Can Emotional Exhaustion Cause You to Quit a Profitable Business?

Emotional Exhaustion Stifling Entrepreneur Spirit in America, University Study Finds

Are you not clear about your job as a small business owner? Are you frequently having work-family conflict? If your answer is yes, then you need to take a paradigm shift for your own good.

According to research conducted by The Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise, Ball State University, “Emotional exhaustion caused by role ambiguity and work-family conflicts can lead many entrepreneurs to leave or close their companies, even when the ventures are profitable.”

Small business owners, due to limited resources or unwillingness to delegate, often entangle themselves with multiple tasks. Doing so not only can create role ambiguity but also can cause work-family conflicts many a time. And emotional exhaustion caused by these stressors, as found in the research, is positively related to exit intentions.

As a small business owner, you should efficiently tackle role ambiguity and work-family conflict to avoid emotional exhaustion.

Role Ambiguity

Role ambiguity simply means a lack of clarity about one’s job. Being a small owner, especially when you’re a first-time business owner, you can easily fall prey to role ambiguity. How?

This is because you want to do everything yourself. Your business is your baby, and you are reluctant to trust others for sharing responsibility.

Finding opportunities, doing meticulous planning, and adopting the right growth strategies are some of the many critical tasks you need to successfully complete to grow your business. And many times, you are not sure about which strategy or action will be fruitful or futile. Also, you may not be sure about the right away to execute any action or strategy. This uncertainty, in the entrepreneurial context, can add up to role ambiguity.

When employees feel role ambiguity, business leaders are there to support. But entrepreneurs are on their own battling with role ambiguity alone, which can lead to emotional exhaustion.

A good way to fight role ambiguity is to focus only on the critical tasks that you are good at. And you should delegate the rest of the tasks to others. This way, you will be handling work that matches with your expertise, and you will be less likely to be uncertain about it.

Michael Goldsby, executive director of the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise at Ball State, advised, “The entrepreneur shapes the business, but the business also shapes the entrepreneur,”

“And if the entrepreneur doesn’t change as the business grows, or they aren’t prepared to act differently, there’s going to be a breaking point. Either the business, the entrepreneur or both are going to struggle. For people, that’s called emotional exhaustion.” He continued.

Work-family Conflict

Work-family conflict is inevitable if you don’t try to avoid it.

Small business owners often experience long business hours, and they sometimes become too engrossed in their work to actively take part in their family role.

Also, many a time, behavior associated with your work role can be incompatible with your family role, creating a ground for work-family conflicts. These frequent work-family conflicts can put small business owners, like you, in unbelievable stress, leading to emotional exhaustion.

To be successful at both fronts – family and business, you should try to remove barriers to work-life balance and minimize work-family conflicts.

Keeping the Entrepreneurial Spirit Alive

A path to becoming a successful business owner is never even and often it is paved with stressors like role ambiguity and work-life conflicts.

Having a mentor or coach by your side to help you develop personally and professionally can have a major impact on your growth. You will have somebody to turn to when going gets tough.

Mr. Goldsby says, “The entrepreneur has to develop, and if they don’t, it’s going to be a tough road,”

“Good support networks, good coaches, and good mentors help. That’s why you see a lot of family businesses. Previous generations went through something and can coach up the next generation. They can turn to them when they’re facing the same types of challenges. The good family businesses probably had that going on.”

The study included 400 entrepreneurs in the United States and Australia.



Sandeep Babu Sandeep Babu is a staff writer for Small Business Trends as well as a freelance writer. He regularly contributes to leading online publications and writes for his own blog Quick Scream.

2 Reactions
  1. It can happen to most startups especially if you need to do everything yourself. So it is important to take care of yourself as well.

  2. Yes, Aira. Business owners should learn the art of delegation. One cannot do everything. Thanks for the comment!

Win $100 for Vendor Selection Insights

Tell us!
No, Thank You