back to article What can you do when the pup of programming becomes the black dog of burnout? Dude, leave

The DevOps community is focused on this thing called "culture". By this, I always take them to mean the processes, norms, and HR policy that an organization has in place. You want the culture to be open, understanding, curious, and above all else, well, friendly. If you're using failing-as-learning to improve your software …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ouch, reading this is a nasty reminder that I'm going through this.

    Perhaps it's time to brush up the CV. I'd list the problems I'm having for the collective, but I'm a bit concerned that people from my work read here, and would recognise them.

    Oh well. Here's to crashing and burning.

    Anon.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      You are steps ahead. Just do it. Move on, the sooner the better. The crash is recoverable, the burn, not so much.

      - From one who's been there and didn't recognize it until too late.

      1. yoganmahew

        When you're 50 and overspecialised, moving on isn't as easy as it used to be.

        A question for the panel, what do you do when Devops and Agile are the cause of menial, not the solution to it?

        "Write these stories for work you know how to do"

        "Make sure you update them every day"

        "Arbitrarily split your work up so it fits into two week sprints because children can only concentrate on writing rubbish for two weeks"

        "Be permanently on call forever since you're the system owner"

        "Work in a large company where you have no control over the tools you use"

        Actually, you can boil most of it down to - working in a large company = burnout.

      2. JohnFen Silver badge

        This. Over 30 years in this industry has taught me to trust my gut. Every job comes with times where everything is awful, so those times don't count. Otherwise, if I find myself dreading work for more than a week or two at a run, my experience is that it's time to leave, and the sooner the better.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Been there. Golden handcuffs were my problem

      I was making really good money and I would have to take a serious pay cut which caused me issues in interviews. Why do you wan to leave? One company that really wanted to hire me told me even if I came in at the top level it would still be a twenty percent pay cut.

      Why did I want to leave? I had filed a complaint against my manager well documented and his boss had to take action. After that my name was mud. They even brought in a hatchett man to get rid of me. He told me flat out that if I don't get fired he gets fired. It took them ten years before they had a layoff to get rid of me.

      Of course I couldn't tell my potential employers the real reason I wanted to leave. That just opens up and entirely different can of worms.

      1. EarthDog

        Re: Been there. Golden handcuffs were my problem

        I need a change of pace. An opportunity for more growth. I'd like to ry my hand at doing X. Seeking new challenges. Seeking a smaller environment etc.

    3. Conspectus83
      Happy

      Rang so many bells for me!

      I've just left a job where it was tedious, micro managed (the guy wanted to control everything) and absolutely no prospects, just turn the wheel until the system gets switched off. It took me 12 months of looking to find an equivalent job.

      As the article says 'It can seem impossible, but it always works and leaving is often easier than it seems.'. I've done this a few times since IT people can easily get stuck in a pigeon hole and told 'your not moving from there'.

      This is blunt but I try and follow it...…"If your not happy in your job F*ck Off and get another."

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I'd second that, you need to get out and start again in a new organisation. You'll be amazed how much better you'll feel. The critical thing though is to get yourself in a positive frame of mind before starting job hunting. A useful technique a colleague gave me when I was in your position and failing in interviews was the use of stories, You pick project / activities which were successful then analyse them in depth, why were they successful, how important were they, what was your role. This has 2 effects, firstly it gives you easily accessible facts to talk about in the interview which demonstrate why you'll be a good team member, Secondly it's an instant injection of good feelings about yourself.

      Once you've been through this exercise rejig your CV from the same viewpoint. I'll guarantee you'll get more interviews. Having adopted this technique I did get the next job I applied for. It may not all seem rosy in your new role initially, it took me a good 6 months to really believe I was succeeding in my new (contract) role and I feel its taken 18 months to fully recover.

      1. werdsmith Silver badge

        If it is sunday evening, the weekend is over and you begin to feel a bit grumpy at the thought of a new working week then that is the beginning of the end of your job. If you feel sick / nauseous then take immediate action.

        For people who can sit and write code all day I have great admiration, I tried and couldn't tolerate it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Once you've been through this exercise rejig your CV from the same viewpoint. I'll guarantee you'll get more interviews.

        I can absolutely confirm that this works, having used it myself, but also when sitting on the hiring side of the table. Imagine you're the recruiter (as you may have been) - last thing you want is to have to wade through a load of identical CVs where the author offers a glowing personal portrait at the top, and then spews a chronological list of jobs at you, expecting you to pick out what matters in each of them.

        Just put the career history very briefly and factually on the second page (you think anybody ever turns to page three?) and focus page one on short paragraphs that pick out your experience using as closely as possible the desired criteria for the job. When you try that you'll find it harder than it sounds, eg chopping verbose requirements down to pithy titles that the recruiter will still recognise as their own, and then you have to pull out a good example of when and how you've exhibited that skill set.

        But it works. Give it a go. And again, personal experience, sod the golden handcuffs. There's times when you have to accept that earning more money simply isn't worth the unhappiness and stress, and if that means a few sacrifices, or downsizing the house, what the hell - is sixty hours a week of misery a good tradeoff for a larger mortgage, and plusher car?

  2. Warm Braw Silver badge

    Working in IT is a magical, mysterious, and wonderful task

    It's really just a job that you do in exchange for money. It's not the priesthood.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Working in IT is a magical, mysterious, and wonderful task

      You are missing the point.

      There are not one, but two oldest professions which exists from before humans had money, trade, etc. They are "sexual services" and the priesthood.

      There is money to be made in making chants about things being magical, mysterious and wonderful. People have been doing so since the dawn of time and continue to do it. It motivates the rank and file and gets the village shaman some trinkets from the powers that be which benefit from the results.

      So instead of bitching, join the joyful DevOps psalms and chants. If you do not the shaman may report you to the ones paying his salary.

    2. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Working in IT is a magical, mysterious, and wonderful task

      This isn't the job that my Spectrum promised me it would be on the 25th of December 1982. I want a refund.

    3. JohnFen Silver badge

      Re: Working in IT is a magical, mysterious, and wonderful task

      It's not a "priesthood", I agree. But it's also (at least for a lot of people) not just a job you do in exchange for money. I was programming before I ever got paid for it, and should I no longer get paid for it, I will continue to program.

      Why? Because it's a magical, wonderful task. I don't think it's mysterious, but plenty of people outside the industry do.

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: Working in IT is a magical, mysterious, and wonderful task

        You know how ever since Mark Twain fence painting can be either a privilege or a chore...? The thing is, it's a chore as soon as you HAVE to do it, and that's pretty much the definition of a job. Ninety-nine point ninety-nine percent of people aren't getting paid to the explore the whimsical worlds they would actually enjoy to - but to keep their head down and keep manning the oars as the drum beat commands. Is your daddy a lawyer, doctor or businessman? No? Then you're not here to enjoy the ride, sorry.

  3. juice Bronze badge

    Burnout isn't unknown in IT

    The impact of "crunch time" on project work is well documented, especially in the gaming industry.

    So I'm really not sure what great revelations this article is meant to be bringing to the table. If anything, the main thing it seems to be promoting is the equally destructive "IT Hero" mentality - aka a Single Point of Failure.

    <Hi! I'm Clippy! You appear to have rant-lock on!>

    Hmm.

    *looks at tea mug*

    Maybe I should absorb some caffeine before reading this sort of thing. Especially on a Monday...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Burnout isn't unknown in IT

      IMHO the problem is less the 'IT Hero' by choice, but by necessity - when the company won't pay for cover or extra staff to cover other duties.

      That then encroaches on traditional BAU duties.

      That then makes BAU become a series of firefighting incidents. Which then adds to the stress.

      I don't want to be an IT hero. I just want to get my bloody job done....!

      1. Andrew Moore Silver badge

        Re: Burnout isn't unknown in IT

        There is also the fact that that the IT Hero nearly always has to take the blame for the failures; whilst someone else (nearly always middle management) takes the kudos for the successes.

      2. juice Bronze badge

        Re: Burnout isn't unknown in IT

        > IMHO the problem is less the 'IT Hero' by choice, but by necessity - when the company won't pay for cover or extra staff to cover other duties.

        And that's part of the reason why I stepped away from the keyboard and towards the kettle - rant levels were exceeding the Monday RDA ;)

        Being in a culture which either glorifies or relies on the IT Hero principle is a major issue: it leads to people believing the hype, which in turn can lead to people pushing themselves too hard, leading to the aforementioned burnout.

        And once infected with IT Hero, a small but statistically significant percentage of people are also prone to catching Insufferable Asshole syndrome, too...

      3. Dr Dan Holdsworth Silver badge

        Re: Burnout isn't unknown in IT

        If an organisation is routinely calling on people to be heroes, then you really ought to see this as a danger sign. Work is what you do to get money in order to live; it isn't your life, and nobody will even remember you for more than an hour or two when you leave the company.

        There aren't any prizes for being the bestest whatever in the company; all you get is more work. If the work looks like using you up, leave. It really isn't worth burning yourself out for work.

        1. bombastic bob Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: Burnout isn't unknown in IT

          "There aren't any prizes for being the bestest whatever in the company"

          There SHOULD be. 'The Best' should have the highest pay rate. Either that, or he should QUIT and go elsewhere for more money...

          (any decent manager would recognize this and try to retain 'the best' with cool assignments and higher pay).

          And this 'culture' thing makes my stomach turn. I can taste my lunch coming up... *urp*

          1. J. Cook Silver badge

            Re: Burnout isn't unknown in IT

            @ Bombastic Bob:

            And this 'culture' thing makes my stomach turn. I can taste my lunch coming up... *urp*

            Culture usually does that. *cynical grin*

            1. Grikath Silver badge

              Re: Burnout isn't unknown in IT

              As soon as HR gets involved in engineering, ulcers are a given...

        2. Joe Werner

          Re: Burnout isn't unknown in IT

          Work is what you do to get money in order to live; it isn't your life

          Tell that to most (if not all) scientists. I miss working in science, I really do, but the symptoms described here (esp. the forum) sound familiar.

          Yes, I did love what I was doing. I'm not yet really glad I quit.

    2. Christian Berger Silver badge

      I've actually seen more of the opposite

      In one company, I've had the opposite problem. You get time allotted so solve a certain task, you finish it to decent standards in half of that time, polish it and fix the bugs the tester found out (testers are a great thing to have on your development team), but then you still have a quarter of your time left you need to fill somehow.

      That is really frustrating, particularly when there are problems in the software that cannot be reasonably fixed, as they were based on design decisions other people did. Eventually you'll break over the difference of what you think should be and what is.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I don't recognise this. ...

    Maybe I'm more thick-skinned than others or maybe I've just been lucky with my employers but I view work as an exchange of services for money. If I don't work I don't get paid and vice versa. I don't do over-time for free and I'm not prepared to work 60-hour weeks every week. Now and then for emergencies, fine, but not if emergencies are every week.

    One of my first acts when joining a company now is to book a repeating appointment of 45 minutes between 12:00 - 1:00 every working day for lunch and setting the calendar to refuse all requests during this time. I leave the office at lunch time so no-one gets to ask 'just a quick question' during my down-time.

    I haven't signed my life over to these organisations; I've agreed to provide skills that I possess for the rates (and possibly benefits) that they feel these skills are worth.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I don't recognise this. ...

      I answer the phone during my lunch. I'm not an I.T hero though , in fact after my career's last kick in the balls (of many) I'm determined to do the absolute bare minimum. I'll get the time of that phone call back by lunch going into extra time.

    2. phuzz Silver badge

      Re: I don't recognise this. ...

      "I view work as an exchange of services for money"

      Exactly this.

      I'll work overtime as long as I'm being paid. I'll be on-call if I'm getting paid.

      What I won't do is work for free.

      The other side of it is that working more than 40 hours a week is unproductive. (eg)

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: I don't recognise this. ...

        "I'll be on-call if I'm getting paid."

        My attitude (mostly in the days before mobiles) was "If you can contact me and I'm able to, I'll come in but no amount of pay is going to tie me to sitting by the phone all weekend".

    3. HPCJohn

      Re: I don't recognise this. ...

      "One of my first acts when joining a company now is to book a repeating appointment of 45 minutes between 12:00 - 1:00 every working day for lunch and setting the calendar to refuse all requests during this time."

      I am sorry but that is bad. I hve worked in several organisations. In one very well known organisation, all the team went down together for lunch. It was great to just sit down at lunch and talk about what was going on in the world.

      In a more recent organisation I worked for people regularly went outside to sit in their cars, alone, at lunchtime. One colleague who I enjoyed working with and respected mightily asked me not to join home at lunch, as this was his 'alone time' as you do. That guy was one of th emost overworked people I have ever met.

      I have alarm bells ringing for any organisation where people are either so overworked or so fed up with their co-workers that they want to be along for 45 minutes.

      1. imanidiot Silver badge

        Re: I don't recognise this. ...

        Being an introvert myself, I can very much understand needing some alone time for a bit during the day. Most days I can manage to have lunch with my coworkers but there are plenty of days where I just want everybody to fuck off and leave me alone for a bit so I can actually relax in a way I can't when in a group. Being around other people and "socialize" takes energy for me and some days I just don't have that energy to give.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I don't recognise this. ...

          >Most days I can manage to have lunch with my coworkers but there are plenty of days where I just want everybody to fuck off and leave me alone for a bit so I can actually relax in a way I can't when in a group.

          My old (recently closed) office was on a main road that went over a river and canal. I found that it was possible to walk down an overground and rubbish strewn path down to the river, where they was a platform just above the water and under the road. Perfect for those times you needed to spend a quiet 10 minutes by yourself before you did or said something that might have been considered career limiting at best :)

      2. DropBear Silver badge

        Re: I don't recognise this. ...

        "I have alarm bells ringing for any organisation where people are either so overworked or so fed up with their co-workers that they want to be along for 45 minutes."

        Hell is other people. I insist on getting to choose the few people I actually WANT to socialize with, and on doing it by a drink, on my own time. All of which are incompatible with any office setting. No. You're not getting the have lunch with me and leech away even more of the energy I don't even have.

  5. 0laf Silver badge

    The keenness to work hard and graft at all hours is often exploited in new developers. If you burn out the business doesn't really care there are always more where you came from.

    Same in accountancy, law, banking and many other professional areas. If you survive long enough you might just get promoted to the point where you too can feast on the blood of the young. But that point is always getting higher as those at the top need more and more blood to keep them alive and living in the fashion they are used to.

    A mate of mine is now a partner in a large accounts firm. To me as an outsider it appears to be some sort of pyramid or Ponzi scheme. At every stage he has been promoted they seem to fuck him over a bit more and lure him on with the promise that at the next stage it will all get better.

    Those in the years before him had a much easier time with benefits and perks but as they went on they have pulled up the ladder behind them to feather their beds even more.

    I do wonder what would happen if everyone suddenly refused promotion or walked.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      I do wonder what would happen if everyone suddenly refused promotion or walked.

      The manglement culture would kick in and they'd just hirer new bodies. Manglement doesn't care. Look at the IBM example. "Layoff everyone you can and hire cheaper bodies."

  6. karlkarl Bronze badge

    The trick is to keep your passion alive. Try your hardest to get into a position where you can refuse certain tasks.

    For example, any contract job (in my particular software industry) involving a shitty "prosumer" tool called Unity 3D, I simply turn down immediately without another thought.

    If it doesn't involve the parts I am passionate for: C, C++ and OpenGL. I know three things. All of them contribute to burnout:

    1) I am probably not the right person for the job

    2) It is slowly (and perhaps subconsciously) going to piss me off and wear me out quicker.

    3) I am not going to get recognition. No-one respects a developer who uses amateur crap like Unity 3D.

    I know they always say to generalize and learn lots of technologies because it ensures Job safety. I disagree. I don't just want to have a job that pays. I want to have something that I love to do (that pays).

    1. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

      I will not get into your examples (graphics is not my area) but you are touching two issues here:

      1) motivation at work - this is indeed doing what you have passion for and being recognized for your work

      2) lack of motivation as a result of three points you have listed above.

      But there is also another thing: burnout as a result of doing what you love, but too much. This may happen, too. Sadly most employers do not recognize when this happens and have no policies for helping employees who work more than e.g. 60 hours per week.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Managers who have people working more than 60 hours per week are not doing their job.

        A manager's job is to manage resources, not exhaust them. If your employees are working overtime all the time, it is on you to realize that you need more resources - else you will find yourself with a global revolt at some point and some, or most, of your resources will walk to other pastures.

        And recreating a group is always an impossible task.

        Somehow, that is not part of the MBA curriculum.

        Pity.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          "Managers who have people working more than 60 hours per week are not doing their job.

          A manager's job is to manage resources, not exhaust them. If your employees are working overtime all the time, it is on you to realize that you need more resources - else you will find yourself with a global revolt at some point and some, or most, of your resources will walk to other pastures.

          And recreating a group is always an impossible task."

          This.

          And the fact that I managed to recreate my old team at my new employer, under happier terms and properly manageable 9-5 hours.

        2. DropBear Silver badge

          "A manager's job is to manage resources, not exhaust them."

          You mean like how, for example, we as a species "manage" oil*...? You're deluding yourself. "break open, consume, discard" are the only words anyone knows when it comes to any kind of resource, _especially_ managers. And there's never, ever a shortage of more people.

          * This is NOT an eco-rant. I'm just making a point.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            The word “resource” is the problem. They could have called us “human assets”. They chose not to. At least they were honest.

  7. HmmmYes Silver badge

    Do your fucking contracted hours - 38h/week.

    If they want you to work weekends then asked for 2x time off, or bill 2x day rate.

    Its that simple.

    Its easy for companies and management to ask for stuff when they are not paying for it. Ask them how many customers have been given free stuff.

    Dont do the 10h extra for free. They need to recruit more people.

    If they cannot recruit then they need to review their pay and benefits.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Once worked for a company that asked "volunteers" to work weekends and evenings, then underhandedly told team leads to remind their underlings that their contract includes a clause to work the hours required to get the job done.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They don't care about you, don't care about them.

    I long ago stopped giving extra. After perhaps too many years, I have realised that personal effort generally counts for precisely zero when it comes to handing out pay reviews and bonuses.

    Where I work now has given below-inflation pay increases for the past 2 years, and no bonus either. The bonus is now based on some magical accounting number that I had no say in setting, no understanding of what it means, and no influence in meeting. Pay reviews are based on a full-on review process that is effectively impossible to get anything other than "competent" on.

    A few years back it was done differently. The director in charge of IT would do it based on merit and how he thought you did. I always got excellent increases and bonuses. Now though - it has to be "formalised". And it's shit, and nobody gets anything.

    Last year I worked very hard. I didn't work any extra hours for free - I'm not stupid - but I worked very hard whilst in the office and accomplished a great deal. It made no difference, so this year I won't be doing that. I will be doing the absolute bare fucking minimum.

    The "leave your job" advice is good - I may well cast around.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They don't care about you, don't care about them.

      This.

      I've effectively had a pay cut for the last 10 years. Overtime for some departments/teams is almost the norm with most people seeing it as a way to easily increase their take-home, whilst my requests to be paid in additional flexitime for some additional work I did at home fell on deaf ears and comments of "you should have done it at work" (I couldn't, I had commitments but thought I was being dedicated...). Doing "just enough" seems to be the accepted way - my boss has even told me "you don't need to be perfect, just do the minimum that people expect" and my attempts to go the extra mile count for sod all at the end of year appraisal. Commenting on bad idea is dismissed as me being negative and "not on board", whilst gobshites that agree with everything management propose get lauded and promoted even when things go wrong.

      Whilst I still enjoy being part of the organisation, and try to enjoy my job, maybe a change is what's needed.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They don't care about you, don't care about them.

      My current place requires you to plan ahead and set your objectives, then in your next pay review you get a raise if you achieved them... And it matters not one jot as people are chopped and changed between projects at a moment's notice. Absurd is too generous a description for it.

  9. Cosmo

    Make time for yourself - Don't go above and beyond

    As a developer, I have been there - That bit of code just won't quite work as expected, so you leave annoyed on a Friday evening. Then, whilst in the shower on Saturday morning, you get that 'Eureka' moment and you realise what you were doing wrong and it'll only take an hour to fix it, and I could just VPN in now and sort it and...

    Don't. Don't do this. Make a mental note of what the problem and solution are, and come back to it on Monday. It's similar to Facebook likes (and Register upvotes). In the long run it doesn't really benefit you (unless you're working for yourself) if you bust your guts for someone else. You just get rewarded with even more work.

    So take the break at the weekend - Catch up with friends and family. Or even, just have a lie-in. The work can wait until Monday (unless you're working for TSB - Sorry).

    1. Peter X

      Re: Make time for yourself - Don't go above and beyond

      (and Register upvotes).

      You take that back! RIGHT NOW! :D

      unless you're working for TSB

      I think that particular case is better covered by the "just quit" idea.

    2. DropBear Silver badge

      Re: Make time for yourself - Don't go above and beyond

      "It's similar to Facebook likes (and Register upvotes). In the long run it doesn't really benefit you"

      Only even knowing that offers no relief...

  10. tojb

    Mucho very interesting literature here

    The Tavistock in London has made a special study of burnout, at the individual level but especially with reference to the collective. The institute was directed to this task beginning with WWI, when it was noticed that entire units would lose the will to continue fighting, even as comrades in other divisions endured still worse horrors with a cheery grin.

    This was an interesting start for me:

    https://www.amazon.com/Unconscious-Work-Individual-Organizational-Services/dp/0415102065

  11. SVV Silver badge

    If this sounds familiar - quit your job now

    It'll only get worse. You'll never get the "appreciation" you deserve. Other better places to work exist.

    Learnt all this the hard way myself, so don't make the same mistake as me. It's just a job, you are replaceable, even if you think you're not. The trick is to spot it early. Any regular expectation of unpaid overtime, or other irritable colleagues sneering at you because you're not doing the "heroic" extra hours they are means leave as soon as possible. "Crisis" weekends and late nights when it's only you or a couple of other techies worrking overtime to solve a big issue, but the manaagers are curiously absent themselves, despite how vital they tell you solving the issue right now is to the company mean leave now. Expect and take double time off in compensation as soon as possible afterwards to recover rather than accept double pay, even for a single late night. If that is not offered then leave.

    Interestingly, my worst experiences in this regard came when I was involved in both dev and ops sides of the companies - the responsibilities are doubled, number of issues that can occur are doubled, number of managers potentially giving you grief are doubled. Another reason why it's a bad idea to combine dev and ops in many circumstances.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Should you stay or should you gp?

    Based on personal experience, having burned out to the point of a nervous breakdown, I would question the advice to leave that employment.

    Although it hurt me to have a breakdown, I needed that to learn that I was shouldering too much responsibility myself and needed to make more use of other people. Contrary to a lot of what's said, burnout conditions are not always caused by oppressive employers - they can just as easily be caused by bad behaviour by employees.

    If I'd felt the burnout coming and then jumped ship, I would just have ended up moving to another company and ending up in the same position.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Should you stay or should you gp?

      You received few upvotes here, and deservedly. BUT the trick is to learn to NOT CARE. And that may be difficult. When I faced burnout, I only started NOT CARING, after the light shone at the end of the tunnel - in the form of an offer, from my subsequent employer. Looking back, perhaps I should have rejected that offer as it was not needed anymore, but it seemed like a good idea to accept ...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Should you stay or should you gp?

        I can see what you're getting at, but the fact that you chose to put "NOT CARE" in capital letters suggests a greater degree of not caring than I'd be comfortable with.

        Being able to detatch yourself is good, but if you're working in a professional capacity then there will still be times when you need to do a bit above-and-beyond. The trick is to recognise when you're doing that, and to keep control of things.

        I've been in situations where we've been working to solve a major problem on a customer site - failure to get them up and running again would mean big penalties for my company, potential loss of contracts, jobs being lost, etc. In such cases you just can't say "sorry guys, it's now 5pm on Friday and I've done my contracted hours for the week. I'll see you all on Monday at 9am when I clock in and start caring again".

        Of course, the sort of thing here is coloured very much by each individual's personal experience, personality traits, etc. - there is no One Size Fits All solution to coping.

  13. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge

    words I live by

    The greatest thanks I ever get is for people not to realise I did anything at all..

    Sometimes because I haven't, other times because things just work how you thibk they should work.. it's when someone's got something to say that problems arrise.

    On the flip side, it sort of means you look like you're not working. Though again, as mentioned the company I think i might be able to see my retirement out recognises good work through agile based ideas as well as one of the best managers I've ever had. Its first time I've been at a company so long and not felt like I'm burning out (So normally I'm job hunting by now). Good atmosphere takes things a fare way, a good manager makes the perfect combo. (IMHO)

  14. Brian Miller

    No magic bullet, supid management = stupid management

    I read the link about DevOps, and that it means whatever it means. That means that it is snake oil and charlatanism. Really, "left-shifting security" as part of the right-hand side?

    After all this time and good studies of planning, design, and development, why does everyone keep pretending that not one blighter out there knows how to write code??

    Yes, it is a waterfall process: specify, design, develop, test, deploy. Nothing is fixed in stone, and every step can, and will, cause a jump back to the beginning. If you don't know what to develop, see design. If you don't know what to design, see specification. If you don't have any idea of the specification, maybe you'd best talk to somebody, see what they want, and give them feedback about their hallucinations.

    It is true we can't be an expert in all areas. Right now I am working with a consultant who is allergic to C, and wanted to shell out from C to call a scripting language to make a REST call. Yes, really!

    So yeah, there is burnout. Burnout actually comes from abuse. When the manager is the enemy, feel free to take a hike. I've done it plenty of times. Don't put up with it, feel free to push off.

  15. hottuberrol

    Knowing people who've been through the black dog, mental health is not an issue to be trivialised. And it can be helped with the the smallest gestures I once ran a 20 minute session on "mindfulness" in one of my team meetings .... turns our I had one chap who simply couldn't settle into it , restless as hell.....we unpacked that later 1:1 and it turned out he was carrying a load of stress not just from work . Just the simple act of talking about it lifted the burden for him so much that his wife noticed the difference when he walked in the door that evening.

    Good to see this topic getting some cover on El Reg.

  16. Barry Rueger Silver badge

    Black Dog is not Burnout

    Perhaps being pedantic, but "the black dog" is usually a reference to clinical depression, not burn out. (Though one may influence the other.)

    1. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

      Re: Black Dog is not Burnout

      Agreed - they aren't mutually exclusive, and one can lead to the other, but depression is a much bigger issue

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Less like a dog....well maybe so.

    Quote: "....there's a good chance that a new organization will treat you more like a human, and less like a dog"

    *

    Couple of points:

    1) Please don't rely on some "good chance" when you change jobs. Try to find someone INSIDE the "new organization", talk to them, and try to find out about the culture in the new organization. GlassDoor can help too.

    2) Take a look at the TOTAL benefit package in the new organization. I moved from IT in a huge retail organization to IT in a financial services company. My 401K after two years in financial services was more than half my 401K after TEN years in retail! Strangely enough the financial services company treated employees MUCH better than the retail company! (See item 1 above.)

    *

    It pays (PAYS) to find out about this stuff BEFORE you make the change.

  18. ZanzibarRastapopulous

    Woof

    Woof woof woof woof woof. Woof woof.

    Woof.

    1. I3N
      Happy

      Re: Woof - Bork!

      Bork bork bork bork. Bork bork.

      Bork.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Even if people don't burn out - the pressure, irregular hours, irregular mealtimes, and irregular sleep patterns are probably not good for them.

    I mostly enjoyed my 40 years in those sorts of situations - but I chose my own time to retire when it was obvious the job could no longer be done "properly" with all the new constraints. Gradually I eased myself out of the firing line - letting the over-confident youngsters sideline this old fogey.

    Two weeks after retiring my doctor finally diagnosed Type 2 Diabetes. With a life-long BMI no worse than 23 it wasn't down to obesity. An inherited genetic pre-disposition was always known to be a risk once I reached my 60s. It is now recognised that the particular set of triggers were built into the job.

    It won't kill me. I'm sensible enough to lead a more regulated life now.

  20. AdamWill

    we're not freaking magical wizards

    Overall a good article, but can we please give up on this annoying and patronizing attitude?

    "Working in IT is a magical, mysterious, and wonderful task. To the normals, it seems like the computers are demons machinating against them, but us nerds know they're just like big puppies pouncing and growling to get us to roll around on the floor. We bond with them, and we start to dedicate ourselves to the machines."

    It's bullshit and it's been bullshit for a long time, and it's harmful, because if you believe it you believe you're some kind of magical wizard and no-one gets to tell you you're full of shit when...you're full of shit.

    We're just people who have some expertise in a particular area and work in that area. We're not magical wizard gods. This isn't Snow Crash. Lots of people have expertise in a particular area and work in that area. My brother-in-law fits windscreens. I haven't got a fucking clue how to fit a windscreen. But I don't think he thinks of himself as a Windscreen Fixing Wizard God and me as a "normal". He's just a bloke with a job. So are we. Can we please stop thinking of ourselves as powerful sorcerors with unique knowledge interacting with a mysterious power and just think of ourselves as people with a perfectly commonplace specialist job, just like millions of other people? We're *all* "normals". Get over yourself.

    (We also are, let's face it, pretty fucking bad at our speciality, aren't we? Windscreen fitters more or less have it figured out. I am yet to hear of a case where someone got their windscreen replaced, then thirty miles down the motorway it smashed into a million tiny pieces and cut them to ribbons, then the investigating authorities found it had been broadcasting their personal data to the world up until then. Yet this is more or less what we seem to do to everyone all the time...)

    1. doublelayer Silver badge

      Re: we're not freaking magical wizards

      I agree, but more because the statement is just wrong. The general public don't see dealing with systems as fighting demons. To judge from the general attitude, they consider it as either building something (those being the courteous ones), putting roadblocks in their way (the annoying ones), or doing something that requires no skills at all (those being the stupid ones). Also, I have never considered a system or program I'm writing to be like a puppy or any other animal. With animals, I get a sense of life, of personality, although that's mostly made up by me, and independence. I view programs as something I am building. It may at some point be independent of my actions, and there may at some point be enough code in it for something it does to be sort of lifelike. However, it's not living enough for me to consider it like an animal. If you want a parallel that works for me, although this is probably very subjective, I'd suggest a system as a piece of art. I have an idea of what it will be, I take steps to get there, and the completed work is designed by my imagination and different from my original blueprint.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: we're not freaking magical wizards

        I look at what I do as more from a plumber's point of view. (bear with me for a bit on this) Partly this is because I maintain a good portion of the company's infrastructure (AD/Exchange/storage/virtualization hardware and hypervisor) and by and large, unless you screw around with it, it's largely solid. It's absolutely a thankless job- no one notices or cares that you caught a system that was about to chew through it's disk space and gave it another block of storage in the nick of time, but everyone would have been howling if the system ran out and came to a screaming halt. Likewise, no one cares about what difficulties the plumber has to keep the water flowing IN and sewage flowing OUT, but they are all panic filled if a pipe breaks.

        I am extremely fortunate that we got rid of our toxic boss and replaced him with ones that were more... sensible (and sane), and that have seen the black dog in their employees and know how to deal with it.

        anon because I'm pretty sure at least one of my co-workers reads this and knows exactly who I am....

        1. 0laf Silver badge
          Trollface

          Re: we're not freaking magical wizards

          I have for some long years repeatedly told IT that they are in the sewage business.

          While everything is working noone is interested or wants to know what they do. When something breaks IT become very important indeed.

          Turd icons needed. One polished, one rolled in glitter.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: we're not freaking magical wizards

      Wonderful is the word people who like Stephen Fry use to mean what normal people would call “an absolute crock of shit”.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tracy Kidder's "The Soul of a New Machine" ends with one of the successful project team "going back to the soil" - where life moves slower than nanoseconds.

    I did that in the 1970s - took a break and went to a kibbutz. After three months there it was nice to get back into my hectic IT trouble-shooting role. I realised I liked things to move faster than the seasons.

    1. DropBear Silver badge

      Throwing one extreme to the wind for another is not going to lead you to answers.

  22. Vlad
    Happy

    It's time to quit IT and go and work somewhere that you enjoy

    This rings quite a few bells with me as a couple of months ago I quit what had become a poisonous culture. Since leaving school in the 80s I have done TV repairs, photocopier servicing, and then from the mid-90s I have been in IT. For at least the past five years there has been a marked change in employers’ attitudes – but nobody is calling this a recession. I was happy to do the extra time that inevitably comes along in IT – as long as there was paid overtime, flexi hours and appreciative managers to compensate. My organisation, however, had undergone a 24 month reorganisation of IT services which had totally sucked the fun out of what was once a good job. Now I know that as I am in my 50s I am no longer the eager to please youngster that I once was, but I know what I am doing and I do it well. I am happy to say that I won’t be hurrying back to the multiple projects with stupid deadlines and constantly moving goalposts, along with in-fighting leaders. I have quit IT and am doing something completely different. I was only out of work for a short time and I had job offers within weeks. The pay in my new job isn’t as good but I feel so much better.

    1. Oengus Silver badge

      Re: It's time to quit IT and go and work somewhere that you enjoy

      I know the feeling. After 40 years in IT I am about to be pushed out the door because of a reorg and I can't be happier about it. I have watched the IT roles go from fun and rewarding to menial BS. Currently I am working on a project which has all of the coding being done in India. We have a challenge that the India team (internal and outsourced) have been working on for months. I gave them a month head start (because it "wasn't my job") and when I realised they were going nowhere I asked the boss if he wanted me to "have a look". It took me 4 days to come up with a solution that is far more elegant and manageable than the only solution I have seen from the Indian team but management don't want to know about it. It has now been a month since I presented my solution and I await the results that the other team have come up with (should be presented today - if the meeting isn't postponed yet again).

      I have made the decision that my next job will be a Traffic controller. Time to get out of IT where unappreciative management don't care and have the mentality that I can be replaced by some teenage just out of high school with no real world knowledge and no original thoughts. I want a job where I am paid for the hours I work and if I work outside "normal" hours or additional hours I get paid penalty rates. I can then make IT a hobby and have it become fun again.

      1. bigtreeman

        Re: It's time to quit IT and go and work somewhere that you enjoy

        Don't be a fecking traffic controller. People do traffic control when they hit rock bottom.

        Speaking from experience and my wife won't let me do it any more because it's really fecking dangerous. You don't get bugs in your program, you get run over by a fecking big truck - dead. You want bad management, you can't even stop to take a piss or a shit, eating lunch is what other people do.

        I can then make IT a hobby and have it become fun again. - Yep I'm making hi-tech wooden paddle boards and surfboards, love it.

  23. Mark 90

    It's why we love reading BOFH - he "sticks it" to the boss

    Oh how many times I wanted to take a cattle prod to the scrum master for organizing large brainstorming meetings.

    The downward spiral in IT has been evident for someone 30 yrs into it.

    1985 to 2000 was the "up" for fun, and salary.

    Since 2009 it's been a steady slope downhill. Less salary, more demands, more stress.

  24. Keith 12

    As I said to each of my 3 Sons:

    Do your best

    Act as if you believe the bs

    Remember always - be loyal to youself:

    “This above all: to thine own self be true. And it must follow, as night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”

  25. Oengus Silver badge

    Best sentence.

    In other words, dealing with managerial bullshit and toil drives a great deal of stress.

    Truer words were never spoken. We have management by bean counters. If they think there is a way to save a few cents in the short term they will take it. They don't give two hoots about the long term consequences. Because something "works" for senior management they think the same can be applied across the workforce. They then expect the IT team to make it work for everyone regardless of the opinion of the IT staff.

  26. Paper

    For me, burn out is caused bad managers. Examples -

    Lack of feedback:

    "OK, take another task then"

    "Well the problem is when do I say well done to the team?"

    Etc

    Destructive feedback:

    -360 silly review thing-

    "Well your colleagues all gave you very good ratings and constructive feedback, however I think you have a very bad ethic, don't care about your work and seem to lack motivation"

    Contradictory feedback:

    "I need you to be able to do tasks without me having to check to make sure you're doing this right... -completes task-... "We can't use this, too complex, you should have checked with me!"

    I've worked with very difficult CEO's but managed it due to having a very good working relationship with them and feeling their feedback was honest and impersonal.

    I've struggled with managers who basically have a superiority complex and look down rather than viewing themselves as someone actually "managing" a team towards the goal of building a product.

  27. CharliePsycho

    The Joys of Contracting

    I love being a contractor, if I get pissed off I can just leave and get another contract. There is no pension to worry about, no loyalty, no end of year bonus, no review bollox. It's a business deal. Move on to the next one for a couple of years.

    I have been permie a few times, More than once I have ended up suing them for unfair dismissal or breach of contract. Once they were actually offended, wasn't I grateful they had employed me?

    How do you teach your children? You owe your employers exactly what they owe to you, will they give you money for not working (e.g. a bonus?) Yes? Feel free to give them free work when they need it. Will they pay overtime? No? then don't do any.

    Is your employer loyal to you? Really? They won't drop you at a moments notice if it's more profitable to fire you than keep you? That's called business and it's a 2 way street.

    I'm planning to retire in 2 years time, get on a boat and sail around the world. There is no advantage to me working another 20 years, so I need to quit and spend the money I have been earning for the last 30 years (yup, there is no inheritance!)

    I will have the joy of knowing exactly who to blame if it all goes wrong...

  28. bigtreeman

    life

    Choose life.

    Choose a job.

    Choose a career.

    Choose a family,

    Choose a fucking big television

    Choose washing machines, cars,

    Compact disc players, and electrical tin openers.

    Choose good health, low cholesterol

    And dental insurance.

    Choose fixed-interest mortgage repayments.

    Choose a starter home.

    Choose your friends.

    Choose leisure wear and matching luggage.

    Choose a three piece suite on hire purchase

    In a range of fucking fabrics.

    Choose DIY and wondering who you

    Are on a Sunday morning.

    Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing

    Sprit-crushing ga me shows

    Stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth.

    Choose rotting away at the end of it all,

    Pishing you last in a miserable home

    Nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish,

    Fucked-up brats

    You have spawned to replace yourself.

    Choose your future. Choose life.

    1. Dave559 Bronze badge

      Re: Choose life

      The follow-up (which I am currently too lazy to search for the words of: if you know it, you'll know it) is just as, if not even more so, accurate today (along with feeling ever so slightly more out of breath than you used to, when you try to run up Arthur's Seat…)

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