Stefan Jaskiel helps you recognize the signs of job burnout (complacency, difficulty focusing, careless attitude, and helplessness), and offers some strategic interventions.
Do you dread going to work? Is your attitude about work affecting your social life, family life, or health? Do you continually feel run-down at the office? Do you constantly complain that you have too much work to do, but actually accomplish very little during the day? Perhaps you think you've seen it all or you’ve done everything there is to do in your current job. Or maybe you're tired of dealing with the same people and arguing the same issues day after day. These are some of the early warning signs of job burnout.
If this scenario sounds familiar, you're not alone. According to a recent survey conducted by Carleton University, almost 25% of employees at seven high-tech companies in Ottawa, Canada, reported high levels of job burnout. The good news is that despite how helpless you may feel, this condition is not terminal.
Common Symptoms of Burnout
In the fast-paced world of software engineering, testers are especially susceptible to job burnout due to the repetitive nature of their tasks. Running test case after test case and recording the results, for example, can take its toll on even the most enthusiastic and disciplined testers. There are several recognizable behavior patterns that people typically exhibit at various stages of job burnout, varying to some extent based on the person’s personality type and the stage of burnout. Unfortunately, these symptoms will only get worse without treatment.
Complacency is one of the most difficult burnout symptoms to combat. Software testers, like other professionals, are not immune to the effects of being at the same job too long. Some people effectively “check out" of their job without actually leaving the company. According to one manager of technical services, "You almost feel obligated to stay, just because you've already put in fifteen years with the same company." In this manager’s case, it's the daily routine that is one of the primary reasons he's not motivated to do his job, but it's also the primary reason he stays. There's a comfort level associated with having in-depth knowledge of your organization, and knowing that "if they haven't fired you yet, they probably never will." Getting another job isn't necessarily difficult, it's just another unknown variable that increases a person's aversion to change.
Testers who experience job burnout typically lose focus while performing repetitive tasks, which often results in skewed or erroneous data. Testers who exhibit the symptoms of job burnout often look for other opportunities in order to find an equitable balance for the shortcomings of their position.
If you, as a tester, ever reach the point at which you allow the software to pass just because you don't want to argue with Engineering again, you've probably advanced to one of the most severe stages of job burnout. Regardless of how overwhelming your test plan may be, you have an obligation to the users of the software under test to identify and report all known defects. If you fail to fulfill this obligation, you're doing a disservice to yourself, your company, and your customers.
Software testers are subject to low morale when projects go beyond schedule or get streamlined due to budget cuts. Enthusiasm for thoroughly testing an application is typically reduced. Many testers complain that what began as a venture to do the best job possible has now become a mission just to get the product out the door . According to one manager of compliance and testing, "I've seen our organization repeat the same mistakes, year after year, and my test team always suffers." Changes in requirements often