Burnout & Resentment

Marissa Mayer (senior VP at Google) tells Businessweek magazine burnout is a consequence of resentment.

I have a theory that burnout is about resentment. And you beat it by knowing what it is you’re giving up that makes you resentful. Find your rhythm. Your rhythm is what matters to you so much that when you miss it you’re resentful of your work. So find your rhythm, understand what makes you resentful, and protect it. You can’t have everything you want, but you can have the things that really matter to you.

That said, I wonder if people burnout from having false expectations of themselves and living someone else’s life and dreams. Thoughts?

Responses

  1. Richard Stern (@Sterno2000) says:

    April 22nd, 2012 at 8:55 pm Reply

    Resentment is the negative feeling that emerges as a result of a real or imagined wrong. I don’t believe this accurately describes what causes an individual to become burned out so much as it describes how many individuals react to being burned out. Burnout begins when an individual feels powerless in their work or their personal life. It ends, as Ms. Mayer suggests, when they re-empower themselves. Sometimes all it takes is giving yourself permission to make a few simple choices – time off, a new routine, a new direction for a troubled project. Others, it requires some more radical changes – a new job or a new career path. Choices, and the ability to deliberately and freely choose, makes us feel personally empowered as individuals. It is this empowerment that fuels our sense of happiness and well-being.

  2. LaLaVon2 (@LaLaVon2) says:

    April 18th, 2012 at 11:58 am Reply

    Burnout comes from a combination of being tired, being stuck in a rut and lacking the wherewithall to make a change when you have reached a low point. That is the time you need to gather all your energy, pick yourself up and begin again.

  3. Steven Harlow (@StevenHarlow1) says:

    April 18th, 2012 at 11:38 am Reply

    I can see it about being resentful. Resentful about the lack of new excitement (stuck in a rut or routine as Om and Dave suggest), resentful about lack of progress (as I saw happen to many good teachers when I was doing Oakland Teaching Fellows), and resentful about giving up portions of your life, or having less time for the things you like to do (as John suggests).

    I think the keys to avoiding burnout (and some of these have been mentioned above), are to keep a strong work-life balance, keep pushing the envelope when you’re established as much as you were when you started out, and strive to make a small improvement each day or week, even if it’s in a small area.

    It definitely makes sense to me, though as a former scientist, where lot of things that make sense turn out to be completely wrong, it’d be interesting to see some studies on this.

  4. Vijay Thirumalai (@vijayth) says:

    April 16th, 2012 at 1:05 pm Reply

    Great discussion and great points overall (Thanks for the great analogy Idan). There is a wealth of research from the last 10 years about productivity, stress and happiness from Harvard/Penn. These research studies suggest a few interesting ideas. While doing what you love & following your passion is all true at a high level, finding “a set” of activities that you “truly enjoy” (rhythm as Marissa points out) might be the answer to performing at consistently high levels for the things you do love.
    Interestingly (from these studies), our brain has a quota system and runs into fatigue. Even for the things we love, we have everyday limits for cognitive functions such as decisions, self discipline, mundane emailing tasks etc. It is through these choice of activities that we truly recover.

    A potential solution is to – taking a leaf out of fitness industry (high intensity interval training) – work hard – recover – work hard – recover – work hard. These periods of recovery are doing things that you love and things that your brain needs for contentment. The smart ones amongst us & successful leaders knew all too well about this (Om/Bill Clinton -reading, Sheryl & Marissa – family, Kennedy/Edison/Churchill -naps).

  5. bsmcconnell says:

    April 16th, 2012 at 11:34 am Reply

    Well, I don’t think burnout and resentment are the same thing.

    Burnout is a combination of exhaustion and boredom. It has more to do with your job and whether you enjoy what you are doing, that or being overworked for too long.

    Resentment is somewhere between dislike and hatred, and is aimed at people, a company or its policies. Treat people poorly, as badly run companies so often do, or enable a toxic work environment, and people will resent that, even if they have otherwise perfect jobs.

  6. swmcsimov says:

    April 16th, 2012 at 10:31 am Reply

    Same as product design. Progress -> Feedback -> Completion. Repeat.

  7. Dennis d'Entremont (@dcdentremont) says:

    April 16th, 2012 at 5:31 am Reply

    I agree with Dave Winer and Marissa Mayer. I think resentment is caused by stagnation and lack of challenge. When a workplace starts to stagnate and there are no new challenges and / or no new ways of getting promoted or recognized it causes resentment towards the company. It also causes resentment towards other employees when an employee sees others getting promoted or recognized.

    Once an employee feels helpless in their position and can’t see a way out, it often leads to burnout and being disgruntled. In this day and age where a lot of established companies have a no raise policy (and blame it on the economy) I see this happening more and more. If you have no incentives to do your best and strive to improve then things just spiral downhill until fall falt on your face at the bottom.

  8. Kevin Li says:

    April 15th, 2012 at 6:20 pm Reply

    just do what you love doing in your life. if you burn out from life, doesn’t that just mean death?

  9. Idan says:

    April 15th, 2012 at 10:14 am Reply

    interesting discussion.
    consider the word itself. I imagine a spent candle or match. essentially, it’s when the source of energy runs out. looking at what Mayer said and at this discussion, burnout seems to me the sum result of being in a situation where you spend more energy on a given set of activities than you’re able to replenish from available sources. Dave Winer gave one example of such a source: high octane productivity. I guess Sheryl Sandberg draws it from being with her family. so there’s lots of ways one can ‘burn out’ and lots of sources people use to keep their energies, i.e. their ability to go on about their work without getting distracted by negative or disparaging thoughts, up.

    @tony: ‘love for what you do’ seems very … untrusted to me. I keep going back to Andre Agassi who confesses in his biography Open how he hated tennis when he played it.

    1. Om Malik says:

      April 16th, 2012 at 8:01 am Reply

      @idan i think that is the point – find your source of energy. I find it in books and meditation. The days I don’t read a book or take sometime off, i find myself dissatisfied and that is first step to resentment and eventual burnout.

  10. saduros (@saduros) says:

    April 15th, 2012 at 9:40 am Reply

    I agree with much that has been said.
    “So find your rhythm, understand what makes you resentful, and protect it. You can’t have everything you want, but you can have the things that really matter to you.” Yes. I think you really do need to figure out what to protect and protect it. The biggest cause of the feeling of burnout, I think, is working hard and working smart and having it in the end mean nothing — operationally, materially – to the larger organization. For me, having a sense of purpose — that what I am doing makes a true contribution — is important. It could mean the organization as a whole has lost its way and is lying to itself and doesn’t know it; you see it but are powerless to do anything about it. Or it could mean that you came into an organization thinking the agenda was one thing but once you have spent time there, you see the agenda is different. Your reason for being there might even be at odds with the organizational culture once you understand the sub cultures and true agendas. That’s where protecting the things that matter to you becomes so important. You must keep that sacred land. And when it is endangered leave. And this can be true when working for oneself as well.

  11. Anne Faulls (@grannyannie6) says:

    April 15th, 2012 at 8:54 am Reply

    Most expectations are premeditated resentments…….we set ourselves up, either consciously or unconsciously, to feel the burn-out, anger, failure. They are life patterns that we can change.

    1. Om Malik says:

      April 16th, 2012 at 8:02 am Reply

      @annefaulis

      Well said. couldn’t agree more. The day I figured out that, the day I realized life is for living, not randomly competing.

  12. Tony Jago Million says:

    April 15th, 2012 at 8:47 am Reply

    Its completely about doing what you love. Any time you have to “force” yourself to work on something, you create friction, that friction builds up and eventually makes you bitter and burns you out. Happened to me (and I wrote a blog article about it).

    Love for what you do is the lubricant that keeps you going! (to continue the metaphor)…

  13. josephcgallo says:

    April 15th, 2012 at 7:51 am Reply

    I read the Businessweek story and found it incredibly interesting as well. While burnout is partly caused by resentment, I took something else away from Mayer’s stories – any company in this day and age must respect the needs of it’s employees. A company that stresses its own revenue above all else with an iron fist will lose key employees because it won’t encourage the employee to embrace his/her own personal.

    For example, if an employee commutes roughly two and a half to three hours round trip, a boss should allow said employee to work from home on days where the office has shortened hours (like before a holiday). This provides the employee with the impression that what’s important to him/her is something the employer takes into account – and the employee will want to show his/her gratitude by working that much harder and more efficient for the company/boss.

    Sheryl Sandberg has gone on record as making it a point to leave work at 5:30pm to ensure she’s home for dinner with her kids (http://mashable.com/2012/04/05/sheryl-sandberg-leaves-work-at-530/). It’s important that companies realize that recognizing and embracing the needs of the workforce is as important as revenue

  14. strategiclee says:

    April 15th, 2012 at 7:34 am Reply

    I agree with a lot of the comments and add one more thought. I think it also has to do with losing your way. Many times we forget why we are doing what we are doing. The everyday mundane and frustrating tasks can make it easy to miss your purpose. This recently happened to me and I had to reflect and get back on the right track.

    1. Om Malik says:

      April 15th, 2012 at 7:38 am Reply

      @stratigiclee

      I couldn’t agree more. I think every time we make decisions based on short term gain, we end up in situations we resent and consequently end up getting burned out. I feel, modern society and it’s pressures don’t make us self aware enough and that I would say is the root cause of it all.

  15. Nick Prudent (@xecretcode) says:

    April 15th, 2012 at 7:30 am Reply

    Totally agree w/ her. Burnout is the consequence of no longer giving a damn about something but doing it anyway. I had a burn out 10 years ago when doing a startup & in retrospect, the business had become a prison sentence and I wanted out somehow. I resented the very thing I had built. Now, still doing startups, but looking forward to inventing new stuff every day.

  16. John Lilly (@johnolilly) says:

    April 15th, 2012 at 7:26 am Reply

    This is a really interesting way to think about things; thanks for posting. It’s worth unpacking a bit — seems to me that she’s saying that to have a long term situation work for you, to say it a little simply, you need to have the things that matter to you. Not having really any of the important factors to you (which might include balance, family, status, money, technical interest, team, etc etc etc) mean that eventually you’ll burn out. One of those factors, though, might also be variety of all sorts. I personally think periods of burnout are inevitable. It’s what you do when you’re going through them that’s really interesting and ultimately formative.

    1. Om Malik says:

      April 15th, 2012 at 7:43 am Reply

      @john

      Thanks for the nice comment and glad to hear from you. I agree on some fundamental level that burnouts are inevitable. I think resentment towards what we do is inevitable. However if those two last for more than a few days, I think one might just be doing the wrong thing. Personally, My resentment comes usually from the external factors and not from my work.

  17. Arjun Dev Arora says:

    April 15th, 2012 at 7:25 am Reply

    I could not agree more. Burnout is a reflection of not doing what you really love. I know many entrepreneurs that work at an unbelievable pace but will never burnout because of their passion for what they are building and the fact that they only do the work that they truly enjoy and delegate the rest.

    1. Om Malik says:

      April 15th, 2012 at 7:39 am Reply

      @arjundevarora

      Well said. I think it is something no advisor/investor talks about with their Startups and founders

  18. Giri Fox (@girifox) says:

    April 15th, 2012 at 7:23 am Reply

    More commonly, I’d say resentment comes from having to work for complete idiots who are doing the wrong thing.

    1. Om Malik says:

      April 15th, 2012 at 7:39 am Reply

      @girifox well put :)

  19. Dave Winer says:

    April 15th, 2012 at 6:56 am Reply

    I think burnout is caused by lack of growth.

    Being stuck in a rut. Going nowhere. Doing the same thing over and over.

    I’ve seen it happen in companies, even my own (where I was CEO).

    People are always happy when we’re shipping. And when they get new responsibilities and new challenges. When the company is stagnating, going nowhere, not growing, people fight, get depressed, and it spirals down.

    Having a hot product to ship that everyone can feel is a winner is a sure way to reboot.

    1. Om Malik says:

      April 15th, 2012 at 7:27 am Reply

      Dave

      I wonder if rut and routine are the same. I sometimes feel burned out by the routine and the routineness of things.

      I think you point about people feeling energized when shipping and building is good illustration.

What do you think?

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 14,972 other followers

%d bloggers like this: