Software People — How Do You Deal With Stress/Bullies/Frustration?

Ahmad Awais ⚡️ on September 18, 2018

This is not really a post. Questions instead. It's a topic very close to my heart. As a full-time open source software developer/advocate — who's b... [Read Full]
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From where I'm sitting, this post is a step in the right direction. I won't pretend to have any sort of deep, philosophical advice that will "flip the switch", because that advice doesn't exist. Even making huge changes does not always do it. I left a lucrative career as a data scientist at a bank for reasons similar to the ones your describing. My nature is to dive into things I find interesting and become consumed by them. My superiors noticed and took advantage. I had that "rock star, go-to guy" reputation, was with the company for two years with 5-star reviews across the board. I was the king, the Golden boy. Then my superiors started getting pressure from on high. High producing loan officers complained about idiotic things which we needed to handle immediately, then get cussed out because the "mission-critical" features we had to put on the back burner to handle sales' ridiculous requests weren't getting done fast enough.

Our Lead was getting demolished in the VPs office every day over something, so he would load up myself and the two other devs he considered "the most talented" (which...I was an IT technician at the company 18 months before with no degree or previous developer experience outside of tinker-coding in my free time so, take that title with a grain of salt) with projects, bugs, and features. Eventually, even we hit the limit of what we could produce. But rather than make useful changes like telling the sales babies to shut up or hire more developers, the crap rolled downhill. The company went from the greatest job I ever had, to my worst nightmare. People I had known and worked with turned into monsters and that "Golden boy" status was replaced with "whipping boy". I got the worst of it I feel. My lack of degree suddenly was a problem. All four of my superiors gave me the "we took a chance on you!" Guilt trip on a daily basis. Eventually I left in total shambles.

I am autistic, struggle with extreme bipolar depression and anxiety so, suffice to say, I know how you feel, both as an overworked/underappreciated developer, and somebody who feels overwhelmed with the process of getting out of bed in the morning. Even though I now work for myself as a developer, I still get trolled by clients who want the world yesterday and for free. I still struggle almost every day with the self-critical, self-abusive, and depressive behavior that I thought was tied to my old job.

I am sorry from the bottom of my heart that you are in this place. But I think you are not giving yourself enough credit. Posting this here is exactly what I would do, and have done, in your situation. As a fellow lone-wolf, let me be the first to say that you've figured out the most important step on your own. Working with other developers means that you can complain together and vent. If your a full-time "one man show", you don't get that. Sure your spouse or closer friends might sympathize, but they do it without understanding. They doesn't make the sympathy any less sincere, but it does make it less comforting. My advice? Baby steps. The first of which would be to post more stuff like this. You wouldn't believe how good it feels to post something that, basically says "This is BS. Screw this, screw compilers, interpreters, precompilers, markup, stylesheets, all of it! I don't care what you think, C is stupid and you all know it! And by brother-in-law is an asshole!!!!". It also feels even better when others, encouraged by your rant, suddenly feel comfortable enough to vent their grievances with their niche. We all need the kind of healing your looking for from time to time. So...here we are. Talk to us 😁😁

 

Thanks for all the motivation and good vibes! 👌

 

I think devrant was created exactly for that need to just vent a little. Good forum for that. :+)

 

One thing I often struggle with is discussing the hard things in tech. Things that take a serious toll on your health. Maybe there should be something like Software Therapy for situations like these. A therapist that'd understand you and would advise you better being a software person themselves. Coz otherwise they wouldn't understand a thing.

Things which I can't discuss with my mentor (to not feel so vulnerable), with my direct lead (to not be judged), with my parents (to not make them worried) — what should I do, not everything can/should be discussed in the public.

Keeping such stuff to yourself makes you or me at least more frustrated about it. What do you do when that happens to you?

 

As someone who has been in and out of therapy for almost 30 years now, I can tell you what you deal with has much more to do with being a human than it does with being a software developer. Therapy is a good thing, and I recommend finding one that you are comfortable getting emotionally naked with.

Feelings of inadequacy, imposter syndrome, fear of reprisal from your teammates or your supervisor; these are all pretty natural things to endure in our field. I know I have gotten a lot out of therapy, as well as Jordan Peterson’s book “12 Rules for Life”.

 

Goes to buy the book.

What I meant was therapy or advice from someone who's been in such conditions and have had a career in software. Coz trying to explain the software relevant issues that led to stress would not do much good with a layman in software terms.

Just a thought.

 

Take better care of yourself.

If you keep it inside, you will fester/rot/explode.

Find your outlet.

Apparently you have jogging and that's great, but you can't jog all the time.

If your work is taking a toll on your health (outside of a coal mine, no less) something is wrong with your work. We've (mostly?) all been there. Not everyone makes it out with mind and body in tact, but you will.

 

Trying my best to do that. Thanks for the kind words ☝

Be patient with yourself too. People will always be people, and self care is a life long practice.

 

Over the years, I came to the conclusion, that "the industry" attracts a lot of "strange" personalities to say the least. I oftentimes felt, I have to quit - and I did.

My mum often tells me, that there is no "paradise" at work. My response: »Yes, I know. But the flavour of idiots changes, after I switch.«

I once stumbled over this quotlr.com/image/5161

 

I like the picture, but it would be remiss of me to not share a counter-quote I've heard:

If everyone you meet is an asshole, then maybe they're all fine and you're the asshole.

 
 

Sorry to hear that you're going through some rough times. Unfortunately there will always be trolls and bullies, just ignore the crap the spew it's not worth your time. You have to filter out the bad and look at the positive.

Some advise, take on a hobby that doesn't involve tech and join a group/community in that hobby. You will meet new people and be able to talk more freely without feeling like you're being judged.

Gook luck fellow Dev!

 

Many folks tell me to do that. I just don't know what that other hobby could be. I'll try.

 

I usually play the guitar or do a workout as a secondary hobby. Usually music and science is a very popular and recommended combination

 

I read/listened to some of Jonathan Stark's work. It was like a bolt of lightning came out of the sky and shook me out of my stupor.

The basic problem is that our entire profession is disconnected from the value we provide. We're often treated like ticket handling robots, and it's mostly incompetent business people doing that. Once you realize that sooo much of this stuff is out of your control, you look at work for what it is (for most people), basically trading dollars for hours while some clueless person steers the ship.

You can try to do better to understand how the code you provide connects to the value you provide, and you can improve your work to help provide more value. That's about it, really.

Clients will start micromanaging you / treating you poorly once they feel like the value they get from your work is less than what you're charging. This is a natural human reaction. It isn't your fault, and it isn't theirs. It's just the economic reality.

You can be a fantastic dev or a mediocre one, perhaps even a bad one. It still wouldn't matter. Value rules all. No need to feel bad.

 

I recently was terminated after working 100h weeks for a month, and thir reason was 'I wasn't meeting expectations'. I wasn't given an opportunity to ask what the expectations were, or why Noone mentioned it before they booted me.

Unfortunately bad things happen, good people get dumped on and some people are incapable of recognizing the value of other's efforts. Talking to friends, candidly assessing my contribution to the situation and having a thick skin all help. Trusting in yourself and in the feedback from others have always helped me get through tough days/weeks/months.

 

So true. I hope you are doing well again.

 

Thanks for the good wishes - I am. Got a new offer a week later with a company that I wanted to work for a few years ago, so it all worked out for the best.

 

From an inexperienced perspective...

full-time open source software developer/advocate

This seems to be a part of the problem.

If I had your level of experience in coding things, I would be coding for me. If you're critical of your own work, the things you say to yourself inside your own mind are probably worse than "bullies" in a PR. I don't use ""s to diminish how you feel, however, I do think that full time OSS sounds like giving a lot of your blood, sweat and tears for free.

This isn't a problem if you aren't financially struggling.

Where I see the problem is if you do place a lot of pride in your work. It becomes harder to take poor criticism (because criticism can certainly be done poorly) as anything other than an affront/insult of some kind.

In that way, "bullies" become self inflicted.

Sure, these people might have exciting projects, and you want to help, and all that is great for OSS in general. I wouldn't be able to do much in the programming space if not for people like you who've contributed countless hours to making software that scrubs like me can use.

However.

Who programs for Ahmad Awais?

Certainly none of those people.

 

I'm so sorry to hear this happening. If you are able to, and I highly recommend it, please talk to a therapist who'll coach you on ways to manage stress and work relationships. I have been kind of a doormat at some jobs, and more proactive in others. I've on and off done years of cognitive behavioural or mindfulness therapy--some were really unhelpful and sometimes useless to know about in the moment, but I eventually learned to recognize my own cognitive biases and when people were gaslighting or bullying. Think of it as a lifelong investment in your health. Never blame yourself or think of yourself as weak; you're not responsible for the stress work puts on you. Seems like workplace culture is a huge part of that, and quite telling if they don't make changes around inefficiencies or toxic behaviour...

I don't recommend Jordan Peterson’s book “12 Rules for Life” because he preaches a social dominance hierarchy and based on outdated pop psychology. The book read like a longwinded set of truisms your parents would want you to adopt. People who are anxious and deeply depressed need specific guidance for coping with stress, not to just "stand up with your shoulders straight" and "make friends with the right people"...

Just my 2 cents.

 
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