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When It Hurts Too Much, Leave

Ryan Latta
I help developers navigate their careers to the lifestyle they deserve. My full bio - https://sleek.bio/ryanlatta
Originally published at ryanlatta.com on ・3 min read

Today the company that produces Basecamp and Hey released an announcement to the world about how they will be changing direction in their leadership and culture. If you want a sense of the response, listen to the podcast some of its employees produce.

I’m not going to analyze the article for its content but rather talk about its impact.

Big Change Creates Big Questions

We all learn this truth at some point. There will be a large announcement, and while we may have mixed feelings, one of those will be apprehension. You see, as employees, we are essentially staking our ability to provide and further our lifestyle on this job arrangement staying equitable. A significant announcement could mean that the arrangement is not fair anymore.

In the case of this letter, it makes some significant statements about how it is removing a lot of its employees’ voice.

I can imagine the confusion, questions, and apprehension going through the employees there right now.

Changes Can Cut

Alright, so we all get beat up a bit when we work at places. Not physically, but we often undergo emotional and mental stress.

Now, when the stress crosses a line for an extended period, it has serious effects.

I’ve worked with plenty of developers who suffered depression, lost their purpose, experienced significant shifts in their weight, sleep, and so on—all of which they could immediately trace to the stress of their job.

Think of these stresses as cuts or wounds. Minor cuts may not seem like a big deal, but there are two major problems:

  • They don’t heal themselves
  • Nobody took the knife out of their hands

When we work in a place with lots of stress, the hurt that comes with it stays until the stress goes away. The wounds we feel are open and stay open while we remain in that environment. Similarly, the factors that produced the cut are like a knife wielded by an invisible assailant. Nobody is taking the knife away either.

This often leads to a sad truth for many developers working for poor managers and in poor environments. We accumulate many small cuts that never heal until we cannot bear them anymore.

Escape

When I work with developers who are suffering in environments like this, I focus on three things. First, make sure that you don’t go through this alone. Since our wounds are often invisible, people can’t always tell the extent of the hurt.

Next, I ask that they put money away for at least one month of expenses.

Because…

You will likely have to quit your job before you heal.

The expenses you put away help make a stressful decision less so, by knowing you can survive a little bit longer. Having people who are helping you along the way helps too.

Companies, managers, and teammates may desire to take your pain away, but it is often a slow and gradual thing that often isn’t enduring.

Whew

This is a tough topic. When I saw the announcement, I thought of the stress of its employees ramping up. I saw a cut opened on them, and I wondered how many more do they have.

One wonderful thing we have in our industry is a demand for talent. We often can change jobs rapidly and even get paid more to do it. We usually don’t have to suffer the abuse of an abusive company.

If you think this is your situation, reach out to someone now.


This was a tough article to write, but if you like it please join my newsletter. I write about software, careers, and consulting.

Images courtesy of Unsplash

Discussion (4)

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ssimontis profile image
Scott Simontis

You will sometimes hear people say things like "time heals all wounds" and I have found this to be the opposite in reality. Wounds heal in time when they are properly addressed, which in my case meant finding a therapist to help me process some of my burnout at work and spending a lot of time reflecting on what I need for a job to feel morally and ethically comfortable for myself.

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recursivefaults profile image
Ryan Latta Author

I'm glad you were able to get that help. Too many of us deny the hurt far too long and it causes serious issues.

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ssimontis profile image
Scott Simontis

I was a first responder (EMT) before I was a developer, and we didn't really speak about mental health at all. You became acutely aware of how significant it was, as some of my coworkers were cynical beyond belief. Some of them are no longer here with us today, unfortunately. I've seen some incredible talks on mental health in the dev community, but I feel like we have a lot more work to do because I suspect we've lost some amazing human beings in this field because they didn't know how to get help when they were really struggling.

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recursivefaults profile image
Ryan Latta Author

Thats interesting. I did Ocean Rescue and we had regular debriefs after serious incidents because of how serious the trauma would be on us.

And yes, I agree, we're still just starting to accept the importance and de-stigmatize mental health. My hope is that devs realize they almost always have options in their career and that can provide relief when we need it most.