Victoria Nuttall is a graphic-arts consultant with skills that should have been appreciated. "I was working 50 to 55 hours a week, feeling like a real hero to the company because I was putting out work no one else could do at that time," she says. "They had me train people and expand the department, but never consulted me on new equipment purchases and procedures. Add to this a bad relationship with an operator I trained and management that didn't care if people trashed one another, and you get `work hell.' " Nuttall burned out.
You've heard the story a thousand times. In fact, maybe you started your own company because the pressures of working for someone else got to you. Well, with burnout, there's not much of a difference between entrepreneurs and 9-to-5 employees, according to Dr. Beverly Potter, author of a number of books on burnout, including Overcoming Job Burnout: How to Renew Enthusiasm for Work (see sidebar below for ordering information). "Job burnout is something like job depression," she says. "It's a motivational problem where your ability to get yourself moving and keep moving is impaired. It is caused by feelings of powerlessness--such as the `damned if you do, damned if you don't' feeling--like you're being caught in the middle."
After her brush with burnout, Nuttall started Renaissance Interactive in Baltimore, which offers multimedia consulting and training. She acknowledges the potential for burnout still exists, even though she's her own boss. Money concerns have replaced anxieties over office politics, but she's happier where she is. "I don't have financial security," Nuttall admits, "but at least I have a buffer zone away from negative people, and that means a lot."