Tuesday, Jan 3, 2023 6 minute read Tags: career

To say that 2022 was a tough year is probably an oversimplification of things, but yeah, 2022 was tough. And it’s not just the case that we’re a few years into a global pandemic for me, 2022 was tougher than that.

To put it simply, I’m burnt out.

By and large I’m a pretty upbeat and laid back person. I remember in high school my mum commenting that she didn’t think she’d ever seen me stressed about an assignment or exam. I mean, I didn’t get stressed about that stuff, because at the end of it, a bad grade was just a bad grade. I’d get over it and move on. I’d learn from it and do better next time. Sure, I wasn’t an A-student, I was a B-student, and that was good enough for me.

And this is something that I’ve taken into my work life as well, don’t stress about the small stuff, there’s always something else to tackle and just keep the big picture in mind and you’ll be fine.

Because of this, I’ve always felt that I had a decent grasp on my mental health. I’ve never been diagnosed with anything, but I’ve always felt that I was in a good place mentally. I’ve never had any issues with depression or anxiety, and I’ve never had any issues with burnout.

Until now.

Around and around we go

2022 started with me stepping down from leading the team I’m in at Microsoft and helping to onboard the new manager. While I wasn’t sad to be stepping down, it did hurt to have been unsuccessful in the application for the lead role, after all, it’s hard to not take the “no, you’re not cut out for this” personally.

The other thing that made this tough was that it meant yet another manager for me, and once I did the maths I realised that I had a manager retention rate of 5 months. I was just starting my 3rd year at Microsoft and I was already on like my 7th manager. I mean, I’m not going to lie, it’s a bit demoralising to have to keep explaining to new managers what my objectives are, what I’m working on, and what I’m trying to achieve. I even jokingly made the comment to my manager that “we’ll review in 5 months”.

Well, guess what happened in 5 months? I got another new manager.

Quick aside - my manager was promoted to fill a role that was vacated by someone who left the company, so they actually became my “skip” (my managers manager) and my new manager was managing a sibling team, they just had their role expanded to also cover the JavaScript team, so it was a complete upheaval.

And this is where things started to get tough.

Here we go again.

With this being my 8th manager in 3.5 years, I’m pretty numbed to the change and it’s been getting harder to get back into the rhythm of things. We’re also going into a new FY, which means we’ve got a new set of objectives coming down, the team above Advocacy had been restructured so we are reporting closer to the CVP, so it’s a whole bunch of change that I just can’t get excited about.

Impact, or lack there of

In October I was doing my 6 monthly self-review (we call them Connects) and I was looking at what I had achieved and being honest, it wasn’t much. Our team didn’t have many clear objectives and Advocacy in general was still in draft mode for what FY23’s objectives were going to be. I was feeling pretty demoralised, and I was starting to feel like I was just spinning my wheels.

When reviewing my Connect with my manager, the feedback was pretty clear that I need to step up my game, and while I’m not on a performance improvement plan, it’s something that could come down the track if I don’t start to show some results.

November was probably my lowest point, but I was still too deep in the hole to see it.

A holiday and self reflection

At the start of December I had a week off, I went up the coast with my wife and kids, plus her extended family. I turned off the work profile on my phone (which disables Teams, email, etc.), and didn’t touch a computer all week (except for turning it on so the kids could watch Netflix).

When I got back to work I realised that I hadn’t been at a PC for a week and I hadn’t missed it, being disconnected hadn’t left me thinking “oh, I need to check my email”, it was just a nice break.

I started to reflect on that and realised pretty quickly that I was burnt out. I was burnt out on the constant change, I was burnt out on the lack of impact, I was burnt out on the isolation of remote work, and I was burnt out on the lack of direction.

I was burnt out.

Moving forward

After getting back to work I set about defining a few solid goals to achieve before the end of the year. I got into coding on one of the projects our team had been working on and found myself debugging deep into some Golang code, creating PR’s against one of our products and generally feeling like I was doing something with some impact.

I had a bit more of a break over the festive season and did some more reflecting on what I want to achieve in 2023. I don’t have solid goals yet, just a sketch out of what I believe I can do, and I’m going to be working on that over the next few weeks.

Burnout doesn’t go away overnight, and I’m by no means “cured”, I still catch myself staring off into space at times, but I’m starting to feel like I’m on the right track.

Wrapping up

I’m not sure if this post will resonate with anyone, but I felt like I needed to get it out there. I’ve been feeling pretty low for the last few months, and I’ve been trying to keep it to myself, but I think it’s time to be open about it.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t be afraid to ask for a break. I’m not saying that you should take a break from work, but I am saying that you should take a break from the things that are causing you stress. If you’re feeling burnt out, take a step back and figure out what’s causing it, and then work out how to fix it.

Banner Image by Ryan Snaadt.