Zhang, Brunet-India, &
Vázquez-Aguirre, 2008), the emergence of sexual problems and some addictions, such as tobacco, alcohol, tranquilizers, drugs (Ben Tahar, 2011), a poor quality of work
and performance and withdrawal behaviour (Bovier et al.,
2009), the abandonment of the position, the institution or
the career (Maslach & Leiter, 2008), a greater intention to
leave one’s job, a higher level of absenteeism (Halbesleben &
Buckley, 2004; Maslach, Schaufeli, & Leiter, 2001) and
lower productivity (Halbesleben & Buckley, 2004; Maslach
et al., 2001; Puybasset, 2011). Burnout causes a lack of
FIIB Business Review 7(1)
rigour and self-affirmation, disinvestment in the workplace,
and even professional errors (Canouï, Mauranges, & Florentin,
2015). It also creates cynical attitudes at work (Maslach &
Leiter, 2008) and a lower sporting activity (Truchot, 2004).
Social Consequences of Entrepreneurial Burnout
The social consequences associated with burnout refer
to a negative effect on the personal and/or professional
life (family, interactions with colleagues and employees,
the future of the business, etc.), which is reflected in the
genesis of important personal conflicts and reversal of
tasks at work (Foletti, 2012), a poor relationship between
the individual and his/her entourage, especially his/her
family. Burnout generates a dehumanization of professional
and personal relationships (Chambah & O’Hanlon, 2012) and
contributes to the deterioration of interpersonal relationships,
either at work (conflicts with colleagues, customers and so on)
or at the level of privacy (conflict with the spouse, family
members, friends and so on). On the basis of what has been
previously advanced, we suggest a synthetic view of entrepreneurial sources and consequences, as shown at the figure 1.
Mitigating Entrepreneurial Burnout
Burnout depends on the combinatorial effects of several
organizational and personal factors (Queirós et al., 2013).
Since these factors affect burnout by obliterating, it seems
interesting to further explore them in order to raise awareness among entrepreneurs about their importance.
Taking into account these determinants is a privileged way
to fight entrepreneurial burnout, which helps preserve the
entrepreneur’s health and that of his company. In this respect,
the specific burnout determinants linked to its three components
(emotional exhaustion, depersonalization and the reduction
of the personal achievement) are taken into consideration.
Individual factors related to the entrepreneur, as well as
other associated with partners in the organization, can play
a significant role in the fight against the entrepreneurial
burnout. In what follows, we present the salient ones in the
newly incurred research in this direction.
Individual Factors to Combat and Prevent
the Entrepreneurial Burnout
Among the socio-personal skills mentioned in the field of
entrepreneurship, extraversion, self-esteem, social emotional
intelligence and self-efficacy seem to be the most commonly
cited ones. Such factors have been negatively associated
with burnout, which means significantly that these skills
lead to surpass and battle burnout. Extraversion is a sociopersonal skill characterizing the action and outward-oriented
people boosted by interaction, optimistic, easy to know,
ambitious, sociable and who tend to get the conversation
started and seek social contacts and new situations.
Extraversion is most often negatively correlated with
burnout (Langelaan et al., 2006, cited in Sulea et al., 2015;
Zellars, Perrewe, & Hochwarter, 2000) and statistically linked
to emotional exhaustion (Kim et al., 2009; Rostami &
Abedi 2012). In the same orientation, the authors suggest
that extraversion is a stable predictor of emotional and
professional exhaustion (Gustafsson et al., 2009; Pishghadam
& Sahebjam, 2012; Zellars, Hochwater, Hoffman, Perrewé,
& Ford, 2004). According to O’Neill and Xiao (2010),
extraverts tend to be optimistic about the future and,
therefore, to have lower levels of emotional exhaustion.
Self-esteem is a personal competency which could also
counter burnout. It involves a self-assessment on a positive
dimension. People with a satisfactory level of self-esteem tend
to create, change and renew to opt for a more reliable and
accurate self-assessment to contribute to the development of
Sources associated to the entrepreneur
Psychological consequences
Scarcity of resources
Sleep disruption
Scarcity of skills
Lack of concentartion
Sources associated to the entrepreneurial
Physiological consequences
Sleep disturbances
Tensions of roles played by the entrepreneur
Risks associated with day-to-daymanagement of the enterprise
Gastrointestinal disorders
Entrepreneurial burnout
Organizational climate
Musculoskeletal pain syndromes
Behavioral consequences
Workstation left
Sources associated to the
entrepreneurial environnement
Complexity of relations with different
Uncertainty surrounding the new future
Figure 1. Sources and Consequences of the Entrepreneurial Burnout
Source: Proposed by the authors.
Decline in productivity
Soial consequences
Unhealthy lifestyle
Conflicts with others
Omrane et al.
their well-being and their quality of lives (Upadyaya et al.,
2016). Their satisfaction will facilitate their resilience and
behavioural plasticity, enabling them to tackle difficulties
that can affect their careers (Fernet et al., 2016). Rosse, Boss,
Johnson and Crown (1991) and Janssen, Schaufeli and
Houkes (1999) argue that self-esteem is negatively correlated
with the three dimensions of burnout by the fact that
individuals with low self-esteem are less efficient in the
management of their interpersonal relationships.
Similarly, self-efficacy may reduce the degree of burnout
(Fernet et al., 2016; Upadyaya et al., 2016). It refers to the
beliefs of an individual with respect to his/her ability to
efficiently and successfully perform a set of tasks required to
achieve the objectives assigned to him/her with an expected
level of performance. In the field of entrepreneurship, selfefficacy reflects the entrepreneur’s ability to acquire a
necessary confidence in these skills to manage his/her
business opportunities (Sarasvathy & Dew, 2008). Given the
fact that self-efficiency is related to the emotional aspect, it
is therefore obvious that it deals with emotional efficiency.
According to Deschênes, Dussault and Frenette (2014),
individuals with a high level of emotional self-efficacy
show less symptoms of emotional exhaustion, a loss of
performance at work and depersonalization.
The last social competency that will be discussed in this
study and that could contribute to fighting burnout is social
emotional intelligence. It refers to one’s ability to maintain
harmonious relationships with others, namely to motivate,
demonstrate perseverance despite the difficulties faced,
influence the emotions of others, control one’s emotions in
relations with others and develop interpersonal relationships.
Currently, it is a necessary skill for the entrepreneur because
it allows him/her to take initiatives, increase his/her
efficiency, persuade, lead work teams, maintain emotional
balance and facilitate interactions with others.
Social emotional intelligence could impact the ability of
individuals to adapt to the contextual constraints of their
work (Pishghadam & Sahebjam, 2012) while reducing the
level of burnout. In fact, several quantitative studies showed
negative associations between emotional intelligence and
the three symptoms of burnout among teachers (Chan, 2006;
Pishghadam & Sahebjam, 2012), nurses (Mikolajczak,
Menil, & Luminet, 2007) and physicians (Weng et al., 2011).
Moon and Hur (2011) highlighted a negative relationship
between emotional intelligence and the symptom of
emotional exhaustion among superstore employees.
Moreover, in the literature review, Gendron (2007) postulates
the importance of emotional competencies in sound
management of stress at work.
burnout. Social support of evidence on the part of
colleagues, friends or family members is an important
element in the struggle against stress and burnout. There are
various different types of support, such as material and
financial support (grants and aid, etc.), informational
support (advice, proposals, obtaining the awareness of
change, etc.), logistics (incubators) or even emotional
support (manifestation of positive emotions, feelings of
reinsurance, protection and comfort). In this perspective,
Öge, Cetin and Top (2018) advanced that paternalistic
leadership, through increasing work engagement, decreases
the workplace loneliness and work family conflict levels.
Then, it contributes to alleviate burnout.
At moments of doubt or when a person fears that the
situation requirements exceed his resources and abilities,
these incentives will enable him to strengthen his confidence
in himself (Alis et al., 2011). In this context, social networks
play an essential role in maintaining social support to mitigate
the burnout effect on the individual. In this perspective,
Upadyaya et al. (2016) emphasized the importance of servant
leadership, characterized by stewardship, empowerment and
accountability. According to these authors, it positively
influences job satisfaction and organizational trust, and then
decreases burnout symptoms.
Currently, Mutkins et al. (2011; quoted in Fremont,
2015) showed, in a research conducted with 80 Australian
senior officers, that considerable social support is likely
to alleviate the effects of stress and emotional exhaustion.
Moreover, Bakker and Demerouti (2007) assume that
social support acts as a ‘buffer or umbrella’ variable,
likely to protect individuals from the aggravating effects
of stressors. On the other hand, Rees (2008) states that
stress is lower when the degree of social support is high,
whereas in the opposite situation, it is larger. Finally,
Halbesleben (2006) and Beehr, Bowling and Bennett
(2010) stressed that social support is a resource that
protects from burnout. On the basis of what has been
previously advanced, we suggest the following synthetic
diagram about the key socio-personal abilities and the
main organizational factors that help the entrepreneur to
fight burnout (Figure 2).
Individual determinants
– Extraversion
– Social Emotional intelligence
Entrepreneurial burnout
– Self-efficacy
Organizational determinants
Organizational Factors to Prevent
Entrepreneurial Burnout
Organizational determinants, such as social support
and satisfaction at work, can counter the entrepreneurial
– Social support
Figure 2. A Synthetic View of the Key Factors in the Fight
Against Burnout
Source: Proposed by the authors.
FIIB Business Review 7(1)
Methods and Practices of Fighting
Among the leading practices in the fight against burnout,
we could mention training, entrepreneurial coaching and
development of a hedonistic culture based on usability.
To reduce the level of burnout, the entrepreneur is
expected to establish, at work, a corporate culture based on
teambuilding (sharing between individuals), participation,
dynamism, creativity, friendly atmosphere, trust in human
potential, growth and acquisition of new resources in the
long term.
Training Follow-ups (In Time, Stress and
Change Management)
The Psychological Support in the Form of
Coaching and Mentoring
Training is one of the support practices that raise the
chances of new ventures’ survival (St-Jean, 2008). Work
stress is then an integral part of the entrepreneur’s life and
the main cause of burnout that he faces.
Entrepreneurs can follow training courses in stress
management to deal with and overcome their stress at
work. Stress management not only thrives in the world of
health and psychology but also interests the corporate
world and represents a true competitive advantage for the
entrepreneur. Training in stress management enables the
entrepreneur to understand what stress is, its effects,
misdeeds, symptoms, and to discover the principles and
methods that allow him to fight it. Among the usual
methods of stress management, there are coping strategies
that focus on the problem (efforts intended to modify the
situation using problem solving), on the individual (playing
sports regularly, trying to be more relaxed as much as
possible, ensuring a good organization, improving a good
health, relaxation and meditation, etc.).
Entrepreneurs are also able to do a time management
training to reduce their burnout since the lack of chronic
time is a source of stress (Lorrain & Laferté, 2006). ‘People
need to manage their time if they want to reduce their
stress’ (Alis et al., 2011, p. 778). Furthermore, entrepreneurs
could provide training in change management to fight
burnout. Change is, therefore, one of the ‘psychosocial’
stressors that have been cited by Légeron (2004) and the
context in which organizations operate may lead to
organizational changes that cause stress at the individual
level (Vandenberghe & De Keyser, 2004).
It is essential for any entrepreneur to be accompanied
when he is subject to tensions, problems and a pervasive
stress at work. A typology of the major psychological
biases affecting the efficiency of the entrepreneurial
accompaniment was drawn up by Pluchart (2012) who
stresses the need to focus on personal accompaniment
of a coaching-type support to overcome the emotional
Despite criticism considered against the coaching
approached by Gori and Leng (2007), as a new form of
social control, coaching and mentoring are important in
the search for new modes of supporting for entrepreneurs.
Focusing on the coaching ‘beneficial’ approach, several
studies showed the advantages of a ‘welfare coaching’ to
better understand the organizational stress threatening
managers and employees (Wright, 2007; Gharbi &
Torres, 2013).
The entrepreneur mentorship also seeks the improvement of different psychological aspects such as the development of self-image, comfort and security, the increase of
feelings of self-efficacy and perseverance during difficult
periods (St-Jean & Audet, 2009).
The Creation of a Corporate Culture
based on Team Spirit, Friendliness and
Professional Ease
Organizational culture is the set of beliefs, values and norms
shared in an organization by its members, whether they are
employees or leaders (Dolan, Gosselin, & Carriere, 2007). It
helps solve the problems encountered in the workplace
because it is shared (Scott, Mannion, Davies, & Marshall,
2003). According to Philippe and Bonin (2013), two types of
organizational or corporate culture play the role of a protective
agent and reduce the level of burnout, namely the group culture
based on teamwork and good internal relations and rational
culture that focuses on success, performance and results.
Other Proposed Methods
In order to wipe out burnout and psychological pressures
that may compel them, entrepreneurs can raise their level
of organizational involvement and commitment to the
work and weaken their feelings of concern (SAINTJULIEN, 2010). Indeed, the balance between professional
and personal lives will improve efficiency at work and
reduce the risk of burnout (Barel & Frémeaux, 2008; Barel
et al., 2009).
The concern includes in priority courses of action and
strategies to prevent mental health problems of persons to
perform work emotionally demanding, interventions aimed
at fostering greater support and a better teamwork in the
workplace, a greater involvement of workers and women
workers in making the decision that concern them, as well as
the use and development of their skills and skills. (Vézina &
Saint–Arnaud, 2011, p. 125).
Mace (2012, cited in Boivin-Desrochers and Alderson,
2014) postulates that resilience is an interesting strategic
skill that enables individuals to manage the stress they
Omrane et al.
experience at work in situations where the circumstances and the environment in which they work are
Vernhet (2012, cited in Mansour & Commeiras, 2015)
suggests that work–life conflict is positively associated
with burnout. It appears then that maintaining a work–
life balance helps to fight burnout among the
entrepreneurs. The elements that can help counteract
the effects of stressors are the effect reward, social
recognition, control and decision-making autonomy,
social support of colleagues and superior hierarchical
and professional satisfaction, and achievement at work
(Ben Tahar, 2014).
In the following model (Figure 3), a synthesis of the
previous theoretical development was proposed and
implemented in order to provide a brief overview of
the common methods and practices used to fight the
entrepreneurial burnout.
According to Mäkikangas and Kinnunen (2016) as well
as Ahola, Toppinnen-Tanner and Seppanen (2017),
individually focused approaches and intervention as well
as person-oriented methods are unreliable and insufficient
to alleviate burnout.
However, these authors recommend a holistic approach.
This perspective should be taken into consideration by
combining individually oriented methods (i.e., group
therapy, single approach, social support group, cognitive
coping trainings, psychodidactic workshop or sociodrama methods) and occupationaly focused approaches
(i.e., meetings with labour experts, rehabilitation meetings,
group programmes for stress-related ill-health). This
holistic view showed promising results related to their
contribution to alleviate burnout (Ahola et al., 2017).
For this reason, the entrepreneur should not only
participate in training programmes (in time, stress, skill
and change management) but also cultivate and maintain a
corporate culture and surround himself with collaborators
that offer social support, collaboration, positive affectivity
and team spirit.
At the end of this study, it seems that burnout is defined as the
outcome of chronic stress and is characterized by extreme
fatigue and depressed mood (Kryger, Roth, & Dement, 2011).
In this same perspective, Parrouty (2014, p. 233) advanced
that ‘burnout may result from excessive stress but is not the
same thing’. In line with these assumptions, and being the fact
that the focus in the previous studies was mainly on entrepreneurial failure and stress, this contribution was dedicated to
explore the entrepreneurial burnout, its determinants, consequences as well as the best practices undertaken to fight it.
Indeed, numerous sources of factors which are derived
from the entrepreneurial act could generate burnout for the
entrepreneur. In fact, deficiency in resources and skills,
relationships with others, the complexity of relations with
different stakeholders, the management change, the conflict
of roles, isolation, uncertainty about the company’s future,
tensions of roles, day-to-day business management,
organizational climate and negative social skills, such as
neuroticism, are the most recurrent sources of burnout
during the start-up phase of the business creation.
Nevertheless, a set of individual and organizational
determinants contribute to counter burnout. Indeed,
individual determinants related to the entrepreneur, and
more specifically socio-personal abilities such as social
emotional intelligence and self-efficacy, could fight burnout.
Social support is also an organizational determinant contributing to reduce it. For this reason, entrepreneurs are invited
to take training courses about time, stress and change
management, create a favourable corporate culture and
enhance coaching and mentoring support. Further research
that considers the topic of entrepreneurial burnout from an
empirical perspective, including both research to explore the
prevalence of burnout and research that explores the
mitigating effects of the various possible interventions,
would provide greater insight into the challenges facing
entrepreneurs and the policy responses that might be
Involving employees inside the company
Having a social support
Maintaining an equilibrium between
personal and professional life
Asking successful entrepreneurs or
counselors for collaboration
Entrepreneurial burnout
Cultivating an organizational culture
focused on team spirit, friendliness,
and sharing
Participating to leisure activities such
as sport
Doing training courses ensured by
experts in all aspects of the company
Being accompanied by a coach
Figure 3. A Brief Synthesis on Methods and Practices Employed to Fight the Entrepreneurial Burnout
Source: Proposed by the authors.
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About the Authors
Dr Amina Omrane is an Assistant Professor (HDR) of Management Science and Entrepreneurship
at the University of Sfax. She holds a PhD in Management Science from Jean-Moulin Lyon III
University, France and the Institute of Business High Studies-IHEC-Carthage, Tunisia. She also
holds a Master in Business Management and Strategy from IHEC-Carthage and a Professional
Master Degree in Management by goals from ISGI-Sfax. She is a Researcher in the research unit
of Business Economy and Strategy (ECSTRA at IHEC-Carthage). Her main research interests
revolve around entrepreneurship, strategic management, management of technology and innovation.
She can be reached at amina.omrane@yahoo.fr.
Ms Amal Kammoun is a Doctorate Researcher in Management Science at FSEG, Sfax, Tunisia.
She can be reached at amal91.kammoun@gmail.com.
Professor Claire Seaman is Chair of Enterprise and Family Business at Queen Margaret
University in Edinburgh, UK. She publishes widely and is a regular contributor to family business
conferences worldwide. Her recent book, The Modern Family Business was published by
McMillan. Claire maintains close links with the business community and business organisations
such as the Scottish Family Business Association, Family Business United and local economic
development agencies. She is a frequent speaker at gatherings of family businesses and professional advisors. This interaction enables her to share insights from evidence based research with
practitioners, while ensuring that her research focuses on areas of importance to the family business
community, and has lead directly to current research that focusses on the European Family
Business Associations. Experiences and close interactions with business and business support agencies help keep her
professional work rooted into the realties and complex dynamics of families in business who create enterprises that
dominate the economic and societal landscape around the world. She can be reached at CSeaman@qnu.ac.uk.