When employees suffer from burnout, it doesn't necessarily mean that they're unhappy with factors like dealing with a difficult boss, heavy workload, or poor company culture. In fact, it may stem from deeper issues.

That's according to a new study published in the journal Frontiers of Psychology. Based on answers from a survey that was submitted through an online forum, researchers found that burnout occurs when there's a mismatch between an employee's unconscious needs and the demands of his or her job. Researchers analyzed responses from 97 women and men between the ages of 22 and 62.

When an employee's unconscious needs (implicit affiliation and power motives) don't line up with their job characteristics, an "environmental misfit" occurs. This is a main cause of burnout, a physical and mental loss of motivation).

For example, Imagine Employee A, an extrovert who desires human interaction, but whose needs are unfulfilled because he or she is constantly stuck at a desk performing solo tasks. Alternatively, Employee B is tasked with managing a team and creating presentations, but would rather work on solo projects--undisturbed and without responsibility for subordinates.

Why employers should take notice

During the hiring process, managers may overlook the fact that an environmental misfit can lead to a job candidate's emotional and physical distress. When filling an open job position, it's important to look at more than just an individual's resume.

Too much power can cause physical distress

Researchers of the study define the "power motive" as the need to have responsibility and influence within the company. When job responsibilities provide too much power--relative to one's implicit desires--they found an increase in physical symptoms (i.e., headache, chest pain, shortness of breath).

Too much human interaction leads to burnout

The "affiliation motive," which is defined as the level of desire for personal interactions at work, can also cause a high degree of burnout. An employee with strong affiliation motive, for example, will thrive in a job position that requires more collaboration and teamwork.

Published on: Aug 16, 2016