After commenting on a recent post, How Do You Handle Burnout, I thought it might be helpful to share my burnout story. Hopefully, this will help others recognize the signs of burnout in themselves or the people around them.
I have been working at my company for over 3 years now. When I started, we were a small team of 30 people. Now, we have over 120. Because I have been around so long, I have A LOT of domain knowledge about our entire application. I have personally written a good amount of the application code, so it makes sense that I know all its ins and outs. Up until 6 months ago, anytime someone needed help or an on-call issue arose, I was the go to person. Everyone knew I could solve just about any problem the fastest, so they came to me.
At first, this was exhilarating! Who doesn't want to feel needed all the time?! I embraced my role as the go-to person. When someone needed help, I jumped right in. I never said no. I was the Olivia Pope of Kenna!
In the early days, this was sustainable because the application and team were relatively small. However, as the team grew and the application expanded, it started to take its toll on me.
Worse thing was, I was not the first to notice. My team lead and those around me noticed it first. They started asking me if I needed help or if I wanted to hand off some of the load. Every time I replied, "Nah, it's fine, I can handle it." Eventually, it sucked the life out of me. I became more irritable at work and towards my coworkers. BUT, I kept trying to do it all. I am one of those people that won't let up. I tend to be a people pleaser and I always want to help if I can.
Eventually, my incredible coworkers stepped in. One coworker sat me down and laid it out for me using an analogy that was spot on. He said, "Molly, you are an addict." I laughed in response, but his face remained deadly serious and he continued. "Every time you get asked for help, it gives you a high. It is no different than someone who uses drugs. When they take a hit, they immediately feel good in the moment, but it takes a toll on their body. You being "on-call" 24/7 is taking a toll on you and it needs to stop."
Following this talk, I was forcefully kicked out of Slack channels that were used for on-call issues so I couldn't even be tempted to help. A couple people took my next on-call rotations and everyone laid down a rule that unless the site was down, no one was allowed to ask me for help. I was the last line of defense.
In the end, it worked! It wasn't the easiest transition for me. At first, I felt like I was neglecting my job. But after a couple of weeks, it got easier, and soon I was back to my old self. You know what the best part was? Because I let other people solve the problems as they arose, they became more knowledgable about our application. Now, application knowledge is more spread out. The last few big on-call blow ups, I have not even been a part of. It has been incredibly freeing. Over the holidays, I went on vacation, and for the first time, I didn't open my laptop once!!! That used to be unheard of for me.
My advice looking back on the whole situation is:
Be aware not only of yourself, but also of those around you.
You always want to be aware of your own habits and moods, but also keep tabs on your coworkers. Check in with them if they seem "off" to you. Some people might need you to step in and give them permission to take a break.
On the flip side, if you need help dealing with burnout, ASK! A lot of people who code are fiercely passionate about what they do, and that passion, causes many of us to get burned out at some point. Those around you have likely gone through what you are going through and would be happy to help in any way they can.
My DM's are always open for anyone who is feeling the pressure and needs a sounding board 🤗