Muir Matches Measure provides visual representation of job burnout

There are visual measures to quantify job satisfaction and measure pain, such as the Wong-Baker FACES Pain Rating Scale posted in doctors’ offices and hospitals.

However, there were no visual measures to track job burnout, so Notre Dame professor Cindy Muir (Zapata) set out to create a short-term measure to assess employees’ feelings about burnout. 

The Muir Matches Measure is a validated visual measure of job burnout created by Muir and published with Charles Calderwood, a psychology professor at Virginia Tech, and Dorian Boncoeur, an assistant professor for the Mendoza College of Business.

According to Muir, visual measures are powerful because they allow people to quickly assess their feelings.

“The idea for [the measure] hit me as I stared at an image of matches burned at different levels during a presentation,” she said. 

Long surveys are time-consuming, especially for those experiencing job burnout, so Muir wanted to create a quick and regular way to assess burnout by using a visual that is easily recognizable: burning matches. The scale of matches burning down allows people to pinpoint how they are feeling. 

Calderwood explained that job burnout is a challenge that arises from insufficient recovery.

“Recovery is how people keep themselves replenished and occupationally healthy over time,” he said. 

Within burnout literature, the time scale of burnout has progressed to include both feelings over a long time and daily fluctuations.

“You have burnout that is a chronic strain reaction or a longer-term syndrome, but you also see the symptoms of burnout vary from day-to-day in terms of how exhausted you feel or how disconnected from your work you feel,” Calderwood explained. 

The paper published by Muir and her coauthors confirmed that the visual scale of the matches burning down corresponds with existing measures of job burnout. They validated the scale by looking at different instruction sets and ways of defining burnout. 

Calderwood said that, when launching the tool, the group had to grapple with the misalignment between how people refer to burnout in everyday language in comparison to how burnout may be referred to by an academic or defined in a dictionary. 

“‘Burnout’ is something that’s become a term in our everyday language. People say that they’re ‘burned out,’ but they can mean different things by that,” Calderwood said. “The disconnect between the everyday understanding of burnout and how it’s defined academically was a challenge I’m not sure we anticipated when the project started.” 

Licenses to the measure can be purchased by companies and employees, according to Muir.

“It is my hope that companies use [the tool] in their climate surveys to check in on their employees,” Muir said. “They might use it to track trends over time or to see how a large-scale change initiative has impacted their employees.”

Calderwood said the tool will be important for employees in high-stress occupations, including nursing and teaching, which have previously experienced high burnout rates. 

The measure can also be downloaded online for personal use after completing a short survey. Muir said the data collected will be used to gain a better understanding of burnout levels in different industries and occupations, which will be used in future research. 

While the Muir Matches Measure allows people to identify if they are feeling burned out at their job, the next step is taking that information from the visual and learning how to deal with burnout.

“I am now working on how to best advise people to use their self-assessment to make changes that can help reduce their job burnout,” Muir said.

Contact Caroline Collins at


‘Hesburgh’ movie, panel reflect on former president’s legacy of activism, ‘kindness’

Students and faculty gathered in the Mendoza College of Business auditorium Wednesday evening to watch a screening of the documentary film, “Hesburgh,” which follows the life of famed, former University President Fr. Theodore Hesburgh.

The event was put on by the Mendoza Staff Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council as a part of Notre Dame’s Walk the Walk Week (WTWW), a series of events meant to promote reflection and inspire the campus community to work towards inclusivity. 

The film, released in 2018, was directed by Notre Dame graduate, Patrick Creadon. Weaving together historic photographs and footage with a multitude of interviews, Creadon brought Hesburgh’s legacy to life. 

Beginning with Hesburgh’s call to priesthood and education at Notre Dame, the documentary weaves through the major progress Hesburgh enacted on campus and at national and international levels.

In his early days as university president, Hesburgh tackled issues on “religious liberty.” He worked to uphold Notre Dame’s strong Catholic faith while ensuring it never fringed upon “academic freedom” as well as providing students with a universal education.

On campus, Hesburgh was known as “Uncle Ted.” Beloved by students, the film explains how Hesburgh made it a point to make himself available to any and all students in need of advice. And, according to every film interviewee, his advice was unmatched. 

But, what occupied much of Hesburgh’s career outside of Notre Dame was his work in the Civil Rights Movement. He served on the Civil Rights Commission for 15 years. According to the documentary, this was where Hesburgh really emerged as a “bridge builder: between people and God and among people.” 

Hesburgh worked both behind the scenes in enacting true legislative change and also marched hand in hand with Martin Luther King Jr., a world-famous civil rights activist.  

In addition to his work contributing to equality and civil rights, the film delves into how Hesburgh was instrumental in mediating discussions between the United States and Russia during the nuclear arms crisis. Back on campus, Hesburgh made university history yet again by making Notre Dame coeducational in 1972. 

Then, in 1987, Hesburgh retired as president of the university, after progress-infused 35 years in the position. 

Wednesday night’s screening of the film was followed by a panel discussion featuring three individuals that knew Hesburgh personally: former University president Fr. Edward “Monk” Malloy, Vice President for institutional transformation and advisor to the president Rev. Canon Hugh Page Jr. and one of the Hesburgh Women of Impact and visiting teaching professor Joan Mileski.

Although “Hesburgh” told the tale of an esteemed university president, an international leader and a highly sought-after advisor, the panelists said they recall, most of all, a friend.

Specifically, Page told the audience how Hesburgh’s kind heart and generous spirit have stuck with him through the years.

“It always struck me that with the thousands of people that he knew on campus and around the world, he would always remember and always knew what it was I was doing,” he recalled. “The act of kindness from those who have positions of authority means an incredible amount to those that are just starting off and making their way through.”

Mileski, who was among the first class of women admitted to the university, told listeners a personal experience with Hesburgh’s kindness and love after her father’s passing.

“[During graduation,] you go through the line and shake hands with the president and the students graduating, and my mother was just like a deer in the headlights. [Hesburgh] could tell and he said to her, ‘come over here,’” Mileski said. “It was the way he could just sense that.”

Hesburgh’s successor, Malloy said he relayed one of the many amusing anecdotes about his friendship with Hesburgh.

“He loved to travel. And he was able to be in 110 counties, and I’ve been to 90, so I trailed behind him,” Malloy said. “But I got to Tibet… when he found out about it, he was so jealous because he had never been to Tibet. I said, ‘what about all those other countries you’ve been to?’ And he said, ‘well, I wanted to be to Tibet someday.’”

Overall, both the documentary and panelists could agree with the sentiments of the film’s tagline: “One ordinary man. One extraordinary life.”

Contact Kelsey at