Previously, I'd worked quite closely with my team leader, and he'd mentored me, as well as defending me when the inevitable little mistakes come up. He also gave me the freedom to get my work done in the way that suited me best - he had a very hands off approach, provided I got the work done and on time. My new team leader was the complete opposite, and micro-managed everything, to the point of three stand-up meetings a day to discuss progress on tasks, which he might re-prioritise at any time. It was a complete nightmare, and my productivity plummeted. It took me 9 months to go from loving working at the company, and doing extra work outside of hours pro bono simply because I liked helping my boss, to completely loathing work, and leaving the company.
A good manager can make the world of difference in job satisfaction, and definitely stopped me from burning out despite actually doing more work under my previous manager.
The worst thing is that I wasted nine years of my career there, three in misery. And it took me a couple more years to realize that I shouldn't work for others at all, but instead should start my own company. And I'm still not to the point where I can make a living on my own product without dayjobbing. But someday, someday I'll be able to sync up my love of enterprise configuration management problems with my wish for freedom and independence.
I had been planning a career change at the time to something not computer related. This gave me a good chance to try out consulting and I realized that I didn't hate computers, I just hated my job.
It's really targeted at larger applications built operated by multiple subteams and specialists. Large systems suffer from interaction-driven failures - Component A changes, and Component B breaks. For example, a db schema change can break applications that rely on the schema. But if the databases are maintained by a separate team of DBAs, coordinating and communicating change and dependencies is difficult, and debugging them is even worse. Being able to see changes that can affect your own domain from other domains outside your scope can make solving system failures a lot simpler and faster.
I took several months off last year to work on this, and built an alpha version. It worked, but mostly taught me what needs to be done to build a beta and head for production. Alas, I had to go back to dayjobbing for a while, so it's slow going again. :( But it'll get there.
Potential employers will google the names of applicants before an interview, and if the first thing that comes up is your name and photo on a story about your first job burnout, you're going to have a very difficult interview, if they don't cancel it altogether.
It depends on where you live of course, but where I live (Western Europe) a burnout on your resume can be a career death sentence. It's illegal to fire an employee who is home sick, and people unable to work because of a burnout can stay home sick for months or even years at the employer's expense.
If it happens, you try to hide it on your CV. 'Stayed home taking care of children', 'Went back to college', 'Took a sabbatical', 'wanted time to travel' even a serious but purely physical illness (that was cured), all make good excuses. If there's a hole in your CV that can't be explained in such a way, they will assume burnout, and will likely not want to take the risk.
Not talking about things like this, keeping it secret, or (as you just did) encouraging a social prohibition on hiding this information is what leads to a burnout culture.
It's the same social taboo that prevents people from talking about their suicidal tendencies, even if talking about it can lead to help.
And in a weaker sense, it's similar to the taboo in many private companies in the US to keep one's salary information private, even though that taboo mostly ends up putting more power into the hands of the employer. (Discussed here recently at https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9580871 )
People get burned out because they are overworked. Employers either overwork employees deliberately - in which case not talking about burnout means there's no coordinated response to resist employer pressure - or don't realize that someone is being overworked - in which case it's best to encourage people to be able to identify what burnout feels like or looks like.
I'm not advocating trying to ignore it, but putting it out on the internet in a way that it's the first thing a potential employer will see when they google your name will definitely not make things easier or better.
Your point is that people should keep this sort of issue hush-hush. It is in that where we disagree.
While it may be best for someone, depending on the circumstances, to not talk about such issues in public, your view seems to be that no one should ever do so. Otherwise you would have said "you need to be careful if you blog or write" rather than "you better not blog about or write".
This sort of caution happens often. I gave an example of public salary information, but I could have talked about unionization. The first person to propose unionization often has negative job consequences, despite the laws against employer retaliation. The people who want to change the statue quo often receive advice like "keep your head down", "don't rock the boat", and "know which battles to fight." But the only way to change, and hopefully be in a better situation, is to start doing it.
Your advice is to continue with the status quo, and you use language of social mores to make that advice. I strongly disagree.
No, your posts imply that burnout is entirely work related.
> Your point is that people should keep this sort of issue hush-hush.
You missed the "in any way that can be traced back to your real name" part. Posting a story like this under your full name, with a picture of your face, can have consequences that make things a lot worse. The same can be said of a lot of things people post on the internet, including this discussion.
But given that your advice was only meaningful to those who want to get future employment, I think my assumption that - in the context of your comment - there's a strong job component to being burned out is valid.
"Hush-hush" doesn't mean completely secret. It can also mean "not openly practiced or engaged in or shown or avowed". If one has to be anonymous to discuss it, or lie or demure if asked point blank 'did you write this piece?' or 'are you burned out?', then it's a problem. Ditto for 'you try to hide it on your CV'.
Now, I may be using 'hush-hush' incorrectly, as it's mid-20th century slang, chiefly British. My original point remains, which is that your original response used language to reenforce existing social mores ("something you better not blog").
It doesn't even consider that the person who write the piece may be well aware of everything you wrote, took it into account, and still believes it's better to write under a real name.
After all, anonymous reports are often dismissed on grounds that they are anonymous, which lets the person making the report lie, exaggerate, and otherwise make things up without fear of consequences.
Will you make less money? Probably, but you'll make the job field easier for everyone else and at some tipping point maybe jr. level employees won't have to pretend they have 5 years of experience for a jr. level position in the future and those people won't make less money just because they refuse to pretend to be superhuman during the interview process.
True. But that's the interesting part. The incentive for the individual is to hide it despite the fact that at the society level the hiding it is what (in part) causes it.
I would fit into the 'potential employers' part of your comment, having hired <50 people in the last 12-18 months (and 100's total in my time). If I got a candidates name, and Google'd them (which I always do) and a blog post like this came up: it would have no negative effects on my view of that candidate.
In fact, I would prefer a candidate who knows their limits and is obviously willing to communicate them. I would view a person who would publicly talk about a subject that few others in their position do as someone I would want on my team, as I would view them as more likely to not only push when their workload/lifestyle is becoming unhealthy but would actively help in recognising it in others who maybe wouldn't talk it so readily.
Frankly any organisation that would view something like this as negative is one I would council no one to want to work with.
In a former role, I interviewed a candidate who cited burnout as one of the reasons for a career change a few years earlier. After the interview my boss (who was in the interview) made a big thing about how that put him off. I think it was his main reason for rejecting the candidate.
It is important we do talk about these issues though. At the time I did not feel able to say "that's not ok" to my boss in the same way that I might if he had been put off by the candidate's sexuality. I should have.
But I also work at a company where 40 hour weeks are the norm.
I would love for this to happen, but this never ever happens. I would love it if, at some point, employers looked at my Github account before the job interview, or if they read some of my comments on Hacker News (I put my Hacker News account on my resume, but they still don't read it), or if they read a few of my better known essays, so I could walk into the job interview and we could skip over the basics and start talking about advanced subjects, but instead, every job interview starts off with "Do you know what Object Oriented Programming is? Define an object. Do you know what the keyword 'private' means?" I would love it if a potential employer read about the disaster that struck my last business, and then we could have a serious talk about risks and burn rates and being honest about bad news, when all the news is bad. Those would be interesting conversations. There are some potential employers who would immediately know that they disagree with my views, if they ever searched for my name, but they never do. At this point, Google associates my name with the blog post "Object Oriented Programming is an expensive disaster which must end", which was much discussed here on Hacker News and Reddit and other places. Those potential employers who are strongly in favor of the Object Oriented approach could avoid a job interview with me, if they ever searched for my name. But they don't. Not ever. In the 16 years that I have done professional programming, no potential employer has ever used the Internet to try to track down information about me (or if they did, they were very good actors, and pretended to be ignorant).
Sure, public exposure might discourage a few employers but realistically - it's a pretty big world out there and imagining a single internet tarnish will ruin ones future is really exaggerating.
I can speak from observing events at a close distance -- - even high-tech employers can be really clueless about the effects of burnout and it's cousin clinical depression. And it's too bad because the cause is often bad management and poor project management, which are areas that are, if not easy, then at least feasible to improve on given the large supply of educational material and consultancies available to help in these matters.
Dodged a bullet there.
Lying about mental health only contributes to the stigma and discrimination that some people experience. It also removes some of the legal protections you have. It's probably better to be honest - "I had time off for a common illness. I got treatment and I now have some advanced techniques and some protective measures, although noone expects any recurrance of the illness.
Then move the topic onto what good things this company does and why you're applying.
 in some jurisdictions you have to disclose your illness to get disability discrimination protections. Not all places.
If they're prepared to break the law during recruitment what kind of protection or understanding are you going to get when you're working there.
Colluding with a discriminatory company helps no one.
However, just like most people that have suffered burn-out conclude that they should have gotten out much sooner, it's also wise to avoid any employer for which this is an issue.
Because that can mean only one of two things:
1) The employer in question is clueless about burn-out, which means they are clueless about many health issues affecting workers, which means their HR sucks, which in turn means they are the kind of employer that's likely to create detrimental working conditions leading to burn-out.
2) The employer in question is very well aware that they have an unhealthy work environment and, wrongly, believes they'll increase their odds if they sign someone who hasn't had a burn-out before.
If you've already been through a burn-out once, you know that unless your financial situation is really desperate (rare if you live in the kind of Western European country you refer to), you're better off being unemployed than working for such an employer.
Any mature, responsible employer knows that burn-out tends the to hit the hardest working, most engaged employees, and that the biggest risk factor of prolonged absence caused by burn-out is not recognizing the signs early. Anybody who's already been through that is actually a lower risk.
All HR sucks. If the HR at your company does not, treasure and cherish your unicorn. But also watch it carefully, in case it is just a goat with one horn sawed off, that has been dyed pink and dipped in glitter.
Do not rely on employment law to protect you. Anything that can be traced back to you may be used against you. The lack of anything traceable back to you may also be used against you.
Agreed also it important to have continuous work listings on your resume. "I was laid off and it took a bit of time to find a good position" is usually the easiest excuse for <3 months of time off.
In her defense, many engineers quit their jobs after 3-4 years because of fatigue. Usually it's for a better job with more pay...nothing wrong with that.
Oh, come on now. Things aren't that bad. If that's a snag, it's probably best to not work there.
This is one of those interesting "stay vs leave" situations. If OP had recognized impending burnout early on, and addressed it, would she have been happier staying on at the bank?
It's usually quite hard to say.
1.5 years 10+ hour days, 7 days a week with only 2 days off after my daughter was born.
Why did you do that? (not an accusation, genuinely curious)
It was a godsend. I had my head buried so deep into that company I was deluding myself. Now I'm free from the shackles that stagnated me, and I can advance my skillset and do what I love because I'm not being forced to work in an archaic codebase of spaghetti and feature creep.
Speaking of medicine - you were given a twice daily injection for six weeks, and you don't know what was in the injection?!
> I still don’t know what was in it but surely it was some really good stuff :)
Stopped reading there. Whoever is in charge of HR at that place needs to be taken around the back and shot by the shareholders. Even ignoring the labour issues, I seriously doubt they saw a significant advantage in productivity over a conventional 8-hour day, instead they lost what was probably a very valuable employee. Hope they're happy.
It sounds like the author was experiencing the latter before she experienced the former.
EDIT: Actually on second read I'm not so sure. Maybe it's just a natural figure-of-speech thing rather than a deliberate choice of words
It seems to imply that burnout is a failing of the employee not of the employer. I disagree with this notion entirely, as I think management has a duty to care for and protect their employees from burnout. That is why there is always a chain of responsibility, so that this can occur at all places on the chain.
A properly functioning corporation will help their employees avoid burnout and not make demands of them that inevitably cause it.
Sounds so much like what's happening to me here, yet how to distinguish between the "real thing" and confirmation bias?
One day, I was at my desk, speaking on the phone with a work colleague. On my side, there was another colleague also speaking to me. I started to see everything blur. I tried to speak but I couldn't. Started to feel a huge pain in the chest. I remember putting my hand against my heart and then passed out.
- When I recovered my senses (a couple of seconds later), I couldn't feel my legs, I was shaking, and couldn't speak. It was terrifying. I really though I was having some sort of heart attack.
In the end, was a really bad burnout, stress, altogether.
I'm still doing my job (sysadmin), but I don't know how long will I be able to stand this.
So, take care!
> even I wasn’t even 30 at that time
I don't want to sound like a grammar nazi, but might I suggest proofreading the next time.
This makes me sad. Live to work, not work to live.
On the other hand, I don't think there's anything wrong with finding a job that you don't hate, pays the bills, and gives you enough time to enjoy other aspects of life.
Personally I found that thinking I should love my job actually made me more frustrated because every time I found something I didn't like with my job, I would think about how this isn't what I want to do and try to find another job.
I find it weird that so many young people get burnt out, in relatively simple jobs with no responsibilities (on the job or with kids/family).
A couple of people at my office have had to take a couple months of sick leave because burnout. And they had simple responsibilities and no overtime etc.
I myself have worked normal "IT days" for over 15 years, sometimes it's hectic and sometimes calmer. You only have to know how to relax in your spare time. And yes I work at home also sometimes ("bring my work home") and sometimes think about work problems semi-constantly. But going for a run etc helps to clear your head. Or having a robust night out with a killer hangover!
I think these young people just don't know how to work hard and party hard :) And they are crybabies, also.
Funny thing I've discovered in life, understanding and compassion are free. They don't cost a thing, but they're still some of the hardest things to get out of a person.
Have you talked to the people who got burned out? What do they say about it? Your post doesn't sound so much like a "kids these days!" post as, to be frank, an "I'm an asshole" post.
Further down is a funny post about youngsters "understanding" that you don't actually have to work ("So while you think it's OK to slave away, work for free and abuse the State sponsored drug, they don't.") for life to be good. Sure, if somebody wipes your behind and burps you regularly.
Well I work, my life is good, I'm not complaining (about work at least!).
But really, quite the problem people have these days. 8-16 work days in a comfy office with no responsibility whatsoever and they get burnt out at 25 (2 years out of school). I think that's a pampered crybaby.
And I'm not now talking about people with some medical issues, those you can't of course help.
Do you have any curiosity at all about the people you're judging?
- I can live on 5 hrs of sleep, why can't you?
- I can happily parent 5 children, why can't you?
- I've never been depressed a day in my life, why are you sad?
- I have enough energy for every hour of every day, you're a sucker for needing coffee/naps!