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I don’t know how to frame this well and I apologize in advance.

But I think this idea of “oh wow burnout is real I’m so woke” is a privileged person problem. I don’t mean that burnout is a first world problem, but that this “Burnout is real” is.

I struggle to put my head in a place where I can be amazed that burnout is real and that I have to warn others of this “thing” as if it’s not part of millions of people’s lives all around. You must have had a really really privileged life to not have seen that someone who couldn’t afford college and took whatever job they could get without a degree has probably been burnt out for a long time. Or that maybe that lady working retail at Marshall’s is burnt out too, but they don’t have a choice. They are not going to be able to take a year off, or go do their hobby. They probably don’t even have money for a hobby.

To tell these people “Guys, guys, burnout is real! I saw it!” gets me to roll my eyes a little.

I understand most readers here are in tech and well paid and perhaps in that same position, but I had to point this out to share some perspective.




For some anecdata, I think a lot of it is that most of the tech crowd, myself included, was basically taught growing up that "burnout" didn't exist for non-physical labor.

My parents constantly refrained how I "wanted a good job indoors with air conditioning", with the rationale that I wouldn't have to worry about my body breaking down (hilarious after I experienced cubicle life prior to starting a regular workout routine). This was reinforced by that the large amount of extra-curriculars I was (mostly) pushed into during high school, under the assumption that I could just handle it on top of AP/honors schoolwork. "Taking a break" was something you did for 30 minutes, maybe an hour at most before getting back to whatever the task at hand was.

My "teenage rebellion" was fights with my parents over doing nothing but playing video games on Saturday after working the equivalent of 14 hour days Sunday-Friday, all in the name of the big college in the sky. The notion of "mental burnout" didn't even enter my lexicon until college, although I was almost certainly suffering from it for most of high school. I know a lot of my classmates had similar experiences.

On the professional front, a lot of managers and executives (though not all) also promote this "sleep is for the weak" mentality as an article of faith. Likewise I've heard multiple snide remarks from blue-collar workers who don't know any better about how "cushy" those tech jobs are, and how if they had one they'd totally just work 100 hour weeks because "how hard is it to sit at a computer all day?"

So there is a widespread notion out there, at least in the US, that intellectual labor isn't really laborious, and if you claim fatigue from it you're just weak. These posts are largely a (rightful IMO) rebellion against that notion. If everyone took your perspective then yeah, they'd be rather trite. Unfortunately it never ceases to amaze me the self-destructive things people tie their identities to, and then try to pull other people into the same habits just for the validation.


I think THIS is a nuanced and useful way to approach this topic. I felt the very same thing. "Get a good job or else you'll destroy your body doing 'hard labor'".

I should be able to just will myself to work harder, for longer stretches. I'm just too weak to break through this low-spell. At least that's what I typically tell myself.

There's certainly room in this discussion for the boundaries of self-care and not accepting inherently destructive work practices.

Thanks for your thoughts on this. I appreciate them.


I have worked in retail, dealt with some of the rudest people. Sometimes, I still get angry about it. But my job satisfaction was certainly higher back then. At the end of day, I was tired but I didn't had to think of work anymore. Sure I met some assholes, but I also met some great people, some are still my friends.

Other jobs I had were tutoring, security guard, IT helpdesk. All these jobs had higher satisfaction and they ended at the end of day.

Now my dev job never really ends, I am constantly thinking about work related problems even while playing with my kids. The stuff that I work (storage) on is used mostly by advertising industry based on our clients. I am not making the world better, just making myself and some people richer. I might be burning out too, not sure if I was in retail for 10+ years, if I would feel same way. But when I worked with older people in retail, none of them ever complained about burn out like we programmers do.


Don’t you think that now that you’re not struggling to make ends meet you have more time and have the freedom to think about these things?

I went from working 16hs and never being home paid 10/hr to a cushy 8hr job where I am mostly working on my personal projects and I can’t wait to get out. But I’m not going to go out there and say “burnout is real” because I remember that back then I didn’t have a choice and I was way worse than I am now.


> Don’t you think that now that you’re not struggling to make ends meet you have more time and have the freedom to think about these things?

I don't disagree with this point. In a way, it is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.

Now that I am re-reading your original post, maybe I misunderstood you initially. Sticking with Maslow's theme, I suppose you are saying that someone declaring "burnout is real" is same as someone who has never been hungry, experiences their first hunger and then declares that "hunger is real". Yes it sounds silly.

And yes there are billions of people who do same mind numbing boring jobs all their lives, and they probably are suffering from burnout too. They just don't go out and say it.

But how can we improve their lives if no one talks about it. Some of lower needs have immediate consequences, and no one needs convincing that it is real. Now that majority of humans don't need to worry about food and shelter, we probably should start discussing next needs in hierarchy.


> Now my dev job never really ends, I am constantly thinking about work

100%. Made so much worse by the hard cutover to slack and zoom. Always on, always on camera, always on the record.

To some of the other commenters talking about it being a privilege: turns out that making a lot of money is often associated with shit culture, yes. Probably not a ton of fun driving a few keys up 95 either.

The tweet is cool. He found something that suits him. He does the job and it's done, he has enough money, and he's satisfied. That's a happy existence.


> Now my dev job never really ends, I am constantly thinking about work related problems even while playing with my kids.

I don't know your situation in detail, but I have caught myself feeling like this in the past and it was completely self-imposed. I want to believe that my work is adding value (even putting aside big-picture questions of whether it's valuable to the world overall, just providing immediate value to the business & clients can be rewarding), and since you have so much leverage as an engineer to impact the experience of thousands or millions of users with your code it's easy to let that feeling expand into an unhealthy amount of pressure to put on yourself.

I have found that stepping back and being explicit about my expectations for myself and my work has helped a lot. There are some things that are entirely out of my control, so I definitely shouldn't let myself get stressed about those. There are other things that could be within my control but don't fall within a reasonable set of constraints that I choose to set for myself. I don't expect myself to never make a mistake, or to work 80 hour weeks. This latter category is less black and white and I still struggle with it sometimes. I do want to be committed to my job, I do want to be seen as valuable, and work my way toward promotions, but you can still do that in tech in while still maintaining some work/life balance.

Being a founder for a few years also helped my outlook on this a lot. As a founder, or I imagine a CEO, this type of intense self imposed pressure is seemingly very necessary in order to succeed. As an employee, you see a much smaller reward if things go well, and you should allow yourself to feel a much smaller amount of pressure/stress when problems arise.


The work may never end but at the end of the day what has been done is good enough for that day.


Go back to retail?


I agree somewhat but I think many people in some lower paid jobs aren’t as miserable in them as you might imagine. I’ve met quite a few who are content with them - as the work doesn’t follow them home and has almost no mental game to it. It’s very adjacent to manual labor.

I didn’t start experiencing truly large amounts of job dissatisfaction until I worked in software. Jobs before then were never fantastic but I wasn’t upset like I get now and they never followed me home.


I seriously wish I could never hear the word the "privilege" again. Its an extremely spiteful mechanism to tear people down.


“Your problems are not as bad as these other people’s problems so they are not really problems”.

Lots to unpack, but that’s the statement every time someone mentioned someone else’s privilege.


I meant to say “man your problems are real, but they have been a problem for a big portion of the society for a very long time and they wish they could act on it, maybe be a bit more sensitive about it”


I think the thing that rankles for me in a lot of posts like this, is that they tend to talk about solutions to problems like burnout that are only feasible if you have the privilege to execute on them.

"Give yourself space to not work so you don't get burnt out" is only applicable if you have the expendable resources to do so, and the reason that many people don't is that our culture and society are broken for them. For someone like that, listening to people talk about things like "work-life balance" is enraging, frustrating, and demoralizing.

That said, if we're going to fix this situation, we're going to have to work together on it; which, for people who have the capacity to spend extra time on social issues, means putting their oxygen mask on first, so they're more effective at whatever it is that they're focused on. In many cases, this is precisely the kind of change necessary to fix the system.

My point here is that it's a complex situation, and it's correct both that a) there are bigger problems than burnout in the world and we should be aware of this and b) burnout is a real issue for some people, and that deserves support and attention too.

There's no reason we can't focus on more than one thing.


Your response makes me think you truly understood what I meant. And I agree with the latter part of the post. Hopefully people in the position of making the change experience the burnout and keep it in mind for when they are in a managerial position


No, privilege is very real. The problem is using it as a bludgeon to silence someone's complains or to induce guilt or shame.


I'm sure you do. Along with your wish to:

"check back on this coin when its tokenomics have improved. I am not interested in something with 70% of the total supply not yet in circulation."

...


> “oh wow burnout is real I’m so woke” is a privileged person problem

This is a profoundly destructive narrative.

First of all, comparing levels of privilege or disparaging people with a "privileged person problem" is unhelpful.

If we won the birthplace lottery and live in a wealthy and safe society the best thing to do is to use such advantage to make the whole world a better place and combat inequality.

Rolling your eyes is not that.

Second, burnout and depression are very common in the software industry and yet severely underreported and understated.

Many companies are responsible for exhausting on-call duty shifts, crunch time, endless deadlines. Some try to have employee perform unpaid overtime over weekends by calling it a hackathon.

You never hear these companies taking serious steps to address burnout.


Outside of tech circles, I hear a lot of stuff like "ooh, a bunch of rich techies whining about how tough their jobs are, oooh...". There needs to be a counter to this: life can be challenging for everyone. Just because people don't yell at you or you don't lift heavy logs for a living doesn't mean that your "cushy desk job" isn't hard. It's OK to be feeling these symptoms while sitting at a desk.


It is not a privileged person problem. People in less favorable positions or countries also deal with depression and when not treated properly they may abandon themselves, release the tensions from such life against someone nearby (look at the rates of family abuse in countries that are economically depressed, like ex-Soviet union). Some people even commit suicide like we saw Indian farmers who couldn’t fulfill their family expectations in abusive economical conditions. People with resources will have more chances to deal with such situations and survive to report it, but that’s all.

Perhaps the privilege is yours, criticizing people, accusing them of privilege as if they would have done anything wrong and have an undeserved luck. Please stop this “wokee” entitlement.


Perspective itself is a privilege. Typing out this comment on Hacker News is privilege. This whole "comparing levels of privilege" is a silly game with no real purpose.

This previous user's comment was not (in my interpretation) a criticism. They were merely pointing out that "burnout is real" isn't really a useful topic to discuss or debate. Stress is an irreconcilable part of life which everyone experiences. I'd wager that everyone in the world gets burnt out at one point or another.

To summarize: "Burnout is real" is a phrase that is about as useful as saying "Fire is hot". We all get it. We all know. The previous commenter was merely pointing that out.


> We all get it. We all know.

No... not everyone gets it. I have met plenty of people who don't believe burnout is a real thing in the tech industry. I have also met quite a few employers who have zero qualms about running their dev team ragged and burning them out as long as it meets their quarterly goals or whatever.


I find it ironic: Complaining about "wokeness", and then complaining about privilege.

We can think deeper than this surely.


You clearly misread my second paragraph.


I agree most people understand that burnout is real. And the fact that even those working 35-hour weeks making 6-figures get burnt out, makes it clear that people working 60-hour weeks making near-minimum wage have it much worse.

But it still makes sense to spread the message. Because even those blue-collar workers may work more efficient and effective if they weren't so burnt-out. Burnout isn't necessarily just a problem for employees.


Only being able to write about your own profound experiences and realisations if no one else has ever written about them, seems to eliminate a lot of possible articles...




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