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I don't mean to be a jerk or anything, but a burnout is something you better not blog about or write about on facebook or speak about in any way that can be traced back to your real name, if you ever want to find another job again.

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.




No, no, a thousand times no.

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.


People get burned out because something in their life is causing them too much stress for too long a period. It might be the employer's fault, or it might be the combination of a perfectly fine 9 to 5 job with a bad social situation at home or a health problem.

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 first paragraph now is aligned with my own statement, which is either that it's deliberate or accidental overwork. My conclusion was that people need to be able to recognize that there's a problem (either in themselves, co-workers, or employees) and be able to talk about it.

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.


> Your first paragraph now is aligned with my own statement, which is either that it's deliberate or accidental overwork.

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.


My apologies. Certainly if someone could afford to quit a job and focus only on the other issues (eg, taking care of a seriously ill family member) then it's still possible to get burned out.

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.


We're all in this together, so you can either keep up this act of lying to employers and handing out resumes that put you one position below superman, or if you're quite capable and credentialed as many of us are, we can set a precedent. Walk out of obnoxious interviews - stop pretending to be the best developer ever on your resume - answer questions about shortcomings without apprehension (because we're all human and there should be nothing to hide).

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.


This is what prisoner's dilemma decisions are, baby. It's just reversed in that this time, the actors are making a play for prison, not freedom. :)


You keep using the phrase 'perfectly fine 9 to 5 job' .. as though that's a perfectly fine thing.


What's wrong with it?


> is what leads to a burnout culture.

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've worked for multiple companies that intentionally burn out their workers. I even posted negative reviews on glassdoor with my real name. The companies just had glassdoor remove the reviews to appear positive. There is nothing you can really do about bad employers except try to avoid them or escape from them if you end up in one.


All well and good, but why talk about it in a way that's linked with your real name?


As I commented elsewhere in this thread, "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."


It would also act as a good filter from employers that I don't wish to work with.


I couldn't disagree more.

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.


Unfortunately, there are still many bosses who would be put off by a mental health issue in someones past though.

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.


If a company looks down on mental health issues, do you want to work there?


You can't know for sure who looks at your resume. There could be obnoxious people at even the best of companies. Maybe if everyone stopped improving their CVs the problem would go away, but that's hard to do when you're living off your last paycheck.


If the alternative is unemployment, sure, why not?


Agreed. I am a supervisor at work, so I do hiring. I would not be turned off to a candidate because of a blog post like this, I would see it as a sign of maturity rather.

But I also work at a company where 40 hour weeks are the norm.


+1 If something is wrong it is better to know, rather than to have it fail silently. Unfortunately weakness/failure still seems to be stigmatized/feared by some people.


"Potential employers will google the names of applicants before an interview"

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).


You imply that because the people who did talk to you did not google you, that no one does. It is more likely that the people who do google you do not give you an interview.


I disagree. Burnout should be talked about, so that people learn it's a real problem and it stops being a taboo. Third world countries have public health problems specifically because there are these "taboo conditions" that are not talked about.

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.

Also, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Right_to_be_forgotten

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.


If an employer doesn't hire someone because they are open to talking about their wellbeing, and the true capacities of human beings, then it's probably a GREAT thing that you don't work for them.

Dodged a bullet there.


Lying on your CV is probably fraud and is almost always a very bad idea.

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[1]. 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.

[1] in some jurisdictions you have to disclose your illness to get disability discrimination protections. Not all places.


You're right, lying is a bad idea, but phrasing something bad in a way that sounds a little better is sometimes necessary, especially with something that you know is behind you and won't affect your future work. It's not fair, and it doesn't help with the work stress, but employers do disqualify a candidate for this.


If you've had a mental health problem you probably don't want to work for a campany that discriminates against people with mental health problems.

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.


Please put "Will tell the truth in all situations regardless of the effects" on your resume. Let us know how that goes for you.


It's generally good advice to think twice before publishing anything under your real name that may affect your life and career.

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.


The HR department exists to protect the company from the employees. They mitigate health risks for employees by buying an insurance policy with the company as beneficiary, rather than addressing any potential risk factors introduced by the company itself. In doing this, they have plausible deniability, unless the employee comes forward to complain. Complainers are subtly encouraged to move on, in a way that is non-actionable in civil courts.

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.


Everywhere I've worked in this country, employers have done their best to keep the work environment as stress free as possible (because of the serious financial consequences I described), yet people still get burnout. Your body doesn't separate work-stress from private stress, and not all stress can be blamed on your employer. A perfectly fine 9 - 5 job can push you over your stress limits if it is combined with a bad social situation, such as caring for a sick relative.


I agree with this very strongly. Be very careful what you post about yourself online that is associated with your easily searchable name that you put on job applications. Burnout may be a real problem, but stating you think burnout is somewhat normal and that you will occasionally need time off to recover ( like op seems to state in article ) is not going to win you any high stakes high reward positions.

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.


I totally agree. I would delete this blog post. It's not flattering.

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.


If you were interviewing for such a position and came across this candidate, would they have a "very difficult interview?" How would you treat them differently, and why is that okay?


I'm not interviewing people, I'm someone with a suspicious hole in their CV that they still have to try to justify in every interview over 15 years later.


> 15 years later

Oh, come on now. Things aren't that bad. If that's a snag, it's probably best to not work there.


"You're a lot older than we thought you would be" Whether it's a snag you never know but you do end up having to talk about it every time




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