Saturday, September 19, 2020



image via Peakpx
 I recently listened to an interesting podcast about burnout that stimulated some thoughts regarding this silent killer that could easily get rampant, especially in the software industry which is known to be very mentally demanding.

This industry attracts very passionate persons who -given an interesting enough problem- will voluntarily give up a lot of their time, energy and other aspects of their social and health lives.

While seeking the satisfaction of solving complex problems or under tight delivery pressure, developers "get into the zone" and spend extended hours without even noticing.

Commonly, developers take pride in this aspect of their work. Other developers consider this as a role model for how a dedicated developer should be. Managers celebrate heroic efforts of their developers and even more take it for granted and it become a normal expectation.

But what's wrong with this? If the developer is really passionate about his/her work, so what?

One of the light bulb moments in this podcast is when Dr Aneika (PhD  in Organizational Behavior and Human Resources) said:

 "…you would think that some research or previous research said, well, maybe engagement is the antonym to burnout. But no, what we really found out is that people that are really, really engaged are the ones that are most susceptible to burnout"

"…to be a great developer, to be a great programmer, or to be a great coder, you have to really be involved. And that involvement that takes you in and sucks you in could be the same thing that can lead you down the road of burnout."

No surprise then that developers could go through waves of extreme productivity followed by low performance, if not conscious enough to how their mind and emotions work.

Another important aspect to consider especially if you're a leader in tech is the impact of your burnout on how you interact with those who you lead.

One component of burnout is depersonalization, that is when you're burnt out, you get detached from the surrounding team members, and focus only on what you get out of them. To you, they become more like functions with inputs and outputs, and your relationship becomes merely transactional, which is very dangerous.

To me, one of the most important leadership traits is empathy. When you're drained to the extent that you have no emotional capacity for empathy, you lose the ability to connect and support your team members. And especially if you're normally understanding and supportive, your fluctuating behaviour might hurt the trust you've earned.

Take care of the signs of burnout. And remember not to deplete all your energy before taking the time to recharge.

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