The Rules of Burnout
2019-03-14, 9:09 p.m.
recently on Chaos Attraction
Spring has sprung! I rediscovered my patio today, as well as the billion bugs flying around my head now.
I really want someone to scientifically research for me why it seems like the weather snaps from fall to winter and from winter to spring happen literally within about 24 hours of the time changes. It seriously does not seem like A Thing that should change with the time changes, but I remember growing up that when the time change happened before Halloween we’d have frigid Halloweens, and now that it’s after Halloween we have pretty balmy ones and the cold snaps within 24 hours of the time change. Likewise as of Monday we went from temperature highs in the 50’s to in the 60’s, and on Tuesday I got my first seasonal bug bites.
Yeah, we could and probably should blame global warming, but the within-24-hours thing is really odd.
GQ had an eminently quotable day:
* Upon taking a phone call from a guy who kept misnaming him: “He said it with such confidence, I wondered: am I really Mike?”
On a related note, our office is going to be hiring even more people again and I hope GQ lands one of them permanently because he entertains me greatly.
Another special work moment happened today: someone asking for what we can’t give (“can you do it early? please?”) and are prevented from doing thanks to the gods of the organization. I was about to hit send on my explanation of (a) why we are not permitted to do that whatsoever and (b) if it’s any consolation, I think we’ll be able to make your deadline anyway because most of the time we don’t take as long as our largest estimation says to do the thing.
THEN I noticed this girl was one of those people who e-mails everyone she can find, including BigBoss, and I was all “oh fuck, I’m going to have to send something BigBoss will read.” I went to one of the other people cc’d on the e-mail who would understand my pain, and she told me that we have to say the absolute bare minimum about this topic (again) or else get in trouble, something she knows all to well. Sigh. So I wasn’t allowed to explain, just to say no, and here’s how to get documentation.
About fifteen seconds after I hit send on this, BigBoss sends an e-mail out to another official and cc’ing me saying “Is there anything we can do to help, other than giving her what she wants?”
Since I have been burned out for ... at least six years now, let me explain to you The Rules of Still Working While Burned Out With No End And No Possible Escape:
1. Do whatever anyone wants you to do. Don’t waste time arguing over whether or not it should be done, whether or not it’s appropriate for you/your office to do, or the fact that you shouldn’t have to write a special letter explaining something or other, which is not a service that your business offers. Whatever the thing is someone asks you to do, just do it. Don’t tell people no unless the rules of the org utterly forbid you from doing the thing.
Why? Because you may tell them no, but they’re just going to go above your head and keep asking and asking until they get a yes, and then it goes back on you to do anyway. Why waste your time and energy trying to be gatekeeper when people bulldoze down the gates? Just give in now and get it the hell over with (see below).
2. Do it NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW. Don’t tell anyone to wait 24 hours for you to “process” that or wait for anything at all. Drop whatever you are doing because this person is in panic and fear and wants it noooooooooooooow and won’t leave you alone until they get what they want. The sooner the person gets what they want, the faster they go away and stop bothering me (see below).
3. Overexplain. This is a thing higher ups always tell me not to do because people don’t like to read, but I honestly do not care and do not agree with them that it is a problem. I will delete explanations when forced to (see above), but overall I think “overexplaining” is important.
Why? Because you know what exhausts me and makes me burn out faster during a day? Being asked so many dang questions questions questions. You know what makes me cranky during the day? Sudden onslaughts of questions. Having to have the same conversation with people over and over and over and over again. Getting tons of e-mails from the same person all day or for days on end or having them come back like zombies every few days, weeks, or months having more and more questions.
When I have several hours during the day when I’m not getting interrupted with questions, it’s really nice and I actually like my job in those moments. But when I am peppered with a lot of questions from upset and panicking people within a short period of time, it’s goddamned draining. I start getting visibly upset and cranky to the point where I can't hide it, and need some peace and quiet to calm down before anyone asks me anything again, and I can’t get it.
You know what cuts down on the questions? OVEREXPLAINING. Explaining exactly why they can’t get what they want so that they cannot possibly continue to argue with me about it. Explaining exactly why it takes so long so that they understand and stop begging me for what I can’t provide. Explaining what their inevitable questions are going to be before they think of them to ask. “That thing on the form means to do X, not Y, do not worry about Z.” I get a lot less questions about certain things once I added extra information to the templates that pre-emptively answers the same panicking questions everyone had upon reading the e-mails. I hope this also works when I have added more explanations to the webpage. The less people have to ask me about, the better they feel and the better I feel.
I don’t care if people can’t read too much text before their brains die, or whatever. Sometimes you need to read for business purposes and suck it up. If I can answer all of your possible questions before you ask them, there is nothing but good that can come from that.4. Apologize, apologize. Apologize for every single thing they are upset about. Apologize whether or not you did anything wrong. (Remember, you did do something wrong: work here.) Apologize for the slightest of inconveniences. Apologize for things that aren't even remotely under my control, such as the air quality. Remember, everyone who contacts you is angry at you, and you have to defuse that bomb before they start calling the higher-ups about you. Make them feel superior to you so they get a "win." Take the abuse with a smile. Give them what they want.
In short: (a) move ‘em in, move ‘em out ASAP, and (b) do whatever you can ahead of time to cut down on how much emotional energy and time you have to spend (arguing) with every single person who contacts you. And really, isn’t that supposed to be how “excellent customer service" works?