Kieran Tie - Recovering from Burnout
It took a long time for me to realise what I was experiencing was burnout.
I wasn’t overworked. I rarely arrived at the office before 8am, and I was home before 5pm nearly every day. I was working with a team of talented and motivated engineers and designers, solving what should have been fun and challenging problems. Weekends were spent relaxing with family.
I never had more work on my plate than I could handle. In fact, my workload and working conditions were what most people would consider ideal. The perfect job.
And therein lies the trap.
This should be a lesson to all startup founders. You can spend all the time you want on work-life balance and perks to prevent overwork, but those things are only part of a whole. Actually managing people means more than managing the immediate task at hand — it means managing people’s ambitions, careers, emotions, and families. You can’t just pretend you care; you actually have to care. You have to put in the time.
A good manager knows where everyone stands on everything. They also know that a balance has to be struck between the needs of the business and of its people — but that balance has to be based on real information.
When was the last time you tried to figure out and help with someone’s desired career trajectory? Or what someone’s real thoughts were about where the business is heading? Or asked what they would do if presented with the problem of the day? Or spent more than an hour trying to identify someone’s burnout and help before it’s too late.
I could be wrong, but every instance of burnout I’ve ever encountered has been a direct result of management. And it’s telling to me that most of the stories of burnout I read are in the tech sphere (admittedly, I mostly only read about the tech sphere, so there’s some obvious bias there) — startup founders are almost always exceptional doers. They do and do and do until they get tired of doing for someone else, so they start doing for themselves. But nowhere in the prime-doer handbook is a chapter on interpersonal communication or empathy. If anything, being a prime doer makes you less empathetic because you’ve probably spent countless hours of your professional life trying to avoid people who slow you down.
Assorted comments on a related post - Shields Down
You just wrote an article that explains why I quit every job I did. In the end it doesn’t usually come down to money or the workload – it’s usually about disrespect (either perceived or real – it doesn’t matter).
Some ancient cultures have a concept called “giving face” which means showing in public that you respect a person and you honor them. My boss can say “Thank you” fifty times a day in private, but if that’s not what I think others see in our relationship, my shield goes down.
When a good, competent employee leaves, the first place to look is his/her immediate boss. 99.9% of the time, the boss is the real reason. But nobody wants to burn bridges (and get marked not okay for rehire) so they make up BS excuses. But, really, it’s the boss, almost every time.
Loyalty is a two-way street. When you see that all the traffic is on your side of the street, take the next exit.
And working my way back to when the sheld dropped I realised that the lack of leadership in the company, the distrust from my direct manager, the lack of support, tipped the scale that was until then balanced by the great engineering and engineering management opportunities my company offered. The company is great, with great colleagues and great projects and challenges , but so badly managed.
Values plays a big part. Company direction in general is #1 for me.
I have joined companies that pitched a given direction at the time of hire, so I knew what I was getting into, but when I ask them about their desire to do things better, they’re always like, “that’s why we’re looking for fresh eyes!”. But then I get to work and I see recalcitrant behavior at the ground level, or even management. Fear of change, sometimes, but more frequently? They just think my ideas cannot possibly work “here”, despite years of experiences.
This isn’t exhaustive, but good leadership is
- knowing where you’re headed
- being very clear about the plan
- being effective at giving people the freedom to solve the problems at hand creatively
- trusting the people you’ve hired to make the right decisions
- accepting failure as part of the process
- celebrating and acting on ambition
- understanding and empathizing with the people you’re leading
Eric Bailey - Designing for Inclusion with Media Queries
Okay! Let’s talk about the future! The writing is on the wall, and by wall I mean the specs: It’s feature queries. Feature Queries are media queries for user preferences. Existing media queries have display on lockdown, so now it’s all about letting our users tell us what they want and responding to it.
This is something I think about a lot when I’m around my in-laws. Sometimes they’ll hand me their iPhones to show me something and everything looks absolutely broken because the fonts are at max size. But I don’t think they’re outliers — we’re (designers, copywriters, developers) just not doing a great job building structures meant for them. And there are many cases when tiny little icons are meant to drive some sort of action, but are simply too small or too obscure — sometimes I think the thing we need is a “right-click” feature on mobile. Perhaps one where a menu with giant click/text fields come up when you jam your finger on a picture for a couple seconds.
I have lots of thoughts.
My co-founder (incidentally, another German) and I decided to try and fix this. After a lot of failed attempts, including persuasion and bribery, we decided to fall back on our ability to build software. We created an internal tool that allowed people to share their work without having to stand up in front of the entire company to do so.
But no one used the tool. No one posted their wins, and we still couldn’t understand why. We almost gave up on the idea, then decided to make one last change. Instead of asking people to share their contributions, we asked them to thank others for what they had done. The tool’s usage exploded.
That’s when it dawned on us. It wasn’t that our colleagues were forgetful about what they’d worked on. It was that sharing accomplishments, even with the people who really wanted to hear them, was considered un-Canadian. What we had done was taken a tool that ran counter to Canadian culture, and turned it into something that was very much in line with that culture, which is to be grateful to others.
This is such an interesting thought experiment for remote teams. What customs or processes do you have in place that aren’t 100% successful because they run counter to cultural norms? I, being from the US, struggle enormously with vacations. We have “unlimited” vacation time here at iwantmyname, and here I am at year five, probably averaging roughly two-weeks vacation per year (with most of that amounting to scattered long weekends). It’s just not something we culturally do in the US. Heck, my wife’s job doesn’t even provide vacation days — she just gets two weeks of sick leave.
And I’m just one person in a team scattered across the globe. Who knows what else we’re missing, just because we haven’t really thought about process failures as cultural roadblocks. We all have them, and most us will even admit to them if asked, but it’s nearly impossible to unlearn cultural norms without a lot of handholding.
Sad and Useless - German Flag Explained
Haha, speaking of cultural roadblocks, Steffi (from Germany) dropped this in the company chat without comment.
If you had to describe the internet to somebody, you might say, “It’s a place where people waste an inordinate amount of time when they could be doing productive things in the real world.” Or, you could just show them this video of the entirety of Rush’s prog rock suite “2112” synced up with old clips from Peanuts cartoons. It is—in both its meticulous construction and utter pointlessness—the internet in a nutshell.
I’m not worthy.
Dave Cottlehuber - From microservices to monoliths - BSDCan 2017
(In our company chat)
- Dave: My BSDCan 2017 talk (almost a year ago) is finally up on the youtubes. It turns out I, um, well, um say, um, a lot. um. um.
- Melle: The best advice I’ve heard for controlling “um” and such is to replace it with “Now…” and a pause. It makes you sound professorial and like you’re about to drop mad knowledge.
- Dave: I WAS DROPPING THE MAD KNOWLEDGE!!! I’ll try that next time. But there are a few spots with now now now in it. I’ll sound like a chiding parent. Oh. I am a chiding parent.
- Melle: Um doesn’t make the mad knowledge sound confident, though.
- Dave: can’t reveal my l33t h@3k3r sikrits too fast!
We like privacy, and we especially like privacy policies that don’t require lawyers to comprehend. This one was updated on May 23, 2018.
The actual blogroll
(Blogs are ranked in order of appearances in these Blogroll posts. Also, I’m only listing blogs that don’t act as newspapers, because those are the ones I feel need the most support.)
- sparktoro.com (4)
- acolyer.org (2)
- kottke.org (2)
- protonmail.com (2)
- stratechery.com (2)
- om.co (2)
- terribleminds.com (2)
- austinkleon.com (2)
- cate.blog (2)
- zapier.com (2)
- subtraction.com (2)
- smpetrey.com (2)
- randinrepose.com (2)
- ncase.me (1)
- thingsma.de (1)
- code.energy (1)
- nomadgate.com (1)
- kapwing.com (1)
- gilest.org (1)
- matthewschuler.co (1)
- someplacestrange.net (1)
- spencerfry.com (1)
- write.as (1)
- umbrella.cisco.com (1)
- dancohen.org (1)
- pagely.com (1)
- tomcritchlow.com (1)
- resilienturbanism.org (1)
- subpixel.space (1)
- sonniesedge.co.uk (1)
- wormsandviruses.com (1)
- theminimalists.com (1)
- blog.rinesi.com (1)
- nomasters.io (1)
- blog.evernote.com (1)
- blog.gitprime.com (1)
- marco.org (1)
- audaciousfox.net (1)
- calnewport.com (1)
- daverupert.com (1)
- blog.ghost.org (1)
- simpleprimate.com (1)
- underconsideration.com (1)
- kierantie.com (1)