I found the Truth About Burnout (Amazon) from this article, which I think gives the main takeaways from the book far more succinctly. I did find the book interesting and I’m glad I read it, but I wouldn’t necessarily encourage other people to. It’s a little dated in places (it was published in 2000), and what it goes into in depth is mainly fixing the experience within broken organisations. If you’re not dealing with a broken organisation, the summary would give you a good list of things to look out for in yourself, or so that you don’t become one.
The concept of the Maslach Burnout Inventory was really eye-opening for me. There are six causes of burnout… and only one is overwork. When I was working in a job I hated, and wondering why I felt so terrible, thinking it couldn’t be burnout because my hours were reasonable and it turns out it totally could be. It was.
The other five causes of burnout: lack of control, lack of reward, absence of fairness, lack of community, conflict in values.
I’m currently watching the stats about the attrition of women in technical roles play out in my network, which is depressing. Leaving myself seemed less bad because I thought “maybe it’s just me” or “maybe I was just unlucky”. Now, when women tell me that the job they have is their last in the industry, and why, I connect those reasons to the five causes.
Lack of control -> HR process. Opaque hiring and promotion processes.
Lack of reward -> In SV women make 86.4 cents on the dollar (the pay gap varies across the US and internationally).
Absence of fairness -> Men promoted on potential, women asked to “be patient”.
Lack of community -> Being on of few people like you, having to take on the bulk of the work of “fixing” things.
My point: I have been thinking about the concepts in this book a lot, and I’m glad I read it as an exercise in taking the time to connect these things together.