The horse racing and breeding businesses require much of their workforces.

Trainers and grooms start their day before the break of dawn and finish after the last race of an afternoon or night card. Jockeys and exercise riders labor on the weekends and most holidays. Farm employees and veterinarians often maintain irregular hours, especially during the breeding and foaling season.

This grueling routine creates a fertile environment for job burnout. The Mayo Clinic defines job burnout as “a special type of job stress–a state of physical, emotional or mental exhaustion combined with doubts about your competence and the value of your work.”

In July 2012, the floundering Yahoo! named the intensely-driven 37-year-old Google executive Marissa Mayer as its sixth CEO in the past five years. Mayer was one of the earliest employees at Google–working well over 100 hours a week to get the fledgling company off the ground–and was later in charge of its lucrative search business.

When she accepted the arduous turnaround challenge at Yahoo!, she was seven months pregnant.

Mayer recently expressed her view on the root cause of job burnout: “Burnout is about resentment… (People)… will become resentful if work makes them miss things that are really important to them.”

Hard work and long hours do not by themselves lead to burnout, but rather burnout develops when work becomes so all-consuming that an individual is unable to count on participating in special activities way from the job.

To assuage resentment among her employees, Mayer “insists” they have the scheduling flexibility to make room for the things that matter most to them in their personal lives.

The Mayo Clinic concurs that “lack of control” is a leading cause of job burnout: “An inability to influence decisions that affect your job—such as your schedule, assignments or workload…”

Job burnout and resentment often precipitate employee dissatisfaction, lowered productivity, and high staff turnover. One proven way to reduce these costly outcomes, as Mayer and the Mayo Clinic suggest, is to provide employees with meaningful discretion to plan their work and to carve out time for the personal activities they value the most.

This may be difficult to do in the demanding enterprises of horse racing and breeding, but other extremely demanding businesses have shown that it is not only achievable but is imperative for morale, productivity, and employee retention.

Copyright © 2012 The Blood-Horse and published therein. Used with permission.