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Is It Burnout or Job Dissatisfaction?

Have you ever struggled between feeling burnt out from coding and wondered if it was time for a career change or just a sign of hating your job? 🤔😩

If so, how did you identify the cause? And what steps did you take to address it?

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Top comments (17)

jmfayard profile image
Jean-Michel (double agent) • Edited

I always had a feeling that burnout is a politically correct equivalent of depression.
Burnout sounds like something anyone can have at work.
Depression sounds terrible - because it is terrible.

To clarify that point, I had a look at
And indeed:

A growing body of evidence suggests that burnout is etiologically, clinically, and nosologically similar to depression.
In a study that directly compared depressive symptoms in burned out workers and clinically depressed patients, no diagnostically significant differences were found between the two groups; burned out workers reported as many depressive symptoms as clinically depressed patients.
Moreover, a study by Bianchi, Schonfeld, and Laurent (2014) showed that about 90% of workers with very high scores on the MBI meet diagnostic criteria for depression.[81] The view that burnout is a form of depression has found support in several recent studies.
Some authors have recommended that the nosological concept of burnout be revised or even abandoned entirely given that it is not a distinct disorder and that there is no agreement on burnout's diagnostic criteria.
A newer generation of studies indicates that burnout, particularly its exhaustion dimension, problematically overlaps with depression

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), occupational burnout is a syndrome resulting from chronic work-related stress, with symptoms characterized by "feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job; and reduced professional efficacy". While burnout may influence health and can be a reason for people contacting health services, it is not itself classified by the WHO as a medical condition or mental disorder. WHO additionally states that "Burn-out refers specifically to phenomena in the occupational context and should not be applied to describe experiences in other areas of life."

Ok, so burn out means depression, and depression is reallly different from job dissatisfaction. The symptoms are more numerous, more acute, lasts for a longer time, and you feel/are powerless against them.

If you think you may have burn out / depression, absolutely seek professional help.

thumbone profile image
Bernd Wechner • Edited

Interesting, I always thought of burnout as just working too many hours under too much pressure, with too little personal time.

I take the view that we live in a bizarre situation, alas. One in which we fought tooth and nail against the capitalists (owners of the capital) when they deprived us (our forebears) of independent pursuits in favour of working on big powered machines that only the rich (capitalists) could afford. They then displaced all the basic trades and eventually much of agricultural labour through increasing powered efficiency, that they owned, and we were employed to drive (staff). Shortly thereafter, people were working crazy all the time, and the seeds of the coming rebellion laid. In some places they erupted violently, in others as work place reform and what emerged famously was the 8-hour day 5-day week, or 40 hour week.

That was seen as a huge win. To the point that it's celebrated across many many nations as either Labour Day or 8-Hour Day in places.

But then efficiencies kept growing and displacing even more staffing needs and unemployment grew, and we began to demonise it (forsooth).

Then against all dreams, and much speculative fiction (a genuine genre of fiction) and science fiction (another genuine genre) as the tide of time passed we did not distribute the gains of this automation among all, no, we pocketed as much as we could individually with shameless greed, present in abundance to this day of billionaire philanthropy threatening to succeeding to outstripping government goodwill. The consequence of which is we saw work hours rising again, either the salary men who set the standard of over-hours and working to get the job done, or the increasing poor who needed two or more jobs to survive.

And so folk with passion who want to succeed, work their @sses off and this, I have always understood to be burnout.

But we can fight back. For example, as a manager I denied my staff working over hours, irrespective of our deadlines and commitments without recording it all honestly and taking it as time in lieu later when we could (collecting it essentially as leave). This was especially important with senior staff with whom I had conversations as they set the expectations that junior staff would emulate. And I myself reduced my work hours by negotiation step by step and today work only 25 hours per week for a salary, and have according more time (doubly so as I have not had a television since I left home having grown up with that beast and wanting no more of it) for my children (3 from 6 to 20 years of age), community (I manage treasury for two clubs and administer some Facebook local community groups) and following my community passions (provide web hosting out of my basement for one club, and I am developing on so many fronts in between times - mostly Python, JavaScript, and on GitHub). And yet I need my downtime, my rest, my family time, my sleep, and more - else, burnout.

Seems however that burnout means something else in other quarters. Good to know. Perhaps though it's related, that the understandings of burnout as a form of depression for example find their root in what I have described. In a sense of working crazy hard, for nothing ultimately in the hope of making it big perhaps, and then realising it's really a treadmill helping others get or maintain wealth?

My advice:

  1. If you can, move. Move to a place where work hours are regulated, and you get and have to take annual leave, a place where the work culture sees you flower not burn out.

  2. Focus on balancing your life. There's a myth of 8 hours work, 8 hours sleep and 8 hours recreation. There are memes spouting this myth across social media. In reality, it is 8 hours work, 8 hours sleep, 7 hours chores (shopping, cleaning, commuting, cooking, ablutions, the list goes on) and one hour of downtime. No wonder you burn out, and you blow that hour and another one or two per day in front of the TV or streaming services now. Piffle. There's your burnout right there. Two solutions a) hire people to do your chores - not bad, but they still need management, and b) reduce your work hours or both, now get cracking ... and don't burn out.

z2lai profile image
z2lai • Edited

That was quite the take on burnout. The lifestyle you've crafted for yourself is something we all strive for!
Good description of reality. Don't forget the 1-2 hours of coding in our free time for the average developer to keep up. But the family/chore responsibilities are actually limitless so finding the coding time, let alone downtime, is difficult.

thumbone profile image
Bernd Wechner

I actually do a fair bit of coding in my unpaid time, not to keep up, so much as because I have community project ideas and things I need/want in my life. I have a growing number of repos on GitHub and can't keep up with it all, but because it's not paid, no-one's life depends on it, and it's only got very understanding stakeholders (usually also time strapped FOSS contributors) it potters along without "burnout" per se.

I do sometimes lose sleep though, because I love solving problems and it just captures my spirit and I occasionally end up trying to solve one and getting stuck, so two things can happen:

  1. On one of those evenings I'm coding (and I suspect that's 5-10 evenings in any given month as a 90 percentile band) I might end up staying up much later than intended (and my morning rise demands, as I typically walk kids to school and need to make lunches, and have them breakfasted and dressed beforehand, not to mention myself showered, er woken up, and hopefully with some fluid intake if not breakfast too) .

  2. Regardless of when I do retire, the problem is racing around in my min, which is thinking of all the things I've tried, have to try yet, and so on what I've learned thus far.

This little project consumed my January nights from memory:

Learning how to capture and process the Tyro sensor data, and then present it. I had equipped the street library with door sensors in December but December is rather busy on the social calendar so only got so far with working out how to read the Tyro data. Actually building that library was an on and off jobs the year prior. And even a little project like that is never quite done. Just one of the community projects on the go.

boudewijndanser profile image
Boudewijn Danser

I think you're spot on about the reality of the 24 hours. + even getting 8 hours of sleep can be a challenge for most.

chema profile image
José María CL • Edited

I'm just having some negative thoughs the past week and today: "why are we always failing? Why we can't bring a perfect product to the user like other careers like actual engineers? Why did they (my leaders) leave me to write this horrible code with unnecessary complexity? Why am I so incompetent? Why our software is sooooo bad but users still pay for it"

The answer: I don't know.

z2lai profile image

That's exactly how I feel. It's not just about working too much, but about all this negativity building up inside of me from everything you've said. Why aren't we and everyone around us just geniuses.

chema profile image
José María CL

Haha yeah. Sounds funny when we say it in that way
Why aren't we and everyone around us just geniuses.

thanks a lot!

chema profile image
José María CL • Edited

Hi. I waked up with positive vibes :)
I'm probably not the best programmer of the world and programming for temporary clients is not my passion... but I try! I try to do my best in every aspect of my life!

I know I have a lack of technical skills, experience and knowledge so I CAN start learning and improving my work quality

Growth mindset!
1% better every day!
Being kind to others!

Yeah, perfection is imposible but we can achieve a functional and acceptable result. The best we could with what we had.

z2lai profile image
z2lai • Edited

Maybe you might benefit from reading the book "The subtle Art of not giving a f*ck" if you find yourself in a cycle of negativity and false positivity.

henryjw profile image
Henry Williams

I've been burned out a few times. Although, I've never thought about changing my career since I love software development.
What I've learned about myself over my 10 years in software development is that I'm a passion-driven developer. So, if I feel connected to my job / project, then I'm much more productive than if I don't. And if I don't feel connected, eventually I'll lose interest and burn out.

My solution for burnout has been to switch to another team or project. And if that doesn't work, then I switch jobs.

rainleander profile image
Rain Leander

Hey there, I totally get what you're going through. I have definitely experienced both feelings of burnout and wondering if a career change was in order. Those times were tough, and finding the root cause wasn't easy. But, through some introspection and changes in my routine, I found a way through.

Firstly, when I found myself feeling drained and unmotivated about coding, I had to ask myself, "Is it coding I'm burnt out on or is it the particular project, company culture, or even the industry I'm in?" This is where some real introspection was necessary. I spent time journaling about my feelings, discussing it with trusted friends, and even seeking professional help like career counselors and therapists.

I realized that it wasn't coding per se that I was getting tired of. Instead, it was the high-stress environment and lack of work-life balance that was wearing me down. I was pushing myself too hard to meet deadlines, and my personal life was suffering as a result.

Once I understood this, I took steps to address the situation. I started setting boundaries at work and dedicated more time to activities outside of coding, like reading, exercising, and spending time with friends and family. I also made it a point to take regular breaks during the day, even if it's just a quick walk around the block.

Another key to overcoming burnout was finding projects that I was genuinely excited about. In my case, I realized that I really enjoyed working on machine learning projects, so I started seeking out more of those opportunities.

As for considering a career change, it was a bit different. After spending a few years in the coding field, I did have moments where I wondered if this was the right path for me. But, again, after some introspection and discussions with mentors, I realized that it wasn't the coding itself that I disliked. Rather, it was aspects of my work environment and the types of projects I was working on.

So, I decided to take some courses and attend workshops in different areas of tech. I explored fields like data science, UX design, and product management. This helped me realize that while I loved coding, I was also interested in the more strategic aspects of tech.

Eventually, I shifted my career slightly and took on a role that combined coding with product strategy. It was challenging, but it rejuvenated my passion for coding and allowed me to use my skills in a new and interesting way.

In the end, it's essential to recognize that these feelings are normal. It's okay to take a break, seek help, and even pivot in your career if that's what feels right. Remember, your career is a journey, not a destination. So, take your time, and don't be afraid to explore new paths.

I hope this helps, and remember, you're not alone in this. It's a journey many of us have been through. Stay strong, and trust yourself.

chema profile image
José María CL

omg that's what is happening to me too

I realized that it wasn't coding per se that I was getting tired of. Instead, it was the high-stress environment and lack of work-life balance that was wearing me down. I was pushing myself too hard to meet deadlines, and my personal life was suffering as a result.

thanks for sharing!

rainleander profile image
Rain Leander

I'm so sorry you can relate, but also thrilled that you're now aware which is the first step to resolution!

bias profile image
Tobias Nickel

i think people today work allone for too long. and i believe work from home can increase this. people get set to work on something, but there are no clear goals. so the only way to satisfy the manager is to work till burnout, so at least he can not fire you for trying hard.

eissorcercode99 profile image
The EisSorcer

I think burnout is a phenomenon that occurs when there are improper expectations between the client and contractor. The expected workload increases for the contractor because in the initial agreement the monetary payment, and expected value is worded ambiguously enough that there are unforeseen wedge issues that can form.

No one wants to be seen as taking advantage. However the client is generally not responsible for poor wording in the agreement, and has every right to extract value per dollar that they they were told the work agreed upon is worth.

Conversely the contractor performing the work is only responsible for accomplishing the work as it is written, and not for any needs that may come up from the client before finishing the work.

A possible way to avoid this on both sides is to accomplish the work in stages, and having a change-order-request process built in to the initial agreement.

The first milestone should be an overall review of the accomplished workload, discussing the steps to proceed with a change order request (for newfound needs), or to provide a means to indemnify if both parties do not agree to proceed or make concessions.

The contractor can follow up with a spreadsheet that outlines if there is any unfinished work how much the market price is for that task, and what they would pitch as an offer exclusive to the clients needs.

The final milestone would be for both parties to agree that all terms of the agreement are met, or that the contractor has done the work as described.

In summary, burnout can only be avoided by good communication and knowing when to concede.

jarrodhroberson profile image
Jarrod Roberson

Why Not Both? ¯_(ツ)_/¯