4 min read

Numb to change

It's ok to feel a little numb right now
Numb to change
Photo by Girma Nigusse / Unsplash

Sustain issue #95 (Get Sustain in your inbox next Thursday)

I took last Friday off for a long weekend in Washington’s victorian town of Port Townsend which hosts the Strange Brew Festival. I had some interesting ones like french onion soup (awarded the strangest), spaghetti and meatball, and hot dog water. Would you try one of those?

Before hopping in the car Friday, I wrapped up an unimportant conversation in Slack. But I already had the PTO palm tree emoji next to my name and my colleagues knew I shouldn't be there. Thankfully they gave me the needed grief and I disappeared.

A few helpful reminders about time off (that clearly I need from time to time, too). 1) Take the day off, not just the time when you’re out of town. 2) Be the colleague who challenges people when they’re supposed to be off. We all need to look out for each other and model a culture of logging off.

Numb to change

‘Change management’ gets thrown around all over. Usually, it’s in response to one big thing like a reorg, an acquisition, new CEO, switching to a new working model, etc.

But change management doesn’t begin to sum up the pervasive feeling in tech right now. Numbness feels more appropriate.

While your CEO feels they have the power back (sigh) and can get back to “normal,” we all know it’s not business as usual right now.

It can’t be normal when 5-7% of your colleagues are suddenly gone one day. It can’t be normal when your way of living and working for the last three years goes back to a way nobody really wants. It can’t be normal when your salary is stagnant despite the rising cost of living.

It’s ok to be a bit bitter. It’s healthy to feel a little cynical as a way to protect yourself.

After all, it’s finally clear that your CEO never really cared all that much the last few years about DEI initiatives or else those teams wouldn’t have been laid off as heavily. It’s clear they didn't care about employee flexibility or else full-time or nearly full-time return-to-office mandates wouldn't be introduced.

It’s clear CEOs never really saw hybrid work as a new normal (like they all said in 2021) or else they would have actually implemented training and new organizational norms around this way of working.

All of this was done as a means to attract and retain people amid The Great Resignation. It was a band-aid until the power shifted back and CEOs could finally get back to their desired state.

So yeah, feeling numb and bitter feels warranted. Our leaders gaslit us.  

Well-being, preventing burnout, and creating a culture where you can be your best remain a management and organizational issue to solve. But as they creep further away from solving it, the onus once again falls back to you – the individual. You must take things into your own hands to redefine your relationship with work.

How? A lot can be solved with the four rules for redefining your relationship with work.

  1. Do great work - the work you produce must be of great quality.
  2. Not too much - to do great work you need to be rock solid with your boss about what you do and more importantly, what you don’t do. You can’t do more with less. You must do less with less.
  3. Socialize it - When management wants extreme productivity, show them the numbers and how you’re leading your area of work.
  4. Log off - Leave the office and/of close your laptop when you’re done. You can only do the best work of your career if you effectively log off and rejuvenate for tomorrow. Otherwise, your tank is heading for empty.

Sit with your numbness and bitterness. It will help you do your best on high-priority projects and prevent you from doing everything – even in a time when you may feel you must. Control what you can. That’s all you can do.

Something to slack your work bestie.

  1. Here’s how much commuting time we save working from home
  2. Data on 4,000 firms current WFH policy

Ready to downsize your relationship with work and quit burnout?

Hi, I'm Grant Gurewitz. I'm on a mission to eliminate burnout at work. I've been in tech for 10 years (ex-Zillow, current: Qualtrics) and suffered deep burnout and came back from it even though I never found a playbook for doing so. So, I'm writing it myself.

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