Psychiatric Views on the Daily News - Episode 35

A Case Study of How to Prevent Burnout

Aaron Feurstein and Malden Mills: a good example of how to prevent burnout.

PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

As our country’s rate of burning out continues to increase in health care workers, parents, and the rest of the public, a personal example of how to avert it just passed away. Aaron Feuerstein was an owner and administrator who did so many of the things that help present burnout. My wife, a fashion designer who had used his proprietary Polartec fabric, noticed the coverage of his death in the November 5th New York Times and passed it on to me for my interest in organization administration.1

Back in 1995, a fire broke out on December 11th in his textile company Malden Mills, one of the few still left in a time of private-equity buyouts and wage competition. Instead of collecting insurance and closing, Feuerstein decided to reopen as much of the plant as possible and pay idled workers. That by itself would not necessarily prevent burnout, but other actions that engaged employees, valued them, and supported their goals did, including:

-He ate with his workers at the factory cafeteria.

-He offered them no-interest loans for schooling.

-His office doors were open if someone felt unfairly treated.

For that, he was called “the Mensch of Malden Mills” by The Boston Globe.2 He maintained that you can serve the interest of the shareholders and workers simultaneously.

Perhaps in an example of the proverb “no good deed goes unpunished,” Feuerstein left the company in 2004 after a restructuring plan left him without his management role. In 2015, the factory closed.

Business administrators and owners, including in health care, would do well to learn from a case study of Feuerstein and Malden Mills about how to prevent burnout in their systems.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who has specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the one-time designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues relate to climate instability, burnout, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism for a better world. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric TimesTM.

References

1. Risen C. Aaron Feuerstein, mill owner who refused to leave, dies at 95. The New York Times. November 5, 2011. Accessed November 9, 2021. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/05/business/aaron-feuerstein-dead.html

2. Vennochi J. ‘The Mensch of Malden Mills’ at 90. Boston Globe. November 29, 2015. Accessed November 9, 2021. https://www.bostonglobe.com/opinion/editorials/2015/11/29/the-mensch-malden-mills/0BvhlVZgPxveuD9s9eAY1O/story.html