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Workaholism and Burnout

News Books Recommended Links       Netslaves
Skeptics Slackerism Sociology Workagolism and work overload Mental Overload Sleep Deprivation  
Common Signs of Burnout Anger trap Steps for Decreasing Toxic Worry Drowning in Paperwork The psychopath in the corner office Humor Etc

ll professions are conspiracies against the common folk.

George Bernard Shaw

Here are the warning signs of burnout from MAPP- Motivational Appraisal of Personal Potential:

Other more expanded list of warning signs are:

I believe that you can often somewhat loosen the grip of CF a bit. There is a classic story about the pilot who endured several years as a prisoner of war in Viet Nam. Nearly starved and frequently beaten by his captors, the pilot stunned interviewers when he said he had so much to be grateful for in the time he was held. For him, the hunger and beatings weren't the biggest problems. The hardest part of imprisonment was complete isolation in a cramped and dirty room. The pilot told about a female rat that found her way into his lonely cell. He felt blessed by her companionship and the opportunity to witness, over time, the birth and mother's care of three litters of babies. The rat was his only contact with another living being for a long time-and its presence was a gift, he said, that gave him strength and the ability to endure extreme stress and hardship.

That pilot's story exemplifies some really important concepts for dealing with stress and burnout. First you need to distinguish between things which he wanted (better conditions, more and better food, freedom) and minimum conditions that needed to survive and preserve sanity (contact with another living being).

First you need to distinguish between things which he wanted (better conditions, more and better food, freedom) and minimum conditions that needed to survive and preserve sanity (contact with another living being).

The research by Dr. Karen Ballard, a program development and evaluation specialist at the University of Arkansas' Cooperative Extension Service,  showed  that Vietnam POWs either died quickly or "they not only survived imprisonment, but, in many cases, did remarkably well when they returned home."

What distinguished the survivors? "The awareness that they had choices," Ballard says. "They may not have had a lot of choices-they may not have had very good choices. But they had the capacity to evaluate their own resources and select the best available choices for their situations. They couldn't control all of their circumstances, but they chose to control what they could."

Ballard says trying to figure out what those choices are is the first step away from the path that leads to chronic, toxic stress and burnout. She recommends an "honest" self-inventory to identify what's causing the stress. "Write it down. Think about what makes you angry, unhappy, sad-what makes you not want to go to work," she advises. "Make an exhaustive list. This is a critical step to gaining control. Work on it for days if you need to."  While the main reason is clear it is a particular control freak, modes of his attacks and circumstances under which he attack you need to be identified. "Control freak" is one of those terms for which the meaning is starting to get distorted and became a nasty little clutch:

But each control freak is different and combination of qualities that make them tick is different too. For example I saw control freak that give no attention of  time control at all but are tremendously concerned with the creating useless detailed procedures for each minor step. Some control freaks are total "gatekeepers" and isolate subordinates from all information. But some are selective and actually can encourage some outside communication. You can use those few opportunities if you are careful.

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[May 19, 2013] Faced With Overload, a Need to Find Focus

Notable quotes:
"... For more than a decade, the most significant ritual in my work life has been to take on the most important task of the day as my first activity, for 90 minutes, without interruption, followed by a renewal break. ..."
"... the biggest work challenges most of us now face are cognitive overload ..."
"... I also find that standing while I work on my computer, which I do more and more when I can (don't have a way to type extensively while standing) energizes me and helps me focus. ..."

For more than a decade, the most significant ritual in my work life has been to take on the most important task of the day as my first activity, for 90 minutes, without interruption, followed by a renewal break. I do so because mornings are when I have the highest energy and the fewest distractions.

... Far and away the biggest work challenges most of us now face are cognitive overload and difficulty focusing on one thing at a time.

Whenever I singularly devote the first 90 minutes of my day to the most challenging or important task – they're often one and the same - I get a ton accomplished.

Following a deliberate break – even just a few minutes - I feel refreshed and ready to face the rest of the day. When I don't start that way, my day is never quite as good, and I sometimes head home at night wondering what I actually did while I was so busy working.

Performing at a sustainably high level in a world of relentlessly rising complexity requires that we manage not just our time but also our energy – not just how many hours we work, but when we work, on what and how we feel along the way.

Fail to take control of your days - deliberately, consciously and purposefully - and you'll be swept along on a river of urgent but mostly unimportant demands.

It's all too easy to rationalize that we're powerless victims in the face of expectation from others, but doing that is itself a poor use of energy. Far better to focus on what we can influence, even if there are times when it's at the margins.

Small moves, it turns out, can make a significant difference.

When it comes to doing the most important thing first each morning, for example, it's best to make that choice, along with your other top priorities, the night before.

Plainly, there are going to be times that something gets in your way and it's beyond your control. If you can reschedule for later, even 30 minutes, or 45, do that. If you can't, so be it. Tomorrow is another day.

If you're a night owl and you have more energy later in the day, consider scheduling your most important work then. But weigh the risk carefully, because as your day wears on, the number of pulls on your attention will almost surely have increased.

Either way, it's better to work highly focused for short periods of time, with breaks in between, than to be partially focused for long periods of time. Think of it as a sprint, rather than a marathon. You can push yourself to your limits for short periods of time, so long as you have a clear stopping point. And after a rest, you can sprint again.

How you're feeling at any given time profoundly influences how effectively you're capable of working, but most of us pay too little attention to these inner signals.

Fatigue is the most basic drag on productivity, but negative emotions like frustration, irritability and anxiety are equally pernicious. A simple but powerful way to check in with yourself is to intermittently rate the quantity and quality of your energy - say at midmorning, and midafternoon - on a scale from 1 to 10.

If you're a 5 or below on either one, the best thing you can do is take a break.

Even just breathing deeply for as little as one minute – in to a count of three, out to a count of six – can quiet your mind, calm your emotions and clear your bloodstream of the stress hormone cortisol.

Learn to manage your energy more skillfully, and you'll get more done, in less time, at a higher level of focus. You'll feel better - and better about yourself - at the end of the day.

About the Author

Tony Schwartz is the chief executive of the Energy Project and the author, most recently, of "Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys to Transforming the Way We Work and Live." Twitter: @tonyschwartz

Anne-Marie Hislop, Chicago

The key is figuring our when we are most productive and focused. Although a morning person, I need early time for my rituals - exercise, shower, coffee, and NYT online (along with pop-ins at other sites). Then, by time I get to work around 8AM I will have my most focused, productive hours.

I also find that standing while I work on my computer, which I do more and more when I can (don't have a way to type extensively while standing) energizes me and helps me focus.

John Lamont, Pennsylvania

Frankly I think the core premise of the article, how to get more "done", needs to be questioned, especially in the context to which it speaks, the corporate environment. We would be far better served if Mr. Schwarz's audience spent that 1st 30 minutes of their day sitting back and thinking about what they do, who it's really for, what are the consequences of what they and their company do, and is it morally and ecologically ethical.

In the grand scheme of things I don't doubt mankind is now better off than it was 2,000 or even 500 years ago, but in our relentless drive to produce, consume and sell we have developed, and continue to develop technologies and complex global social interactions that have a good chance of setting us back to the stone age.

Let's not be in such a hurry getting wherever we think we're going and spend a bit more time pondering about where it is we actually want to be and who we want to be when we get there.

[Nov 12, 2016] Lessons from Sheryl Sandberg Stop Working More Than 40 Hours a Week

Notable quotes:
"... and then turns negative ..."
Apr 28, 2012 |

You may think you're getting more accomplished by working longer hours. You're probably wrong.

There's been a flurry of recent coverage praising Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, for leaving the office every day at 5:30 p.m. to be with her kids. Apparently she's been doing this for years, but only recently "came out of the closet," as it were.

What's insane is that Sandberg felt the need to hide the fact, since there's a century of research establishing the undeniable fact that working more than 40 hours per week actually decreases productivity.

In the early 1900s, Ford Motor ran dozens of tests to discover the optimum work hours for worker productivity. They discovered that the "sweet spot" is 40 hours a week–and that, while adding another 20 hours provides a minor increase in productivity, that increase only lasts for three to four weeks, and then turns negative.

Anyone who's spent time in a corporate environment knows that what was true of factory workers a hundred years ago is true of office workers today. People who put in a solid 40 hours a week get more done than those who regularly work 60 or more hours.

The workaholics (and their profoundly misguided management) may think they're accomplishing more than the less fanatical worker, but in every case that I've personally observed, the long hours result in work that must be scrapped or redone.

Accounting for Burnout What's more, people who consistently work long work weeks get burned out and inevitably start having personal problems that get in the way of getting things done.

I remember a guy in one company I worked for who used the number of divorces in his group as a measure of its productivity. Believe it or not, his top management reportedly considered this a valid metric. What's ironic (but not surprising) is that the group itself accomplished next to nothing.

In fact, now that I think about it, that's probably why he had to trot out such an absurd (and, let's face it, evil) metric.

Proponents of long work weeks often point to the even longer average work weeks in countries like Thailand, Korea, and Pakistan–with the implication that the longer work weeks are creating a competitive advantage.

Europe's Ban on 50-Hour Weeks.

However, the facts don't bear this out. In six of the top 10 most competitive countries in the world (Sweden, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom), it's illegal to demand more than a 48-hour work week. You simply don't see the 50-, 60-, and 70-hour work weeks that have become de rigeur in some parts of the U.S. business world.

If U.S. managers were smart, they'd end this "if you don't come in on Saturday, don't bother coming to work on Sunday" idiocy. If you want employees (salaried or hourly) to get the most done–in the shortest amount of time and on a consistent basis–40 hours a week is just about right.

In other words, nobody should be apologizing for leaving at work at a reasonable hour like 5:30 p.m. In fact, people should be apologizing if they're working too long each week–because it's probably making the team less effective overall.

[May 28, 2015] 5 reasons why you shouldn’t work too hard

The Washington Post

Forget Russian figure skater Julia Lipnitskaia spinning in a blur with her leg impossibly held straight up against her ear. The sight of skier Bode Miller collapsing with emotion at the end of a race dedicated to his brother while NBC cameras lingered uncomfortably on the long shot. Or even jubilant Noelle Pikus-Pace climbing into the stands to race into her family’s arms after her silver medal finish in the Skeleton.

The image that stands out most in my mind during the broadcast of the 2014 Winter Olympics? The Cadillac commercial with a boxy, middle-aged white guy in a fancy house striding purposefully from his luxurious swimming pool to his $75,000 luxury Cadillac ELR parked out front while extolling the virtues of hard work, American style.

“Why do we work so hard? For stuff?” actor Neal McDonough asks in the commercial that has been playing without cease. “Other countries work. They stroll home. They stop by a café. They take the entire month of August off. “Off,” he says again, to reinforce the point.

“Why aren’t you like that? Why aren’t WE like that?”

The first time the commercial aired during the Opening Ceremonies in Sochi, the slight pause after those two questions made me hopeful. I sat up to listen closely.

Was he about to say – we should be more like that? Because Americans work among the most hours of any advanced country in the world, save South Korea and Japan, where they’ve had to invent a word for dying at your desk. (Karoshi. Death from Overwork.) We also work among the most extreme hours, at 50 or more per week. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average American works about one month more a year than in 1976.

Was he going to say that we Americans are caught up in what economist Juliet Schor calls a vicious cycle of “work-and-spend” – caught on a time-sucking treadmill of more spending, more stuff, more debt, stagnant wages, higher costs and more work to pay for it all?

Would he talk about how we Americans, alone among the advanced economies, whose athletes are competing between the incessant commercials with such athleticism and grace, have no national vacation policy. (So sacrosanct is time off in some countries that the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in 2012 that workers who get sick on vacation are entitled to take more time off “to enable the worker to rest and enjoy a period of relaxation and leisure.”).

American leisure? Don’t let the averages fool you, he could say. While it looks like leisure time has gone up, time diaries show that leisure and sleep time have gone up steeply since 1985 for those with less than a high school degree. Why? They’re becoming unemployed or underemployed. And leisure and sleep time for the college educated, the ones working those crazy extreme hours, has fallen steeply.

Americans don’t have two “nurture days” per child until age 8, as Denmark does. No year-long paid parental leaves for mothers and fathers, as in Iceland. Nor a national three-month sabbatical policy, which Belgium has.

Instead of taking the entire month of August off, the most employers voluntarily grant us American workers tends to be two weeks. One in four workers gets no paid vacation or holidays at all, one study found. And, in a telling annual report called the “Vacation Deprivation” study, travel company Expedia figures that Americans didn’t even USE 577 million of those measly vacation days at all last year.

Center for Economic and Policy Research, May 2013 Center for Economic and Policy Research, May 2013

So as I watched the Cadillac commercial, hanging onto that rich white guy’s pause, I was hoping he’d make a pitch to bring some sanity to American workaholic culture. It wouldn’t have been a first for the auto industry. Henry Ford outraged his fellow industrialists when he cut his workers’ hours to 40 a week. (Standards in some industries at the time were for 12-hour workdays, 7 days a week.) Ford did so because his internal research showed 40 hours was as far as you could push manual laborers in a week before they got stupid and began making costly mistakes. He also wanted his workers to have the leisure time to buy and use his cars.

The rich guy takes a breath and smirks. We work so much “Because we’re crazy, driven hard-working believers, that’s why.”

Bill Gates. The Wright Brothers. Were they crazy? He asks. We went to the moon and, you know what we got? Bored, he says.

“You work hard. You create your own luck. And you’ve gotta believe anything is possible.” Fair enough. “As for all the stuff?” he says as he knowingly unplugs his luxury electric car, “that’s the upside of only taking TWO weeks off in August, n’est ce pas?”

Speed Kills -- Fast is never fast enough By Mark C. Taylor

October 20, 2014 | The Chronicle of Higher Education | Comments (59)

"Sleeker. Faster. More Intuitive" (The New York Times); "Welcome to a world where speed is everything" (Verizon FiOS); "Speed is God, and time is the devil" (chief of Hitachi’s portable-computer division). In "real" time, life speeds up until time itself seems to disappear—fast is never fast enough, everything has to be done now, instantly. To pause, delay, stop, slow down is to miss an opportunity and to give an edge to a competitor. Speed has become the measure of success—faster chips, faster computers, faster networks, faster connectivity, faster news, faster communications, faster transactions, faster deals, faster delivery, faster product cycles, faster brains, faster kids. Why are we so obsessed with speed, and why can’t we break its spell?

The cult of speed is a modern phenomenon. In "The Futurist Manifesto" in 1909, Filippo Tommaso Marionetti declared, "We say that the splendor of the world has been enriched by a new beauty: the beauty of speed." The worship of speed reflected and promoted a profound shift in cultural values that occurred with the advent of modernity and modernization. With the emergence of industrial capitalism, the primary values governing life became work, efficiency, utility, productivity, and competition. When Frederick Winslow Taylor took his stopwatch to the factory floor in the early 20th century to increase workers’ efficiency, he began a high-speed culture of surveillance so memorably depicted in Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. Then, as now, efficiency was measured by the maximization of rapid production through the programming of human behavior.

With the transition from mechanical to electronic technologies, speed increased significantly. The invention of the telegraph, telephone, and stock ticker liberated communication from the strictures imposed by the physical means of conveyance. Previously, messages could be sent no faster than people, horses, trains, or ships could move. By contrast, immaterial words, sounds, information, and images could be transmitted across great distances at very high speed. During the latter half of the 19th century, railway and shipping companies established transportation networks that became the backbone of national and international information networks. When the trans-Atlantic cable (1858) and transcontinental railroad (1869) were completed, the foundation for the physical infrastructure of today’s digital networks was in place.

Fast-forward 100 years. During the latter half of the 20th century, information, communications, and networking technologies expanded rapidly, and transmission speed increased exponentially. But more than data and information were moving faster. Moore’s Law, according to which the speed of computer chips doubles every two years, now seems to apply to life itself. Plugged in 24/7/365, we are constantly struggling to keep up but are always falling further behind. The faster we go, the less time we seem to have. As our lives speed up, stress increases, and anxiety trickles down from managers to workers, and parents to children.

There is a profound irony in these developments. With the emergence of personal computers and other digital devices in the late 1960s and early 1970s, many analysts predicted a new age in which people would be drawn together in a "global village," where they would be freed from many of the burdens of work and would have ample leisure time to pursue their interests. That was not merely the dream of misty-eyed idealists but was also the prognosis of sober scientists and policy makers. In 1956, Richard Nixon predicted a four-day workweek, and almost a decade later a Senate subcommittee heard expert testimony that by 2000, Americans would be working only 14 hours a week.

Obviously, things have not turned out that way. Contrary to expectation, the technologies that were supposed to liberate us now enslave us, networks that were supposed to unite us now divide us, and technologies that were supposed to save time leave us no time for ourselves. Henry Ford’s adoption of the policy of eight hours of work, eight hours of leisure, eight hours of rest seems a quaint memory of a bygone era. For individuals as well as societies, these developments reflect a significant change in the value and social status of leisure. During the era Thorstein Veblen so vividly described in The Theory of the Leisure Class, social status was measured by how little a person worked; today it is often measured by how much a person works. If you are not constantly connected, you are unimportant; if you willingly unplug to recuperate, play, or even do nothing, you become an expendable slacker.

Nowhere is the impact of speed more evident than in the world of finance. Since the 1960s, information, media, and communications technologies have given rise to a new form of capitalism. Financial capitalism involves a fundamental change in the way economic value is calculated: not by determining the relation of monetary and financial signs to real commodities, products, or assets like inventory, a factory, or real estate, but rather by their relationship to other financial signs like currencies, options, futures, derivatives, swaps, collateralized mortgage obligations, bitcoins, and countless other so-called financial innovations.

With the advent of Big Data and high-speed computers and networks, where more than 70 percent of the trades are algorithmically executed in nanoseconds, financial markets no longer function primarily to provide the capital necessary to keep factories running and businesses operating. The virtual economy of Wall Street has been decoupled from the real economy of Main Street. The value of fungible bits is determined by infinitesimal price differences that human beings cannot recognize fast enough to execute trades. Algorithms can program other trading algorithms to adapt on the fly without human intervention.

Though the importance of high-speed, high-volume trading is widely acknowledged, its political and social implications have not been adequately understood. The much-discussed wealth gap is, in fact, a speed gap.

In the past 50 years, two economies that operate at two different speeds have emerged. In one, wealth is created by selling labor or stuff; in the other, by trading signs that are signs of other signs. The virtual assets scale at a speed much greater than the real assets. A worker can produce only so many motorcycles, a teacher can teach only so many students, and a doctor can see only so many patients a day. In high-speed markets, by contrast, billions of dollars are won or lost in billionths of a second. In this new world, wealth begets wealth at an unprecedented rate. No matter how many new jobs are created in the real economy, the wealth gap created by the speed gap will never be closed. It will continue to widen at an ever-faster rate until there is a fundamental change in values.

One of the most basic values that must be rethought is growth, which has not always been the standard by which economic success is measured. The use of the gross national product and gross domestic product to evaluate relative economic performance is largely the product of the Cold War. As the battleground between the United States and the Soviet Union expanded to include the economy, the question became whether capitalism or communism could deliver more goods faster.

The preoccupation with the rate of growth did not end with the Cold War. In December 2012, Jared Bernstein, former chief economic adviser to Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., concluded a New York Times op-ed entitled "Raise the Economy’s Speed Limit" by arguing, "The first thing to do is to keep applying the accelerator on pro-growth policies that strengthen near-term demand."

There are only three ways markets can expand to keep the economy growing: spatially—build new factories and open new stores in new places; differentially—create an endless variety of new products for consumers to buy; and temporally—accelerate the product cycle. When spatial expansion and differential production reach their limits, the most efficient and effective strategy for promoting growth is to increase the speed of product churn. In fast food, fast fashion, fast networks, and fast markets, time has become money in ways Benjamin Franklin never could have anticipated. The highly touted virtues of innovation and disruption are merely the latest version of Joseph Schumpeter’s "creative destruction," which advocated growing the economy by accelerating obsolescence. Out with the old and in with the new, and the faster the better.

The obsession with speed now borders on the absurd. In the world of high-speed trading, investors in Chicago, for example, can no longer trade on New York markets because of the additional nanoseconds required to transmit buy and sell orders over networks that can never be fast enough. Far from making place irrelevant, speed has made location more important than ever. Financial firms, following a practice known as "co-location," now build facilities for their servers located as close as possible to the servers of the markets on which they trade.

But speed has limits. As acceleration accelerates, individuals, societies, economies, and even the environment approach meltdown. We have been conned into worshiping speed by an economic system that creates endless desire where there is no need.

The world that speed continues to create is unsustainable. Contrary to Thomas L. Friedman’s insistence that today’s high-speed global capitalism creates a flat world whose horizons are infinitely expandable, the world is both literally and figuratively round and, as such, imposes inescapable constraints. On this finite earth, there can no longer be expansion without contraction—any more than there can be growth without redistribution. When limits are transgressed, the very networks that sustain life are threatened.

To understand why we are approaching the tipping point, it is necessary to take a systemic approach. Financial capitalism is an example of a general principle for highly connected complex systems. Every such system has, as a condition of its possibility, that which eventually undoes it. In this case, the commitment to the policies of growth that has enabled the U.S. economy to prosper for decades now threatens its collapse. High-speed, high-volume markets have created unprecedented wealth for the .01 percent, but, as the 2008 financial meltdown and the 2010 Flash Crash demonstrate, they have also made the global economy much more volatile.

The problem is not only, as Michael Lewis argues in Flash Boys, finding a technological fix for markets that are rigged; the problem is that the entire system rests on values that have become distorted: individualism, utility, efficiency, productivity, competition, consumption, and speed. Furthermore, this regime has repressed values that now need to be cultivated: sustainability, community, cooperation, generosity, patience, subtlety, deliberation, reflection, and slowness. If psychological, social, economic, and ecological meltdowns are to be avoided, we need what Nietzsche aptly labeled a "transvaluation of values."

As a lifelong educator, I would like to think that this process might begin in the classroom. Unfortunately, many of the developments that have changed our economic system have also transformed our educational system. People often ask me how higher education and students have changed in the four decades I have been teaching. While there is no simple answer, the most important changes can be organized under five headings: hyperspecialization, quantification, distraction, acceleration, and vocationalization.

As I have noted, technologies that were designed to connect us and bring people closer together also create deep social, political, and economic divisions. The proliferation of media outlets has led to mass customization, which allows individuals and isolated groups of individuals to receive personalized news feeds that seal them in bubbles with little knowledge of, or concern about, other points of view. This trend also infects higher education.

Since the early 1970s, higher education has suffered from increasing specialization and, correspondingly, excessive professionalization. That has created a culture of expertise in which scholars, who know more and more about less and less, spend their professional lives talking to other scholars with similar interests who have little interest in the world around them. This development has led to the increasing fragmentation of disciplines, departments, and curricula. The problem is not only that far too many teachers and students don’t connect the dots, they don’t even know what dots need to be connected.

The emergence of the Internet creates the possibility of eroding these barriers and breaking down divisive silos, but the vested interests of nervous administrators and tenured faculty members committed to obsolete ways of organizing knowledge and teaching have blocked that promising prospect. Rather than expanding universes of discourse, networking technologies have, in many cases, narrowed the boundaries of conversation. Dealing with the problems created by a wired world will require a radical restructuring of the educational system at every level.

The growing concern about the effectiveness of primary, secondary, and postsecondary education has led to a preoccupation with the evaluation of students and teachers. For harried administrators, the fastest and most efficient way to make these assessments is to adopt quantitative methods that have proved most effective in the business world. Measuring inputs, outputs, and throughputs has become the accepted way to calculate educational costs and benefits. While quantitative assessment is effective for some activities and subjects, many of the most important aspects of education cannot be quantified. When people believe that what cannot be measured is not real, education and, by extension society, loses its soul.

Today’s young people are not merely distracted—the Internet and video games are actually rewiring their brains. Neuroscientists have found significant differences in the brains of "addicted" adolescents and "healthy" users. The next edition of the standard Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders will very likely specify Internet addiction as an area for further research. The epidemic of ADHD provides additional evidence of the deleterious effects of the excessive use of digital media. Physicians concerned about the inability of their patients to concentrate freely prescribe Ritalin, which is speed, while students staying up all night to study take Ritalin to give them a competitive advantage.

Rather than resisting these pressures, anxious parents exacerbate them by programming their kids for what they believe will be success from the time they are in prekindergarten. But the knowledge that matters cannot be programmed, and creativity cannot be rushed but must be cultivated slowly and patiently. As leading scientists, writers, and artists have long insisted, the most imaginative ideas often emerge in moments of idleness.

Many people lament the fact that young people do not read or write as much as they once did. But that is wrong—the issue is not how much they are reading and writing; indeed they are, arguably, reading and writing more than ever before. The problem is how they are reading and what they are writing. There is a growing body of evidence that people read and write differently online. Once again the crucial variable is speed. The claim that faster is always better is nowhere more questionable than when reading, writing, and thinking.

All too often, online reading resembles rapid information processing rather than slow, careful, deliberate reflection. Researchers have discovered what they describe as an "F-shaped pattern" for reading web content, in which as people read down a page, they scan fewer and fewer words in a line. When speed is essential, the shorter, the better; complexity gives way to simplicity, and depth of meaning is dissipated in surfaces over which fickle eyes surf. Fragmentary emails, flashy websites, tweets in 140 characters or less, unedited blogs filled with mistakes. Obscurity, ambiguity, and uncertainty, which are the lifeblood of art, literature, and philosophy, become decoding problems to be resolved by the reductive either/or of digital logic.

Finally, vocationalization. With the skyrocketing cost of college, parents, students, and politicians have become understandably concerned about the utility of higher education. Will college prepare students for tomorrow’s workplace? Which major will help get a job? Administrators and admission officers defend the value of higher education in economic terms by citing the increased lifetime earning potential for college graduates. While financial matters are not unimportant, value cannot be measured in economic terms alone. The preoccupation with what seems to be practical and useful in the marketplace has led to a decline in the perceived value of the arts and humanities, which many people now regard as impractical luxuries.

That development reflects a serious misunderstanding of what is practical and impractical, as well as the confusion between the practical and the vocational. As the American Academy of Arts and Sciences report on the humanities and social sciences, "The Heart of the Matter," insists, the humanities and liberal arts have never been more important than in today’s globalized world. Education focused on STEM disciplines is not enough—to survive and perhaps even thrive in the 21st century, students need to study religion, philosophy, art, languages, literature, and history. Young people must learn that memory cannot be outsourced to machines, and short-term solutions to long-term problems are never enough. Above all, educators are responsible for teaching students how to think critically and creatively about the values that guide their lives and inform society as a whole.

That cannot be done quickly—it will take the time that too many people think they do not have.

Acceleration is unsustainable. Eventually, speed kills. The slowing down required to delay or even avoid the implosion of interrelated systems that sustain our lives does not merely involve pausing to smell the roses or taking more time with one’s family, though those are important.

Within the long arc of history, it becomes clear that the obsession with speed is a recent development that reflects values that have become destructive. Not all reality is virtual, and the quick might not inherit the earth. Complex systems are not infinitely adaptive, and when they collapse, it happens suddenly and usually unexpectedly. Time is quickly running out.

Mark C. Taylor is chair of the department of religion at Columbia University. His latest book, Speed Limits: Where Time Went and Why We Have So Little Left, is just out from Yale University Press.

No self-respect cognitive dissonance in the office...

2/10/06 | Guardian

How do you avoid becoming a corporate drone? Firstly, it helps to accept that if you spend most of your waking hours confined to the office, it will eventually get to you. Anyone starting an office job expecting to escape the politics and petty bureaucracy is in for a shock. You can't expect to remain dignified in that environment. It's better to recognize your inevitable deterioration into something contemptible. The only alternative is to join the ranks of the deluded, seek opportunities and aspire to professionalism – but that's the action plan of the trainee drone.

Of course, jobs are supposed to give people self-respect, not take it away. But due to the nature of the typical workplace (authority hierarchies, miscommunication, chaos), employees end up behaving in undignified ways: concealing things from their bosses, redirecting blame, feeling resentment over trivial matters, reporting that everything's fine when it isn't, hiding in the toilets, etc.

Obviously this behavior doesn't fit our beliefs about ourselves as essentially rational and well-adjusted. The result is cognitive dissonance, which occurs when our self-image is contradicted by our actions. How can you come to terms with your 'guilty' behavior if you see yourself as honest and dignified? You think you're above it all, but the evidence of your own actions shows that you're immersed in it. Faced with the horror of your out-of-character behavior, you rationalize and make excuses. You turn into an office drone.

Any smart person with a meaningless job suffers the crippling cognitive dissonance of: "I am intelligent, my waking hours are spent in stupidity". Rationalizations are used to mask the frustration: "I'd be bored without my job" (if you really believe that, it's probably time to consider entering a nursing home). According to Leon Festinger, creator of dissonance theory, the less you are paid to do stupid work, the more you will attempt to rationalize it ("well, it was fun"), rather than admit to doing it for the money. Remember this next time you hear someone claim to "enjoy" their underpaid desk job.

As an office worker, don't expect to have any dignity. Perhaps the only way to stay sane is to accept that you'll turn into something despicable. Don't fall for the office management propaganda about integrity and professionalism. In the corporate workplace, self-respect is out of the question – it exists only in the delusions of drones.

[Aug 29, 2012] Work-Related Stress

Recently, the commander of Canada's military, Lt.-Gen. Romeo Dallaire, left his work to be treated for post-traumatic stress disorder. He says he didn't lose his ability to cope until two years after the mission to Rwanda, when he became suicidal.

"Sometimes I wish I'd lost a leg," he says on a video produced for counselling of soldiers.

"You lose a leg, it's obvious and you've got therapy and all kinds of stuff. You lose your marbles ... very, very difficult to explain, very difficult to gain the support that you need."

This military commander's testimony lends credibility to the crushing effects of post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD, which arises from experiencing one or more extraordinarily horrific and life-threatening events.

By contrast, teachers' stress typically arises gradually over many years, resulting in accumulative stress disorder or ASD-commonly called burn-out or exhaustion. Recently a teacher of 22 years described it this way: "I'm not sleeping through, waking in the night with panic attacks, loss of memory, on edge at home and school, mind racing. Calmed myself with a few drinks in the evening; that made me more edgy, so I quit that. I'm getting more and more distant from my wife and kids, and I'm burnt out of my career. I don't even know who I am anymore."

What major factors contribute to teachers' accumulative stress? Take an idealistic, mission-oriented teacher who tries to meet everybody's needs; place this teacher in a hurried, time-bound, ever-evolving school system that can ask for the best on the one hand, and can erode character and destroy trust on the other; set the school system in communities and among families who question authority; and add the aging process and the family life events that will inevitably occur with that teacher. The result: numbers of teachers experience the extreme effects of accumulative stress on themselves, their work and, eventually, on their families.

As a counsellor with NSTU, I am privileged to meet some of the most dedicated teachers in Nova Scotia. Unfortunately, by the time I meet them in counselling, they are often extremely exhausted, suffering from ASD. This is understandable, for as General Dallaire says, "You lose a leg, it's obvious." ASD creeps up. Teachers lose their energy, their sleep, their desire and capability to care, their identity as a good teacher. They wait and wait, hoping the next weekend, holiday or vacation will fully restore them. Their families and friends share the burden. Sometimes it is only when these teachers notice the effects on their families and friends that they take corrective action.

Without breaching confidentiality, this article gives voice to exhausted, disheartened teachers and the effects of accumulative stress on their families. These teachers offer a message of courage for us all.

As teachers gradually accumulate stress, families can lose teachers to teaching. A husband stands at the back door on August 20 with the family pet beside him. His wife, a teacher, is going to school to set up her classroom. He mutters to the dog, "Say good-bye to her, Skippy. That's the last we'll see of her until next July 1."

Just as family stress goes to school with teachers, so too does work-related stress, and no scalpel exists that could divide the stress created in the two main centres of our lives.

Teachers express stress many ways in families. Consider the following:

Does teaching in today's school affect teachers' home life more than in past years? Many teachers would say, "Yes, definitely." One male high school teacher aptly explains, "I'm overwhelmed with kids' problems. They're dealing with probation, pregnancy, drugs, you name it. The system is designed to burn you out if you're too conscientious in care of the kids. It's stacked against you. You can't do the job the way you know is best for the kids. I know I was a good teacher. I don't know any more if I can even be a decent husband or father."

Teachers commonly describe the burden of guilt and neglect of their own families. "I put more time and effort into my students than into my own children. And when I do spend time with my kids, I'm often correcting their behaviour and trying to control them to live up to my perfectionist standards. Is it possible to just enjoy my own kids?" asks one beleaguered teacher.

The stress on the family can become extreme when sick leave has been used up. One anxious teacher put it this way, "I just don't know how we're going to manage while waiting for the salary continuation decision. And if it doesn't come through, I'm just going to have to go back to the classroom, even if it ruins my health for life. My family depends on my income; I have no choice."

Of course, some of the effect of teachers' work stress on their families is inevitable. As caring persons, teachers take students' needs to heart and may be unaware of the costs of caring. Teachers may minimize the costs of work-related stress on families and glibly accept the cost as "part of the price of doing a good job." For the idealistic teacher, "caring too much" is an oxymoron.

For the exhausted teacher, "caring too much" smacks of reality. And the threat of breakdown of health, or of couple and family relationships, is often the bell that tolls the heavy cost of teachers' accumulative stress. As one teacher observed, "I didn't know my partner meant so much to me till we temporarily separated. It's funny too-the first time in years that I told my kids how much they meant to me was when I was down and out. I'm reunited with my partner now, so I guess this work exhaustion had a silver lining for me with my family."

Teachers daily walk the shoreline of social change, where past ways of thinking and relating meet future ways of doing and being. This presents both danger and opportunity: the danger of losing values of the past, and the opportunity of participating in co-creating the future. Travelling this shoreline throughout a teaching career requires a delicate balance.

Teaching entails a great deal of planning for tomorrow and evaluating yesterday. Hence, for teachers it's a struggle to live "today." While evaluating students' work, teachers are implicitly evaluating themselves, and often coming out feeling they are less than superb. This can induce considerable self-pressure. By comparison, most of the working public undergo only annual performance evaluations.

Since most teachers want to create both healthy families and healthy school environments, how can teachers reduce work-related stress in their homes and foster healthy work-styles in their schools?

First, recognize accumulative stress as a reality. Don't wait for the possible breakdown of health or couple-family relationships to toll your alarm bell. Refuse to live at work. Limit your work time by your energy level and the clock, not by the time demands of the task.

Contribute to healthy work styles among staff. Support time for self-care, setting limits and saying "no" as warranted. Share resources, ideas and mutual appreciation.

Here are four suggestions from teachers recovering from exhaustion.

Teachers often describe the peak of accumulative stress as a breakdown. Later in the healing process, they may describe it as a breakthrough. It's a breakthrough to choose a liveable balance of work and play, family life and school life. It's a breakthrough to the courage to be.

Peter Mullally is a Therapist of Counselling Services at the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.

[Apr 28, 2012] Lessons from Sheryl Sandberg Stop Working More Than 40 Hours a Week

You may think you're getting more accomplished by working longer hours. You're probably wrong.

There's been a flurry of recent coverage praising Sheryl Sandberg, the chief operating officer of Facebook, for leaving the office every day at 5:30 p.m. to be with her kids. Apparently she's been doing this for years, but only recently "came out of the closet," as it were.

What's insane is that Sandberg felt the need to hide the fact, since there's a century of research establishing the undeniable fact that working more than 40 hours per week actually decreases productivity.

In the early 1900s, Ford Motor ran dozens of tests to discover the optimum work hours for worker productivity. They discovered that the "sweet spot" is 40 hours a week–and that, while adding another 20 hours provides a minor increase in productivity, that increase only lasts for three to four weeks, and then turns negative.

Anyone who's spent time in a corporate environment knows that what was true of factory workers a hundred years ago is true of office workers today. People who put in a solid 40 hours a week get more done than those who regularly work 60 or more hours.

The workaholics (and their profoundly misguided management) may think they're accomplishing more than the less fanatical worker, but in every case that I've personally observed, the long hours result in work that must be scrapped or redone.

Accounting for Burnout What's more, people who consistently work long work weeks get burned out and inevitably start having personal problems that get in the way of getting things done.

I remember a guy in one company I worked for who used the number of divorces in his group as a measure of its productivity. Believe it or not, his top management reportedly considered this a valid metric. What's ironic (but not surprising) is that the group itself accomplished next to nothing.

In fact, now that I think about it, that's probably why he had to trot out such an absurd (and, let's face it, evil) metric.

Proponents of long work weeks often point to the even longer average work weeks in countries like Thailand, Korea, and Pakistan–with the implication that the longer work weeks are creating a competitive advantage.

Europe's Ban on 50-Hour Weeks.

However, the facts don't bear this out. In six of the top 10 most competitive countries in the world (Sweden, Finland, Germany, Netherlands, Denmark, and the United Kingdom), it's illegal to demand more than a 48-hour work week. You simply don't see the 50-, 60-, and 70-hour work weeks that have become de rigeur in some parts of the U.S. business world.

If U.S. managers were smart, they'd end this "if you don't come in on Saturday, don't bother coming to work on Sunday" idiocy. If you want employees (salaried or hourly) to get the most done–in the shortest amount of time and on a consistent basis–40 hours a week is just about right.

In other words, nobody should be apologizing for leaving at work at a reasonable hour like 5:30 p.m. In fact, people should be apologizing if they're working too long each week–because it's probably making the team less effective overall.

Knuth Recent News

Wanted: A Name For High-Tech Grief

A rapidly spreading kind of trauma now affects millions of people every day, but the English language hasn't yet been extended to deal with it.

Well-known neologisms like `jet lag' and `road rage' describe well-known phenomena. But what do we call the combination of helplessness and agony that affects us when our computers or computer-based appliances do inexplicable things, for which there's no apparent workaround?

TG Daily - Man throws his computer out the window, police sympathize

I've often seen secretaries in tears when they're trying to cope with name-brand operating systems. My computer-savvy friends tell me that their vacations with relatives tend to be occupied mostly by the need to fix hardware and software glitches. I myself have often cried out for help to colleagues who have generously made house calls, in order to unwedge my highly customized Linux system.

Recent discussions with friends have led to several good suggestions, including:

In a few random conversations I found that the first of these was most likely to provoke instant recognition and a lively response. But my sample size has been small.

What to do? I suggest that, the next time you're attacked by this malady, you run through the list above and see which term best characterizes your feelings. Then blog about it. The best term should soon rise to the top, and become integrated into our common vocabulary.

[Jan 15, 2007] Job Burnout - A Summary by Dr. Beverly Potter

Adapted from the book by Beverly A. Potter "Overcoming Job Burnout: How to Renew Enthusiasm for Work", May 15, 2005, 238 pages. Ronin Publishing ISBN: 1579510744 (978-1579510749 )

... ... ...

To understand the causes of burnout it helps to understand what sustains motivation. Just as the body needs vitamins and protein for optimal health, certain "nutrients" are also essential to sustain high motivation: (1) Rewards for good work, and (2) Feeling you can control things that influence you. These factors nourish motivation and help overcome burnout.


Personal power, the capability to influence the world around you in the ways you desire, is the opposite of helplessness, which causes burnout. Personal power is empowering and combats burnout. Personal power is a feeling of I-Can-Do - a belief that you can act to control your work. While we have little control over other people, we do have control over ourselves - something we tend to forget when we're feeling helpless. As we develop our capabilities, we gain a sense of mastery and control.

The experience of mastery changes everything. Because striving for mastery focuses your attention on areas in which you are skilled, a sense of confidence and being in command of yourself develops. Building personal power comes from developing your capabilities, your powers. It means learning how to get what you need. To the extent you are able to do this, you are powerful.

[Jan 15, 2007] Don’t let on-the-job stress lead to burnout By Deanne DeMarco

Burnout usually occurs when stress builds and a person feels they are no longer able to control their world, and lack motivation to proceed. Sometimes the physical and psychological problems can become severe enough to cause illness and the inability to function on the job. The worker feels overwhelmed and his or her career is actually threatened.


1. Use Humor. Change your perspective on your situation. Learn to smile, look for the humor in the workplace. Sometimes looking at a situation or a problem in a different light can help you to feel differently about the event. A recent UCLA Medical Center study suggests that laughter and humor can help to reduce stress. Laugh: it’s good for you!

2. Pace Yourself. Maintain a practical schedule with your expectations. Identify job activities that could be simplified, and plan thoroughly to prevent last minute problems. Use good time management strategies to help pace the workload.

3. Reinforcement. Value yourself and your contribution to the company. Do the best work you can, even if you feel no one is noticing. Keep reinforcing positive thoughts in your mind.

4. Release Stressful Emotion. Being frequently angry, filled with rage or anxiety, is not healthy. Taking a brisk walk or some other physical activity using the large muscles will help release pent up emotions and aid the body to eliminate harmful chemical responses.

5. Practice Good Nutrition. Stress robs your body of needed vitamins and minerals such as vitamin B and vitamin C, potassium, calcium and zinc. A number of research studies have concluded that stress increases susceptibility to illness. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables, maintaining a balanced diet and limiting the amount of caffeine, nicotine and sugar promotes health and improves your ability to handle difficult situations.

6. Talk to Someone. Share your burden; discuss stressful events with another person. Often an associate, friend or Employee Assistance Program (EAP) counselor can help you see the lighter side or offer a fresh approach to the problem.

7. Take Time for Yourself. Take stress breaks during the day. Stretch at your desk. Take short vacations at least twice a year. It is important to take time off for yourself especially during stressful periods.

[Jan 15, 2007] Reversing Burnout

Stanford Social Innovation Review

... ... ...

Burnout reflects an uneasy relationship between people and their work. Like relationship problems between two people, those between people and their work usually indicate a bad fit between the two, rather than just individual weaknesses, or just evil workplaces. And so reversing burnout requires focusing on both individuals and their organizations to bring them back into sync with each other.2

Beating burnout is not just a matter of reducing the number of negatives. Indeed, sometimes there is not a lot you can do about the negative aspects of work. Instead, it is often more useful to think about increasing the number of positives, and of building the opposite of burnout, engagement. When burnout is counteracted with engagement, exhaustion is replaced with enthusiasm, bitterness with compassion, and anxiety with efficacy

The Six Areas of Burnout

How do individuals and organizations move from burnout to engagement? How do they make sense of what's going wrong, and figure out how to make things right? Our surveys and interviews of more than 10,000 people across a wide range of organizations in several different countries have revealed that most person-job mismatches fall into six categories: workload (too much work, not enough resources); control (micromanagement, lack of influence, accountability without power); reward (not enough pay, acknowledgment, or satisfaction); community (isolation, conflict, disrespect); fairness (discrimination, favoritism); and values (ethical conflicts, meaningless tasks).3

We originally developed this six-category framework as a way of organizing the vast research literature on burnout. Our subsequent work then showed that both individuals and organizations could use the framework to diagnose which categories are especially troublesome for them, and then to design interventions that target these problem areas.4 The six-area framework has now been incorporated into assessment programs for organizations5 and for individuals.6

To fix burnout, individuals and organizations must first identify the areas in which their mismatches lie, and then tailor solutions to improve the fit within each area. In Mark's case, his core problem is work overload. Workers in the nonprofit sector are distinctly vulnerable to work overload for two reasons. First, nonprofit organizations may often have fewer resources than organizations in other sectors, leaving workers with too little time and too few tools with which to handle their workload. Second, nonprofit employees have high expectations and are attempting to solve truly monumental problems. Their idealism can lead them to overextend themselves and take on too much.

Mark is also experiencing an imbalance in the area of values. Although workers in the nonprofit sector may not face the same ethical dilemmas that many workers in for-profit companies do, they often feel value conflicts of a different sort: between the loftiness of their ideals and the realities of their day-to-day work. This is what is going on with Mark, who often feels so bogged down in the details of organizing volunteers and coordinating actions that he loses sight of the larger goal of environmental preservation. His work no longer feels meaningful to him

Mark also feels a lot of dissatisfaction in the area of rewards. No one goes into the nonprofit sector to get rich, but Mark expected to enjoy his activist activities more. He also expected more appreciation and praise from his colleagues and from the communities he serves.

In contrast, Susan's core problem is in the area of community. 7 In her work setting, she is excluded from her colleagues' circle of support, and she spends a lot of time feeling isolated and lonely. Being left out of the loop introduces a second mismatch for Susan, this time in the area of control. By the time an issue appears on a meeting's formal agenda, the matter has already been settled in the informal conversations in which Susan could not participate. As a result, Susan does not feel that she has an adequate say in how she does her work.

As time wears on, Susan has begun to suspect that her lack of community and control at work are due to a third area of mismatch: fairness. She wonders whether the male doctors in the ER are discriminating against her because she is a woman. Because of this hint of injustice, Susan feels not only anxious and uncertain about how best to do her job, but also angry and hostile toward her colleagues.

Two Paths to Engagement

There are two paths to banishing burnout: the individual path, and the organizational path. Both Mark and Susan took individual approaches; they first identified the mismatches leading to their burnout, and then enlisted their colleagues and organizations in addressing those mismatches.8

An organizational approach, in contrast, starts with management first identifying mismatches that are commonly shared, and then connecting with individuals to narrow these person organization gaps.9 The sidebar (left) describes how this organizational approach was used in a large organization. This strategy of working collaboratively on shared problems can be used in organizations of any size, even those nonprofits that are small and that have limited resources.

No matter the path to engagement, it is important to keep in mind that positive changes don't just happen. Instead, people must take action, and well-informed action, at that. Rather than assumptions and "best guesses" about what the problem is, the six-area diagnostic tool can help pinpoint it more accurately. Solutions that don't address the problem can be worse than no solutions at all.

For example, we recall attending a meeting of teachers for which the school superintendent had hired a motivational speaker to inspire them and help them deal with stress. As the speaker reeled off stories from his own days as an athletic coach, we watched the teachers sitting silently, their venom rising with each minute. They did not lack motivation. Decent pay, adequate supplies, parents' support, a manageable workload, yes. But not motivation. The superintendent's well-meaning attempt to nip burnout in the bud only nurtured it.

Lightening Mark's Load

Having identified workload as his main relationship problem with his work, Mark is finding ways to relax during strenuous times. He now takes regular breaks in which he gets away from the job, either physically (e.g., by jogging around the neighborhood) or mentally (e.g., by reading a book that has nothing to do with his activist interests). Even more effective for him are temporary changes in work, in which he "downshifts" to some less demanding task (e.g., taking care of routine paperwork, sweeping the floor) before returning to the more challenging jobs.

Another critical discovery for Mark is that he really didn't have to be the center of his activist universe. Instead of being the lone person who does everything, he is learning to delegate tasks, to train others to do what he did, and to get them to share the responsibility. "Now I don't struggle against the feeling of burnout," he says. "I'll say to myself: 'Oh, I'm burned out, I'll just sit here for a while. Let somebody else do it.' And you know what? Somebody else does."

Mark's new perspective on his place in his activist organization reflects the wisdom of an older colleague who told him: "When I was younger, I was convinced that I needed to drive myself every single minute. Now I feel that I can go to the sauna, and I'll still hate imperialism in an hour and a half. And that's helped me to stay an activist."

By addressing his workload problem, Mark has simultaneously improved the fit between him and his activist work on the dimension of value. To relieve stress, he took several long hikes in the wilderness, which renewed his feelings of awe at the beauty of nature -- feelings that fueled his commitment to environmental activism in the first place. "I felt in love. It was a passion I hadn't felt in a long time. There was very little burnout. Instead there was a craving."

Building Susan's Community

After zeroing in on community as her primary area of self-work mismatch, Susan first took a few minutes at the start of her next shift to talk with Tom, one of the most approachable of the doctors. Tom told Susan that he was amazed that she could feel left out, and assured her that no one intended to exclude her. Susan didn't quite buy Tom's assurances, but nevertheless replied that she was pleased to hear this, because she certainly didn't want to go through the complicated, time-consuming, and awkward process of making a formal complaint. She was confident that before too long, the ER doctors' clique would know all about their conversation.

Susan took the second step toward narrowing the gap between her expectations and her work reality at the next meeting of the ER medical staff. She told the staff that she was feeling left out of important decisions, and requested that they include her in all discussions about clinical matters and hospital issues during her shift. There were a few furtive glances, but overall most people nodded and said, "Of course."

With Tom and a few other doctors, Susan has smoothly moved into relaxed conversations. She refers to her feelings of burnout only within the context of working on better ways of working together. With the other doctors, it has been more of an uphill battle, but is still an improvement over silence. Since Susan took her complaints to her colleagues, there have been a lot fewer surprises at medical staff meetings, making Susan feel like she has more say in her work environment. She also now realizes that the doctors' previous exclusive patterns were more a matter of thoughtlessness than a concerted campaign to exclude her -- thereby assuaging her fears of sexism.

Feeling that she is part of a community, respected, and in control is giving Susan a renewed enthusiasm for her work. The end of the shift brings the same familiar pattern of aches and pains from the hours on her feet. But the dullness of feeling is now rare.

"Looking back now, I'm shocked to think of how close I was to losing my connection to the work that I love and that I do very well," she says. "It's not just about working with the patients. It's taking on colleagues and relationships to make sure you're included and respected."

By confronting the situation in an informed and focused way, Susan has been able to repair the relationship between herself and her work. An important principle in Susan's situation is that unfair treatment is difficult to sustain after it has been brought into the open. There were no defensible grounds for excluding Susan from professional discussions at work. But the situation persisted until Susan called her colleagues on their actions.

Shining On

Mark and Susan have had different experiences of burnout, reflecting the unique qualities of their work settings. Each situation involved a different area of mismatch, and each called for distinct solutions. Note that neither attempted to address all of their mismatches at once. Rather, each first identified and addressed his or her core area of concern.

Both had also begun to feel the personal costs of burnout, which include poorer health and strained private lives. But at least as important, Mark's and Susan's organizations had also begun to suffer. When employees shift to minimum performance, minimum standards of working, and minimum production quality, rather than performing at their best, they make more errors, become less thorough, and have less creativity for solving problems. They are also less committed to the organization and less willing to go the extra mile to make a real difference.

Burnout is not a problem of individuals but of the social environment in which they work. Workplaces shape how people interact with one another and how they carry out their jobs. When the workplace does not recognize the human side of work, and there are major mismatches between the nature of the job and the nature of people, there will be a greater risk of burnout. A good understanding of burnout, its dynamics, and what to do to overcome it is therefore an essential part of staying true to the pursuit of a noble cause, and keeping the flame of compassion and dedication burning brightly.


  1. "Mark" and "Susan" are pseudonyms.
  2. For our review of the psychological literature on burnout, see Maslach, C., Schaufeli, W.B., & Leiter, M.P. "Job Burnout," in Annual Review of Psychology 52, eds. S.T. Fiske, D.L. Schacter, & C. Zahn-Waxler (2001): 397-422.
  3. Maslach, C. & Leiter, M.P. The Truth About Burnout (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1997).
  4. Leiter, M.P. & Maslach, C. "Areas of Worklife: A Structured Approach to Organizational Predictors of Job Burnout," in Research in Occupational Stress and Well- Being 3, eds. P.L. Perrewe & D.C. Ganster (Oxford: Elsevier, 2004): 91-134.
  5. Leiter, M.P. & Maslach, C. Preventing Burnout and Building Engagement: A Complete Program for Organizational Renewal (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2000).
  6. Leiter, M.P. & Maslach, C. Banishing Burnout: Six Strategies for Improving Your Relationship With Work (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2005).
  7. See also De Jonge, J. & Kompier, M.A.J. "A Critical Examination of the Demand- Control-Support Model From a Work Psychological Perspective," International Journal of Stress Management 4 (1997): 235-258.
  8. Leiter & Maslach, Banishing Burnout: Six Strategies for Improving Your Relationship With Work.
  9. Leiter & Maslach, Preventing Burnout and Building Engagement: A Complete Program for Organizational Renewal.

[Jan 15, 2007] Feature: Job burnout can affect anyone by Master Sgt. Merrie Schilter Lowe

Air Force News Service

WASHINGTON -- Job burnout normally afflicts people in helping or service professions -- such as ministry or medicine -- but it can affect anyone.

Psychologist Herbert Freudenbeger, who claims credit for the term, defines burnout as a depletion of energy and a feeling of being overwhelmed by other peoples' problems.

The condition is analogous to combat stress in that it occurs when a person has "seen too much, done too much, and had to contend with a situation for too long," said Col. (Dr.) Karl O. Moe, chairman of the psychology department at Malcolm Grow Medical Center, Andrews Air Force Base, Md.

Job burnout, he said, results from prolonged work stress. Symptoms include digestive upsets; a constant sense of fatigue, coupled with insomnia; and an extreme anxiety over proving one's self-worth.

If not treated, burnout can lead to depression and even suicidal thoughts, Freudenbeger said in his book "Burn-Out."

He lists warning signs that people should watch for:

Once a person is burned out, the solution could be in changing jobs. "It doesn't have to be out of their career field," Moe said. For example, he said an emergency room nurse could work in a different section of the hospital, "somewhere that doesn't cause such an emotional drain." After a period of time, the person could go back to the emergency room, Moe said.

Since prolonged stress leads to burnout, the No. 1 buffer against stress is social support, Moe said.

"You need to have someone at work whom you can talk with and blow off steam. You don't even have to talk about the problem, as long as you have enough of a relationship to know you could talk about it if you wanted to," Moe said.

If support at work is not possible, "talk with someone in your family or from church, or one of the organizations you belong to," said Moe.

Burnout victims also need to take care of their physical needs with rest and proper nutrition, according to Drs. Frank Minirth and Paul Mier in their book "How to Beat Burnout."

Additionally, they recommend that the person talk about his or her negative feelings rather than bury them. This will help the burnout victim see the situation more realistically, they said, and move on.

For more information about stress or job burnout, people can contact the base mental health clinic, Moe said.

[Jan 15, 2007] Burnout

Burnout is a cluster of physical, emotional and mental exhaustion reactions. It is the result of constant and repeated emotional upheaval associated with people at home and in the work place. It is created by an environment with too many pressures and not enough support. People who burn out develop negative self-concepts and job attitudes, while becoming detached, apathetic, angry or hostile.

Burnout is a major problem in the helping occupations, where people give a lot to others but fail to take care of themselves in the process. Professionals in medicine, social work, law enforcement and education are especially prone to burnout symptoms.

Of course, burnout can also affect people in other types of careers as well. Jobs that promote burnout include ones in which workers do repetitive or routine tasks, never get much feedback or have a lot of responsibility but very little control.

Employees who are suffering from burnout feel they are answerable for everything that happens. They feel they receive very little cooperation from co-workers, and they personally feel powerless to change things. These feelings tend to make them assume a martyr-like position, become resigned and apathetic, and focus on the worst aspects of the job. Persons suffering from burnout often blame others or the situation, rather than taking action for change. How does burnout happen? It can begin when a person who has difficulty setting priorities and putting life into balance is confronted with a stressful home or work environment. Some common sources of job-related stress include:

Many people learn to with job-reowonists, idealists and workaholics. They start out enthusiastic about their work, dedicated and committed gh energy levels, positive attitudes and are high achievers.

Over time, stress and the inability to cope with it lead to pessimism and early job dissatisfaction. Workers in the early stages of burnout feel fatigued, frustrated, disillusioned and bored. They may suffer from symptoms of stress, such as:

As burnout progresses, work hgin to deteriorate. Affected workers arrive late and leave early. Productivity drops. They become isolated and withdrawn and avoid contact with co-workers and supervisors. They become increasingly angry, hostile and depressed. Most suffer from physical symptoms of stress such as: In the final stages of burnout, workers experience an irreversible feeling of detachment and a total loss of interest in their jobs. Self-esteem is very low. Feelings about work are totally negative and chronic absenteeism becomes a problem. At this point, the only course of action is to change careers.

Burnout doesn't happen overnight, and it can be reversed with the right steps. Managers can help by:

Baptist Hospital East's Center for Behavioral Health offers Building Healthy Employees, a program which provides on-site training on topics such as team building, communication, assertiveness, stress management and relaxation, workplace wellness, conflict resolution, self-esteem and peak performance, and accessing strengths. The Center for Behavioral Health also offers Relaxing in the 90s: A Stress Management Workshop for individuals who want to learn more about stress management and relaxation techniques. For more information, call (502) 896-7105.

[Aug 03, 2001] IT staff cracking up under pressure By James Middleton

IT managers may well be on the brink of burn-out, according to research which found that many technical staff are being pushed beyond the limits in terms of working hours.

The results found that a quarter of IT managers work a 60-hour week, which represents almost four hours overtime per day. Also, 90 per cent of IT managers typically exceed the 48-hour working week set out by the European Working Time Directive.

Government sector workers are hardest hit, with 100 per cent of respondents working above and beyond the call of duty. Retail was second worst with 93 per cent working overtime, followed closely by the education, finance, manufacturing and hi-tech sectors.

The main reason behind the extra hours was a lack of resources, according to 28 per cent of the respondents. Another 22 per cent said that the pressure of development work accounted for extra time, with 10 per cent highlighting unrealistic deadlines as a major problem. A further 14 per cent said that they were expected to be available for out of hours support calls.

David Godwin, vice president of strategy at Attenda, the internet outsourcing company responsible for the research, said that "UK companies needed to adopt a 24-hour culture if they were to succeed in the internet economy".

But he added that the UK was going about it the wrong way by putting the "responsibility for maintaining a 24-hour presence onto in-house IT departments on top of already heavy workloads".

Almost all IT managers in the south of England, excluding those in London, said they were affected by extra working hours, with the next worst spot being the Midlands. Around 86 per cent of London managers said they were affected, with 75 per cent in Scotland and 71 per cent in the north of England.

Godwin likened the IT manager working day to that of a junior doctor. "While burn-out among IT managers is not a matter of life or death, the potential to cause damage to their companies' online presence is great," he said.

Breakaway Careers Is That Overwork Or Just Enthusiasm

May 28, 2001 | InformationWeek

What a recent study considers overwork in the U.S. workforce at large may be little more than business-as-usual for the IT professional. Working "12 to 14 hour days and over the weekend is just the status quo for IT," says Russell Clark, director of E-commerce and portals for OAO Technology Solutions Inc., an IT consulting firm with a staff of 2,200, in Greenbelt, Md.

But Clark agrees with the Families and Work Institute survey of 1,003 workers that it's not just the amount of work that determines whether someone feels overworked. Hard work paired with personal control over the work--for example, working to advance in a career, or saving toward college--can give a feeling of satisfaction. Overwork is more likely when people work longer hours for external reasons, such as needing to meet management expectations or because the workload requires that much time.

Or maybe it's boring. IT professionals generally work on a project basis, and for Clark there's a thrill akin to winning a race in reaching project milestones and hitting the big deadlines. "You love it," he says. "but if it's a project you're not interested in, once you get past eight hours, you get upset."

Some say no matter what the job, consistent long hours still add up to overwork. John Drake, author of Downshifting (Berrett-Koehler, 2001), and founder of an HR consulting firm known now as Drake Beam Morin, says IT is probably the worst area for overwork abuse. "IT is a key piece in most companies; long hours and dedication are expected--especially in small startups where it's 'we give you stock, you grow the company, work 12 to 16 hours a day,'" he says.

To avoid employee burnout, Clark rotates the work among his 20 staffers, and encourages a team environment where it's easy to have fun. In a previous job at Disney/ABC Sports, his group created sports games for PCs and PlayStations. Project deadlines coincided with the start of each major league season: baseball was due by April, football by August. "Even if you're not into sports, you'd get into it," he says. "Staying late and on weekends was just fun to us. If I were by myself doing the same work, it would've been no fun."

Longer work hours are becoming the norm, though not by choice. The average American employee works 42 hours a week and would prefer to work just under 35. A recently released InformationWeek Research 2001 Salary Survey finds that on average, IT staffers work 45 hours a week plus 24 hours of on-call time. Managers are working 50 hours a week, and on-call time is up 60% from last year's 15 hours a week to 24 hours.

Beth Devin, senior VP of retail technology, Charles Schwab & Co., says IT systems are partially to blame for the longer on-call hours. More systems are 24-by-7, she says, "more are customer-facing, so they can't go down. Before, you could do lots of background work during hours when the business is closed."

Drake says there's a cost to overwork: It can lead to costly mistakes, resentment, anger, and even workplace violence. His bottom line: Companies will only do something about the problem if they see a payoff. Drake expects the big payoff to be greater retention of good employees and lower recruiting costs.

Technology 'workaholics' sabotaging America by Paul Farrell

LOS ANGELES (CBS.MW) -- In a recent column, "No Thanks, I Don't Want To Be A Millionaire," we reviewed an AARP survey of Americans' attitudes toward getting rich. Interestingly, they discovered that lots of Americans are saying: "No, I don't want to get rich. I don't want to be wealthy. I don't want to be a millionaire."

Why? Because it's just not worth it to them. The price is too high, too much of a loss of their humanness. However, for a majority of Americans, getting rich is a major goal -- but they are paying a high price.

Sorry, too busy for Workaholics Anonymous!

"The more we become connected, the more detached we become to the more
human elements of life."

U.S. News &
World Report

And unfortunately, the price is getting even higher. Listen to how subtle and deep the problem has become. A recent U.S. News & World Report tells of a software engineer who was "too busy" to drive some distance to Workaholics Anonymous meetings for help with his addiction.

So he set up an Internet chapter of the organization. Now he's got time to spend kvetching online with more than one hundred workaholics worldwide who attend these digital meetings.

But that's hardly scratching the surface. Turns out that 44% of Americans call themselves workaholics, well over 100 million. No wonder U.S. News is concerned about this new addiction:

"Can we keep working harder and harder indefinitely?" Americans are now working an average of 47 hours a week, an increase of 4 hours in two decades. We're working longer and harder, and yet a recent Gallup poll shows that 77% of us "enjoy the time away from work more than they do their time on the job." In short, most Americans are not "doing what they love." Most are "doing what they don't love," assuming the money will follow. But at what price?

Will technology sabotage the new economy?

These surveys are interesting. America's economy, our markets, our companies, our labor force are all focused on increasing productivity, output, returns, wealth. And one of the great benefits of technology was supposed to be as a labor-saving tool.

Technology was supposed to increase the efficiency of human effort per production unit, make life easier, and (we were promised) give us more time for our personal lives. What a joke! The opposite is the truth. Listen to Stephen Roach of Morgan Stanley Dean Witter:

This issue is not going away. In fact, it is absolutely guaranteed to become a much bigger problem for Americans. Moreover, at some point it is likely to backfire and sabotage many of the positive gains technology is clearly adding to our new economy, as Roach hints.

Scary stuff! We know technology's promises are already backfiring on a strictly materialistic level, forcing us to work harder, not less. But, in addition, they are also taking away our intangible humanness, especially with Internet technology, because, "the more we become connected, the more detached we become to the more human elements of life."

When programmers can write no more

It happened to Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Tennessee Williams. All wrestled with monumental cases of writer's block. Now you can add Jon Bentley and thousands of other modern-age writers to the list.

But Bentley isn't a writer of plays or poetry. He, first and foremost, is a writer of code. And in the digital age, his affliction is called programmer's block. The "I've hit the wall" feeling is just the same as writer's block, however, it happens when the programmer's brain is unable to fathom where that next line of code will come from.

When Linux enthusiast site Slashdot earlier this week conducted a programmer's block session online, hundreds of developers chimed in with their favorite antidotes. The question: "What do you do if your productivity drops to two lines of code a day, and you just sit and stare at the code and feel like you don't know how to do it anymore?"
coder's block (Score:5, Insightful)
by macpeep on Tuesday August 01, @07:38AM EDT (#28)
(User #36699 Info)
I just came back to Finland from something of a nightmarish project in Singapore. Me and a fellow coder wrote almost 1MB of code in a month (and even documented a large part of it in the same time). I spent some 330 hours coding during that month and quite often I would hit this very problem for whatever reasons, stress, fear, anxiety, lack of sleep. Since we were under a very tight deadline, I had to figure out a way to get around it and I actually came across something that worked for me. Hopefully someone else will find this useful.

Finding myself unable to code, I started writing the code in english on paper. I would sit down in a corner of the room and start writing in english. "check the user permissions. if the guy is an admin, show this and that screen. for each line in the screen, make sure it's bla bla." and so on. Once I was done and saw that I had something that could work, I took the text, pasted it into the existing source code and started translating it to code (Java in this case). Maybe it won't work for everyone, but it did wonders for me and I was able to overcome my block several times this way

Sleep, lotsa caffiene and a little research. (Score:2)
by BoLean ( on Tuesday August 01, @07:39AM EDT (#32)
(User #41374 Info)
Been there tons of times. What usually works for me is getting lots of sleep, drink lots of caffiene and do a little "research". the first to will get your mind into a state where you can focus better and the research can help you see the possibilities. Newsgroups are good for this. Lots of examples to peruse while you are thinking. Getting started is the toughest part when you are stuck, so just start trying things and a solution will usually come to you.

Coder's block seems the biggest problem for me when I don't have confidence with what I'm doing. Recently a large Intranet project I am working on did a 180 degree turn when I was asked to reimplement my work in VBA/ASP instead of PHP. I hit a wall. I felt like I was being asked to "dumb down" my application and implement it in a buggy language. What finally got me going was what I mentioned above. It's really a lot like running. Sometimes you have to push through the low points to keep going.

"Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." - Albert Einstein

The Truth About Burnout How Organizations Cause Personal Stress and What to Do About It

Technostress and the Reference Librarian by John Kupersmith

Reference Services Review 20 (Summer 1992), 7-14,50. -- All rights reserved. (mirror Fatigue)


In a sense, all reactions to stress--from initiating a self-instruction program to hiding under one's desk--are forms of coping. Some, however, are more constructive, more appropriate to the reference workplace, and more likely to succeed than others. Coping with stress is a highly individual matter; different people react to a situation in different ways. Here are some guidelines for individuals facing technostress:


It is easy to get so involved in reference problems, or so drawn into the cerebral, precise, high-speed world of the computer, that you forget the intimate connection between body and mind. Some of the most effective techniques for immediate relaxation work through the body: for example, breathing deeply and regularly, or alternately tensing and relaxing muscles. Other techniques free the mind from mechanical routine: for example, visualizing yourself in an idyllic, peaceful setting. Disciplines such as yoga and t'ai chi combine both aspects, and can be very rewarding; but even the simplest relaxation methods are vastly better than no relaxation at all. [17]

Stay Healthy

Sound general health may be an individual's greatest ally in coping with technostress, as it is with other forms of stress. Taking care of one's self naturally includes getting proper nutrition, exercise, and rest. [18] The more intense the work environment, the more important it is to place this in perspective and make sure one's off-the-job activities and interests are sufficient to provide both physical and mental variety. Whatever your preference--climbing rocks, listening to Mozart, petting the cat, or just sitting barefoot on the back porch with a glass of iced tea--the injunction to "get a life" has special meaning for those overburdened with high tech.

Cultivate a Positive Attitude

While reading articles about technostress is not recommended as a prime relaxation technique, it certainly helps to realize that you are not alone. Recognizing that stress is natural, that ambivalent feelings toward technology are acceptable, and that many others in the profession have the same problems, opens the way to a more relaxed and positive attitude.

Cognitive psychologists have demonstrated the importance of "self-talk"--the internal monologue of self-evaluating statements that forms a large part of most people's mental activity. Seemingly simple techniques, such as replacing negative thoughts with positive affirmations, can be very effective in overcoming self-doubt and perfectionism. [19] If you find yourself thinking "I'll never get the hang of these CD-ROMs," try replacing this with "I can help most people who come to the desk with CD-ROM questions." When faced with a new challenge, think back and visualize your past successes in similar circumstances.

Finally, cultivate a sense of humor--specifically, the ability to laugh at your own situation (as opposed to waxing sarcastic about computers or library users). This may be the most important technique of all; it is certainly the best barometer of psychological health.

Manage Your Time

As the notion of negative self-talk implies, technostress can become a self-fulfilling prophecy; the perception that one is a victim can get in the way of constructive choices and actions. Conversely, positive steps that move a person away from victim status are likely to improve a stressful situation.

An excellent first step is to devote some time each week to learning and exploration. Since there is never enough time, and since urgent everyday demands will always be competing for attention with long-range learning goals, this will probably require a conscious setting of priorities and some skillful time management. To reduce external interruptions and demands, set aside some personal space and time for learning, with the understanding that calls are to be returned later, visitors asked to come back at another time, and E-mail not monitored.

Set Realistic Goals

No one can be an expert at everything. To guide the learning process, pick an area where you can make a contribution and concentrate your efforts there. Approach this personal territory with a spirit of exploration but also with tangible goals in mind, such as preparing for a demonstration to other staff. When you reach a goal, celebrate!


Clearly, the individual initiatives described above are most likely to succeed in an organization that encourages and rewards these efforts, placing an explicit value on professional development and adaptation to change. Here are some concrete steps that department heads, online coordinators, and administrators can take to support front-line staff: [20]

Believe in Each Individual

Some people on any reference staff have special aptitudes for searching, some for teaching, some for pioneering, and some for applying established methods. Each has his/her individual starting point for development. One may be ready to explore the Internet, while her colleague may need to take a typing class to become an effective searcher. All are worthy, and each can make a contribution if given the proper support. Especially where a staff member's self-esteem is on the line, an attentive and positive attitude on the part of a department head or coordinator can make a significant difference. This is one area in which "management by wandering around" pays real dividends.

One way to make people more comfortable with new technologies is to provide a low-anxiety setting for learning. For example, at The University of Texas at Austin General Libraries, a "Prototype Information Workstation" [21] was set up for testing and demonstration purposes, and staff were invited to sign up for individual practice sessions. When few responded, the online coordinator began offering individual guided orientation sessions using this machine. The usual agenda consists of a quick review of the workstation's capabilities, followed by whatever the learner wants to explore; other universities' online catalogs and various Internet resources are common topics of interest. The sign-up rate is still low, but so far at least one person per department has taken advantage of this opportunity.

Foster Cooperation

While some people work and learn best on their own, many can benefit from the mutual support of a team setting. One useful technique for helping new searchers overcome their initial anxiety is the "buddy" or "mentor" system in which the novice is guided by a more experienced colleague--first watching some actual searches, then "soloing" under the mentor's supervision.

Most reference department heads and library managers have learned the value of involving staff in planning for new technologies and services: to foster a sense of control and ownership, and (pragmatically) because they know a lot. Designated groups and task forces can be especially valuable when the initiative comes directly from the staff. At UT Austin, for example, the library administration recently began inviting staff to submit proposed charters for "Innovation Teams ... to explore library-related problems and issues in a creative manner and to seek solutions that will benefit the organization." [22]

Organize and Filter the Information Barrage

Department heads and online coordinators are responsible for seeing that staff get current information about new technologies and systems. However, as anyone with a full in-basket knows, merely routing printed information does not guarantee that people will pay attention to it, let alone act on it. There may not be time to sit down and write digests or reviews for the staff, but some selectivity in routing materials, and some indication of what is most important, can help. Other typical means of communication include searchers' meetings and forums featuring guest speakers, demonstrations, or discussions of service issues.

Provide Opportunities for Hands-on Practice

Developing and retaining computer skills requires application of the proverb "I hear and forget; I see and remember; I do and understand." Not surprisingly, researchers have found that experienced searchers perform better than novices, and that "even a brief acclimatization can result in significantly enhanced results." [23] While many libraries take advantage of online training provided by vendors and database producers, effective learning requires ongoing, hands-on practice.

Typical practice opportunities include use of DIALOG's ONTAP files, EPIC practice files, and equivalents on other systems; offline practice on CD-ROMs that operate like their online counterparts (e.g., DIALOG OnDisc); and where equipment permits, the chance to "work out" on new CD-ROM systems before they go public. A good case can also be made for offering each qualified searcher a certain amount of subsidized searching on actual online databases, for purposes of practice, demonstrations, and individual research. Experience with a $50/searcher/year subsidy at UT Austin suggests that not all searchers will take advantage of it (a help at budget time!), and that those who do appreciate this useful "perk."

Distribute the Expertise

In today's complex environment, it is unrealistic to expect each librarian to completely master every information system. All reference staff need to have a basic level of competence on major end-user systems, and possibly on some mediated systems as well. [24] Beyond that level, it makes sense to divide up the territory, putting specific people in charge of certain technologies, vendor systems, or databases.

This distribution of responsibility benefits the individuals involved, by letting them concentrate their energies and attain mastery in specific areas. It benefits the online coordinator, who can draw on the assigned "experts" for advanced assistance. It also benefits staff and users in general, since reference staff and administrators alike will know where to go with questions or referrals.

The classic example of this strategy, as applied to new technologies, is the Library Technology Watch program at the University of California at Berkeley. In this program, six staff members serve as volunteer "topic experts" specializing in "Optical Disk Technology (including CD-ROM), Hypermedia and Multimedia, Information Transfer (including downloading from databases and catalogs into personal bibliographic databases), Networks and Networking (BITNET, the Internet, etc.), Expert systems and Artificial Intelligence, [and] Emerging and Miscellaneous Technologies."

Participants devote five hours per week to this program, with their other responsibilities shifted accordingly. They are expected to "read current literature in the field, summarizing and routing to other Library staff as appropriate; contribute to a monthly attachment to CU News of annotated citations of current literature; draft position papers as required for Library policy advisory committees and/or Library administration; give presentations to Library groups or staff at large; consult with peers at other institutions; serve on appropriate task forces or committees; [and] cultivate contacts with faculty engaged in information technology research and with appropriate Information Systems and Technology staff." These duties emphasize serving as an information resource in the chosen area, rather than troubleshooting, training, or being the sole provider of direct services. The first year's experience with this program reportedly has been very positive. [25]

Simplify the Technicalities

Librarians who are reluctant to do online searches often complain that the process is cumbersome, with too many technical details to remember. While lobbying vendors to streamline their systems and adopt the NISO Common Command Language may have salutary long-term effects, there remains much that online coordinators can do in the short term to improve the local interface for searchers. Paul Heckel's advice to software designers is applicable here: "The effective communicator looks for simplicity as it will be perceived by his audience, and he will do complex things to achieve that simplicity." [26]

Are your searchers learning logon sequences that could be built into "auto-logon" scripts, one for each vendor? Most communications programs have this capability. Once this is accomplished, consider providing a menu-based environment that presents a list of online systems and lets staff initiate a search by selecting the one they want. On an MS-DOS machine, this can be done with batch files or specialized programs such as Automenu; on a Macintosh, with careful arrangement and naming of windows and icons.

Once searchers are logged on, one-page "cheat sheets" are a speedy, convenient, and anxiety-reducing alternative to lengthy printed manuals. Several vendors now provide this kind of documentation under such names as bluesheets, aidpages or reference cards. Similar sheets are worthwhile for the communications software itself, or for particular search activities such as duplicate removal, output formatting, or downloading from CD-ROMs. The goal is to change these situations from "emergencies" to routine matters.

Lower the Anxiety Threshold

Another common complaint from searchers is the "ticking meter" phenomenon. Particularly in a mediated search when the customer is present, the buildup of online costs creates psychological pressure that can distract the searcher and result in mistakes.

To reduce this pressure, searchers at UT Austin have a financial "safety net." If a searcher makes an error or encounters a system problem that significantly increases the search cost, he/she has the option of having the library pay for that portion of the search, charging the customer only for the successful portion. Having this option available manifestly reduces anxiety; when it is exercised, explaining the situation to the customer provides some immediate positive public relations. Reports of such "charge-offs" give the online coordinator an indication of possible training needs. Since it is seldom invoked more than once or twice a month, this policy has proved to be affordable.

Online systems can also be designed to reduce anxiety. DIALOG's recently announced "set notice" command, which causes a warning message and cost estimate to appear whenever the searcher gives a command that would generate output costing more than a preset amount, should have a salutary effect. [27]

Set Priorities

Operating library services with a static or decreasing staff and budget is a challenge that requires explicit setting of priorities at the individual, departmental, and library levels. This process must include specification of low as well as high priorities. In the environment of the 1990s, inability to make these choices (even when masked by a "we do it all" attitude) is a sure way to intensify stress among staff.

One way to delineate priorities is to specify the levels of service to be given to various user groups. Many libraries have policies in place regarding eligibility for online search services. An example of a more comprehensive approach is the "Library Service Priority Program" recently announced by UC Berkeley.

As new service patterns emerge, libraries need to consider how their markets for computer-based information are segmented and which services should be supported by various kinds of staff activity. This process involves both philosophical and pragmatic questions. What is the library's responsibility to ensure the quality of search results--and, given differing user needs, what is "quality" in the first place? Should users of "full-service" (mediated) search services, online end-user services, or public CD-ROM terminals have priority for staff time? Given clear and realistic instructional objectives for each type of user, what is the most cost-effective means of delivering instruction in each case? Is the demand for equipment troubleshooting great enough to justify dedicated staff? The answers to these questions will vary from one institution to another. The important thing is that they be asked and that locally "correct" solutions be implemented.

New technologies also call for libraries to set priorities, lest our reach (what is technically possible) exceed our grasp (what staff are actually equipped and trained to deliver on a daily basis). At UT Austin, for example, a current priority is to get searchers set up with the software, information, and skills required to telnet to other online catalogs and information systems on the Internet. A similar program to foster use of Internet file transfers (via ftp, WAIS, etc.) is being deferred until this first step is accomplished. Generally, we will promote a new technology to users only after staff are sufficiently familiar with it. This may not always place us on the cutting edge of progress, but it does allow staff to master proven techniques at a reasonable pace, thus helping to ensure that we can deliver what we promise

Drowning in Paperwork

Being Evaluated - Is There ANYTHING more Time-Wasting or Aggravating at The Median Sib

The paperwork is mind-numbing.  What are my areas of strength as a teacher, and what are my reasons for selecting those areas of strength?  What are my areas for growth and the reasons for selecting those areas for growth?  That comprises the first two pages of paperwork.  I haven’t started on anything yet because I just hate it.

Then I must answer the following questions about the lesson I will teach on Tuesday morning - notice the explanations in parentheses for anyone who can’t figure out the first part:

(1)  What is the student goal(s)/objective(s) for the lesson?  (What is the ultimate desired outcome of this lesson?)  In the event that students are working on individual objectives, choose 2 or 3 students and provides their objectives.

(2) What information do you have regarding your students’ current abilities in relation to this objective(s) and how has this impacted the design of this lesson?

3.  What teaching strategies will you use to teach this objective? (How will you accomplish your objective(s)?)

4.  What are the student indicators of success within this lesson?  (What behaviors will you look for to determine whether or not the students are meeting the objective(s)?)

5.  Identify the data which will be collected to evaluate the students’ achievement of the goal(s)/objective(s).

6.  What future assessments will you use to determine the retention and ongoing application of today’s learning?

7.  What is the relationship of this lesson to the larger unit of study and to your annual goals?

8.  Do you have any concerns at this point regarding this lesson or these students?

Then there is another page for the “Reflecting Information Record” that has seven more questions to be done after the evaluation/observation.  I won’t bore you by writing those out.  Then there are (I SWEAR it’s true) SIX more pages of paperwork to finish after that.  There’s an “Educator Information Record” and “Professional Growth Plan” and a “Future Growth Plan.”  Right now I have no idea what the difference is in those last two.  Guess I’ll find out soon.

Yes,  I’m procrastinating by writing this post instead of working on the work (that’s a joke that some of my readers may get - depending on what books your school system requires you to read).  But REALLY, is all this paperwork crap necessary?

Common Good What Matters Most

Reading the teachers’ diaries is an exercise in frustration: Tales of breaking up fist fights; confiscating scissors from one student threatening to stab another; a student threatening to slash a teacher’s tires — and time and time again, there are no consequences for misbehavior. The offending students are simply returned to the classroom.

Standardized testing has consumed increasingly larger parts of the day. Some teachers were pulled from their regular teaching assignments for up to five weeks as they administered and graded tests. One teacher wrote: “This situation emplifies what education in New York City has become — preparing for tests, testing, and grading tests. What has happened to teaching?”

Mandated teaching requirements also created some frustration for the teachers — especially the veterans. “Sometimes I feel like I’m a robot regurgitating the scripted dialogue that’s expected of us day in and day out,” one writes. Another teacher restates her day despondently: “Teach mini-lesson... Student raises hand with question. Tell him to put hand down. Students not allowed to ask questions during mini-lesson. Feel guilty.”

The report also describes constant interruptions during class time — administrators calling seeking paperwork, PA announcements and parent visits. One Common Good researcher observed a teacher who was interrupted sixteen times in a single day. A certain amount of test preparation, disciplinary action and paperwork can and should be expected in a typical workday for any teacher, but the situations described in the diaries can’t possibly be what anyone truly intended. Layer upon layer of new mandates developed without a teacher’s voice — much less a real collaboration between classroom professionals and those who supervise them — have resulted in a system that substitutes time- consuming bureaucratic routines for quality teaching and learning.

This is not unique to New York. If we are serious about improving America’s schools, we need to listen carefully to what teachers are telling us. We must bring order and safety to our schools, because learning suffers in an environment that is neither safe nor secure. We need to strike a healthy balance between teaching and testing, because students are denied important opportunities or new learning when testing is excessive. And we must respect the skill and commitment of our educators, providing them with the professional latitude they need to do their jobs, rather than drowning them in paperwork and micromanagement.

That’s just common sense.

Work Overload of Netslaves

[Nov. 5, 1999] NetSlaves ~ Usually ships in 2-3 days
Bill Lessard, Steve Baldwin / Hardcover / Published 1999 Our Price: $13.97 ~ You Save: $5.98 (30%) Average
Prudloe Vensigian from Deep Run Mobile Home Park, Maryland , November 1, 1999
These guys are nuts, and that's great! Oh yeah! From reading Netslaves it's easy to tell that these guys have been on the front lines of the new media wars for a long, long time. Not in the Generals' tents, but out where the layoff bullets fly and talented employees are more often rewarded by watching their kiss-ass co-workers get promoted over their heads than by anything else. If you are in, or want to get into, the fast-paced Internet go-go economy, you must read this book. No, you're not the only one who has found (or will find) that the pot of gold at the end of the Internet rainbow has already been emptied by investment bankers and other leeches, and that your share is just big enough to rent a studio apartmen, pay your ISP bills, and buy takeout pan pizzas every few days. I create Web site content for a living, so I live what these guys write, and dammit, I still love my work as much as ever despite the fact that doing the scut work behind the Internet is just as horrid as Steve and Bill say it is. As the late songwriter and newspaper humorist Sylvia Miller put it, "If misery loves company, then you're the one for me. You like to cry into your beer, wine always makes me shed a tear."

Slashdot Book Reviews NetSlaves

A pretty naive review,  but good discussion
If you read newspapers, books, or follow Net-business coverage on TV, you might well think work on the Net is mostly about the billionaires who found Hotmail or Yahoo or Netscape, or the clean, benefit-laced, campus-like work environments they provide. You'd have no way of knowing the much more pervasive and unnerving reality: for every one of those there's a zillion companies that come into the world still-born, fail miserably, make and sell crummy stuff, and hire countless miserable, exploited, harassed and burned-out programmers, techies, geeks and nerds.

Baldwin and Lessard are combat veterans of the Net, both in terms of writing and personal experience. They are also long-standing Truth Tellers.

In addition to writing about computing for a number of magazines and websites, they also run the guerilla website NetSlaves, a running testimonial to real life for many in the hi-tech workplace.

"NetSlaves" is a terrific extension of the site, one of the few books to come off of a website that really works as a book. Lessard and Baldwin have a powerful story to tell, and they do it with a lot of punch. "NetSlaves" ought to be handed out to every graduate of every tech school, and given to every new employee of every Net company.

Baldwin and Lessard say their grand "pre-alpha" statement about the Nature of Net-Slavery is this:

"Technology has changed, but human nature hasn't. Whether it's the Gold Rush of 1849 or the Web Rush of l999, people are people. More often than not, they're miserable, nasty, selfish creatures, driven by vanity and greed, doing whatever they can to get ahead, even if it means stepping on the person next to them, crushing the weak, and destroying themselves in the process."

The authors don't have a particularly high regard for many forms of Net work, which they lambaste as the New Media Caste System, but they care about Net workers, and the book is curiously affectionate, even loving about them, as well as a hoot to read.

Both concede that one of their purposes in writing "NetSlaves" is to have the book serve as a quasi-historical, quasi-anthropological reflection of a particular moment in the culture.

Although the tone of "NetSlaves" is informal and funny, the point is pretty serious. "NetSlaves" has done what legions of reporters and authors have so far failed to do: paint a truthful picture of about the new nature of work in the techno-centered world.

For all of the media blabber about Net commerce and hi-tech startups, life in this fast lane can be brutal - insane hours, almost no employee-employer loyalty, greed and moral cowardice, help-desk geeks driven mad by enraged customers, back-stabbing, savage pressure, competiveness and the many resultant neuroses from all of the above.

Baldwin and Lessard make no pretense of objectivity. They write with almost ferocious authority and persuasiveness. They describe themselves as "two angry, cranky bastards out for blood" on behalf of their exhausted selves and the countless burnouts, geniuses, thieves, opportunists, workaholics and losers they've encountered along the way.

"NetSlaves" gives us a whole new language for the villains and back-stabbers who make up the hi-tech workplace. Particular venom is reserved for the "Fry Cooks," the "get it done at all costs" project people of the New Media Caste System. (There's also the "Garbagemen," the workers who have to get servers up and running when they crash).

My favorite chapter is about the "Cab Drivers," the haunted and hunted itinerant Web freelancers who design sites, followed closely by "Gold Diggers and Gigolos," a scathing portrait of the ambitious, night-crawling, hard-partying, butt-kissing movers and shakers and wannabees of hi-tech work world.

"Most Web sites are designed by itinerant, restless young people who have given up the constraints of working for one company in particular, in exchange for the self-determination of pursuing their own path. The rationale is that they can earn a higher hourly rate and pick and choose their projects.

"The reality, however," write Lessard and Baldwin, "is that these Cab Drivers have to constantly hustle for work and their passengers, or clients, who are also cash-crunched, are notorious for skipping out on their fares. Added to this is the lack of health benefits that Cab Drivers face - a plight which has forced many to simply neglect themselves." This is a world in which workers are terrified or despondent when forced to take a few weeks off, convinced they'll fall behind forever.

"NetSlaves" succeeds wonderfully in its goal to tell the truth about a particular culture at a critical juncture in time. It is, in fact one of the few telling looks inside the new kinds of workplaces springing up in the hi-tech, global economy. Workers beware.

[July 27, 1999] The High Tech Sweatshop

Comments are much more interesting than the story. The latter  is kind of suspect ;-)


Its 4:30 am on a Friday and I just finished the last Mountain Dew. We ran out of coffee hours ago, the remains of it now black sludge at the bottom of the pot. The buildings air conditioning went off sometime the previous night and its up to almost 90 degrees in the server room. The two volunteer hackers on the staff went home after 12 hours, leaving me and the sysadmin… 

This is a normal day for me. 

I‘m a systems engineer in the client services division of a network security software company. Basically what that means is that when networks break, I fix them. 

I am 22 years old, I make a large multiple of the national average salary, and if I cashed in my stock options I could buy a very nice house. I’m also sixty pounds overweight, I sleep an average of four hours a night, and I have several ulcers. I usually spend about 60 hours a week at the office, but I’m on call 24 hours a day seven days a week. If I was honest with myself Id probably say I worked about one hundred hours last week. This is a normal life for someone working in this industry.

We live in a world today that runs on information. And people want all of it now. When was the last time you actually wrote out a personal letter to someone, on paper, in pen? Why bother when E-mail is so much faster and easier? But what goes on behind the scenes when you hit the “send” button? There are thousands of people out there just like me who have titles like “Network engineer” and “Systems administrator”. We keep that information flowing, and we get paid what seems like a lot of money to do it. If you’ve been in the market for a good network admin lately you know what I mean. The market is pushing the salary into the 100k+ plus range for someone with the necessary experience to handle even a relatively small network, never mind what the really large companies like State Farm insurance or Wells Fargo bank have.

I started work on this problem with the sysadmin on Thursday before the close of business, getting things set up, preparing for the changes etc… The company was switching internet service providers that night because the previous one hadn’t provided the level of service they needed. This entailed changing the IP addresses, and DNS configurations of every machine in the building, running three different operating systems, probably two hundred machines all told, then setting up the servers, routers, and switches necessary to get it all running. It’s a big job, but with six people working on it we figured we could get it done before start of business the next day. Normally you would do this kind of thing over a weekend, but the ISP could either do the changeover tonight, or wait till next week, and we needed to be online before Monday. 

Getting back to what happens when you press the send button. You expect the computer to send the message, and that the person it was sent to will receive it. What happens to the message then is an incredibly complex series of storage, sending, routing, switching, redirecting, forwarding and retrieving, that is all over in a fraction of a second, or at most a few minutes. But you don’t care how or why it gets there, only that it does, and this is all you should care about. After all you don’t have to know how your cars engine works in order to drive it right. But someone has to know in case it breaks. And when your email breaks you expect someone to fix it. It doesn’t matter what time it is, or where the message is being sent, you want it to get there now. 

Its now 8 am and the network is still down. We’ve managed to isolate a routing problem and are in the process of fixing it. The ISP gave us the wrong IP addresses and now we have to go back and redo all two hundred machines in the building. The router was crashing and we couldn’t figure out why. Two hours on the phone with the vendors support, and three levels of support engineer later we fix it. People are starting to come in to work and ask why they can’t get their email. The changeover process takes us about three hours and finally everyone has the right IP, but things still aren’t working right. A bunch of people use DHCP for their laptops and the DHCP people cant get out to the net. The CEO of the company is one of those people…

So what do we do? Well we hire people to take care of the network. And we give them benefits and pay like any normal employee. We also give them pagers, cell phones, a direct phone lines to their houses so that any time, any where, we can get them, because the network could go down, and we DEPEND on that network, and those people. This is where things go skew from the normal business model. 

All compensation is basically in exchange for time. The only thing humans have to give is their time. When I pay you a salary it is in exchange for me being able to use your abilities for a certain period of time every year. The assumption is that the more experienced or knowledgeable you are the more your time is worth. This works fine when you are being paid a wage, but salaried employees aren’t. They exist under the polite fiction that all their work can be done in a forty hour period every week, no matter how much work there is. We all know this isn’t the case of course. And when it comes to Systems administrators and network engineers that polite fiction isn’t so polite. In exchange for high salaries and large stock options the company owns you all day and all night, every day and every night. You are “Mission critical”. High salaries become an illusion because when it gets down to it your hourly rate isn’t much better than the assistant manager of the local Pep Boys. 

I finally went home at 1 that afternoon. I couldn’t stay awake any more and if I didn’t leave right then I wouldn’t have been able to drive home. The funny thing is I felt guilty for leaving. Things still weren’t working quite right, and I felt like I should have stayed until they were. Even funnier is that I volunteered for this. The only part of the job that I actually had to do was to change a few IP addresses and configure the firewall, but I thought I’d lend a hand, and I couldn’t do the firewall till everything else was working anyway. My wife hadn’t seen me in two and a half days, and I could barely give her a kiss when I walked through the door and collapsed on my bed. The SysAdmin was fired a few hours after I left. Back to work Monday morning.

From reader comments:

like furnace stokers (Score:2, Funny) by ( on Monday July 26, @06:57AM EDT (#2) (User Info) i sometimes liken system and network admin to being a coal stoker in the basement of a big building, just shoveling coal into the furnace 24/7 to keep the business above running.  punchline of your story is that they fired the (only?) full time system administrator. personal and professional info on homepage: Amen Brother (Score:1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 26, @06:58AM EDT (#3)

Been there. All I can suggest is that you make a serious effort to spend more time playing and less time working. When I left my last job, I had 8 weeks vacation accrued, and a real bad attitude. I took two months off working, and now I limit my work week to 50 hrs on regular weeks, and anytime I work more than that, I take off a day or half day in the following week.  This has really helped me be a lot nicer person overall (and my wife REALLY likes that). I have always met folks in high positions who DO appreciate my effort, and have thus always had stellar reviews and reccomedations for future employment.  Good luck, and stay sane.

[July 15, 1999] Information overload can be coupled with real overload, that is characteristic of startups.

 As one Slashdot reader put it (ArticlesHome Sweet Sweatshop):

They think that because they work 18 hours a day, neglect their home life, end up divorced, have kids that don't know them, and few real friends, they are "Heroes". They gave their all, 110%. Guess what, for that 110%, you will get a watch and maybe a small pension when you retire. You will dye alone, and no one that ever worked with you will care. There is so much more to life than the grind. People who overwork themselves aren't heroes, they are idiots...

Another reader stated about WEB-related jobs

I work in "the Industry" and telecommute from home (very small apartment on the 5th floor). I have 10+ people over me and a few below me, and I've never met any of them face to face -- I only know them by e-mail, though I work with them every day for 18+ hours, sleeping on a futon in between.

Pay is good, but it's very isolated -- no human contact at all, and I get very tired of staring at the same Netscape, Emacs, and shell windows all day, every day.

I go through 150+ ounces of dew and coke every day, and there's nothing directly outside but traffic and other buildings. Time pressure is also fairly high. Everything must always be done "within 24 hours" because that's the way the Web works, I guess. I'm getting fairly tired of working this way.

Another interesting quote:

You know, media companies aren't the only ones. ANY sort of internet startup, and I've worked for MORE than one, has so many unreasonable demands that it's absurd.

And in my experience, most of it's the people in charge. I'm working for a startup now. Hating every minute of it. I'm expected to work 80 hour weeks, be on call, do customer tech support (I'm the system administrator), and do seven other people's jobs while I'm at it.

Which *NECESSITATES* a 70 hour work week. Every.. freaking.. week! And to add insult to injury, I'm not even paid 1/4th of what I'm worth according to every salary survey out there. And of course, I'm going to be the first one asked to take a pay cut or vacation when the VC runs out. Which I expect to be very soon.

The company is a management disaster. Ignorance and blatant lack of record keeping and blatant lack of research has already wasted over $4 *MILLION*. And of course, in typical "let's get ready for that day far FAR away when we make an IPO" fashion, we have a CEO, CFO, CTO, and COO already. Who's combined salaries could buy me *two* RS/6000 SP2 Advanced Switches (which, last check, are over $100k/ea) *AND* a Lexus!

Yet another:

Why DON'T you take your own advice? I've left two companies so far, when the management got absolutely intolerable--when the 'con' list got longer than the 'pro' list.

Two truths I've learned in my first two internet jobs (since '94, when I graduated university):

Burn Rate : How I Survived the Gold Rush Years on the Internet

Michael Wolff / Paperback / Published 1999 Our Price: $11.20 ~ You Save: $2.80 (20%) Average Customer

 A reader from Dallas, Texas , August 21, 1999

Simple, targeted revenge for mistakes he made in business I struggled to force myself to finish this book in hopes that somewhere, maybe even on the last page there would be a reason for having ever purchased this book. I was wrong. I felt like the entire purpose of this book was to make others look worse than the writer, and thereby raise himself up in the process. It didn't work. The internet has only just begun, yes there were early days, but it's a fast growing medium that, unlike any other medium, the masses can control. There are big players, there are major corporations in the game, but people still have control over what they do. Arrogant editors and writers & VCs miss the point. The medium is about people, community, tribal aspirations, connections, ideas, concepts or the simplest truth of them all.......the internet is a campfire, pure and simple enough for even this author to somehow have understood from the earliest days of his internet struggles. I enjoyed reading AOL.COM, had high hopes this book would be in that class, it was/is not.

A reader from Pune, India , August 20, 1999

Excellent narravative of startups and VC-Owner relationship Among the various books available on the topic of startups, etc, this book most closely and frankly puts across the relationship between the Founder of a startup and the VCs who finance it. Also recorded the life and death of a internet startup. At times, the author seems almost aplogogetic, but that is always better than cockiness.

A very good buy!

A reader from Indianapolis , August 11, 1999

Business Blinders Michael Wolff's attack on the the Internet Business world is interesting, but he makes the one mistake every business person seems to make: there is more to the world than making money. There is more to the Internet than how it is commercialized. If there are NO businesses on the Internet in the future, it still is going to be important. Since Wolff never get's beyond Television asumptions, he overlooks some of the most interesting things that Internet has to offer in Many to Many communication: the regular guy is just as accessable as the huge corporation. The regular guy can probably make money EASIER than the big corporation. There is more to life than being the organization man...

Common Signs of Burnout Dr. Beverly Potter

Negative emotions

Interpersonal problems

Health problems

Below-par performance

Substance abuse

Feelings of meaninglessness

Recommended Links

Softpanorama hot topic of the month

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Improve your supervisor relationship and reduce stress -

The battle with burnout

Burnout Inventory (Test)

Burnout Self-Test -- from Baptist Hospital East

Show Me Careers - Burnout -- very good have great references

Top 10 Signs you have job burnout -- humor

ACoA and Job Burnout -- story

Baptist Hospital East - Health Information - Burnout on the Job


Preventing Job Burnout

by Susan Friedmann

ExhibiTips, Volume 3. #3, March 1995, Professional Development

Copyright Trade Show Exhibitors Association

(Feature) Job burnout can affect anyone -- Airforce news


Top 10 Signs That You Have Job Burnout

10. You're so tired, you now answer the phone with just: "Hell."

9. Your friends call to ask how you've been, and you immediately scream, "Get off my back!!"

8. Your garbage can is your "In" box.

7. You wake up to discover your bed is on fire, but go back to sleep because you just don't care.

6. You have so much on your mind, you've forgotten how to logon to your 401K account.

5. Amount of staff in your mailbox helps you make it from Saturday to Monday.

4. You don't set your alarm anymore because you know the cellphone will go off before the alarm does.

3. You leave for a party and instinctively bring your badge and secure ID token with you.

2. You keep your sleeping bag in the car just in case you can't make the commute.

1. Sometimes you think about how relaxing it for prison inmates to do nothing for days and weeks.


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