About the talk
RailsConf 2019 - You Can’t Bubblebath The Burnout Away by Jennifer Tu
Ugh. Management. Agile was supposed to free us from that, right? Self-organized, cross-functional teams who get stuff done without that old-guard hierarchy. In this fauxtopia, some developers were more equal than others. Can we get the healthy parts back without the Lumberghs?
To bring back healthy engineering management we first must de-mystify and de-stigmatize the concept of management. In this talk we will: * Explore the context of management * Learn the responsibilities of management * Discuss the techniques of management
As a developer, you'll be equipped to understand, empathize with, and influence your boss. As a manager, you'll build a foundation to help you better serve your team.
Thank you all for coming to the to the late afternoon with rails, My name is Jennifer to my pronouns. Are she and her I am a co-founder of cohere. We are a tiny salting consultancy and we specialize in coaching and training for engineering teams. My co-founders. Is he Spencer and Betsy heyboer in the room? So come Taco Fest after if you're interested. Before before I cook found it. It's cuz here with these two amazing people. I worked as an employee at both small companies and big companies for such as developer and then later as a
manager. A few years ago. I was I was working at this job and I noticed I was feeling a little stressed by it. And I also noticed I had started to drink a little bit more. I went from a glass or two a month. I didn't used to drink very much then it was a glass or two a week a glass or two a day specially on those days when I was skipping skipping my evening workouts to get worked on. And when I do this this I I took some drastic measures and went for mandatory self-care. I want dry and I stop consuming
alcohol. I said heart stops for when I left work in the evening and I didn't allow myself to work again until I returned in the morning. I did allow myself to return early and I used my evening cut off time as an enforcement to get myself to my workouts in the evening. Before I tell you how that went. I want to take a moment and explore a little bit about how we think about self care. Joker might look a lot like what I did it can look like eating well sleeping. Well
exercising. Well, it can also look like having a glass of wine going to the spa doing some meditation going on a vacation finding yourself. These are all self-care sometimes looks like being extra nice to ourselves. But sometimes self-care can look even more basic than that. sometimes self care games brushing your teeth and getting dressed getting off at all taking your meds showing up at work. If these are things you are struggling with please know this talk is going to be amazing. You will learn
things and it's not going to fix things for you. Please think about talking with a medical professional like your PCP or your therapist. Let's go back to the story of me from a couple of years ago that measures why was I so fixated on this idea of applying self care? I was Bill gently applying self care because I felt terrible about work and about life and self-care makes it feel like less is being taken out of you and sometimes work or life in general is trying to take more out of you than feels good and self-care is a way for
you to replenish a little bit and charged up. At this job a few years ago. I felt like I was depleted like my batteries were running low. When I started that particular job though, things were going great. I have found this new workplace with people. I liked and respected. I had all this promise of career growth things are looking good for me home life was also going pretty well. I probably had some complaints like you're loading a dishwasher wrong or things like that. But for the most part I was I was content with my life. I had like fun complaints and maybe that's
where you were two of your batteries were charged and things were okay. And then you got hit with some other life stuff, like maybe your housing situation destabilize for your dog have to go for an emergency vet visit you're doing okay, but you can use a break. This was where I was when I had an Unexpected death in the family. And at the same time work was changing and getting more stressful. For for you, maybe you got assigned to a project that was running behind or you got a new manager. Maybe how to reward your ear still doing okay things aren't as
easy as they were before. For me, this was a point at which I noticed my alcohol habits were changing that my exercise patterns were changing. And that's when I started to apply self care and work on recharging my battery and maybe you tried it to maybe you prioritize yourself and your family you got that sleep the exercise that time to yourself and you're feeling a little bit better. But work kept asking for more for me and life after a family death takes up a surprising amount of time. Maybe for you your housing situation
destabilize more your dog have to go to the vet again. You've been applying self care and at the same time you're not as resilient as you were when you were at your very best. When were core life keeps draining you went work continues to ask for more and more when that project goes from behind suit. We need that yesterday when a toxic person joins our team your battery keeps draining down lower and lower and you keep applying self care and their mother how much you put in you can't recharge faster than what work or life is taking out of you. At this job. My
workload was way too much for a single person to take on and I felt terrible because I was trying to do it anyway, and I was doing all of this self-care sleep exercise sobriety and I still felt pretty terrible. No matter how much self-care I applied. I couldn't stop how much more. That work was taking out of me. I couldn't reduce the stress of my life in general after this family lost. And my battery just kept going down lower and lower. And this is the part of self-care that we do not talk about we don't talk about how there is
a limit to how much self-care can recharge you. This is my schedule from that job. You might not have an hour commute. Like I did but no matter what you have a limit to the number of hours in your day. If you want to get really great sleep that's going to be eight or nine hours dedicated to that. You need to go to work and eat while you're at work. So that's another eight or nine hours that leaves you 6 to 8. Hours every day in which you can eat shower Duty adult towards that you definitely do like opening the mail or running the dishwasher commuting if you need
to commute. You still need time to do the other things that we charge you like spending time with your family and friends exercising those regular other things and if you're overwhelmed if you're burned out and you need to spend time on self-care to recharge. Where does this time come from? You take it from the time that went into sleeping, or do you take it from seeing your friends and family? What do you do when you need less taken out of you and work or life or the world in general keeps taking more? I want to
talk about someone we all know and love who is in a very similar situation. This is I see you've met this is this is fine dog. This is fine dog. This is real song. This is fine dog is using self care. They are breathing calmly. Oh and they are mindful a drinking whatever that beverages. This is fine dog has a very pressing problem. They are in a room that is on fire and that is not fine. We're going to use this Burning room as are shorthand for any unsustainable situation. Maybe is being burnt out. Maybe it's your workplace, which is
very toxic. Whatever it is. This room is not healthy for you. Both you and this is fine dog have some choices ahead. First you need to face your situation. You are already ahead of this is fine dog here. Ask yourself. This question is your room on fire? This is fine dog does not realize that they are in a room on fire, or maybe they do anyone's ignore it. So they're doing their even breathing meditation drinking whatever that is, and they're returning to working in the room on fire.
What about you? Is your room on fire? Sometimes friends are only hazardous to us. Maybe everyone else you work with Hazard Charmander or fire mage. Maybe everyone else is a voicemail and not subject to the same discrimination you face. If it looks like a room is on fire and no one else is affected. Don't try to force of will yourself into becoming that Charmander instead of knowledge for you, even if no one else around you thinks it is. If you've been to American hotels, so probably most of you in this room right now, you
might have noticed that sign on the door in the back of your room and it tells you how to check if the room is on fire or hotels on fire. You put your hand so sore and see if it's hot and then you look underneath and see if there's smoke coming in so you can smell any smoke. If you put your hand to the door and it feels hot, but you don't see or smell any smoke. That doesn't mean that the hotel is not on fire. Right? It means that something is going on out there. It's probably not good. You're missing some signs of fire, but that does not mean it's not not
on flat or it not on fire whichever way that double negative goes. This is the same thing for when you're detecting burnout. I want to give you a a checklist just like the hotel checklist for if you are in a room on fire and just like a hotel you might not meet every one of those or even most of them, but that doesn't mean you're not in a room on fire. Ultimately, you are the one in your situation and you are the one who calls whether or not that situation is on fire for you. Your checklist for if your room is on fire
is changes in your habits. So think about is your media consumption. Is it changing? How much are you spending time on YouTube on Twitter on Facebook. Is that changing? How about how you socialize? Are you seeing your friends more or less? Are your daily habits changing. Is it easier or harder to get up or is it go to bed or or to do anything? If you're not sure, if you're in a room on fire, if you find yourself arguing with your friends that you're not really that technically technically it's not on fire that other people in room have it
way worse than you you probably are in a room on fire. Even if no one else in that room is affected by it. It's not healthy for you in there. At this point some of you might be slowly realizing. She's right. I am in a room on fire. It's up to you. This next line is my friend just for you. You are not suck. You have choices they might choices that you like, but you do have choices. You can make it out of this situation. But you must face your options and choose. I made a flowchart so that way you can make this easy.
When you are looking for change, there are three things that you can attempt to change. First is your internal State Nexus what is external to you that you can change and on the third is what is external to you that you cannot change? So these are three things that you can attempt. That means that there are three actions that you can take outside. You can stay in the room with that is on fire and change your internal state in some way to make it up to make that acceptable. You can stay in the room and change what is external to you and fight that fire and
make it less on fire for you. Or you can recognize there is nothing that I can change that is within my power to change that must be changed in order for this room to be acceptable to me. And therefore must flee the room. I like that last one. So we're going to start there. Sometimes the only thing that you can do when you are in this room on fire is to run screaming out of the exit. Whatever your room is. You quit it you leave you maybe it's a job. Maybe it's a boss or another person. Maybe it's the entire industry. Whatever it is. It's not healthy
get yourself out. There is no shame in fleeing the room on fire. Even if you have the power to stay in the room, even if you have the power to stay in the room and make it not on fire that doesn't mean you have to and there is no shame in leaving the room because you choose to do so. Sometimes leaving the room is the only way that you can demonstrate to everyone else who's in the room with you how to find an exit and use it. Sometimes this this option doesn't work for us though. What if you are financially supporting other people? What if you are an immigrant
on a Visa and your boss keeps making these jokes about you taking time off? What if you feel bad because there's someone more vulnerable than you who's in that room and you don't want to leave because then you can't help them. if you can't or you're not ready to feed a room you have two more choices you can make One option is to stay in change yourself. This doesn't mean stay in transform into into that Charmander into someone you're not someone who's not fathered by the room on fire. You are in a
room on fire and it's legit for you to feel bothered by it and whatever whatever feelings you have about it. Those feelings are valid. By changing what is internal? I mean changing what you do and versus what anyone else does it means identifying what is directly under your control and changing only that? Anyone in this room have siblings special you younger siblings if you have gone on road trips with them when you were kids. Okay. So alright example, you might understand. You cannot stop your younger brother from playing.
I'm not touching you. I'm not touching you that is not something you can really control, but you can like turn to the window look for Kel's look for out of state license plates and just so exasperated in for the pain and that is an example of what you do instead of what anyone else does. The reason why you might want to pick this option first to stay in the room and change. What is internal is when you are when you're exhausted when you are burnt out it can be really really hard to tell the difference between what you
can change and what you cannot change. And that means that if you change what is internal to yourself and reach for this option first, you don't have to make that decision that suddenly become super hard because you're in a burning room. One of the things you can do to change yourself is to apply more self-care and choose how you spend the hours in your day. You can change how much and what you sleep eat and spend your none work waking hours on you can choose what your work hours what that quantity is. Sometimes this
works. Sometimes you were on a stressful project and that was your burning room and it depends you survive. The things go back to normal and your battery goes back to full. I want to take a look at what this how does might play out? This is a little status graph of our battery and time. I'm going to mix up the ax. He's a little bit so try not to think too hard about it. Are batteries are charged and our home and work lives are steady-state. Our self-care investment is also at a steady state. Then something changes maybe we get transferred to a really stressful work
project and our battery is going to draw down a little bit as a result. So we kept the self-care Notch and are we get to recharge your batteries levels a little bit. What happens next is going to depend entirely on the trajectory of the middle work Homelife Blue Line right there? It's a stressful project ends. Like we talked about earlier then we get to scale back or self care and our battery returns to normal and we go back to life as before. If a stressful project continues or maybe it's stopped but gets replaced with some life
problems or a different word problem. Then we need to maintain our high levels of self-care to keep our battery charged. the problem comes when where am I? The problem comes when work or live keeps cramping up what it needs a love you and at some point you're going to hit this Max because you've only got that 6/8 hours of No, Sleep Inn on work time. You're going to hit this smacks of how much self-care you can apply in your battery is going to quietly drain
away. When is happens in might feel like you can't do enough? You can't give enough to your work to meet the demands. You can't perform in a self-care to feel okay with what you're out putting you can accept Where You Are. Because it is unacceptable. If you hit that point, the healthiest thing for you to do is flee the room get yourself out find a new job finding you in the street dish the relationship whatever it is get yourself out. But if you are in 2.4, you're ahead of the curve and you're looking ahead and you are
anticipating the curve and you can see where you're headed. You might still have time to try one more option. Change what is external to you? That is that you can possibly change stay and change the room. You might be wondering how you can tell when this is possible. If you are at this is fine dog. You cannot change the room by telling it room. Stop being on fire. He has to go for what is possible to be changed. And make that change. In your workplace. Maybe your room is a stressful project. You probably can't change that project,
but you can change its impact on you. If your room is a toxic person, you also probably cannot change that person, but you could change their impact on you. So here is how you do that? First think about what changes possible. For the stressful project maybe what you could change is whether or not you're on that project. And I want you to go ahead and imagine that possibility. Don't worry about the implementation details. Just imagine the possibility that you are no longer on the stressful project and kind of feel for you feel
for yourself. Does it feel like that would make the room not be on fire for me. Would that be enough for me to feel good about about work? If it would Vanessa change username for and that goes on to the next step. Think about who can help make it happen. There are two groups of people. I want you to think about the first is who can authorize the change to go through for the stressful project. That's probably your manager who who thought that and it's your manager who is the person who can say? Yes, you can leave a stressful project and go do this other thing. The other set of people I want you
to think about is who can help you make it happen. So for example, maybe there's another project that you know is healthy and you would be happy to be working there. So you could go talk with the p.m. Talk about how much you like. The project has talked about the ways that you can see yourself contributing to them and ask for the PM's help to petition your manager that p.m. Is an example of someone who can help make that change is possible and there are lots of people like that just look around and and find people to ask for help.
Even if you get help, even if you ask your manager and they're sympathetic, you might not get what you're looking for on the first try and that's why this is a cycle if you get told no or later look for different things that you might be able to change for the stressful project if you can't leave now, maybe what you can do is ask can I pair with my favorite teammates or could I transfer after we hit this Milestone or after we do this many number of Sprint you can keep looking for new ways to change the room. It is the one that you picked before
didn't quite work and keep looking for other allies to help you make that change. At some point though. The reason we started talking about this cycle was because of this graph we talked about how we got here because we were anticipating that that's very sad. If we it's possible to catch up to that curve and hit that point after you've done a lot of trying to change the room trying to make it healthy for you. And while you're trying to do that working light keeps going on and you don't get you don't get that break.
If you hit that point at which you've maxed out self care, and there's not more that you can do. You can't stay in that room. There is a saying that's attributed to Martin Fowler. He says we can change our environment or we can change our environment. You can either modify the environment to be acceptable or you can swap out the environment for a different one is modifying the environment isn't successful. Don't keep trying to ask for different ways to get off that project. Keep an eye on your battery and change your environment. Go back to your other option and
Suite A Room. Alright, let's recap. If life is feeling stressful take a look around figure out if you are in a room on fire. Put your hand on that door. See if it's hot. Don't let yourself be talked out of it. Just because you don't see smoke coming in from underneath the door look for changes in your habits. Once you once you go into this point remember that you have two choices you can change what is internal. What is external that you have control over or you can attempt to fight what is external that you have no control
over which doesn't work. So instead you can lead a room you can fight the fight the room or you can stay and apply self care abandoned Band-Aids to get yourself through this until you're able to either let the project finished or get yourself out. None of these things. None of these choices are bad choices or wrong choices. Get as much information as you can and make the best choice that you can in that moment with the information that you have and the state that you are in. Keep an eye on if there's a point at which throwing more self-care at your situation
won't make the situation any more bearable for you. And if you get to a point when the choice you picked isn't serving you anymore take another Choice. You're not stuck with a just because he picked it you can change it. Don't blame or second-guess yourself later because of the choice you made and think I've done something else things. Will it come out better? It might have but that doesn't matter you did your best with the information that you could with the state that you were in in that moment regardless of the results. Remember that you did your very best to
take care of yourself. So do you make a choice? Dude shoes. What are you drawn? Another bubble bath and wait it out or whether you choose not to. Thank you for thank you for listening. I will be sticking around off mic for questions, or you can catch me on Twitter. I am at JT you I am taking coaching clients at this time. Please come talk with me. If that's something you were interested in. I will be posting slides and notes from this talk including some of the references. I was looking at on my company website. We KO sure.
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