You've heard the term burnout.
You know when you're burned out.
Maybe there's a big deadline or otherwise major pressure on your shoulders. You're working late hours, your self-care routines fall by the wayside, and you stop doing your hobbies.
You make coffee in the morning before your family wakes up and the drawer where you keep the spoons is jammed and you have to yank it out and you tell yourself that you'll fix it when you get home but you know deep down you won't. Tomorrow, you make your coffee and think the same. You feel like a failure all the time.
There were times in my past when I was staffed on mergers or IPOs and I would drive to work in the dark, work in my cavelike office for 12 hours (why did they keep the paralegals in the lair behind the printers?), then drive home in the dark. My soul slowly slipped to the floor and flopped around like a fish out of water. Money no longer offered any allure.
You know traditional burnout. You know that it can't go on forever or you'll have to dust of your resume (sigh).
What about the other times when you felt bad vibes in a job?
What about the slow buildup of emotional exhaustion from a toxic culture?
What about when you feel like no one is listening to you?
What about when others make you feel "crazy" or "weird" for speaking your mind?
What about the job where you love your coworkers, but you're staffed on a project that's going nowhere fast and have no agency to get it back on track?
What about when your startup hits a certain point and has to start getting more corporate and installs trackers and codifies your suddenly much worse vacation policy?
What about when a 19 things that bother you build up slowly over years until you can't take it anymore?
Someone asks you "How are you?" casually. You pause and take a deep breath before responding. "I'm doing okay".
There are other types of burnout at work. No matter what type of burnout you suffer from, it can lead to being in survival mode. For me, this is pretending to be happy, working as hard as I can, and ignoring the deep down feeling inside that I'm not happy with the situation anymore.
The anxiety goblin traipses around rent-free in your mind.
i'm in project hell
Your project is mismanaged in ways that are outside your control. You can't get clear requirements. You're told to do something in a way that is extremely complex or makes no sense. You have requirements but they are different every week. You know how to fix it, but you're not the project lead and no one listens to you.
why do i get invited to meetings, then ignored?
You consistently feeling like you're not listened to or respected. The feeling of not being valued or respected can build up over time as small incidents add up in your brain space.
Sometimes your managers tell you they care about you, but when shit hits the fan (e.g. family emergency), they don't tell you to log off and take care of it and keep sending you emails/slack messages.
Sometimes your coworker is rude to you and you wonder if it is because you're a woman/person of color/junior or self-taught dev/whatever else you can think of. You tell your manager and they say to let it go or say they'll handle it and nothing ever happens. The awkwardness persists.
drops in a bucket = pit of despair grows
Little things that bug you start adding up. Everything is tolerable on its own, but as they start to add up you slowly start to burn out.
- Your favorite coworker leaves
- Your company handles something really poorly (layoffs, someone leaving, bad PR, whatever)
- Your company is scaling fast and slowly becomes more corporate
- Changes the PTO policy that used to be super lax
- Your calendar becomes filled with more meetings and less creative deep work time
- You realize you're not proud to work their anymore
wtf do i do?
Change is hard and reflecting on situations like this is difficult (especially if you're already feeling burned out).
Here are some things you can do write now:
- Get out a piece of paper and write down how you're feeling about your job. Fold it up and write a date on it (e.g. 7 days from today). Revisit on that day.
- Call a trusted friend (not coworker) and tell them how you're feeling.
- If you can afford it, a career coach can be hugely helpful. If you can't it, you may as well find one in your area and reach out and see if there's anything they can do to help.
- Go for a long walk or take a day off and go for an even longer walk. It can feel horrible taking a day off when you're burned out because you often come back and its even worse, but sometimes the only way to get clarity is to get a little space from the situation.
I wish you well. The road to recovering from burnout is long but very much worth it.