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Ask HN: Discuss burnout with boss?
153 points by dummy_123 on Oct 21, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 96 comments
I am burnt out at work and not sure how to start the discussion with my boss. I've tried addressing the problem myself over the past year by means of exercise, diet, getting more sleep, more time spent on hobbies, socializing more, and pacing myself at work. It's not helping, it's just getting worse. I know quitting and finding a new job is an option but I would prefer not to. How can I have a productive discussion with my boss about burnout? How did you handle it?

My manager and I had a 10 year relationship going. I had just transitioned to a new role, had a new born and taken on too much. I was feeling it for 6 months but finally broke at around 9 months. I told him I couldn't do it anymore and that I wanted a sabbatical. I told them that my backup plan was to just quit.

He talked me off the ledge and within a day had transitioned my troublesome projects to others and moved me to a four day work week to recover. He had to run this by manager's three levels up, do an insane amount of HR paperwork (fulltime -> not fulltime, pro-rated salary adjustment, etc.). All this happened in a space of two days.

I stayed on a four day week for a couple of months. It was magical. He retained my reduced workload when I came back full time.

His first comment when I initially cracked - "you should have come to me sooner".

The quick reaction, sympathy and support I got cemented my loyalty to an outstanding manager.I'm still here a couple of years later.

I would like to interject: This heavily depends on the boss. I've seen great bosses who will make stuff like this happen, and I've seen terrible bosses who don't give a shit. Make sure you work for the right-kind of boss if you are going to take this approach!

Speaking as a boss who I'd like to think falls into the former category... If you don't ask you won't know what they'll do for you or not. Could be your boss doesn't help or makes it worse then you know exactly what to do next - quit,move to another team, or take it to hr id its really hostile. That dick boss is probably the reason for your burnout (aka situational depression caused by work) so the solution is in moving on.

[Also as a boss] I'm fully convinced that a lot of the badmouthing you hear about "bad bosses" comes from people who never made any effort to create a functional bidirectional trust relationship with their boss. There certainly are bad bosses, and I would never claim otherwise, but I think we'd all be better off if there was as much employee development training on "how to build a relationship with your boss" as there is "how to be a boss" training.

I suspect many hacker types do have problems with the small talk, I know I do.

When I broke down and got sick I started cognitive behavioral therapy and among the things we talked about was expectations. It turned out that I didn't really know what my boss' expectation of me was. What I thought his expectation was were one of the things that broke me. And it was all fantasy. Lesson learned. Be frank and honest, don't be afraid to talk to your boss. Make sure you get answers that are explicit and something you understand. Make sure it's not cloudy company and management pep talk that you can't even remember a few minutes after the meeting.

Me and my boss talked a lot, and I ended staying in the company, but switched boss. :)

This is a great point. More times than I'd like to admit I've found out someone working for me had worked themselves up worried about something that we could've resolved in 5 min with a simple conversation. If you're anxious about something at work just come our with it and find out where you really stand. The thing about worrying is the vast majority of the time it's wasted on things that aren't true or will never happen.

Speaking on behalf of all non sucky bosses don't let issues fester - just tell us what's up. Maybe we can help.

The worst case scenario is your boss does nothing, you speak to your bosses boss who also does nothing, and you quit because that's your only route to retaining sanity which is essentially what happens if you don't talk to anyone anyway.

"Make sure you work for the right-kind of boss if you are going to take this approach!"

Also if you aren't going to take this approach (if you have the luxury).

Any manager which cares about their employees would say that, "you should have come to me sooner." Only issue is how many managers are actually empathetic?

At the line manager level, probably many, even most. Empathy is selected against for promotion at most corporations, so if the OP is reporting to someone who is already a senior manager or aspiring to become one, it's unlikely.

That said, even the most cold-blooded bastard is going to make an effort to keep any middling-or-better employee right now. It's too hard to find competent replacements.

IMO it depends on the employee. I have some where I'd for sure go to bat to keep them around. I have some who slack off, put in minimal hours, and do a terrible job checking their work. They're a net positive, but barely, and if they were to throw a fit like that I'd tell them to take a hike.

This is a good story, and I'm glad your boss reacted well. But, it sort of bothers me how it's not considered acceptable in this world to take a sabbatical. Why are companies so against the idea of people taking a few months off in a row, especially if otherwise they would just quit?

A sabbatical can be long (and is not "vacation time" or "sick leave") because by default it's unpaid.

So it's in the developer's interest as well for the manager to figure out a way to reshape his/her job to make it sustainable (and thus keep the paychecks coming) rather than just saying "uh, sure, go deal with your problems, take as long as you need; when you run out of money we'll still have your job here for you."

Plus -- "first newborn in the house" is something that causes upheaval for maybe 6 months or so, and then life settles down again. If you have a supportive/flexible work environment then "up all night with a crying baby" here and there (before the baby grows out of that stage!) doesn't result in crushing stress and visions of disaster.

Edit for more context -- we have a developer who works part time and sometimes takes long sabbaticals -- switching into his alter-ego as a theater director. It's quite a different sort of situation from someone who has a newborn and is burning out.

> Plus -- "first newborn in the house" is something that causes upheaval for maybe 6 months or so, and then life settles down again.

Ha! That's fine until they get to 8 months and stop sleeping through the night again (which apparently is a common thing). A few weeks of chronic sleep deprivation can absolutely destroy your ability to do anything vaguely brain-work-related.

But -- after 6 months the parents' level of expertise is significantly higher.

I have two kids, 3 and 6. The second was hard, but we knew what were getting into, largely, and how to survive it. The first was... rough.

I'm not sure about sleeping through the night stuff -- we did the co-sleeping thing, which helps a lot! But still, by 8 months I'll bet the parents would have some strategy in place -- maybe "hey, tonight's your night to wear earplugs" coupled with strategic naps.

You're employed because a specific amount of work needs to be done within a specified amount of time.

If you're not going to do it, who will?

The work might wait a week or two (vacation), but do you really think the clients will be OK waiting months (sabbatical)?

The only industry where it's acceptable to just take off is within academia and that's mostly because most of the teaching is done by staff that would never have the option of a sabbatical to begin with.

If you let them quit instead, will you be able to find anyone(s) who will handle that work, and how fast will they get up to speed? And if the person's burnt out, is their schedule packed already to the point where things like "documentation" and "refactoring" are "nice to haves" instead of necessities?

This isn't black and white. The options aren't sabbatical or disaster.

Time off is not a solution. The problem will simply resurface when the person comes back.

The solution is to re-organize the work. Hire an additional person, if needed. Add work that the employee will enjoy and that will be relaxing. That's a solution.

If the company isn't interested in solutions, then the solution for the employee is still not a sabbatical. The solution is to quit and find a company that isn't so myopic.

> If you're not going to do it, who will?

And if you're hit by a bus, then what? The company goes under? People shouldn't exactly be replaceable, but they also shouldn't be carrying the entire company on their shoulders. No wonder they get burnt out.

Even managers/companies that would be happy for someone to take a few months sabbatical from their job would probably not want to be asked a day or two before the sabbatical would start.

This comment made me less cynical.

Thumbs up for this sorta reaction from managers. A boss should be a mentor and not someone you are afraid to go to, especially when times get rough.

I'm a boss of devs. My off the cuff response to you is "please, god _please_, talk to your boss." Say exactly what you told us. "I'm burnt out, I've tried addressing the problem..."

Before you do, think through what's causing the burnout. It could be the hours, that's where everyone goes first, but it could be a particular client, it could be the number of projects you're having to concurrently work, it could be your environment, it could something else completely, or it could be a combination of a bunch of those things.

Once you get sorta close to what's causing the burnout you can work to a solution that you can pitch your boss. But I wouldn't lead with it, I'd let him ask you "so what can we do" and then present what you're thinking.

Speaking as a boss, I really don't want people quitting for negative reasons. If they get some crazy offer that I can't match or they get to work on some cool tech that excites them, them's the breaks and it suck for me but I'm excited for them. But if I have people quitting for systemic reasons, man that's bad juju and I need to know so I can fix that shit before quitting becomes contagious and I lose a shop full of good people.

It's also been mentioned a couple times to see a counselor. I concur. You may be dealing with some anxiety and depression issues that a qualified doc can help you through.

I think it's important to understand that burnout is situational depression and/or anxiety. If you are burning out it's important to recognize that it's not some special software developer thing its a real psychological issue that professionals can help with. There's no shame in admitting that and getting help beyond just trying to talk to your boss.

Are managers like you common or are you some type of unicorn?

Nah. Most of the managers I worked with truly wanted to treat their people well, they just didn't have the latitude or power to do so. They were given lots of responsibility with no authority, they got dumped on by the jackwagon MBA(s) they reported to, and they didn't have the power to do anything but serve as a conduit between upper management and the field. It was/is a culture problem endemic to many big corporations (and lots of small ones too).

It's hit or miss. A lot of the bad managers (and the world's full of 'em) just make sure most of their employees are on H1 visas so they can't plausibly quit. That way they don't have to do anything for the employees, and they don't have to worry about attrition.

Not coincidentally, when things aren't as silly-boomy as they are now, being a citizen looks a lot more like being on an H1, and manager behavior often adjusts to match. Fair warning.

More common than you think in my experience.

1. Quitting and finding a new job doing the same thing (dev I presume) might not solve the issues. It could lead to additional stressors that worsen the problem.

2. As an employer, make it easy for me! Be able to say what's going on matter-of-factly with a focus on how you feel and how it affects yourself. Don't focus on other people, now is not the time to air grievances within the team. Come up with a few options you'd like to try and lay out the pros / cons (ex. lightened work load for a month, different project, extended unpaid vacation for 1-3 months).

3. See a psychologist! It may be hard to find a good one, but it is totally 100% worth it to have a professional that you can talk to openly.

I can't stress (no pun intended) #3 enough. Mental health is too stigmatized. See a good psychologist! Many specialize in this type of stress.

In addition, try guided meditation (I use Headspace). It feels kind of hokey at first, but it really helped me through a burnout period.

What exactly do you talk to a psychologist about?

I've often mused with the idea, perhaps there is some systemic issue that I need to have help with identifying and resolving... But then...what? Perhaps we have all seen way too many movies involving psychologists/psychiatrists, that it's slanted our view. I know it has slanted it for me.

Ideally you want to find someone offering cognitive behaviour therapy. You want an experienced practitioner. One to one face to face settings are better, but some people like group meetings or find telephone consults convenient.

For a mild problem you would be doing between 8 to 14 sessions of about an hour each.

The aim would be to indentify a problem. Then identify the "hot thought", the emotion it creates, how strongly you feel that emotion, and then the evidence you have for it.

You don't push that thought away, the therapist doesn't try to correct it. You sit with it for a few moments. You learn to identify the physical changes your body goes through (increased heart rate, sweaty palms, faster breathing, tense neck etc). Then you think of different evidence. You think about that new evidence, and say if it affects how strongly you feel the original hot thought.

It's an iterative process! This is just a very quick description - it's a bit more involved than that.

You're right - movies are terrible portrayals of mental health treatment. Like CSI does computers level of bad.

I think the best portrayal of mental health treatment I've seen was Josh Lyman's treatment for PTSD on The West Wing.

And it still had a lot wrong with it.

It's a comfortable environment where you can discuss what's happening to you, how you are thinking about it, and how it makes you feel. The psychologist will be able to provide suggestions about the situation, your way of thinking, and how to manage your feelings. They can teach you techniques like cognitive behavioral therapy, or just provide an unbiased outside point of view.

Most importantly, they are detached from the situation (unlike a coworker or friend) and have professional training and experience at helping people with their problems.

Often times when I see a psychologist I end up figuring out how to improve my situation on my own. Having a place to spend time thinking about the issues in a calmer way, and the occasional suggestion or a good question, let me tackle my issues from a different point of view. Repeated visits (once every two weeks to start, then once a month) for a period of time provide motivation to put these realizations into action. When I feel better, I stop going.

Per #1 - make sure it isn't just change just for the sake of change and that the likelihood is that you'll end up experiencing the same problems (but probably a different spin) is possible. Before you hop jobs make sure it will really resolve some problems you have and won't be experiencing "same shit, different day/place/employer"

I can't agree more with point 2. If you're looking for change without going to a new place then it's likely that your manager will be more then willing to try working with you. This is a tactic you should employ when approaching your manager with any type of grievance (interpersonal problems, project issues, etc). Coming up with potential solutions gives your manager something to begin enacting immediately. It also really reframes the discussion by showing that your a person looking to solve problems instead of just complaining.

Finally providing your own solutions also moves the locus of control internally. In my experience one possible contributor to burnout can be lack of empowerment.

I supervise developers. This is easy: talk to your boss. Either way, this solves your problem.

Outcome 1: it goes well. Your boss listens with empathy. Your boss works with you to find ways to help you feel better. You take some vacation or etc., and then come back to work feeling renewed. Success!

Outcome 2: it goes poorly. Your boss blows you off. Now you have an easy next step: Go find a better place to work (e.g., email me). Success!

+1 to this. After spending a lot of my career searching for the best paying job and not giving a shit about anything else I have recently realized that what I am doing and who I am working for is kind of important to me (good pay is still nice don't get me wrong). For that reason I have been working on building no-bs relationships with my managers. I tell them how I am feeling, both good and bad, and hope they'll do the same. The bosses this type of relationship has worked well with were the type of people I enjoyed working for/with and the ones who get that "life happens". In my opinion the good managers understand that their job is to enable their employees and remove road blocks. If your manger doesn't feel that way then maybe it's better you move on.

As a manager, if an employee of mine came to me and said "I'm burning out, what do I do?" I'd do whatever I could to help them rediscover their passion for the job they're doing.

But as an employee, I made the mistake at my last job of telling my boss that I wasn't happy. Instead of trying to help, he pushed me out the door. I'm glad to not be there any more, and my happiness levels skyrocketed, but I'll be wary in the future of telling my boss that I'm unhappy/burnt out.

It sucks.

I'm sure he was a horrible boss anyway and I think for the future, if you ever need to hold on to a job for another six months or something but you're really burnt out, maybe it's be good to provide an actionable request. "I'm unhappy and burnt out and to get back to being productive I need to take two weeks off from next week and I want to change my working hours to Y for Z weeks thereafter.

Of course it's hard to think straight when you're down like that, though.

If you were happy after you left the job, didn't your boss do you a favor?

Sort of. It's a long story, but I got transferred into his department. I was happy in my other department and unhappy in his. So in that regard, it was not a favor. But since the transfer was effectively irreversible, it wound up being a favor in that I could move on and find something better.

The other major downside was the stress of being unemployed and having to find a new gig. But it all worked out in the end, so there's that.

Next time, I'll keep it to myself until I find another job.

If it's getting worse, you haven't hit full burnout yet. You should stop right now unless you really want to suffer that, let this be a cautionary tale: http://jacquesmattheij.com/dealing-with-burn-out I would just give a 2 week notice out of the blue. I'd say I'd made plans for a year's 'sabbatical', and I would give that to the company as the primary excuse for leaving -- if you can work out a deal where they'll hire you back then great but don't hold your breath. If you don't have a year's expenses saved up then you should also think about moving to a less expensive area. You can always move back when (and if) you decide to get a job in the area again, which may be much less than a year but if at the end of the year you still feel aversion your next Ask HN should be on reentering the job market but wanting to transition out of a pure programming role into something else similarly well paid (but maybe not even in tech).

Edit: Downvoters may not think this response is justified, but full burnout is very serious. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Burnout_%28psychology%29 If you're still at the stage where a "break", even one so long as a year, can help you get your head back in the game, you need to take advantage of that now rather than later before you burn out completely and spend at least a year but maybe even a decade to build yourself back up to a passable shadow of your former self, productivity-in-the-field-wise. That you have been struggling to fight burnout for a year already while it's getting worse suggests you need a longer break and perhaps a big shift in day-to-day work rather than a simple week or two near a beach without internet.

I second this motion. It's time to locate a more suitable work environment for yourself. The company's not going to change... and your personality's not going to change... but you can control what company you work at. Quit now, and spend some time locating your next gig. I wish you luck.

I tried this once. Conversation was like this: ME: "Hi I'm not doing so well, perhaps I could take a break?" BOSS: "Yeah, you're fired."

I had a similar conversation with a manager a few years back, and it went much better than I expected. It's tough, because on one hand you're literally saying to the boss, "I'm currently unhappy and unable to work at the level I expect of myself.", but hopefully they are able to empathize enough to want to work through it. It could easily go the other way, though. My advice is to be prepared for it to be a conversation that leads to you not working there anymore, but at the same time be open to being pleasantly proved wrong.

Also, burnout feels terrible. Really sorry to hear that. Good luck!

> "I'm currently unhappy and unable to work at the level I expect of myself."

I think this is a really good way of putting it. I think it's also important to realize that you may go through stages of feeling like this fairly frequently. It's when you don't do something about it (often because you feel like you can't), that it gets to be a problem.

The conversation "I want to do more / I want to do better. Here are the things that are in my way", feels a bit awkward at first, but in reality it is music to a manager's ears -- especially if your manager has been thinking, "What's going on with Joe? I really expect more from him." Often they are afraid to broach the subject because they don't want to put pressure on you and potentially make things worse.

Removing roadblocks so that people can do their work really well is the job of a manager. I think that many people don't realize this and as a result don't take advantage of/empower their managers. Often people view their manager as an impediment to work around (or simply as the gatekeeper to getting a higher salary).

Even if things are going well, I recommend that people get into the habit of saying, "I want to improve X, but I'm having difficulty because of Y" (even if Y is, "I don't know what to do"). See how your manager reacts and whether or not they can help you (directly or indirectly). A good manager is worth a lot!

I'm always a fan of being honest and authentic. Your mileage may vary depending on your boss's personality and attitude to work/life though. Previously I've recommended that in your next touchbase (you're having them right?) simply let your boss know that you're feeling burnt out and as a result not being as productive as you can be for the company and happy for yourself. One would hope your manager wants both things (productivity and happiness) and you should be able to steer the conversation from there to ways you can reclaim energy and happiness.

My fear is that some managers take this as a sign they need to think about replacing someone - I'd be really careful about taking this option unless I had a really great personal relationship with my manager.

>my fear is...

If ever there was an indication that you should be courageous and do something uncomfortable, it's when you are afraid of being honest.

In this case it is a win-win even if you lose your job. If you are a)burnt out, and b)have a boss that doesn't recognize the healthy and happy employees are more productive and valuable than starting over from scratch with a new hire...then you not only are you just speeding up the inevitable departure and moving quicker to a healthier and happier place, but there is also a decent chance you are burnt out partially because you have a boss that doesn't belong in a position of managing others.

In the Bay Area, this chat triggers the Employee Retention Response Workflow.

I like how this response shifts the viewpoint from 1st person to 3rd person.

It's not getting replaced--it's an opportunity to escape.

A personal relationship is part of the necessary context, but all things considered it is usually a small part.

Managers at most shops are valued by the company for their ability to build and maintain a functional team. If they have high attrition and struggle to replace people, they will get dinged, miss out on bonuses, and eventually be replaced themselves if the problem persists. Conversely, if they are churning through people and skimming off the cream to keep, no one is going to bat an eye at the number of people they shitcan or why they did it.

The relative value of having the conversation vs. not has to be considered in that context. Do you need this job to survive? Are you responsible for others' survival as well? What's the market like for people in your line of work? How is the company doing? The team? How's your manager's stock of political capital? What about the next-level manager's? Have you been doing great work (and do people know it)? Are you paid above or below market? And sure, to some extent, it matters what sort of manager you have. Some are biased toward churn, others toward retention. But the primary deciding factor here is whether your boss is going to be better off finding a way to keep you, or finding a way to replace you.

In 2015, if you are a computer programmer near San Francisco, it will almost certainly be better for your boss to find a way to keep you. The labor market in that region and sector is tight, so finding even minimally functional replacements is difficult. Unless you're an abject festering sore on the company's bottom line, you're likely to find sympathy, cooperation, and ultimately a genuine retention effort. If it were 2001? Not so much... even if you had the exact same boss. When there are legit superstars sitting on the beach desperate for any kind of work at any kind of pay, your value to the company is likely to be negligible, and at that point the only difference between a kindhearted manager and a bastard will be an offer to forget the whole conversation ever happened.

Consider the context and let that be your guide. (Good) managers are always thinking about replacing people -- not necessarily because they want to or think it's easy, but because they know they may have no choice. They have a pretty good idea of what they're willing to do to keep each member of their team given the company and market context, and what they can realistically hope to do given company policy. You should have a pretty good idea what they'd be willing to do to keep you, too. In some cases, that will be nearly anything; in others, it will be absolutely nothing.

There's no simple answer here, because the relative value of replacing and retaining people is so context-dependent.

If you're feeling burned out and you've put over a year into your current job, I'd highly recommend you consider switching jobs. My own opinion is, if you're not feeling passionate about your work, the first thing to try and change is the work itself!

On the side of speaking to your manager, what's your relationship with this person like? Its easy to see someone speaking to you about burnout as a warning sign that you should consider replacing them. If that's your manager's reaction, you'll need to start looking for new work anyway. I'd suggest being _really_ careful about how you bring this up with them. Make sure you focus on the positives (I love this job, I really like my colleagues, this is a personal issue), over talking about any negatives.

Finally, perhaps this is a good chance to speak to your boss about taking on a new project, or trying a different role for a little while? A change in your day-to-day might make things seem a lot better :)

When was the last extended break you had and how long was it?

Take a good chunk of time off with zero computer, technical or online stuff.

When I quit my old job earlier this year (after being burnt out hard) I was able to take 3 weeks off before starting new gig at smaller start-up-ish company. I used ZERO electronics and such over the 3 weeks. No programming books are anything like that.Was finally "refreshed" when I started the new job.

I burned out and it took me 6 years to recover. Still to this day I deal with it. Two weeks ago I turned in my notice to a job that exceeded the stress level I wanted in my life, and just for kicks I looked for a short term contract a few days later. Immediately I was able to double my rate and get a reduced stressed position. There is no way I would have been able to ace the phone interview for the new shot term contract stressed out, working 60 hours a week, and in crisis mode. Then, the old contract cut me lose early and I got a week off to do some needed remodeling in my house before starting the new gig. So it was a win for everyone.

> Then, the old contract cut me lose early and I got a week off

One mistake I made for the first decade working was to always jump straight from one job to the next with no time off in between. Taking even a week between really helps you relax and gives you time to figure out what's important to you. Although most people hiring want you to start ASAP, I doubt they would be fased much about you starting a week later - even for short term contracts you can usually squeeze it a bit.

We've switched to using Kanban at work.

I won't go into all of it, but one thing that has really helped is to have all the tasks in progress on a board where everyone can see them.

And only have one task in express lane and two non-express items at any time.

You haven't said whether the problem is too much work or competing priorities (or both). Whatever it is, this has helped me.

What were you using before the switch to Kanban? This is very interesting to me, the idea that just switching up techniques can have that much of an impact on how you feel at work.

Kanban is more relaxed than scrum.

When the teams I worked with switched to kanban, they liked that they didn't have the end of scrum deadline, they also disliked that they didn't have the ten day deadline anymore as they felt the arbitrary deadline helped to push them a little.

That being said, kanban is better, it is more relaxed and feature feedback is faster than scrum.

I'll have to look more into it then. At some point we just got tired of hearing about all the different ways to approach agile, and we've been using some sort of (mostly scrum) hybrid for the last few projects I've been a part of. But if there really is merit to this then that's something to consider.

I guess we were using nothing really. We had RequestTracker (for ops) and Jira for development and I found myself in the middle. At the start I was the sole sysadmin and did the small amount of developer support stuff as well. We've tripled in size over the last ten years. As we grew I was doing the jobs of product owner, business analyst, developer, devops, sysadmin without really being conscious of the change. The great temptation is to think that things won't work unless you're involved because you know it all.

Boiling frog syndrome in a way(1)

Not having to decide priorities is a massive relief; the product owners know they have to discuss priorities with each other and my team leader, not me.

(1) yeah I know it's not an accurate analogy.

What would you want your boss to do?

Let's say this is a perfect, magical world where your boss will do everything possible to help you. What actions would she take? Would she switch you to another team? Reduce your workload? Allow you to work from home? Let you take a month off?

Basically your boss can't make your burnout magically go away. Figure out what you'd ideally want her to do. Then figure if that's even possible. If the concrete action you want is within your boss's power, then you may as well ask. But understand that your boss may say no, and you may end up quitting to get what you want.

Disclaimer : I never had good relationship with any of my bosses in 10+ years, may be my fault or may be theirs. I cant change my attitude.(i'm not bootlicker and all my boss's expected that in my Indian environment/culture)

There are quite lot of good comments on approaching boss and talking about your issue. I agree with them but let me ask:

your boss doesn't know that you are overloaded ? Can't he see there are people in this team working less and probably getting paid more than you? If that's the case, why he didn't act so far? Is he biased towards few members?

Bottom-line is , if your boss doesn't know that you are overloaded and work is not split fairly- you can explain him about burnout issue, I'm pretty sure he will solve the issue.

If your boss doing all this intentionally, in order to make you to fall in line. I'd highly recommend getting a new job and then talk to him. Just to be on safer side, if talks didn't go well.

Again read my disclaimer :)

EDIT : Oh..wait..there is one boss. He's kind of technical guy,which i admire & respect. I can say I had one only good boss in these 10+ years. I changed 4 companies and met around 10 boss's in different projects.

>your boss doesn't know that you are overloaded ?

He might not, people have different stress levels. I get stressed pretty easily, my boss, not so much.

As for not wanting/be able to change your attitude: I don't think you should be expected to. There will be jobs you can't hold, but telling someone that their attitude needs adjusting is somewhat narrow-minded. I behave, act and react in certain ways. That's just who I am, that excludes me for working for a large range of companies, but mostly is companies I wouldn't want to work for.

>He might not

then its good news, should definitely have a chat with him.

> I cant change my attitude.

I hope that this is a typo because in a relationship, the only attitude that you have in your power to change is yours, not your boss.

Sorry,no its not a typo. Its not just about maintaining relationship, I don't like give my self-respect for the sake of being in their good books. (which can fetch me things like promotion/money/travel etc). Instead of 'i can't" it should have like 'I don't want to change my attitude'. I strongly believe there must be mutual respect between you and boss. It can't be one-way. Again, as I mentioned its more specific my work environment so far. I believe culture plays vital role once you reach boss position.

First, you definitely want to discuss this with your boss rather than just quitting. It sounds like you like the company you're working for, but you're just feeling the effects of burnout. Here are some questions for you:

1. how long have you been at the company?

2. what is different about the work you did this year vs the first year you worked at the company?

3. who at the company seems similarly burned out to you? have you tried talking to that peer about burnout and what the root causes might be (e.g. projects, technologies, pressure from business, etc.) before taking it to your boss?

4. do you think your boss is the kind of person who would welcome a frank discussion about this -- is he or she the kind of person that already talks about controlling for employee burnout and striving for work/life balance among staff on a regular basis?

I got burnt out working 10+ hour days, 7 days a week for a year, tried to ignore it and push through and was noticeably showing signs of burnout and productivity issues because of it. I couldn't take it anymore and asked for a week vacation. 3 days into the week vacation I was fired.

Shitty employers do shitty things.


Doesn't look like it (from blog linked in GP profile):


Missed the parent comment, what was it about? I forgot about this thread until I noticed my Google Analytics blow up from you linking this.

I'm not sure we're allowed to copy and paste dead comments, but you can turn on showdead in your user profile and see it yourself.

Ah, nice tip.

Throwaway acct time!

I'm burnt out but there is no way on earth I would discuss personal problems with my boss, particularly ones that might indicate a potential work performance issue. I'd be handing this person a reason to actively start searching for my replacement. No way. I'm closing in on 40, which severely limits my options in Silicon Valley. I make a fairly decent salary, for a very well known tech company. Not gonna risk that. I've got kids and a mortgage to pay.

Quite frankly, I am shocked at the number of responses encouraging people to do this. It seems very high-risk, low potential reward. Interview when you can escape for a few hours, and if you happen to find a better job that looks like it will be less stress, take it! THEN and only then should you tell anyone.

It's great your trying to improve yourself, but that also adds stress when you can't manage expectations well (which isn't easy anyways for many people).

You can leave and take a break. Or talk to your boss. I don't know what your responsibilities are but it's never worth it to go burnt out for a long time. You risk breaking yourself.

I experienced that and it sucks, big time. I'm becoming stronger because of it. However, I'd rather see people learn without going through that.

I suspect you're worried about the consequences of talking to your boss. If he's an asshole chances are that was already contributing to burnout. You'll win if you get canned. It doesn't reflect on your skills so don't let your ego get bruised because of a trifling matter. If your boss is semi-human, you also win.

What helped me a lot was therapy and yoga/meditation. In yoga, good instructors reinforce forgetting about worries of life for a "mere" hour and focusing on myself. Once I stopped resisting that concept, life started improving rapidly. It's a hard thing to go, dropping "everything". Finding someone to talk or a group of people who understand is really important and there are many people who have gone through these kind of things.

Many don't learn or understand the meaning of priorities until the experience something traumatic.

So talk to your boss and don't quit before finding a new job. Or quit and take a long break.

Attempt clear and open communication with your boss.

If they are receptive and want to help awesome stay there/cont. to work hard for them.

If not go find somewhere else to work that respects you and your hard work!

I could share my personal experience, such as the time when I told a boss of mine with whom I had a great relationship that I was going to take a day off before I got close to burning out, using the actual words "burning out", but even though all the anecdotal responses are heart warming and all,...

1) this sort of thing is almost completely situational; i.e. depends on your specific context

2) you won't know exactly how it will play out until you've said words that you can't take back

3) at which point, if you miscalculated, you employer now has info that puts you at a disadvantage

4) company-employee relationships by definition and structure give the company asymmetric advantages in issues such as information, financial negotiations, and time-line strategies.

I say all this, not to be a wet-blanket, but rather to offer an alternative. You can accomplish the same thing using different words. If you're burning out, don't ask for understanding from your company, do the right thing for yourself and do what is necessary to put yourself back on a sustainable path. If this includes giving a different reason for how you end up dealing with it, tell them what they need to hear, but, do not add 'worried about your job' to 'burnt out'.

It seems like all of the things you are doing are the standard stupid suggestions on what to do when you're burned out but you're not addressing the real cause. I'm not 100% sure but I think that burnout is caused when there is a mismatch between work and reward (not just monetary, but general personal and social fulfillment).

Are you working on a huge, elaborate and edpansive project with lofty goals that have maybe been scuttled by tptbs for no good reason, leaving your hard work pointless? Are you bashing your head against failure that is beyond your control for some reason? I think these are the sorts of things that truly cause burnout, not overwork per se, but overwork coupled with a mismatch with expected reward, especially if it's repetitive. Then you're training your brain to be allergic to work, because hard work is negatively rewarded.

Paradoxically, the platitudinous prescriptions that many give (get fresh air, exercise, etc) can be counterproductive because you reinforce non-work things that give you the dopamine response of success in predictable, comforting bursts.

Another approach I suggest is work modestly to strenuously hard on small things with guaranteed or near guaranteed success that will also be fulfilling in some way. Maybe the results will be immediately obvious because you are building a small tool that helps your coworkers. Social validation and support for your efforts will also help.

I could be wrong about the mechanism of burnout, but if what I describe hits a nerve, I hope you will try to shake out of it with a mind to the mechanism of your burnout. This strategy has really helped me get out of funks in biochemistry (where failure is frequent), and I've helped many colleagues too.

This is something I've struggled with and did discuss with my boss after listening to this podcast. https://www.accidentalcreative.com/podcasts/ac/podcast-two-t...

I shared the podcast with my boss but first with a disclaimer to not panic. I didn't want them to think I was on my way out. I found that the podcast addressed exactly what I was feeling in regards to burnout. I suggested a 1:1 with my boss after to discuss direction and how they can help me make my way out of my slump.

It ended up being a really productive conversation and my boss thanked me for giving them the chance to discuss this with them. Since then my boss has been throwing more challenges and opportunities my way to mix things up and help me avoid burnout but also find new directions in the company that I like.

So my advice is if you like your day job but feel stuck and have a boss you feel you can trust, bring it up. But delivery is key.

Why are you burnt out would need to be addressed first? Is it because your company understaffed for the work that needs to be done, too much travel, deadlines to quick, etc. Depending on which one it is, quitting might be the only option if you are not able to have your management address the issue promptly. What I have done is go to their office and say Hi Manager's name do you have a minute? If they say yes go ahead and close the door and let them know you are feeling burnt out due 'REASON HERE' and that you were wondering when you will be getting some extra personnel to assist you with the work.

Your manager should then relay this information into seeing what they can do to lower the burden you having to take on by hiring more people or lightening your work load. If that is not something they are able to do then you will unfortunately have to start looking for a new job that does not weigh you down so much.

"getting more sleep" -- how much are you getting now? For me, this is the #1 thing that affects my mood and productivity.

Also, on average, how many hours per day do you spend working or thinking about work? If it's more than 8-9, stop it. Go be with your family/dog/whatever is important to you and don't think about work at nights or on the weekend at all. If you need to, turn off work emails (or even better, don't have them on your phone to begin with), Slack notifications, or whatever your org's ball and chain of choice is. I've worked at places where it seems impossible to disconnect like that, and that's a pretty solid indicator that you should look for something new (at least in my experience).

I am not sure how that conversation would go. In this era companies do not have a lot of loyalty, and it might taint your image.

In your comment, you say that you tried to address your burnout, but is that really true? Maybe think about the causes of burnout, and try to get to the bottom of that. I know that for myself, I get burned out when I feel like I am on a treadmill, where I work but there are no results (in other words, the feedback loop gets broken). If that is the case with you, then maybe you could adjust your role / projects so that there is a better connection between work and reward or progress. For example, reducing page or app size, increasing performance, things where there is a high chance of making some measurable benefit.

You have to kinda gauge the culture. When I was getting ready to move on, I let my new boss know, who got me a meeting with the CEO, where we hashed everything out. We promised to keep everyone on the same page, and rash moves were prevented on both sides.

But you do have to be firm. I hope you have some cash saved up that you can live on in case of sudden unemployment. Personally, I'd recommend a three-month trip abroad. I travel every few years and it's great for resetting my burnout clock.

It may take a little while, but I'd recommend reading Living Non-Violent communication or watching Marshall Rosenberg's 3 hour video on YouTube.

One important thing to grasp is the true nature of criticism (something that goes both ways). You will find it extremely difficult to get what you want from your boss if he hears a criticism as opposed to an unmet need, while if he hears the later there are much better chances that he will see it as an opportunity that he can opt-in.

What are the reasons of your burnout, and is there a plausible way to recover without changing job? How much can your responsibilities, tasks, working environment etc. be altered? Improving your situation might be impossible, even if your boss and your colleagues care for your health.

TIL I've never had a good boss.

Many years ago I take a week of vacation after almost year of 60+hr weeks. Got fired on return, no official explanations. Unofficial reason- senior manager don't happy about me absent on weekly meeting.

Good luck. It all depends on how enabled your manager is to make a difference. I've had good managers who listen, but I've never had a manager who was actually enabled to make a difference.

Before you do anything, get your resume updated and start talking to recruiters, etc, and see what your options are. Make sure you have a fall back plan before you open this can of worms.

Yes, of course, you should. If your boss takes it properly, you will have a good outcome. If your boss takes it lightly or improperly, you know what you should then do.

Talk first with your boss and then make your decision.

There is no such thing as burn out. You're either progressing or regressing in your job. Burnout, work-life balance are man made excuses.

I mean this sincerely because I truly am curious. This is a person that is obviously going through a tough period in their life. Why did you find it necessary to attempt to make them feel even worse than they already feel? Is this some kind of tough love thing? Do you get satisfaction from kicking others while they are down as some kind of ego boost? Or quite possibly some other reason that I don't understand? Again, I'm not trying to judge you or put you down. I very much am curious about your motivation here.

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