One Man’s View Of IT Burnout

There has been a lot of threads in recent years about “IT Burnout” amongst people in the technology circles.  Until recently, I guess I never really put much thought into it.  You know, you wake up, workout, shower, sit down at your computer by 08:00 or sooner, and generally you never stop until you actually put your head on the pillow.  Even then sometimes you are kept awake by the happenings of the day, or what you are faced with tomorrow.  I actually think it’s worse for not only remote employees like myself, but I honestly think the Eastern Time Zone adds to the effect.  I think what I’ve realized becomes the burnout factor for me is the people.  Not all the people, just the ones that seem to have complete disregard for your time or work being as valuable as theirs. Let me dig a little deeper and explain.

I’ve always been pretty organized.  I know what needs to get done, and by when.  I was always driven by time bound deadlines almost my whole career.  So I keep pretty good track of these things.  I never really tell people the hours I keep.  I think they tend to figure it out with late and weekend emails, if they happen to pay attention to the time stamps.  I have a project, it needs to be done by this day and time, I do what needs to be done to deliver it.  In the past few months I’ve been called “Too Intense” about my view of things, which to be fair, is my nature.  I come from an intense family, parents, grandparents, and sister.  I don’t feel the need to explain my hours just to prove something to other people.  To each their own and if you can get the job done on time and with proper quality, so be it.

Where I take issue, and I’ve seen my personal so-called “IT Burnout” start to present itself is when people don’t respect other’s time or schedule, be it mine or someone else around them.  Generally, people used to ask “Here is what we need to get done, when do you think you can fit it in?”.  There there was some decent back and forth and a compromise was made.  However, there just isn’t a slot and things can’t be bumped.  Where it becomes problematic is when some people skip the asking and start out saying, “You need to make this happen ASAP!”.  The might as well just say “I don’t care what you said you already have on your plate, this is more important”.  This is where things go south from a mutual respect perspective as well.  Okay, that may be the case your thing is more important…..to you……sometimes, but everyone around you can’t pull that same card and expect something not to give.  I’ll provide some more examples maybe these will resonate with someone reading this.

I mentioned Eastern Time zone is one of the toughest to work from.  I am not sure if it’s actually IS the toughest, but at least see it from my perspective.  I wasn’t joking earlier.  Here is my general day:

  • Wake up at 6:30
    • Sometimes sit at computer first by 07:00 to read emails that came in while sleeping
  • Workout
    • If I did not get previously caught up on the computer with emails
  • Eat Breakfast with my wife
    • Again, if the dominos have not fallen incorrectly by sitting at computer
  • Maybe take a shower
    • Yes I am not kidding
  • Sit down at computer for “real” by 08:00
  • Work a bunch before the west coast wakes up
    • When if you have people in Europe they are already mid day and contacting you before breakfast
  • Grab lunch with my wife about 12:00
    • If there is not someone who setup a 09:00PST call (start of their day, forgetting its my mid day and the time shift)
  • Work
  • Grab a 3:00 snack
  • Work
  • Try to get dinner started by 6:00pm
    • Provided there is no 3:00PST meeting
  • Maybe get on late calls after 6:00PM for late PST meetings
    • Back on computer after dinner most likely
  • Try to get away from my desk by 9:00PM so I can “Shut my Brain off”
  • Phone continues to buzz, bing, and, bong
    • Try to ignore them for one hour
  • Walk the dogs by 10:00PM
  • Go to bed
  • Rinse and repeat

All told for me personally it ends up being about a 15-16 hour day.  Strangely I still manage to get almost 8 hours of sleep and get a workout and food in since I crash by 10:30 at night.  Leaving very little room for much else if you do the math.  I don’t have kids in soccer either, so I can’t imagine that.  This is just the time spent in any given day for me.  If I have to get something done, yes I also do work Saturday and Sunday to get ahead without the day-to-day bother of calls and interruptions.

Now, given that and coupled with the projects, travel, and other things that work around that, when someone takes the stance of “I don’t care, my thing is more important”, yeah I get intense in my response, and probably to be frank, pissed off.  Mostly, due to the disrespect shown, BECAUSE they simply have no idea what my time is like.  First off, they never bothered to ask.  Better yet, when they do, and you lay out the schedule, you get the response of “Well I could whine about my time and how much I am working too, but my thing still needs to get done” (yes this has actually been said to me).  I get it.  I am not always the bearer of good news.  I speak in facts.

  • Fact:  There either is or is not enough time to help you out.
  • Fact:  you may not like that answer, but it’s really not my problem.
  • Fact:  you may have waited too long to put your request in, and you are feeling that pain.
    • This is most commonly the issue I’ve found
  • Fact is you may miss your deadline because you failed to plan ahead.

Look, I’ve been there myself.  I’ve dropped a ball more than enough times in my 45 years on this earth.  I’ve never said it wasn’t my fault, I have tried to ask for a little forgiveness and empathy, which tends to be out the door these days as well.  That’s the problem really, is nobody can be human to each other lately.  We are just a name or phone number with a profile picture.  You don’t really know me or anything about me.  You don’t really know how busy I may be or may not be.  I’ll admit maybe I don’t know that about you either, but that’s because we’ve never actually TALKED most likely.  Maybe that’s the real issue, not sure.

Updated 3/14/19:  Interestingly enough after I posted this Aaron Buley made this Tweet that seems to echo one of my sentiments above that we as people do not even want to talk to each other seeing as at least 50% or more of the people I get emails from do not include a phone number.  To add to that what if you don’t have a company directory, or people don’t list their number in said directory.  This is a social problem that is growing.

Also, something I realized yesterday after some additional thinking, is my burnout and frustration also comes from the fact I seem to always be the one trying to protect other’s time.  In these conversations where folks don’t understand that the calendar is full, I typically tend to be the one that speaks up to protect the team.  Look, I know based on personality types I am not a “please everyone” person.  I am a hard-headed, tell it like it is guy.  Here’s the thing about this part.

Most people that know me now may or may not believe I was bullied…..a lot growing up.  I mean relentlessly by kids in school, my sister’s friends, it never ended until I got out of middle and high school and went to college.  Part of the reason I try to protect the team from others, is the fact is they are trying to bully their way around you or through you.  I won’t have that shit for me or my co-workers.  I lived a good part of my life getting pushed around.  Now, what I am realizing is while I try to protect others from being pushed around, it’s not actually my job.  I’ve quickly realized maybe it’s back to watch out for number 1 (without stepping in number 2).

Maybe I missed some other calling early in life, but this is where I am.   Do I just stop worrying about others?  Does that put me right in the same place as everyone else that just doesn’t care about each other?  Is this a paradox of some kind?

So back to the beginning of all this.  Maybe “IT Burnout” isn’t just for “IT people”.  Maybe this is everywhere, it’s just IT has been my whole career and thus my point of view.  At the end of the day, what it does to you is not good.  It’s not healthy.  it’s like looking at prescription bottle with side effects.  ”

“You may have IT Burnout and the side effects could be:”

  • Anger
  • Depression
  • Irritability
  • Arguing with your Spouse
  • Yelling at your dogs
  • The inability to focus or think clearly
  • Thoughts of living in the woods alone
  • Periods of Turrets syndrome
  • Simply not giving a shit

So to be honest maybe I am taking a crazy risk even posting this, but I think it’s important to realize this may not be just me.  It could be anyone really.  Then again maybe it is just me, which is also fair.  Maybe at some point I will have to figure out how to get off the roller coaster and still keep the roof over my head.  That prospect in and of itself adds to the pressure to be honest.  So here I sit, with a cup of coffee, pondering all that “IT Burnout” means to me.  Maybe I just needed to post it on my blog site that barely gets 200 views lately, just to get this off my chest and try to move on and heal.  Maybe that alone will help.

7 comments

  1. Muhammad A Ahsan

    Thank you for writing this post. It is 100% true and it is much harder when you have kids like I do have 2. You forgot to mention the fact that we are also under constant pressure to complete various Certifications to keep up with the Partnership level certs and for our own career which is endless learning and certifications!

    • I don’t envy those that also balance the kid aspect as well. Certifications at this point for me personally are not even on the table, but yes for many they are. Certifications are sometimes a thankless task for many as they are viewed as required instead of an incentivized task.

  2. Great article Chris. I personally just found myself going through this and decided to take a few months off between gigs. I’m feeling refreshed and actually looking forward to my next assignment. Plus I was able to reconnect with family and rebuild deteriorating relationships. Never underestimate the importance of work/life balance. That candle won’t burn forever from both ends!

  3. Totally true!

  4. Thank you for having the courage to write this Chris, you are spot on.

  5. You know where I was in my field when I experienced these things Chris! Maybe it’s time to look for the next career field.

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