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Burnout can exacerbate work stress, further promoting a vicious circle (uni-mainz.de)
311 points by rustoo on Nov 10, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 207 comments

Clicked for me recently that working hard is like driving in first gear. Necessary initially, but if you don't shift up into higher gears, you're probably not doing it right, and not getting as far as fast as you probably should. If I'm tired, it's necessarily because I'm mismanaging my work and time, and that's a signal it's time to step back and figure out what's wrong.

Some people are really good at that initial torque boost on projects and can sustain it longer than others, but if work doesn't get easier it's because you're doing something wrong.

From a market-fit perspective, I think startups that drive around in first gear never get very far either. Things are only hard because we're being stupid. Nobody ever looks at a person driving a ferrari and thinks, "wow, they must have washed a lot of dishes to afford that car," and yet we still think "if I just wash these dishes hard enough I'll drive a ferrari one day."

I'm guilty of this as much as anyone, but burnout is my body intervening to tell me I'm being stupid.

> Nobody ever looks at a person driving a ferrari and thinks, "wow, they must have washed a lot of dishes to afford that car," and yet we still think "if I just wash these dishes hard enough I'll drive a ferrari one day."

I'm saving this quote to tell people this later on.

the twist is to make others wash dishes obviously

dish-washing is a cost-center, not a profit-center, so really the solution is to cut costs by washing dishes as little as possible :)

Sign up for my dishes-as-a-service subscription NetDish. Get clean dishes until you stop paying.

Also check out my dishwasher-sharing service Dishdash.

So if for some reason, you guys decide to block my account, I'm stuck with dirty dishes? And then I won't even be able to share with my friend who has working dishwasher? Ouch, that is hard!

And your dishwashing based social media platform WashedUp

We (royal/canandian we) have skipthedishes.com, who have already solved this problem, and were acquired for $110m. :)

It's the difference between "hmm, washing dishes is hard, I will do it better until someone notices and rewards me," and "average person buys less than one dishwasher in their entire lives...but they have to eat every single day...they could skip the dishes altogether!"

Sodexo washes your dishes (etc) and has a $10.6B market cap.

Sodexo sources dish-washing people. They're recruitment / labour hire / logistics. Dish washing (or whatever other actual physical outputs) are just a side effect of their actual business.

I believe Sodexo is a contractor that offers kitchen services, among other things. Companies pay Sodexo to wash dishes.

"Caesar built a bridge" old saying, meaning others built one "for him".

Ideally build a machine to wash the dishes, then build a company to build and sell the machines.

That loses your ability to charge them a recurring subscription plan. Maximize profit, acquire currency.

One of my first jobs was in retail, a backpacking outfitter located at the top of a scenic and winding road that's very popular among fast car folks. Summer weekends when the weather was good, we'd sell huge amounts of soda and trinkets from a gift shop in the front of the store.

One day, a guy come in and ask for a jug of water for his car, which had overheated. It turned out to be a yellow Ferrari, I got him some water and he headed on down the other side of the gap. Neither the fancy car nor needing water for an overheated vehicle was too far out of the ordinary, but the combination was curious - a sports car should be able to handle that road easily.

At the time, I lived with my dad. That evening, he mentioned that he had been in town and a yellow Ferrari had driven by with the engine revved way up like it was stuck in first gear...

Having driven a sports car (nothing like a Ferrari, sadly) for many years, I can attest to the fact that being sporty makes cars less robust, not more so. Partly because they're designed with tighter tolerances and run closer to their limits, but more largely because they're lower volume and so tend to have less spent on their engineering, ironically, than cheap ultra-mass-produced vehicles.

Although I don't doubt someone might not understand how to shift gears, you may be overestimating the reliability of exotic cars!

> If I'm tired, it's necessarily because I'm mismanaging my work and time

Is it though? What if you are (always) on call? What if you get a message from your boss late evening asking for stuff for early morning? What if you have late night meetings or very early morning meetings (and what if both are present)? What if coworkers from other timezones are messaging you outside work hours (if you even have defined work hours) with 'urgent' requests?

Often, the time mismanagement is external.

True. That's a case where 'change your organization or change your organization' applies. Like it or not, that decision is more in your own hands than in those of the external mismanagers.

This is a good point.

I’m trying to learn to push back more forcefully against unreasonable behavior by coworkers.

It can be very socially stressful to stand up against powerful folks in the organization. But if they aren’t called out, it will just continue.

I'd recommend learning to set personal boundaries because every regret will come from the times you didn't keep them, imo.

That's still mismanaging your work and time, but indirectly. Find a better job where your colleagues respect your personal time.

That's a stretch too far in my opinion. Sometimes we end up in situations that are unpleasant and the time it takes to change those situations is not necessarily short. As usual it's easier said than done. But it is doable, sure, I agree. But they still take a huge toll. Think about the hiring interview wall that's been going up recently. If stressed already one doesn't feel like jumping to leets code in preparation for an interview. Also there are other circumstances that make some of us not leave a job right away when we feel something is not right.

Are you familiar with the /r/wowthanksimcured/ subreddit? Might want to check it out.

There are several problems with your statement:

- find a better job: the job market is not ideal right now from the worker's perspective. Not to mention the difficulty of onboarding remote employees which is a stressor in itself. Not to mention the stress and the added workload of joining a new company/role while you have to build trust in a short amount of time.

- finding and landing a job is stressful. Assuming we're talking about jobs in CS, the prep is long, takes a lot of your personal time and ultimately you need to deal with a good amount of rejection. Stressful af.

- after landing a job, figuring out if it's a better job is hard. You really can't. There are yellow/red flags you can notice during interviews along with other intelligence you can get from insiders but more often than not the situation on the ground is more or less a crapshot.

- respecting personal time is subjective. Also a thing which you can't really figure it out unless you're in the specific situation and see if it matches your expectation.

Work hard at getting a better job instead of work hard to keep your current one if its shitty. It doesn't always apply, but it is correct most of the time.

I would somewhat disagree. While I don't think the factors you mention can be ignored, putting too much emphasis on them starts to feel like anxiety. It's a lot easier to cede personal time to your employer when you've already convinced yourself that they deserve it. Anxiety just makes it easier to fall into that trap

Fine. As long as we recognize that's a very privileged position. Many people on Hacker News have skillsets that are in high demand (across most geographical locations) so they have the luxury of moving on a whim.

This is not the case for many (most?) people.

What if you're on 3 different projects with 3 standup/checkins a day?

Then you need to follow the advice of health professionals:


You skip those meetings that fail to prove a relevant agenda upfront. Ofc this filter away everything, so you go where you'll be useful and explain to your direct manager your prioritizations.

In that case 'mismanaging my work and time' means 'not finding a different job[1]' :)

[1] Or forming a union and demanding better conditions, but, y'know, programmers.

Communication is important, too. Your teammates should have a rotating schedule and understanding of client deliveries so an exhausted person can rotate off for a fresh one.

At that point it's time to fire your boss and take your life in a direction that is right for you.

Thanks for posting this. Startup DevOps with 24/7 on call is brutal, especially if you're a very early employee.

This is hard to do. I heard a quote from like 1950 that you should work all out until you have 100k, then relax. Was said by a billionaire in why he didn’t burn out. After that, he was less stressed and did things he enjoyed more, which happened to make money.

But everyone has to wash dishes anyways. Now we have machines for that.

I want to use that analogy of endless busy work to break away from your analogy in saying that:

Maybe there is a breakaway in replacing parts bit by bit to build the fast car you want that can shift into the gears you need at the moment.

IDK, sometimes you're just going to be washing a lot of dishes.

Counterpoint: If driving a fancy car is your highest priority then most places in the developed world you can skimp in other places (family, time off, apartment size, etc) and save for a few years to pay cash for one if you haven't drawn a particularly short stick in life. A brand new GT-R costs something like 5-10yrs savings for a slightly-above-full-time pizza delivery driver who avoids most other luxuries.

I would label this as "missing the point" instead of "counterpoint".

Choosing to engage with the entire comment isn't necessary for a critical discussion on HN is it? They could've picked any example of an unattainable luxury (or better yet some notion of _easily_ affording such luxuries) they liked, but instead they picked an example that's so far within the realm of possibility that there are subcultures dedicated to it, and there seems to be general agreement that it's a good example to parrot back to others. It might be a workable or relatable point of comparison, but that doesn't mean we can't analyze it and try to do better.

Its like being a cat trapped in the washing machine on spin cycle. The only hope for escape is a power failure and mercy of someone who is aware you are inside.

Stuck in a job completely burned out, there is nothing worse than the realization of the futility in any struggle to either escape or improve. The knowledge that your output has dropped, the feeling that it's your fault combined with nobody interested in helping you because they are annoyed about your lack of output. There are no doorhandles on the inside of this washing machine.

My only advice is to meow as loud as you can.

This happened to me multiple times across multiple jobs. The first time, I was laid off with severance--a small mercy.

The second time, I was run into the ground repeatedly as I tried to manage it. That time, I was dropkicked by my manager far over the line, and exited myself.

This last job, I left the moment I felt it happening.

My struggle now is to not make it a reflex, and a huge amount of my personal and life work has gone into improving communication (aka yowling techniques), and drawing lines in work/life/etc balance to sustain myself.

Currently, I'm just avoiding the washing machine entirely.

With you as well, will be avoiding the washing machine for at least 2 months over this Christmas/New year (and very lucky I can afford to) hoping that I can find my motivation again.

While I hope it works out for you - I'm wondering what makes you think it's just about lack of motivation?

Motivation is likely not the right word here, in my experience of burn out, depression hits pretty hard and you stop doing things for yourself due to lack of joy/seeing the point in doing anything.

"Finding motivation" from finding the joy in things is what I hope to recover. Also starting new habits and not tying so much of myself to my work/current company is something I have to learn better to do and is a goal of mine during my break.

When you care deeply about the area you are working in, it is hard to turn off. This combined with a very ambitious company lead me to crash and burn about 18 months ago. Tried to recover with short breaks and while that helped, it kept going back to the same pace and have decided if I want to kick this exhaustion, I need a longer break to form better habits and try to find that joy in what I do again.

Whether or not I'll be successful, I don't know, but need to try.

Based on (recent & ongoing) personal experience (which luckily includes not having to work, still getting full salary and therapy/shrink) and learning from that - longer break is obviously good, though likely not enough in longer term.

Exactly that combination of "you care deeply about the area you are working in" and "hard to turn off" (even with less of "very ambitious company") - will eventually bring you back to the same situation, unless you change habits/approach/etc.

Instead of focusing/pushing for "not tying so much of myself to my work/current company" and "motivation" - perhaps it's better to focus on training yourself when and "how to turn off" and not slowly drift towards old habits?

And I think I know what you mean by "depression hits pretty hard and you stop doing things for yourself due to lack of joy/seeing the point in doing anything". Though in my case I realized that it originally started from myself feeling guilt where I was nagging to myself how I can't do whatever fun thing while there was some other work thing/project where I thought I'm behind.

So slowly over time that guilt made fun things less fun, and combined with stress started to skew perception of how productive I am, and how long something will/should take ...etc. Eventually that skewed perception spilled from work to personal life - so for those things/projects that were still at least somewhat fun/enjoyable I also started to be annoyed by them taking longer than what I thought they should take.

I definitely resonate with the guilt aspect. The emotions stirred by work, in general, have been a struggle for me. Emotional work is one of the most productive ways I've found to mitigate and reduce the effects of diminished motivation (especially from depression and its cousins).

I've talked about it some in the past, re: MKP and other men's support groups along those lines (or just a solid group of friends). Much of it is just recognizing the emotion(s) and putting myself into a place where I can express/vent it properly.

Along those lines actually, has anyone else noticed a boost/burst of energy/productivity/etc after the elections last week? I think thats a malaise that hasnt really been talked about much (yet).

Oh hey this is me as well.

Maybe we should start a club.

I'm with you man. It's brutal, and isolating.

What is the yowling technique?

Just a continuation of the cat-in-washing-machine metaphor. Yowl instead of meow, where a real example would be learning how to have a hard, yet productive, conversation with your manager about issues which are or could lead to burnout.

Looking back on a previous job, I can now see that I was either becoming burned out or was burned out. This is a very apt analogy.

Sleep as long as you can.

In one of my jobs I ended up in a position where at the end of it I hated going to work. So I stayed up late, so the dreaded work would still be a sleep away. So I was getting more and more upset about my position, fueled not just by being between a rock and a hard place, but also by this voluntary sleep deprivation. Human mind is weird, well, at least mine is.

Sure, if you can sleep.

For those of us who are working from home right now, sleeping is easier than ever.

Insomnia is pretty high on the list of pandemic lockdown issues at the moment, not to mention burnout symptoms.

Some people I know can sleep sitting on a plane, and others can scarcely sleep at night, horizontal, in a quiet room, on a soft bed.

A hard workout, waking up early and avoiding caffeine help me a lot with insomnia.

A "hard" workout. A hard workout can send cortisol through the roof and there will be little sleep.

The half-life of cortisol is very short (comparable to that of cocaine):

"The plasma clearance of cortisol is rapid, with a half-life of 66 min at normal hormone levels. With large steroid loads, however, the half-life increases to 120 min."

If you work out in the morning or afternoon, avoid working ~3-4 hours before bed, you should be able to sleep just fine.

Depends on the timing of the workout, but speaking from personal experience an all day hike is perfect for generating a deep, restful night's sleep.

Respectfully, mental health is way more complex than that.

Psychologists have to study for 15+ years...

Downvoted to -3

The HN crowds cleary knows more than psychologists.

Ah. So that's what's going on right now.

I feel like the cycle is almost finished and I'm about to be hung out to dry.

So here I am. Experienced software engineer that is currently on sick/burnout leave, where I'm not only receiving full salary, but burnout being work related illness/impairment - company is covering (at least a dozen of) psychiatrist sessions.

I can't imagine moving countries/continents on top of being burned out would be a good idea.

Though you and others that mentioned being prone to recurrence should seriously consider moving somewhere else. Like one of countries in Europe where employers are responsible for employee well being, putting in effort on reintegration, re-training professions ...etc.


On top of "there is nothing worse than the realization of the futility in any struggle to either escape or improve. The knowledge that your output has dropped, the feeling that it's your fault".

At least for me the case was that there was also months/years long period of me thinking along the lines of "This shit is almost nothing compared to all the hard things I've been though in my life" (things spending summer break mixing concrete by hand with shovel to earn/save enough money for 10 or 15 years old computer, or living though a war ...etc)".

So for those months/years I was trying (and at various times seemingly pulling off) to keep the level of my output by trying harder/smarter/better and lot's of good old burning of midnight oil ever longer.

That is until part about being ever more annoyed about lack of output despite extra effort/hours/etc, which itself makes output kind of recursively worse - I got to a point where (with some encouragement from increasingly more and more physical symptoms that start like headache, bad stomach ...) I just couldn't keep doing that anymore.

And basically every other thing/hobby/learning/etc that was previously fun/relaxing/entertaining/interesting (including playing with my kids) - stopped being fun/relaxing/entertaining/interesting/etc somewhere along the way.

While you might be right about "Stuck in a job" and "with nobody interested in helping you because they are annoyed about your lack of output. There are no doorhandles on the inside of this washing machine."...

Also keep in mind that under burnout/stress your thinking/perception/evaluation/etc is severely impaired/limited and generally skewed towards negative.

So instead of just wondering/thinking and meowing somewhere where others might not hear/notice you, or notice your but not realize what your meow is - I would really (in scientific/objective sense) check if you're "stuck in a job with nobody interested in helping you".

Perhaps clearly/officially ask for (hopefully paid) sick leave due to stress/burnout?

OK I've seen/been at places where even that might be enough to get one fired. And sure there might be reasons that you can't risk that.

Though again - actually do some research and compile a plan of "What else could I do to cover rent/food/etc until there's something better?" (cliche example of waiting tables is not working great during Covid-19, though many people are painting/renovating/extending their homes, food/groceries delivery services need more people ...).

Since if you're completely right about everything including how much are others "annoyed about your lack of output" - you'll probably need to look for another job soon?


PS. Although it's a throw away account because regularly used one often gives too many details about me and employer - I'll keep an eye on this thread and respond with same account for a while.

I just want a no-pay sabbatical. Three months, total reset of energy levels.

We should all have that option.

I would take a lot less money (-$50k or more) if I got to take a quarter off every year.

Four day work weeks would be another compelling alternative. Two days a week are not enough time to get chores done. There's no time for relaxing.

If I ever create a company, I'd love to offer these options.

When I switched jobs a few years back, I intentionally took a 6 week break between roles. My new manager wanted me to start right away, but I pushed back and said "no". This was after working a job that had me doing 60-80 hr weeks for months on end.

I set it up so I had zero obligations at the start - no vacations planned, no "to do" lists. I would get up in the morning and ask myself "what do I need to get done today?" and the answer was "nothing". It was really glorious.

After a couple weeks of doing whatever I wanted - reading, going for a walk, meeting a friend for coffee, I felt my background anxiety level had diminished a lot. Then I started into the phase of "what do I want to get done before I start working again". None of it was "must do", but rather cleaning up the garden, fixing the car, taking care of financial paperwork. The next few weeks felt incredibly low pressure and highly productive.

It's a great way to get into a healthy mindset, at least for me.

I like this. Definitely will aim for this between now and my next job.

I do this every time I change job. It is so freaking awesome. The last time I did this I just wanted it to continue for longer... For my last job, my soon-to-be manager in the 50s told me that she had only ever had a week end in between her impressive list of jobs. I knew right then that I was going to hate my manager.

I was laid off near the tail end of a very stressful, deadline driven project and it actually came as a huge relief. Luckily I had money saved and took my time (about 3 months) looking for the next job. Was also given 2 months severance, so I didn't even end up losing much income. By end of my time off I was getting bored and happy to be working on something new. Highly recommended.

A layoff could come as a blessing sometimes, especially if you're not in the middle of other problems. As devs we're still privileged to be able to do this. For many a layoff comes as dreadful news.

One of my favorite benefits was the ability to take a 3 month paid pseudo-sabbatical.

You had to spend the time doing some sort of work, but it's flexible. It could helping another team out (intern style), focusing on a useful side project, taking a trial run at a new role (or just walking a mile in someone else's shoes), or volunteering with a non-profit ("technology pro bono").

You needed 5 years of tenure to qualify (it's not an annual thing). I think the bar is a little too high, but I understand the intent – looking forward to it was definitely a source of motivation and factor in retention during my fourth year.

Would you still continue to go to the office then, just working on a different team/project?

Seems like a really great idea, but I completely agree, five years seems like an eternity at a tech company.

Plenty of big companies allow you to do this. I know several people who have taken 1-3 month long unpaid vacation while at FAANG companies.

Sure, it takes some planning. You can't just do it tomorrow. But it seemed pretty easy for them.

I think the novel concept here is taking a three month unpaid vacation every year, which I doubt is common or easy in any tech company.

Personally, I would sooner go for a four-day work week, which would probably be an easier sell to most companies. Similarly, I would be fine with a pretty sizable pay cut for the benefit.

I know exactly what you mean - I've taken years off work to do with my time as I please, and I find that only people who have completely broken out of the cycle for 2+ months can relate. My biggest advice to you is to start searching for a new job now, and when you get offers make it clear you're only available to work 3 days a week (or 4, or 2, whatever you want).

It will take time and hard work, and it will pay off for the rest of your life.

Absolutely. We need to carve a new normal. I personally would be a lot more productive after a 3 months of rest. I asked my former employer if I could take some unpaid time off, and of course I was flexible on timing so that their impact was at a minimum. The answer was no.

Continuous delivery, amirite?

I would love to work for a company where I can take a significant pay cut to work 30 or even 35 hours in a typical work week.

I've heard (from reliable sources) that Google has the option to work 60% or 80% time (with a corresponding cut to pay). Presumably you need a record of solid performance and your manager needs to be on board.

It's very hard to get, even for solid performers. Possible but not available to most employees.

That's crazy, you guys need a union or something. It should be easy to negotiate that kind of thing even for people just starting. Everyone's life is different, everyone has different monetary goals and work availability/tolerances.

I'm sure this is obvious but that would exclude a huge group of people from the outset.

What is 100% time out of curiosity?

When I interviewed at Microsoft, they told me it was the norm to work 50-60 hours, and that's what they expected. I'm sure it could vary from group to group.... but fuck that.

38 hours is the standard work week in many countries, which I only mention to let you know that you are asking for a very normal thing. Totally reasonable.

You mean countries like Norway where pay for Senior Engineers is 1/4th and the income tax is around 45% (+25% VAT on after-tax income)?

Yes, but the OP wants less pay for less work which is fair but not an option at lots of tech companies.

So you either play the overwork game or don't get to play at all. That's all part of the golden handcuffs routine, along with stock holdings etc. Give your life to the company or bugger off, no middle ground.

That's why I wanted to point out that it's entirely reasonable. It's just a different work/life weighting, people should be able to still work in tech and not have an 80/hr week.

Independent contract work where you bill hourly is a thing in tech and lots of people are doing it. Also, I'm sure if you really look around and are willing to make compromises in terms of pay, you can negotiate all kinds of positions with all kinds of flexibility.

In this space, I see that most people don't have what they want, mostly because they're not REALLY willing to make those compromises. I see a lot of people saying these things but they mostly want everything on top of everything else they take for granted.

Certainly, when I burned out was when I decided to go independent. I waver between full time hours and part time hours, depending on the work/life split I'm after at the time, but it's all contract work.

Contracting has it's own set of challenges and it's distinct from a full-time job. I take on the risk and additional challenges of contracting in order to be able to manage my own time, but it's not for everyone.

I think you're right about compromise too. Working for FANG has become a bit of a social institution and I think some people get into the false assumption that FANG and startups are the only logical options in tech. If you're willing to compromise on location, salary and prestige, you can definitely find tech jobs outside of the various bubbles.

This, I just want to take a few months to focus on myself before going back to work, and that means quitting :(

This happened to me, slowly.

I didnt realise it at the time, or as it was happening.

I have ADHD, and can be amazing at work. But over time corporate offices destroyed me. I sought help for depression, and my ADHD. But no one suggested burnout.

I had to have a fully nervous breakdown and six months off work to even work out what was going on.

It's taken a full two years of recovery, and now I guard my mental health like the crown jewels!

But I'll never be the same again. I'll never fully commit to another company, manager, workplace or team again.

I choose to validate myself outside of what makes me money, and choose my friends and acquaintances carefully. I don't assume people I work with are my 'friends', and I certainly am very careful who I trust! (which is never anyone at work!)

It's tough with ADHD - like another layer to the feedback loop. Not only does ADHD substantially increase workplace stress, but stress and overwork also substantially exacerbate ADHD symptoms.

As a fellow ADHDer I feel like it makes me a lot better at what I do because I do it all the time because I just can't switch off. By the same token it constantly makes me run myself into the ground. It's especially bad if there are deadlines that mean not only can I not compartmentalize work and switch off, I feel the feelings a lot more too, but can never be sure if the random desire to rage quit due to $todays_small_yet_significant_grievance is signal or just noise from the emotional dysregulation.

Currently getting properly burnt out for real right now and debating whether to stay and try get things back to normal after this project or just leave early next year with this job having been nothing more than a shitstain on my career.

I'm so torn.

I am going through this right now. I have constant tension headaches and doc says I should stay away from stress, stress triggers and chocolate/coffee/etc. How am I supposed to do that with work/life/COVID and everything 2020?

I have a big project on me, and there is no way I can get the rest I need to recover properly. I took 2 days off, and my colleagues are rallying to help as much as they can, but some of the info is silo'd on me so I need to work on it.

> but some of the info is silo'd on me

What's preventing you from sharing this information or making it accessible to your other colleagues?

Thank you, that is a good question. I haven't thought of it from that POV. Nothing is preventing me aside from my work-load, and the feeling that I am letting everybody down every second this project is further delayed.

I'm paraphrasing a story whose origin I can't remember at the moment, but basically if you have 6 hours to chop down a very large tree, you should spend 5 of those hours sharpening your axe.

Quote Investigator is a good site to go for origin stories of a quote (the number of suggested hours/minutes for axe sharpening varies wildly): https://quoteinvestigator.com/2014/03/29/sharp-axe/

I'm suddenly feeling a little better about all the time I spend investigating better/different ways to approach technical problems, even when I know that I can't apply them to the problem that is immediately in front of me.

I mean, obviously at some point you need to cut down the tree, and sometimes you're just carving down your ax without making it any sharper, but still.

It's a crap cake most times I try the long-approach on a problem:

I spend time researching, investigating, figuring out the best way to do it, implementing the solution and potentially being pulled off to something else in the meantime. And then comes along some spiffy "throw hammer at the problem" person that can't stand spending too much time on a problem, who then proceeds to solve it in some crappy way that "kinda works". Then goes ahead and convinces everyone to go with it because "hey it's already done and kinda works and why throw away work", nevermind the "work" you did figuring it out and them not even bothering to ask you for your info (or downright ignoring it because it wasn't quick enough for their way of operating).

And then when you raise it with management, you get told to "call a meeting" to discuss the issue with the team in such a way that precludes the need for management to get directly involved and tell that other person to sit down and listen - because hey "they're a code ninja that gets shit done" and look at all these things they've done.

Oh and we generally have to spend weeks afterwards fixing all the corner cases they never bothered to think about or investigate. And more meetings get called to discuss it instead of them just listening to you telling them what the solutions are. Because hey, the whole team has to have a say right? We wouldn't want them to think their opinion doesn't matter. 50/50 chance of that, or we end up rewriting it after we come to the realization that the solution sucks, but that code-ninja has already moved along to the next team where "they urgently need help of someone that can just get things done".


You could try becoming the person who jumps in and gets it done badly in one minute. The fact that you spend a lot of time researching the problem isn't a personal trait, it's something that you can choose to do or not do depending on the circumstances. The easiest way to extricate yourself from your present problem is to do what management wishes you were doing (perhaps a wish without full understanding of the consequences.)

Poster seems to want to do things “right;” doing things “not right” might or might not be a viable solution.

When I was reading about 'dog' command-line DNS resolver here yesterday, I was thinking "who on earth has time to constantly investigate, install dependencies for, install, test, maintain, remember to use, etc, all these whiz-bang utilities I see posted here all the time?"

Maybe I'm stuck in first gear :)

I think I've heard it attributed to Abe Lincoln. I imagine he didn't mean to sharpen it all up front, but after every few swings.

That story is often attributed to Abraham Lincoln, IIRC. It may be apocryphal.

I know this is basically impossible, but often everyone is better off if they know in advance something is impossible to maintain/accomplish.

I've made this mistake plenty of times and been in situations where it was easy to prevent early in the cycle, so I'm sure if this was an easy environment it would be, well, easy.

I do this too. Try scheduling 30 min or 1 hour to write docs or specs to share the knowledge in your head. Just that activity will help you to psychologically move the project off your shoulders.

I did a lot of work these past months and now my team is able to use that code, fix bugs and get things done faster and safer. That's the motivation you want to feel.

I've wanted to write about my (only; last) experience as a manager for a long time, as I think it's a pretty textbook definition of the trap that is getting burnt out by a shitty job.

My mood worsened because I felt like I was failing all the time. Being in a shitty mood and feeling deeply ashamed made the quality of my work (meaning: the way I treated my team and stakeholders) worse. It was this terrible loop of failure and frustration and shame. My bosses were inept but empathetic to my position for a while, until they also succumbed to the burnout/failure process that shitty companies usually cascade downward. My team hated me, because I was tasked with firing some of them and fundamentally changing the way that they worked. My manager, who I replaced as my team's manager, was very open that he didn't have it in him to fire anyone, and that my job was awful mostly because of the amount of things he didn't feel comfortable addressing while he was in my role (but needed addressed). This meant some employees had spent literal years exhibiting bad behavior, and I (a new hire) was being tasked with addressing it. It was awful. To make matters worse, as soon as my manager stopped managing the team, he seemed to totally forget what it was like working with that team, which meant that my requirements and performance were measured off of totally unobtainable feats of success with the team we had. I was expected to get a team that couldn't ship a feature in 10 weeks, to ship features in 2.

Ultimately it culminated with a meeting between me and my grand-manager, where I told her there was an opening as an IC on a neighboring team/product and I intended to take it, and she responded by saying "Maybe, I'm not sure we'll be able to accommodate that request." Which I responded for the first and only time in my career with the ultimatum of "In 30 days I will not be on this team, one way or the other." I felt sick going into that meeting because it felt like I was admitting that I was a total failure, but also that sickness was 1/1000th of the sickness I felt waking up every day getting crushed by my actual job.

Now, some time out, I am on good terms with everyone other than that grand-manager, who I haven't spoken with since. I even work at a new company founded by former coworkers.

It seems like the key to surviving is to grab the "I care about this" knob and turn it all the way down to as close to zero as possible.

When I look back at times I was burnt out, I wish I had cared even less than I did. Every part of the result would have been better. I would have felt better, and by avoiding the failure loop even my work would have been better.

Both shame and failing are such a huge things for me. From my perspective it's a miracle how well you handled it.

I quit my stressful job end of August. Luckily I have a smartwatch. By chance I checked my resting heart rate recently. I was quite shocked to see a stunning continuous 20% drop since then. I guess it was the right decision to quit.

This is the case for me as well. I have noticed similar increase (~52 => ~62 avg sleeping BPM) for the last two months and last week have been diagnosed with anxiety/depression and I am also burnt out. I love the objectivity it provides.

I went almost exactly the other way, from 65 down to 52. Fascinating that stress is visible in the data.

In my experience, most of burnout is being held responsible for things you don't have control over. That may not be true for everyone, but it's been consistently true for me.

As a result, the "work more efficiently" comments from management/etc are just incredibly unhelpful.

Most of the discussion so far seems to center on "work more efficiently", not "find a way to be supported". The latter is usually the only thing that will help, in my experience.

That would hold true for one of the most extreme periods of stress/burn-out I've had in my past. A project with technical demands set by a non-technical person who had no interest in budging. I thoroughly detested that project (and that person)!

In comparison, I've had periods of greater workload but where I've had full control, and enjoyed the challenge.

Burnout really sucks and it can have major business consequences to say nothing of the more significant personal ones. A management lesson that I almost learned the hard way is that some people will push themselves to burnout without intervention, especially in high stakes environments or if they care really deeply about their work (or care deeply about getting ahead). If you're managing a team it is literally your job to monitor workloads, make sure that your team is taking enough vacation, help junior employees say No to clear their schedules, etc.

I wish more managers were aware of this, especially in fields where there is a lot of intrinsic motivation beyond the money. I'm definitely guilty of this, I know its not worth my health and yet I kept pushing myself beyond breaking point several times to support company/team, now at the point where I have little to no motivation for anything. Thankfully I will be taking 2+ months off to try find my motivation again and try something new.

Every time I approach burnout my body reacts with some funny symptom I had never suffered before. The human brain can be really imaginative at asking you to stop.

Can you elaborate?

It's often some kind of skin itch, weird spot, etc. It quickly goes away when my stress levels stay low for a few days.

One of the most frustrating parts about it for me was that I'd seen the trope many times in fiction, non-fiction, and with my own eyes, and I could see all the parallels, knew logically what was happening, and I still found myself pushing harder into the cliff. A real mindfuck.

There are so many things like that which can affect you, you see it happening, and there's nothing you can do about it. I have occasional manic episodes, and ADHD. I can see both happening, I know what they are logically, and I just get to see myself walk closer and closer to the cliff's edge.

I think my helplessness and inaction were learned behaviors, and I managed to kick the habit... for the most part. I wish you the best of luck, don,t give up. At some point it will click. Be grateful when it happens.

Ok, so you burned out (maybe not for the first time) and you took an unpaid leave from work. As more time goes on, you convince yourself that your brain is atrophying as you fritter and waste the hours in an offhand way.

The time comes where you have to go back. How do you do it? How do you shed this feeling of being broken goods in the eyes of yourself and (most likely) others? How do you heal the infected wounds of burnout? I can’t figure it out.

Are you unemployed right now? Because there is really no stress in not working, unless you can't financially sustain yourself. I would recommend moving to a cheap country in Asia to make it last longer and meet new people. Hell go back to school in some cheap country to learn the local language for 6month.

What line of work are you in?

Data science, which I think makes this harder for me because a) things move so fast that you’re out of date within months and b) there is so much surface area of knowledge (math, stats, programming, visualization, ...) that impostor syndrome is an inevitability.

Well in addition to all that Data Science stuff I have become quite knowledgeable about several related fields. At least these topics come to mind:

- Data Engineering: various DB technologies' pros and cons (AWS Athena, Snowflake, MS Sql Server, Elasticsearch, Redis), Airflow, AWS S3

- ML Engineering: AWS autoscaling clusters, EC2, Spark cluster set-up & management, IO/CPU bottle neck identification, optimizing workloads (like how large chunks, how many Spark worker processes, how many threads on Python's libraries, ...)

- Umm Web Engineering?: HTTP API design, load balancing, Docker & Kubernetes, partial results caching for real-time responses

I have understood that on larger organizations each of these could have a dedicated team behind it. Anyway I've been lucky to find this company & role and gotten an opportunitu to learn and apply so many technologies, but I must admit it is getting a bit tricky to keep (shall I say pickle) all that in my brain :D

Been in this case a couple jobs; both MSP jobs naturally. When you're burnt out you just don't see it. In both of my previous jobs the burnout also had a boss who was consistently micromanaging and saying you aren't working hard enough.

This is one of the weaknesses of government. A fundamental law that governments should have is that your employer cannot harm your health. Even in mental cases like burnout, the employer is almost certainly trading the employee's health for money. An employee's health is not something an employer should be allowed to trade.

In more physical injury, someone lifting 200lbs hurting their back or some ancient machine that lacks any safety features leading to injury. The employer is trading their employee's health in place of profits in not having safety.

Even with workplace safety measures, who ultimately pays is the government and therefore tax payers for these injuries. These bad employers get to keep their $.

Plenty of jobs trade their employees' health for money. If they didn't, the economy would literally cease to function. Oil rig workers, miners, lumber workers, fishermen, roofers, pilots, farmers, even truck drivers have significantly elevated mortality rates.

The reality is that there are many jobs that require a sacrifice in terms of health and safety. Until we're living in a post-scarcity economy, they always will. We can do things like make those jobs as safe as practically possible. Or make sure workers are aware of the risks before they sign up.

But, it's unrealistic utopian thinking to believe that no one will ever be asked to sacrifice their health or safety for their job.

>Plenty of jobs trade their employees' health for money. If they didn't, the economy would literally cease to function. Oil rig workers, miners, lumber workers, fishermen, roofers, pilots, farmers, even truck drivers have significantly elevated mortality rates.

You're completely right.

>The reality is that there are many jobs that require a sacrifice in terms of health and safety. Until we're living in a post-scarcity economy, they always will. We can do things like make those jobs as safe as practically possible. Or make sure workers are aware of the risks before they sign up.

I disagree. The point I am making is that we must make that illegal. We should require the employers to solve that problem. All of these have known hazards that which can be solved. We simply decide that we let employers profit off it. That's wrong.

>But, it's unrealistic utopian thinking to believe that no one will ever be asked to sacrifice their health or safety for their job.

There are some exceptions that obviously do need to exist. Military or law enforcement for example will have harms in their life that are by definition.

I look at your list of examples of higher mortality employers and I agree they exist, I even understand what makes them dangerous. Truck drivers for example is simply the Diesel Exhaust. Electric semi trucks is a thing now, but HEPA filters have existed for how long?

There's a fix for every single one of those industries.

I think truck drivers its more a function of 1. driving lots of miles (the more you're on the road, the more risk you're in) plus 2. sedentary job.

There is definitely not a fix for every industry - and some people are happy with taking that risk for more money than a lower risk job/profession. "Just make dangerous job conditions illegal" is a naïve view of the world. Even if you could pass such laws, you'd get a massive skills drain and/or black market work to get those jobs done.

> This is one of the weaknesses of government. A fundamental law that governments should have is that your employer cannot harm your health

I think there's a better way to deal with this. Rather than legislate that certain abuses of health aren't okay, let's instead make it so people aren't stuck working jobs if they don't think it's worth it. Right now, the main reason workplaces can abuse employees so much is that employees can't quit, or else they'd starve on the street.

If we had a livable universal basic income, that would allow anyone to, at any time, decide if their job's extra income + the meaning it gave them was worth the stress and other issues.

We already have good evidence that this wouldn't result in no one working since, well, quite a few of the people born wealthy enough to never need to work do work anyway.

> Rather than

Why not both?

>I think there's a better way to deal with this. Rather than legislate that certain abuses of health aren't okay, let's instead make it so people aren't stuck working jobs if they don't think it's worth it. Right now, the main reason workplaces can abuse employees so much is that employees can't quit, or else they'd starve on the street.

I know where you're going and I'm a fence sitter.

>If we had a livable universal basic income, that would allow anyone to, at any time, decide if their job's extra income + the meaning it gave them was worth the stress and other issues.

Here in Canada we have tried basic income systems and even have a current system for some of our people. It's a disaster. It single handedly increases poverty and crime like no other policy.

Have you ever heard of a negative income tax rate? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtpgkX588nM

>We already have good evidence that this wouldn't result in no one working since, well, quite a few of the people born wealthy enough to never need to work do work anyway.

Only when you exclude systems that arent by name which is common for socialist/communist/collectivist/postmodernist or whatever the new brand is that they go by today as the old name becomes tarnished.

There's tremendous evidence that welfare system in general have never been successful. When we have a problem that which the welfare system is proposed as the fix. The problem gets worse as the welfare system is implemented. Then the fix is that the welfare system needs more money and as they get more money the problem becomes worse.

In fact many of these systems are not designed to help the poor even though by name they are supposed to be.

> A fundamental law that governments should have is that your employer cannot harm your health.

A small note: Germany does have a law like this. (I cannot find anything about it in English though.)


>A small note: Germany does have a law like this. (I cannot find anything about it in English though.)

The more I know about Germany's government the more I like about it.

There have been worse German governments than the current one.

Pretty sure the Health & Safety at Work Act (UK) [1] meets this requirement. There's various common law things related to duty of care and negligence that probably apply less specifically too.

I'd really expect every democratic country to have some form of law requiring employers take care of their employees -- they should expect to do something in return for leeching off ones production of value.

[1] https://www.hse.gov.uk/legislation/hswa.htm

That is correct, but the bar for enforcement is very high when it comes to mental health. E.g. I remember a case of a police officer suffering from depression (?) but "only" stressing folks out is not enough unfortunately.

In addition, you have to show a causal relationsship, which again is a lot more difficult for mental health as there are usually several factors at play even though work might be the pre-dominant one.

I'm in the reverse situation, I'm free to do whatever I please and plan work myself, nobody really track my work besides the item that I placed there myself, the burn out is mostly coming from having too many meetings, not being able to relate to the product, and not being supported or having peers to exchange ideas with.

who ultimately pays is the government

At least in the US, I believe that employers are required to pay for workers' compensation insurance to cover injuries on the job.

I have to support my family somehow. Who cares if that means I'm burnt out.

A lot of millennials will never have families because of this.

Myself and most of my millennial peers feel this way exactly.

Some are still hopeful that they'll own a home & raise a large family like their parents and grandparents did, but the rest of us aren't so sure.

Millennial peer, I feel like it's been a treadmill, forever running but no progress. Living in first in Ottawa then Toronto, I watched affordability of housing slip from attainable in 3-5 years after graduating to virtually impossible without being extremely house poor. That's excluding the crazy high cost of living in general, and the feeling like employers are working to crush an ever-increasing amount of time out of employees. Why bring a kid into this prison? So they can work harder and fall even further behind than I am?

Toronto is a grind. The work culture is punishing and affordability sucks. Not all cities are like that. Montreal and Vancouver are both better in some ways. Vancouver is still wildly unaffordable (especially if buying a house is important to you) but the lifestyle is much nicer and more conducive to mental health than Toronto's.

I do wonder if it was a mistake to have a kid. They do bring some joy, and especially a lot of joy to the grandparents. But what kind of life will they have in this world?

I have a house and one kid. My wife wants another kid and complains that out house is too small (it's 1800 sqft). I hate my job but have no other options to support us.

I honestly wonder how I did not listen to all the advice of other people about not getting married. Even at this same job I was much happier years ago. Part of that was because I hadn't been disillusioned yet, but I think part of it was also that I had the option of just quitting and taking a lower paying job or moving. Now I'm not allowed to try either of those options.

My wife wants another kid

Please, for god's sake, make sure you are using a condom and don't take her word for it that she's on birth control.

(I'm a woman and a former full-time homemaker, fwiw.)

Not everyone has a dysfunctional relationship. Partnerships work when there's trust.

If you approach marriage antagonistically, you're going to have a bad marriage.

Trust has to be earned. "Trusting" someone who is actively mistreating you is not a means to improve your relationship. It's a means to help escalate the abuse they are subjecting you to.

Thanks, I'm careful. Unfortunately, that stress reduces the fun and frequency.

Oh, good. So something less to worry about. /s


I'm waiting on a larger study to confirm or dispel the results of that small study that showed significant risk of aphasia and FTD associated with vasectomy.

Best thing I ever did.


Is it allowed to tell wives who push husbands like that to get jobs themselves?

Is it really believed that housework is as hard and stressful as a tech job? I feel like we're not really supposed to voice that aloud, but how else is that to be challenged?

> Is it allowed to tell wives who push husbands like that to get jobs themselves?

Certainly its a sign that much better communication is needed in the relationship (and probably, honestly, should have happened before the relationship proceeded to either children or marriage, but aside from warning to people not yet in the situation [0], that's kind of moot.)

That communication probably needs to be a lot more nuanced than "tell wives [...] to get jobs themselves".

> Is it really believed that housework is as hard and stressful as a tech job?

Having done both, I believe it. Of course, there's probably people for whom housework is less or a tech job more "hard and stressful" than is the case for me.

> I feel like we're not really supposed to voice that aloud, but how else is that to be challenged?

Why should it be challenged? Winning some abstract argument about the generalized relative strenuousness of different activities doesn't seem particularly useful.

What is needed in a relationship is mutual communication and working arrangement that functions well for the two parties involved. Abstract generalities are mostly a distraction.

My wife works about 25-30 hours per week. However, she spends most of that on her hobby (more than I spend on the mortgage). She doesn't contribute to any bills other than her gas and tires. I pay all the bills, benefits, utilities. I do all the shopping, cooking, baking, mechanic work, handyman work, projects, legal research (a case she got us involved in because she won't listen to me), medical research (our son has an issue), etc. Of course I watch the kid pretty much as soon as I get off of work most days and on the weekend. She won't let us move to a cheaper area or for me to pursue a different job. For example, there's a position at Google in Pittsburgh that I would have liked to interview for. I'm guessing I wouldn't get it, but I'd like to try. But my feelings and opinions aren't worth anything.

Your marriage sounds like it's completely dysfunctional and a living hell. Finances and work balance aside, the bit about the legal trouble is quite the red flag.

I don't presume to know what the right move is for you, but it sounds like you need to do something. Your situation is not normal. Have you considered couple's therapy? Divorce might also be on the table.

The legal issue isn't a big deal, but I certainly don't need that work on top of everything else. It was for an off-leash dog. The real problem was that we had a totally incompetent trooper make numerous mistakes on the citation, including a mis-citing it as a more serious charge and lying to a judge. I'm trained and licensed by my state in a quasi law enforcement capacity and even I'm shocked at the dysfunction of the system in this case. (On an unrelated matter the previous judge was arrested on multiple charges).

I don't think therapy would help. I would not be happy paying money for someone to just facilitate a conversation. I'll just deal with it until I can't, then I'll quit my job and she'll have to start helping out or listen to me about moving.

> I don't think therapy would help. I would not be happy paying money for someone to just facilitate a conversation. I'll just deal with it until I can't, then I'll quit my job and she'll have to start helping out or listen to me about moving.

Do what you want, but none of that makes sense.

You might find therapy much cheaper than the cost of cleaning up the mess when this gets worse.

That depends on it working. If I've already been open and honest, then what more can a therapist do? The only thing I can think of is the therapist using authority or shame, and that's not allowed.

To me it sounds like me paying money for someone to facilitate a conversation. We aren't hostile, so I don't think that's necessary.

Therapy is more than facilitating a conversation. It may help reframe her (and your) point of view on your relationship. And that doesn't have to entail authority or shame; quite the opposite.

Check if your insurance covers it, some plans do.

> If I've already been open and honest, then what more can a therapist do?

Among other things, figure out why your wife isn’t hearing you

What exactly does she bring to the table for your relationship? Look at your life through that lens. If she left, what would you really lose?

I'm not sure this is a great way to value a person

You only get one life. Start by valuing you. And as a parent you have someone watching and potentially emulating one day.

I say take a stand one way or another.

Very tough situation. I suppose it is difficult to discuss the imbalance.

I've brought it up. She doesn't care. She tells me unrealistic things too.

For example, she says that I should pursue my expensive hobbies too, like track nights with the 1LE Camaro (which I felt I had to sell when getting married). Where would that money come from?! Should I just not pay the mortgage, or stop saving for retirement? She has also said if I don't like my job that I should quit. I've explained that it would be a significant pay cut since I have experience in non-marketable tech (FileNet and Neoxam). Again, where will that difference come from?

I've suggested she pay portion of the bills, but she won't. If she makes 30% of our income, then why can't she pay 20% of our shared bills (mortgage and utilities). I even explained it that way, but she won't do it. Not even a counter offer.

Divorce. You have one life.

I know you have a kid, but they'll grow up to resent you if you stay the course because they don't understand the weight you carry on your shoulders and your wife will have more energy for them.

Divorce will actually be better for your kid. You'll still be able to see them and shape them. Over time, they may favor spending time with you.

Nah, I'll stick it out. Family court would f me over more than this.

I would not give up on discussing the issue. Marriage and love is about giving up and sacrificing for each other. If she can see there is something good about not just being small minded and selfish it will help her in life as well.

All the best! Just remember that you need happiness too.

Family court will be worse the longer you wait.

Stick it out might mean there’s never an end in sight.

That's ridiculously unfair and I'm sorry borderline abusive. If you guys are in a potentially precarious situation financially, then there is absolutely no justification why she should spend most of her earnings on entertainment whilst the bulk of your earnings go to necessities. Any excess earnings from you and her should go towards your family savings for future financial security, your children and retirement. Entertainment/hobbies should be put on the end of the list of things to use excess money on.

Please put your foot down and draw some boundaries (don't ask or beg). Be stern, and give her no choice but to spend her income on the family instead of selfish individual hobbies.

Thanks for the input. It's not a precarious financial situation right now. As long as I have this job, I should be able to support us. I just won't have much money or time for hobbies (the hobbies I do partake in add value, like a garden and mushrooming for food). I also don't have the option of switching jobs. I've talk about cancelling unnecessary things unless she pays for them (the only thing is netflix). She said she'll just mooch off her mom.

You should reconsider the therapy option, it can be worth the money. I’m coming from a similar situation. Went to marriage therapy for 6 months then gave up on that since I thought it was going nowhere. To my surprise a few months after that ended, some deep issue which was real root cause was revealed and now we are finally addressing it and turning the corner on improving the situation.

Why don't you try marriage/couples counseling? I doubt HN can help fix your dysfunctional marriage.

I believe in: everyone pays the same percentage of their salary towards shared expenses. But this kind of stuff should've been hashed out before you got married.

Curious why this is downvoted?

GP never said his wife doesn't already have a job?

My sister and I grew up without separate kid rooms, and the whole apartment size was 650 sqm. Tell your wife that size doesn't matter!

On a serious note, did you day to day work changed in the last couple of years?

If not, you could be stuck, and you should talk to manager about getting a different set of responsibilities. Part of what's fun in IT jobs is learning new stuff.

I like to learn new things. I'm tired of being expected to know everything - they expect me to be a full stack devops for 2 stacks simultaneously. My main problem is that I became an expert in a FileNet based system and later Neoxam based system, which didn't give me many options. They outsourced the FileNet job and they cut the budget in half on the FileNet one. At least now I'm in some AWS tech.

Well, the AWS tech is good news, the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel! Good luck with switching mental gears to the new stack!

My belief is that’s why many things are the way they are in our modern world. It’s resource/population control by proxy.

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