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Businesses IT

Understanding Burnout 289

Cognitive Dissident writes "New York Magazine has posted a feature story about the growing phenomenon of 'burnout' and the growing interest of both healthcare professionals and even corporate management in this problem. Probably the most surprising thing learned from reading this article is that work load is not the best predictor of burnout. Instead it has more to do with perceived 'return on investment' of effort. So work places are having to learn to adjust the work environment to reduce or prevent burnout. From the article: '"It's kind of like ergonomics," [Christina Maslach] finally says. "It used to be, 'You sit for work? Here's a chair.' But now we design furniture to fit and support the body. And we're doing the same here. The environments themselves have to say, 'We want people to thrive and grow.' There was a shift, finally, in how people understood the question."' NPR's Talk of the Nation also had a recent feature story based on this article."
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Understanding Burnout

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  • by dada21 ( 163177 ) * <> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @04:31PM (#17135920) Homepage Journal
    I'm a very busy individual with peaks and valleys -- I go from 80 hour weeks for 3 months to 5 hour weeks for 3 months (on purpose). I see a lot of people in my fields burn-out regularly, and I wonder if it really has to do with workload, or if it has to do with a lot of other secondary causes. For me, the closest I came to burn-out was during a time of my life when my workload wasn't excessive (maybe 20 hours a week of billable labor and 20 hours a week of secondary support work). The workload was feeling stressful, but it was everything else in my life that was really having an effect that I didn't realize. I vented at the job, but it was carryover from other problems. I had a house that was too big ("housing prices always go up!" they said). I had big new cars that we replaced too often ("never buy anything on credit that depreciates"). I didn't take time to congregate with family and real friends -- my only friends were either employees, customers, or people in my field of work. I didn't take time to really have a vacation -- vacating from "reality." I wanted the newest toys, and I wanted them before others ("bragging rights.") My relationship with my significant other was cluttered with just that -- clutter. We had junk everywhere, and when we got our big 4 bedroom home, we had to fill it with more clutter or it felt empty. That clutter around me ended up cluttering my thought process peripherally, adding to the stress.

    So what did I do? I downsized the clutter (physical, emotional and labor) and upsized the real personal time. I don't discuss business or politics or religion with my real friends and family -- instead we talk about reality, the now, the past. I "fired" a few of my worst customers who never seemed to pay on time but always called with this or that emergency. Sure, the billable rate was great, but the peripheral stress didn't balance out. I sold my home (and bought a few mobile homes throughout the regions I work and vacation in). I sold all 3 new cars and bought 2 used cars. We sold almost all our possessions except for our books and heirlooms (including all our technology, clothing, household goods, etc), and when we moved into our tiny 2 bedroom home, we bought new items that would last until our grandchildren would inherit them.

    Now life is much easier. Work never stresses me, even when deadlines happen. I don't feel like I have to worry about traveling or spending time with my aging parents or younger siblings. I am able to really work on building real friendships of honesty and caring. My relationship with my significant other is so much better because we actually have time for one another, not for the junk and clutter we used to have. I actually work MORE now than I ever have, but I still have time for myself and for others.

    Many of my old friends are burning out right now -- a few of them are millionaires who can't keep a grasp on living for today. I'd say a huge percentage of them are in major debt (50%+ of their gross income), some are living way beyond their means even though they're in the top 5% earning bracket. They hate their job, their spouses, their kids, their homes, their cars, and their lives -- because there is just too much. Where do they vent it? At work -- the place they spend 8-10 hours a day invested in. Their offices are clutter piles, their cars are messes, and their face and eyes show it.

    If an outsider met them, they'd say that they work too much. They wouldn't blame the (leased) BMWs, the (mortgaged) McMansion, or the (on-credit) Armani sunglasses. They'd not even notice that they're living 1 person to a bedroom and practically 1 person to a bathroom, whereas historically we've seen the average around 2:1 on both, even 3:1 in some cases. They don't realize that the more you have, the more your mind is occupied on some level with all that stuff. On top of all that overhead, they're also paying probably 40-50% of their gross income to all the various government taxes, fees and costs. That's something most forget
    • by sprins ( 717461 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @04:36PM (#17136008)
      Burnout isn't work related. It's stress related. You can also burn out on other places than the workplace. Too much stress, for too long without relief results in Burnout. Stress itself isn't the problem either, it's healthy and can cause you to excell. It's the long periods without relief that's the killer.
      • by rvw ( 755107 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:03PM (#17136454)
        Burnout is work related. By definition. I've had a discussion about it with several pro's in the field. When it has to do with work, they call it "burnout". When it's nothing to do with work, it's called chronic stress or something else. It's stupid, but that's the definition. I believe this makes it easier to blame the employer in a legal sense.
        • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:05PM (#17136482)
          No, it isn't. I hear the word burnout used all the time, especially in relationship to video games and hobbies "I burned out on WoW", "Don't try to level too hard or you'll burn out". It is not used solely, or even mainly, for work.
        • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:11PM (#17136574)
          Burnout happens any any activity.

          Often the sign burnout is about to occur is an increase in intensity (which is really denial that they are burning out).

          In my online gaming guilds, a person saying they love it so much that they are here for life is the surest sign that they will be gone within a month.

          It's different than merely losing interest. It's an increase in interest and them a flameout.
        • by SatanicPuppy ( 611928 ) * <Satanicpuppy AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:10PM (#17137606) Journal
          Obviously no one bothered to read the article.

          The writer cited a lot of evidence/studies/etc that described burnout as the state arising when your outlay of effort doesn't meet your expectation of reward. You get bitter and tired and feel like you accomplish nothing, which kills your productivity.

          So no, it's not about time worked. And no it's not about just work, at least buy the official psych definition, which is interesting.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by chimpo13 ( 471212 )
            In my days in IT, I felt like I completed nothing. Even when I completed something, it's nothing permanent. Code will always be upgraded. I took on a 2nd job, worked for 18 months, 7 days a week, paid off my debts, my student loans, saved up and quit both jobs.

            I'm riding a POS old motorcycle round the world. It's great. I ran out of money and picked up a job as a GM at a landmark art house movie theatre that has a long history of bad management, and was physically falling apart (and we're using Win98!)
    • Frustration burnout (Score:5, Interesting)

      by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @04:38PM (#17136048)
      It is not the amount of work that causes burnout, but the fitting of the person to the role they are performing. Make bad fits and the people get frustrated and burn out easier. Make good fits and the creative energy flows.
      • by rvw ( 755107 )
        It's not the job. It's not the fit. It's the type of person... The one who gets RSI, who gets a whip-lash in a car accident.

        But wait! That's not true either! It's all of this. The whole package. There's no easy way to define this.

        Call it life. Some people just have a more difficult time handling life. And as pressure is increasing on people, more people crack and get sick. By the way, they say 90% of all sickness is stress-related, that cold or flue or whatever. It just comes out in different ways in differ
        • by AuMatar ( 183847 )
          Except thats not accurate either. Frequently burn out seems to be not about dealing with life, but with being forced toput your riorities wrong. The usual solution is to re-evaluate those priorities. Which is why work is often the cause- people tend to put a high priority on it, when it really ought to be near the bottom, below family, friends, health, etc.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @04:41PM (#17136074)
      I find your ideas intriguing and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

      Also, please expand on the 3:1 people-to-bedroom ratio.

    • by Foolicious ( 895952 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @04:42PM (#17136088)
      I don't discuss business or politics or religion with my real friends and family
      Why would you want to do that? Those are the people you're SUPPOSED to discuss those things with. Your points about the financial aspects of our lives (aka accumulating "things") are well-taken and, IMO 100% correct; however, in my experience discussing business and politics and religion with people I care about and love and respect does far more for me than, say, either bottling these feelings up completely or letting them spew to faceless, nameless beings on the Internet.
      • by lawpoop ( 604919 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:03PM (#17136446) Homepage Journal
        "I don't discuss business or politics or religion with my real friends and family -- instead we talk about reality, the now, the past."

        "Why would you want to do that? Those are the people you're SUPPOSED to discuss those things with."

        I disagree. Usually politics, unless they are the most local of politics, and religion are the most abstracted aspects of your life. Federal funding of whatever program or the existence of your soul will not change a damn thing in your life. Take one person who is a conservative Christian and another who is a liberal Buddhist. They might have the same background, education, and interests -- practically identical lives -- and be best of friends, but if they ever discussed politics or religion they would soon get into a heated argument, could not agree on anything, and generally invest a lot of energy into something that had zero impact on their lives.

        What GP is saying that he doesn't bother to discuss things that are totally abstract, irrelevant, and inapplicable to their everyday life, and instead discuss things that can actually have an impact their everyday life.
        • by AuMatar ( 183847 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:09PM (#17136540)
          And politics don't have an impact on your everyday life? They sure as hell do on mine- every time I drive on a road, pick up my mail, pay sales tax, etc. I'm an atheist, but I know religious people think that religion is the major facet of their daily life. I really don't see how you can call someone a friend if there's huge subjects you can't talk about because it will cause a fight. I discuss all of the above with friends all the time- there's rarely agreement, but never heat.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by maxume ( 22995 )
          You speak as if there is nothing that the Buddhist can learn from the Catholic and nothing the Catholic can learn from the Buddhist(specifically about religion). I disagree. It scares the shit out of me that huge swaths of people agree with you.
          • by lawpoop ( 604919 )
            There is a great deal that each can learn from the other, but unfortunately, most people who are interested in discussing the religion are only interested in convincing/converting the other party, not learning. When you get two people like that, you have a fight. When you get one person like that, you have a zealot talking with someone who doesn't care about religion, or someone who doesn't want to be converted.

            It's a rare person who takes their religion seriously, is interested in discussing it, and als
        • by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:14PM (#17136610)
          Actually the conservative christian and the liberal buddhist will get along MUCH better than the conservative christian and the liberal christian. Or even the conservative christian who believes differently about some minor point of dogma.

          The buddhist is safely far enough away that you can disconnect and ignore them. The person who believes almost the same is much more maddening to those who believe there is only one true way.
          • by Peter Trepan ( 572016 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:32PM (#17136958)
            Actually the conservative christian and the liberal buddhist will get along MUCH better than the conservative christian and the liberal christian. Or even the conservative christian who believes differently about some minor point of dogma.

            The buddhist is safely far enough away that you can disconnect and ignore them. The person who believes almost the same is much more maddening to those who believe there is only one true way.

            See Wikipedia's entry on The Uncanny Valley [].
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
            Actually I disagree.
            At least for me as a christian I can get along with people that Christians that are more liberal than I am. I can get along with some Christians that are less liberal than I am. I can get along with people that are Jewish, Buddhists, and Muslims.
            The one group that tends to be a problem are the hard core extremist liberal atheist/humanists.
            Their whole world view seems to be wrapped up in this dogma.
            Atheism is the only rational belief. It is my belief so I am rational. So everything I beli
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Foolicious ( 895952 )

          What GP is saying that he doesn't bother to discuss things that are totally abstract, irrelevant, and inapplicable to their everyday life

          And what TP (this poster) is saying is that such a robotic, anti-social (yes, I think constant, emotionless and shallow interaction with others is eventually anti-social) existence would cause the very burnout that we all want trying to avoid. Perhaps another way of saying it would be that one cause of burnout (among many) is the removal of honest self-expression from o

          • The article quotes some shrinks that make the claim that a healthy family makes you less likely to burn out, because you're don't have to rely on work and your career to fulfill all your requirements for recognition and approval.
    • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @04:58PM (#17136346) Homepage

      I realized at some point that work wasn't really quite exactly the problem, but more like work-habits. While I was working at one job that was fairly high-stress, I was feeling close to burnt out. But I realized that the problem was that I was procrastinating on some of my projects, and I started feeling better when I tackled those problems instead of putting them off. Sometimes pushing through can be somewhat therapeutic.

      But then I also realized that working through it wasn't quite enough. I started limiting myself to 8 hour workdays unless there was an emergency, making sure I used my vacation time and took my lunch break, and making a habit of taking lunch outside of the office. Getting outside every now and then helped a lot. I also found that it didn't really have as much of an adverse result on my productivity, because I was more productive when I was rested and happy.

      So the problem wasn't the work itself, but the fact that I wasn't putting limits on my work. Without limits, the work overran the rest of my life. I would work through lunch and stay for 12 hour work-days even when it wasn't absolutely necessary, which put lessened my outside-of-work time, which made me unhappy, which made those twelve-hour work-days less productive.

    • I think you wrote this comment months ago, and have had it sitting in a vi window just reloading /. every few seconds for that whole time, waiting for an appropriate story in which you could make this a first post.

      Nonetheless, it's true. Stress happens everywhere, and it all adds up. I get blistering headaches when I'm under "too much" stress. Oddly, any single area of my life that's under stress won't do it - there needs to be at least two - possibly three - areas that are overwhelmed. Finances, family, wo
    • by Osiris Ani ( 230116 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:00PM (#17136400)
      Anyone else go through a life-altering experience, and realize it wasn't your job that was the problem?

      I knew full well that at one point in my life, I was working so hard and for such long hours just because it seemed to be the only thing I could really try to control in my life. However, I also knew that I was doing this largely because I was living in an area that did not suit me (the city of my birth, of all places), and thus had a life that I could not happily claim as my own. I relocated from one geographic region with surroundings and friends that made me blissful to another I'd wanted to avoid since first leaving it for college, but had little choice in the matter simply because I needed the job. The stress from all of this literally made me sick; it actually triggered new allergies.

      I worked my ass off in a deliberate attempt to substitute career success, money, and some level of prestige for my lost contentment. Of course it didn't work, and I'm sure that the strain couldn't have been good for my relationship with my then-fiancée. Fortunately enough, I didn't go overboard in the acquisition of "stuff," and even better, I managed to get away from all of that. I relocated twice and now live in a place that directly contributes to my happiness and overall well-being, and best of all, I rather enjoy my job, it pays more than previous ones, and I telecommute. I didn't have to give anything up, save for a bit of sanity along the way.

      ...and who needs that, anyway?

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by sunwukong ( 412560 )
        I didn't have to give anything up, save for a bit of sanity along the way. ...and who needs that, anyway?

        Whew -- good thing that little voice in your head told you to add that last little bit!
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by macdaddy ( 38372 )
        This whole thread has been very enlightening to me. I've been thinking about all of this for a few months now and it's been increasing growing on me.

        I'm considering a job change. I need to acquire better certs for my field. I'm trying to decide if I should wait until I have those to see if it improves my relationship with my current employer, or if I should take my new certs and run, or if I should just get out now to work on my certs while looking for a new job. Money is a problem for me. My current

    • A lot of people work at jobs where too much is expected in too little time, NOT necessarily from hours worked. Now for some people, long hours are symptomatic of these absurd expectations, but it's definitely possible to work 80 hours and still be happy. It's all about control - are you working like that because the boss is forcing you to (i.e., gun-to-your-head) or because you want to (i.e., time-flies-when-you're-having-fun).

      Pressure creates stress.

      By reducing your financial obligations, you've do

    • by Brummund ( 447393 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:04PM (#17137522)
      Well put. I work as an self-employed programmer, and have basically worked as an consultant all my working life. (1995-> now)

      About 4 years ago, I started working for myself, and have so far had no problems getting work in my field of expertise. However, I've never spent that much of the money on things per se, but have had a rather "maniac" save for a rainy day attitude. Most of the time I've had around 2-3 major customers, and then quite a few smaller jobs on the side.

      That was a big mistake. I know the saying "if you can turn down one customer, try without anyone for three weeks", but really, as a programmer, it is so stressful to always have a bad conscience about something. If you get all your work done by working your ass off, you will feel bad/stressed because you do not socialize with your friends. When you socialize, you feel bad about the work you should have done.

      This culminated with a WoW-addiction on top of that. Needless to say, my health has suffered from this. (One doctor wondered if I was on drugs, since I was so skinny ;-)

      My advice to deal with burnout is to avoid as much sidework and distractions from your main sources of income. If you got like a 6-12 month contract with a major employer, you can do without the smaller side contracts, EVEN if you can do them on the evening for a week or so.

      Having multiple deadlines for several customers occuring at the same day is pure hell. Do not do that on a regular basis, take care of the good customers, and learn to say no to work. Rather, network with other guys, and send them the business. The person you sent away will feel that you made an effort to help them out, and if the other guy needs the business, he owe you one. Win/Win!

      It is OK to work a lot on the same project, as long as you can focus on that alone, and manage to take time off. Its all the distractions that has go. (My record is a major python app, one huge .NET-thing, and a J2EE-project at the same time. Sure, the pay was good, but I could probably have earned almost as much by working much harder on one of the projects instead.)

      Sorry for rambling.
    • by udderly ( 890305 ) *
      I "fired" a few of my worst customers who never seemed to pay on time but always called with this or that emergency. Sure, the billable rate was great, but the peripheral stress didn't balance out.

      Exactly. I did the same thing for the same reason and I couldn't be happier with the results. It seems to me that 10% of your customers are always the cause of 90% of your stress; dumping them left me with more time and energy to devote to the customers who weren't making my life a living hell. Now I routine
      • by itwerx ( 165526 )
        I "fired" a few of my worst customers...
        Exactly. I did the same thing...

        We "interview" all potential new clients - and we decline at least a couple per year simply because we can tell from the outset that they are going to be "problem" clients and simply not worth the heartache. As a result we are able to better serve our "good" clients and that leads to more referrals anyway! :)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      In the next installment, a resurrected Richard Crenna visits dada21 in his trailer in the Rockies. "dada21, we need you!" "Leave me alone." "But we got a brand new house for you, with a 3 car garage and 4 bedrooms." dada21 stares off through the tiny porthole at Dick's new Lincoln. "What's the interest rate?" "5.75, 30 year fixed." "Alright I'm in. But you can't make me run Windows."
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      dada21 wrote a post, and I find myself completely agreeing with it.

      Have we entered some sort of bizarro-world? If the next news item I see is "Bush Considered Shoo-in for Mt. Rushmore," that oughta cinch it.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Warning - deviation into Briggs-Myers classification types to expand on a small point parent poster made.

      "I don't discuss business or politics or religion with my real friends and family".

      This works well for artisans or guardians (SP/SJ) types, but not for rationals or idealists (NT/NF). If you're someone who thrives on abstract thought, by all means, include politics and religion and business or anything else that's abstract. The process for recharching mental batteries differs markedly for the different t
    • This is only something I've come to realize in that past few weeks. I am rapidly becoming burnt out. There. I said it. I feel like I would expect to feel making a confession at an AA meeting.

      I have a large workload right now. I'm part of 3 major projects right now, all of which have the eyes or personal involvement of the owners of my family-owned company. One of the project I have basically been in the lead position on for months now. It was sold to the owners by my last supervisor but the plan wa

  • by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @04:35PM (#17136002) Homepage Journal

    Friends and I would stay up all night smoking pot and playing Nintendo. Around dawn we'd be useless sacks of shit. I still freak out thinking of the "Death" monsters in Gauntlet.
  • Causes of Burnout (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nate nice ( 672391 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @04:39PM (#17136056) Journal
    Burnout happens because we live a soulless existence working on worthless things to gain money which will be spent on worthless material things.

    When you don't do anything that seem important to you, you simply stop being able to do it.

    At some point, your brain figures out it only has one life to live and it's being wasted. So it "burns out" to get itself out of the current, unhealthy environment.

    If you burn out, it's not really your fault entirely.

    But you should recognize it as your brain and body telling you to get out now, you're killing it!

    this is just my theory, of course.
    • by Tom ( 822 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:36PM (#17137058) Homepage Journal
      Without the moral blabla, yes - burnout as I've seen it in both myself and others is the feeling that you're wasting your time and that you as a being are being wasted. ROI is one factor - if what you do doesn't seem to matter, your chances for burnout increase. Most people, however, will simply lower the investment. I know quite a lot of good people who could probably work twice as effective and twice as hard, if only they hadn't stopped caring a year or two ago. Some of them because management has saved on 5-10% of salary raises and another 5-10% of overhead costs for a training or some perks. So congratulations, dimwits, you've just saved the company 15% of expanses at the price of a 50% loss of productivity.

      And they call it "burnout" to make it seem there's something wrong with the employee.
    • Re:Causes of Burnout (Score:5, Interesting)

      by rvw ( 755107 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:43PM (#17137142)
      But you should recognize it as your brain and body telling you to get out now, you're killing it!

      The body has its own ways of telling it wants to quit, even if the brain keeps on denying the signals. In WWI many soldiers went blind suddenly, without any reason. Many soldiers couldn't walk anymore. But when tested using clever tricks, it was clear they could see or walk. It was simply the body taking over the decision, giving them a reason to get out of that horrible situation.

      Just recently I met a teenager who's legs felt like pudding. Sometimes she just fell on the ground, couldn't walk. She was showing all the signs of burnout or chronic stress. Her parents denied her problems - the cause of this - said she was faking, which made it impossible for her to handle the situation. This was her body taking over the decision.

  • by bepolite ( 972314 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @04:45PM (#17136130) Homepage
    I don't know about you but whenever I feel burned out I go to []
  • by Mex ( 191941 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @04:51PM (#17136206)
    I haven't been to work in about 3 months. Basically living from my savings and a porn website (check my sig! ;) ).

    I thought I was young, invulnerable, but working from 9am to 7pm just got to me, after about 4 years. Now I just can't agree with the idea that I have to go and do stuff for someone ever again.

    And I feel happy without that. I think something just broke, and I don't want to fix it.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by HiredMan ( 5546 )
      Basically living from my savings and a porn website (check my sig! ;)

      Dude, if you're going to try and run a porn site and claim any geek cred at least turn off directory listing.
      You look like an amateur otherwise....


  • I never thought about burnout the way the article describes it, but I wholeheartily agree. If I am working on something where I see great results that positively impact my company's clients, I feel great ... even if I'm working 80 hour weeks. If I am doing something that I view as trivial or unnecessary (but cannot get out of doing it), I quickly feel burned out within a few weeks.

    If this truly is the reason people get burned out, it shows that all the money spent on fancy work environments, extra-curr
    • by nine-times ( 778537 ) <> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:02PM (#17136428) Homepage

      If I am working on something where I see great results that positively impact my company's clients, I feel great ... even if I'm working 80 hour weeks. If I am doing something that I view as trivial or unnecessary (but cannot get out of doing it), I quickly feel burned out within a few weeks.

      ... and we wonder why our kids hate school and aren't doing well.

    • by geekoid ( 135745 )
      ", it shows that all the money spent on fancy work environments, extra-curricular events, and other perks is largely wasted."


      we know this, we just want the perks.

  • by mpapet ( 761907 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @04:58PM (#17136352) Homepage
    This sorry platitude should be dragged out on the street and shot. The head should be put on a stick and tied to the bridge for all who enter the city to see that this just doesn't apply in the modern world.

    Work is first and foremost labor/expertise in exchange for some wages and it's done at the pleasure of your boss with your consent.

    "Thriving and growing" is something that the worker concentrates on exclusive of work. Should "thriving and growing" intersect with work it should only do so to increase the salary the worker at their current or next job. Period.

    "Burnout" is another one. The employee is totally responsible for this as the employer will extract as much productivity as their morals allow with no consideration for "burn out."

    In some cases, there are benevolent employers, but this is the rare exception.

    Sorry for the rant, but these HR platitudes are a pet peeve of mine.
    • by TheWoozle ( 984500 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:13PM (#17136596)
      I call bullshit. I've seen burnout first-hand. TFA says it best: "Getting the most out of people didn't actually mean getting the best."

      An employer is *stupid* to "extract as much productivity as their morals allow with no consideration for burn out.'"

      You sound like Stalin; marching an infantry battalion through a minefield is defintely an effective way to clear it, but don't expect the troops to be up for much of a fight the next day!
      • by mpapet ( 761907 )
        I've seen burnout first-hand.
        We've all seen it. Most of the time it's ambitious people whose goals/expectations are not met. ex. expect to be promoted but are not. This is the individual's problem. An employer doesn't and shouldn't really care either way.

        An employer is *stupid* to...
        You may call it stupid, but most employers call it productivity. The more productive their workforce, the more successful the organization tends to be.

        I may be wrong, but you sound as if you have very many choices as to you
        • I may be wrong, but you sound as if you have very many choices as to your work situations or your economic needs are fully realized. (You, your family is loaded) Understandably, the world is a much prettier place with infinite potential under these conditions. There's a good reason my original post was modded insightful. The statements ring true for the moderators. Very many others without mod points would agree as well. Consider yourself lucky and privileged.


          IMO your post is insightful insomuch as

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by archen ( 447353 )
        Actually that's a pretty good analogy. I've seen burnout where I've worked, and it's demoralizing to everyone whether they realize it or not. People are most productive when moral is high. From what I've seen, if you treat people like heartless machines, they may act like heartless machines around you; but they'll screw your business in ways you can't even imagine. Losing customers? Who cares, I just work here. Oops another paper clip in the shredder, oh well they can buy a new one every month. When p
        • Sounds a lot like tech support, especially if you're an outsourced part of the machinery that has no say in what hours you work and have little chance of promotion, then imagine what happens when management thinks that 200 customers waiting for more than three hours for you to take their call..

          I've seen lots of people burn out doing that kind of work, in comes a twenty-something straight from college who is thinking of tech support as a first stepping-stone to a "real" tech job, four months later the same

          • Oops, the end of the first paragraph was supposed to read:
            "...then imagine what happens when management thinks that 200 customers waiting for more than three hours for you to take their call is perfectly ok and that you should just suck it up..."


    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      "Burnout" is another one. The employee is totally responsible for this as the employer will extract as much productivity as their morals allow with no consideration for "burn out."

      True, employers may have no legal responsibility to prevent burnout or provide for growth. Sure, employees are ultimately responsible for their own growth. Here's an interesting implication of those two facts: if you, as an employer don't provide anything in the way of support to promote an employee's growth and prevent his bu

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by autophile ( 640621 )
      Work is first and foremost labor/expertise in exchange for some wages and it's done at the pleasure of your boss with your consent.

      I, for one, welcome our new feudal overlords and overladies.


  • by tgd ( 2822 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:00PM (#17136392)
    I just don't have time to read it, I have meetings to go to.
  • Ha!

    "It used to be, 'You sit for work? Here's a chair.'"
    No insult intended, but it actually used to be "You sit for work? Use the floor or figure out how to levitate, or your job's going to Bangalore."

    Burnout? The hell with that. If everyone else is burning out, then "Pay raise" is where I'm going.
  • As some of the ranting and raving I have done in the past has shown.

    But I have reached beyond it. I am now embracing nihilism.

    It is very liberating. Or perhaps I am confusing it with mu.

    But in any case, when the maws of burnout clamp down onto you, use the purchase to thrust yourself down its throat. Because it will all come out in the end.
  • Managers (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Beek Dog ( 610072 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:08PM (#17136522)
    I almost gave up IT this year. I was working at a financial institute and the work was fun. I wrote a BlackBerry app using java with a .Net backend. Fun stuff. But my manager was a complete jerk. Constantly moody. At my review he said "99% of the time we love you, but that 1% is killing us". I was out for a few days earlier in the year when my son's babysitter almost died, and this was brought up. "I don't care about your babysitter, I don't care about your kid. I just want you to be here for eight hours a day." I gave my notice at the end of the week. Turns out he lost all of his developers in that review month. He must have read somewhere that reviews were the place to smack your employees around.

    Although it wasn't the work that made me quit, I was very reluctant to go through the same crap with a new manager. Instead of giving up IT entirely, I went out on my own again. I barely had enough work to pay the bills through the summer, but DAMN I was relaxed! By the end of the summer I was able to stomach another corporate job. It's boring work (See: Read Slashdot), but they are flexible. My old manager was anything but. I'll give it a while and if I get too bored, do my own thang again.

    Burnout may not be something you can control, but you can fix it.
    • >>>> I went out on my own again. I barely had enough work to pay the bills through the summer, but DAMN I was relaxed! By the end of the summer I was able to stomach another corporate job.

      Don't you just HATE that! You work self-employed, and about the time you start to say to yourself, "you know, with one more customer like so and so, I could do this forever". And then the siren song of permanent employment sucks you right back into the system.

      I've been through this cycle a few times, and each i
    • There's no satisfaction to be had working for a loser. Any company that would keep him around is destined to fail. Congratulations on getting away from that guy.

      When life hands you poison, make poison-ade!

      Or something like that...

  • Perceived progress (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dekkerdreyer ( 1007957 ) <dekkerdreyer@g[ ] ['mai' in gap]> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:08PM (#17136528)
    If I'm working on a project and not making any progress, another four hour day at work seems unbearable. If I'm making great progress and enjoying way I'm doing, I'll forget lunch and dinner and find myself starving and exhausted 14-16 hours later, but quite happy. Progress I think is the key.
    • by $1uck ( 710826 )
      A-Farking-men. If I'm productively working on something and accomplishing things 8 hours, 10 hours, 12, hours fly by. If I don't have a task accomplishing very little, 6 or 7 hour days can be a drag. Even considering that you're getting paid the same for either. On the face of it, surely wouldn't you like getting paid to surf the web for 8 hours more than doing "work" ? I have met very few people who would prefer that, sounds nice but just isn't the case.
  • Health? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Darlantan ( 130471 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:11PM (#17136586)
    I'd wager that overall health is a big factor, too. I recall a study that ended up on the front page here. Rats that were injured and under stress both took longer to heal AND were a lot less active. Speaking from personal experience, any sort of lingering pain/injury can really contribute. In my case, it got to a point where the injury kept me from sleeping well, which made getting up and going to work awful. When I was there, I was horribly unproductive as I was always distracted/unable to concentrate, which ended up causing more stress as work piled up. When I got home, I'd need to wind down before I could get to sleep.

    The end result was that I was always tired, hurting, and totally unable to get anything done. It was one massive negative feedback loop, and I found myself just wanting to quit everything. The end result was depression, burnout, and suffering.

    I'd say staying healthy is one step in preventing burnout.
  • by name_of_feather ( 1036518 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:15PM (#17136624)

    There is a strong physiological underpinning to burnout, as years of constant stress and little sleep take their toll on the brain (in fact, the last stages of burnout are very much like those of a clinical depression). It is possible to recover, but it can take *years* and it's a difficult process.

    A while back I wrote an article for Kuro5hin [] on this same subject, and that got plenty of positive responses. It was later expanded and wikified into a Wikibook which you might find interesting: Demystifying Depression []

    (Yeah, sorry for the shameless plug, but this is important stuff that all of us in IT should be aware of. Besides, the link is to a public wikibook, not to my personal blog or anything.)

  • by mabhatter654 ( 561290 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:22PM (#17136778)
    The term is "Failure to Thrive" they typically use it in children that have all their physical needs meet but fail to actually grow bigger or smarter... Extreme cases in infants result in death!!

    What they're really pointing to as "burnout" is really a lack of personal growth. Call it the "working dead" if you will. You're working, but never "productive" enough for advancement. you have all the other things but aren't really "alive".

    John Mayer even has a Song about it "Something's missing"... you can buy it on iTunes with your credit card to put on your iPod, in your in car stereo adapter, on the way to work!

    • John Mayer even has a Song about it "Something's missing"... you can buy it on iTunes with your credit card to put on your iPod, in your in car stereo adapter, on the way to work!

      Funny you should mention that -- John Mayer echoing through my dimly lit, dusty workplace was the straw that broke the camel's back. I would not recommend him to anyone already depressed about their work situation.

  • by zappepcs ( 820751 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:22PM (#17136790) Journal
    Burnout is ages old, in my experience, its been around since before the computer. Now, with the advent of the computer are all kinds of new stresses: Operator overload, ergonomics (is that listed as a real word yet?) and distraction stress etc. ad nauseum.

    Previously, neither management or worker knew about ergonomics and distraction stress, then workers knew but couldn't get any support at work, now bosses know... still not much support to rid the workplace of it. AFIK, countries other than the US are well out front in the race to reduce workplace stress.

    One of the little known problems in the workplace (not trolling here) is scent! If you are distracted continuously by nasty perfume of co-workers, it causes higher stress levels from everything else. Even the little things have to be taken into account when trying to reduce stresses in the workplace.

    There are government agencies and laws to support getting a better workplace environment... its just a big effort to get it implemented without causing huge amounts of more stress.... sigh
  • My View (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thePig ( 964303 ) <rajmohan_h@y a h> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:25PM (#17136842) Journal
    In my view, burnout occurs due to the reason that people do not have a well-conceived goals.
    Understand that, and work for it - you wont have burnout at all. People with real well-conceived goals, work for 100 hr weeks and they are the happiest there could be (cant say the same for the family though )

    But, if you are working for the sake of working - or to just to feed yourselves and family, they you are a prime candidate for burnout.

    I have come pretty close to burnouts - and it is not during the time when I worked 85 Hrs/week; it was when I was doing stuff for which I had no interest at all. Even though I knew it all along, I understood that money was not my goal in my life pretty much late in my life. Once I understood that, everyday of work was a horror. I was working maybe 5/6 hours a week - and still I was close to burnout.
  • Outside In (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Osiris Ani ( 230116 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:25PM (#17136846)

    I've always felt that within the lyrics to the song, "Outside In," [] Poster Children has an excellent definition for what directly leads to the phenomenon of burnout.

    "Trade the future for a payment
    On a suitable replacement
    For everything you've lost along the way."

    Eventually, it begins to feel more automatic to simply stop caring about what you're not doing instead of working and otherwise engaging in preparation of the acquisition of things like physical possessions or the proposition of stability, which is sadly often just a cycle that feeds itself. The burnout comes when your brain realizes that life has been passing you by while you've been instead focusing on things that are really supposed to be enabling you to live it.

    "It's easier if you don't think about what's missing at the end of every week."
  • by photozz ( 168291 ) <> on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:29PM (#17136920) Homepage
    But I lost interest about half way through.. I .. Just .. could... not... go ... on...
  • You take a car and ram it into other cars. In the end, you either win the race, or blow up. It's more of an adrenaline pumping experience than work related depression.
  • While I won't speculate on the cause, I have to say I have found a solution for myself. Ten days in Hawaii is the only place where I can truly relax and unwind. I take other trips throughout the year, mostly exploring cities. While those trips generally provide a good environment for the mind, the body also needs to rest. And for that, Hawaii is the perfect place for me. I can get away from any and all monitors and simply do what I want for those days. Basically, take a vacation every year and go and unwin
  • by heroine ( 1220 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @05:44PM (#17137168) Homepage
    We've had 4 burnouts. 2 of them were managers. 2 were programmers. The cause is definitely lack of satisfaction and not excessive hours. There is a 100% correlation between rapid company growth and declining individual influence that causes burnouts. They tend to be very ambitious. 2 of 4 quit when another person was promoted above them or hired to fill the role above them. Another aspect not mentioned by the media is that burnouts tend to lock themselves in their cubes and never be seen.

    People forced to work excessive hours usually go somewhere else but don't burn out. They actually don't quit or take long vacations to make up for it, which shows they probably bring the long hours on themselves.

    • by anubi ( 640541 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @07:34PM (#17138878) Journal
      Your observation exactly mirrors mine.

      I consider myself "burned out", pursuing my efforts now on a personal level or for friends. In a way, it seems a shame I am "wasting" such precious insights that 35 years in design work ( I mean *real* design work ) gives a designer. Yet, I elect to live at a near poverty level in lieu of having to "sell my soul" to the suited-and-tied corporate types. I want so bad to go back to the time that I actually meant something to the company, and not be considered just another commodity.

      My burnout occurred as I had spent years learning and perfecting a set of software I liked to use on PC's where I could write my own device drivers to make the computer do ANYTHING that it was capable of doing. These were .COM, .EXE, and .SYS files, written in C++ and assembler, running under DOS. I had collected every tool imaginable to let me do any sort of DSP, control any interface, or let me do any mathematical equations ( differential calculus ) on my machine.

      I was in the midst of a dream project where I was trying to build a wide-range VCO, yet have the extremely low phase noise which would be required for using it as a local oscillator to drop 256QAM to baseband. The managers came in and demanded I do my work on some lousy 386-SX based machine running Windows 2.1 ( which was current at the time ), running doublespace. My machine at the lab was a 286. But I knew what I was doing with that one. I had no idea how to make my stuff run under Windows in a supervised environment.

      I had no interest whatsoever in the fancy graphical output of Windows because I had no idea how the get the machine to do what I wanted, and do it without all the bloat which took forever and a day to execute. My mind was still set on how to use amplifier gains to increase the Q of my resonant circuits and configure the short term phase error through one varactor and the long term frequency control through another varactor, so I could simultaneously reap the benefits of fast phase correction without perturbing the frequency setpoints.

      I know if you are not into RF modems, the above looks like gibberish. What I am trying to say is I already knew how to do what I needed to do, I just had to do it the way I knew how to do it.

      Hiring somebody to come in and tell me that I can't do it my way - without giving him the onus of showing me exactly how to do it his way - did not help matters one bit.

      He came in expecting me to take like a duck to water with his paradigms. Giving me closed-source proprietary crap to build on, citing I had no "need-to-know" how it worked - to me - was tantamount to giving a lawyer legal documents, written in Swahili, to approve. Just tell the lawyer which ones do what and have him approve them.

      I thought of myself much like a pianist, with years of experience on the keyboard. Some manager comes in, forces me to use another piano whose keyboard starts with all the A notes, followed by all the B's, and so on... all in order. The manager patiently sits behind his desk, considering me not to be a team player because I hate that piano. He patiently keeps asking me what the problem is, can't I understand? Here it is again, all the A's are here, all the B's are there. All in order. Can't I be flexible enough to use it? Just point and click.

      I know just as soon as I take the time to play my music through that machine, the manager is just going to redo the keyboard again. I have no return on my investment of effort whatsoever. Its like trying to put a lot of effort in improving a rented house.

      I realized this guy has his experience in presentations, which I consider to be corporate propaganda more than anything concrete and useful. I could not consider him actually designing anything. Yet his training prepared him to find corporate executive types who could be persuaded that his efforts were more valuable than mine, and I should work under him.

  • Slightly off-topic but still relating to the idea of burnout as being tied to a lack of progress.

    Could it be the seemingly tireless repetition of the same damn shit grade after grade, and going through the textbook for half a year just to go through the whole damn thing the other half preparing for the final, makes a lot of kids feel their time in school is wasted doing nothing?

    This was true of myself, at least, but maybe it's true of more kids than we think. Perhaps we should accelerate our school systems
  • by Wansu ( 846 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:00PM (#17137454)

    I can happily work long hours when I know it will make a difference. But too often there's somebody causing a disconnect between the work and the reward. That's what causes stress, the natural confusion arising from the mind having to override the body's strong desire to beat the living shit out of some asshole who desperately deserves it. Maybe we should start a fight club.

  • by bitspotter ( 455598 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:02PM (#17137500) Journal
    Instead it has more to do with perceived 'return on investment' of effort. So work places are having to learn to adjust the work environment to reduce or prevent burnout.

    So in other words, these geniuses have JUST DISCOVERED that workers tend to react badly to being overworked and undercompensated? Welcome to the party, Boss! It's good to see you finally made it to reality!

    What disturbs me, of course, is the framing of this as the //perception// of the reality being the problem, rather than the reality itself. In other words, this is being sold to management as a way to create mere perceptions of work ROI, rather than actually creating work ROI. In short, they're coddling the industrial tendency to insist upon exploiting workers with deception.

    Trust me, Boss. The perception is not the problem; it's the reality.

  • I've found that an important aspect of burnout can be physical health. If you have a chronic illness (even just chronic pain, and its attendant distraction, can easily qualify), its drag can be limiting and make many areas of your life seem limited and uninspiring.

    Being in poor health, even if not with a specific illness, can also be a drag. And inhabiting one's chair longer in compensation, trying to complete the "dreaded" work, can become a positive (in function, not in perception) feedback loop.

    It's ce
  • The problem is more fundamental than "burnout". The problem is an overall breakdown in U.S. society. For example, the U.S. government has become very corrupt: George W. Bush comedy and tragedy [].

    The U.S. has a higher percentage of its citizens in prison than any country, ever, more than 6 times the percentage of those in prison in European countries.

    The U.S. is the most obese country in the world, except for a small island nation in which people eat a lot of coconut.
  • by scorp1us ( 235526 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:08PM (#17137574) Journal
    .. that burnout is a built in ROI calculator for the individual, then its probably a good mesure for the companyy as well.

    Here we have two projects. An ass-old- buggy, poorly written code base and the new one that is just starting. I dread the old code base, because it brings on immediate burn-out. The return is so little for that code base that we've stopped developing it except for easy enhancements and bug fixes.

    Other times I've experienced burn out is when you just go too hard at a goal that is too far away. It is better to take things into small steps that can be checked off. I also find that when you have the option to work in one project with little changes, it is best not to linger. Instead, let the change requests stack up. Then hit the code base hard, and thereby forcing yourself to feel productive as you check each one off.

    But nothing still keeps me more motivated than seeing the $$ behind the work. Early on each feature has a profit margin to it. By the time you're in a maintenance cycle, you're doing it to keep the software functioning as it should. Its not nearly as sexy.

    The other thing is the right tools. Having to deal with asinine tools negates your agility to get the changes implemented timely. You should be able to focus on things from a customer perspective and not how hard it is to implement. A good tool is worth its licensing fees many times over. (I'd include a shameless plug for Qt from TrollTech, or Perforce, but I'm not going to ;-) )
  • the failure of the existential quest - that moment when we wake up one morning and realize that what we're doing has appallingly little value.

    I spent the first three years after graduate school working on the "Trusted Mach []" project. The code I wrote, three years of my professional life, now sits on a shelf somewhere at the NSA, never deployed.

    After that I spent a year working on a firewall product for Norman Data Defense systems. Ever hear of it? Europeans may know Norman ASA for its antivirus softwar

  • by kodeman ( 794791 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @06:27PM (#17137872)

    From the abstract:

    Probably the most surprising thing learned from reading this article is that work load is not the best predictor of burnout. Instead it has more to do with perceived 'return on investment' of effort.

    How this is a surprise is precisely the root of the problem.

    The biggest reason for burnout, from the perspective of one who has suffered a lot of burnout, is almost entirely the return on investment issue.

    When you work long, hard, thankless hours, or do work that others have no idea how to do, and do not get either of adequate recognition, appropriate remuneration, or personal satisfaction, it piles on you until, one day, you end up looking at where you've been and where you are now, and see that your standard of living is not any better (possibly worse), or that you don't have the respect or position you feel you have earned, or you simply do not feel that you are achieving what matters to you in your life. And on that day, you feel either inadequate, slighted, or unappreciated. The result, in all of those cases, is that you burn out.

    While some people might tell you to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and take life by the horns, it is not always so easy to do --- especially if you try and try and nothing seems to change. It can be demoralizing at best, and the peception of getting nowhere just makes it ever harder to pick yourself up and try again.

    The answer for employers who want to stem the effects of burnout is to help their employees achieve meaningful, real satisfaction from their work.

    Providing wages that (at least) keep up with cost of living, making available opportunities to advance one's position, offering employees ways to share in the profits of their work, supporting employee achievement of what is important to them, giving them recognition and appreciation for their contributions, and simply respecting them as people are the tools you need. A nice chair doesn't hurt, but it doesn't stop the burnout. Burnout is more psychological than physical.

    Now, employers don't have to just give things to their employees on a silver platter, either. It's all about reciprocating peoples' efforts in a meaningful way. Unless they're starving, a holiday turkey once a year isn't as meaningful as some people think. Neither is a gold watch after thirty or more years of work. If employees can look back just one year and honestly say to themselves that they are better off now and are on the road to achieivng what is important to them, you'll see the burnout rate go down and the productivity rate go up (probably exponentially).

    Most people actually thrive on a challange, but only when the potential reward is right. While stress plays a factor in burnout, it is simply contributing to the phychological complications that are at the root of the problem. A sense of achievement is a very real queller of stress. People can handle schedules, deadlines, and crazy hours. It just has to be worth it to them.

    Now, if you are the one suffering from burnout, what you need to do is to take proactive measures to accomplish something meaningful in your life. It can be all at once or baby steps. It doesn't matter which. It doesn't have to contibute to getting that mansion on the beach, or the expensive sports car, or even popularity and fame. You just need something to reaffirm that you are capable of getting to where you want to be in life and that you are getting something from your work --- that you are not just a slave to the grind.

    If your mind constantly wanders to money issues, look for a better income opportunity or some supplemental income opportunities, like moonlighting, freelancing, or merchandising. If you yearn for more respect, appreciation, or personal satisfaction, you would be amazed how much you get from doing some charity work or pitching in to help out with community projects. If you just need to get some inkling of enjoyment from what you've earned instead of funnel

  • I'm wondering if our farming ancestors back in the day when everyone farmed ever suffered from burnout. Did they ever stand up and say "that's it, no food this winter, I'm not plowing one more row!" After all, these farmers had no room for personal growth, very little way to express themselves creatively on the job, had very hard deadlines, and most of their lives were affected by things well outside of their control (weather, taxes).

    Sorry if I'm bucking the feel-good trend here, but I think this is a loa
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I think they definitely felt those frustrations and burn-out. But I think they felt it to the degree to which they had control over their lives.

      It's a concept called , and it was just as true for them as it is for us. []

      If you have an internal locus of control (you believe that you have control over your life and progress) you are much happier than if you have an external locus of control (you believe that other people and circumstances have control over you).

      If your life is dictated to you by bosses, deadlin
  • No shit, professor (Score:5, Insightful)

    by aquabat ( 724032 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @07:07PM (#17138502) Journal
    Probably the most surprising thing learned from reading this article is that work load is not the best predictor of burnout. Instead it has more to do with perceived 'return on investment' of effort.

    I don't see what's so surprising about this observation.

    Anyone who's ever done double shifts for a month to meet a deadline knows that you feel pretty great when it all comes together. You bond with your team mates, eat pizza and rock out in the halls out 3am, brainstorm to come up with elegant solutions to challenging requirements, and generally make the world a better place in some small way.

    On the other hand, you can start to feel pretty shitty when you're working regular hours for years and years on a project, where there are no written requirements and the customer keeps changing his mind, repeatedly obsoleting big chunks of your previous work.

    Oh yeah, and don't even think about refactoring that old code to better reflect the new requirements, because that would require us to test it again. Just add some new functions to the old classes.

    "Classes? What are these "classes" you speak of?", asked the team lead. "I don't see why all the variables can't be static. After all, there's only ever one socket connection.". I shit you not.

    One day you wake up and realize that four years of your life have gone by, and all you have to show for it is a mass of spaghetti, (that would probably take you six months to redevelop if you started from scratch tomorrow), a few bucks in the bank, some new grey hairs and a collection of cute puffy stress toys.

    So yeah, I think it's pretty obvious that return on investment is a more important factor than workload, in causing burnout.

  • Sheessh. (Score:3, Funny)

    by Bluesman ( 104513 ) on Wednesday December 06, 2006 @07:42PM (#17138990) Homepage
    I tried reading the article, but after about the third page I just gave up trying to slog through it. My mind couldn't handle any more.

"In the face of entropy and nothingness, you kind of have to pretend it's not there if you want to keep writing good code." -- Karl Lehenbauer