The Maslach-Burnout-Inventory (MBI) for Measuring Burnout at Work

The Maslach Burnout Inventory is a tool that measures levels of job exhaustion. It's simple and easy to apply. You can even do it yourself.
The Maslach-Burnout-Inventory (MBI) for Measuring Burnout at Work
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 03 April, 2023

The Maslach Burnout Inventory is also known as the burnout questionnaire. It’s an instrument for measuring job exhaustion or burnout syndrome. This is a condition in which the individual experiences chronic stress. Basically, it manifests in them as a continuous negative attitude toward their environment.

When an individual experiences job burnout, they feel permanently fatigued. At the same time, they have trouble getting adequate sleep or rest. Furthermore, they become irritable, show detachment or rejection of their work, and decrease their productivity.

In the long term, job burnout can have really serious consequences for the individual. For instance, it increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and infections. It can also lead to a state of chronic fatigue which, in some cases, is irreversible. The burnout questionnaire is a means of discovering if someone is suffering from burnout syndrome.

Sometimes the most important thing you can do is relax.”

-Mark Black-

overwhelmed employee
Burnout syndrome has both physical and emotional consequences.

The Maslach-Burnout-Inventory

There are several tests for assessing job burnout. However, the Maslach-Burnout Inventory is one of the most complete. For this reason, experts frequently use it. The American psychologist, Christina Maslach, designed the instrument with her colleagues Susan E. Jackson and Michael P. Leiter, in 1981.

The inventory consists of 22 items in the form of statements associated with the attitudes and feelings that an individual experiences toward their work. Its objective is to measure the intensity and frequency with which they experience certain symptoms related to job burnout.

The tool evaluates three aspects of burnout syndrome:

Completing the burnout inventory

The MBI asks the individualto grade each of its 22 statements from 0 to 6, taking into account the frequency with which they experience that situation. They must complete the questionnaire in a period of between ten and 15 minutes.The maximum score they can obtain is 132.
The higher the final score, the greater the probability of job burnout, except in the field of personal realization.There are also some values that are taken as a reference to indicate that, although there may not be burnout syndrome in the strict sense, there are strong indications that it could be taking shape.

Emotional exhaustion or work burnout can have an impact on personal life, reducing contact with others and favoring feelings of sadness, disappointment, and uselessness.

Versions of the MBI

According to an article published in Ciencia & trabajo, there are three versions of the MBI. The first is the MBI-Human Services Survey (MBI-HSS). This is designed to be applied to human services professionals. It’s the classic version that consists of 22 items divided into 3 subscales.

The second version is the MBI-Educators (MBI-ES). It’s used for education professionals. Here, the word patient is changed to student, since the context is different. This version has the same structure as the MBI-HSS. It also retains the same three subscales.

Finally, there’s the MBI-General Survey (MBI-GS), a more generic version. Although it maintains the same structure as the two previous versions, it only contains 16 items. The three subscales are identified as personal efficacy, exhaustion, and cynicism.

It’s also worth mentioning that there’s a fourth MBI, designed for adult learners. This is the MBI-General Survey for Students (MBI-GS [S]). An investigation conducted with Italian university students indicated that it’s a valid and reliable test for measuring exhaustion in students.

Strengths of the burnout questionnaire

Next, we’ll review some of the strengths of the MBI that have been highlighted in the journal, Ciencia & trabajo.

1. It’s internationally accepted. This makes it possible to compare results from different populations and cultures in order to design better prevention and intervention strategies.
2. It has concurrent validity. This type of validity measures the correlation of a test with the measure of another previously recognized one. In this regard, correlations have been observed between various behavioral scales with the MBI.
3. It has divergent validity. This validity guarantees that the constructs of the test aren’t related to those with which they shouldn’t be. In effect, unwanted associations can alter expected results, which is why this divergence is necessary.

Speaking of this last type of validity, a study conducted with nurses found that the Maslach Burnout Questionnaire has a high divergent (or discriminant) validity between emotional exhaustion, personal fulfillment, and depersonalization subscales. Moreover, it’s a valid instrument for measuring the burnout level of nurses working in hospitals.

Experts view this instrument as highly reliable. Reliability in psychometrics refers to the consistency of results across different measurements. A test is reliable if, when applied several times to the same individual, it yields similar or approximate results in the different measurements.A study reported that the three subscales of the MBI have high reliability.

Asking for help when scores confirm burnout

Burnout is a syndrome that can change an individual’s life. In fact, several studies demonstrate the negative consequences of work burnout at the physical, mental, and job levels for sufferers. This makes its timely detection necessary. The MBI is ideal for this.

Finally, if an individual scores highly on the burnout questionnaire, they should visit a mental health professional. They’ll be able to design a strategy to prevent any further increase in the problem. In addition, they’ll address its possible causes and consequences.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.