Anecdotal evidence suggests that the escalated workload of the public accounting “busy season” is a major contributor to employee “burnout.” Academic research on the psychological impact of the busy season workload, however, is virtually absent from the accounting literature. We partially address this void by employing a longitudinal design and structural equation modeling to examine the causal impact of the busy season workload on public accountants' job burnout—a dysfunctional stress syndrome. Prior to the start of the busy season and again at its end, we measured hours worked, role stressors, and job burnout for a sample of public accountants from a national firm. The results of our analyses indicate that public accountants' pre‐busy season burnout was not directly affected by hours worked, even though subjects reported an average workload of 49 hours per week. This result implies that public accountants may develop a relatively high workload threshold before it directly impacts their job burnout. During the busy season, our subjects' weekly workload increased to approximately 63 hours. The additional workload burden introduced by the busy season caused job burnout for our sample of public accountants to rise to levels rarely reported in the research literature.

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