**Update one year later, May 2021** I am no longer a Microsoft MVP or Microsoft Regional Director. Fortunately, the two people I mention here both survived their cancer. That said, the pressure put on me by ‘tech community’ members to participate, even though I did not step forward to volunteer, really made a tough situation much harder. When I pushed back, I was then perceived as ‘negative’ and dismissed. Ultimately, very glad to leave the ‘tech community’ programs and step away from a place where I was not welcome. This is an example of how hard I worked as a tech community leader on top of everything else, but I wish I hadn’t. It came to nothing but I recovered from the burnout and I am spending my time where it is appreciated.
This is a personal blog and I’m sharing these details here to promote understanding and show empathy during these challenging times. I’m a Microsoft MVP, and have been one for nine years. I’m also a Microsoft Regional Director. I’m also a single mother, a daughter, a friend, and a sister.
This past year has been challenging for me in every way possible. Personally, two close family members have gone through cancer and thankfully, beaten it. The situation with the virus is something else; people in my circle have died from the virus.
As a single mum, running my own business, life is hard anyway. Some of my customers have effectively gone bust due to the crisis, leaving me unpaid. When you invoice, you have to pay the VAT of the bad debt, so that means you end up forking out more money. That holds, regardless of the VAT ‘pause’ that is happening due to the crisis. Eventually, you can only get 20% of the 20% VAT back, and it takes about two years to do it. So unpaid invoices are a real problem. There is also the problem of cancelled or postponed projects. At the current time, project cancellations are an issue and the situation will get worse because nobody is signing off projects at the moment. And don’t get me started on the IR35 tax debacle or Brexit.
So what does burnout look like?
feeling like your work has little value
avoiding social commitments
susceptible to disappointment
feeling that the quality of your work is going down
A burning out, or burnout person, is not easy to deal with. There is a lot of false sympathy about burnout. I think that people like to think that they are sympathetic about looking after one another, but that is simply not true. In my experience, they just want you to go away and be quiet.
What can you do about burnout?
Recognise burnout is real. The psychological literature is fairly well-established.
You can start to reduce the pressures on yourself by saying ‘no’ and being very focused about how you spend your time.
Other people will quite happily squander your time if you let them. This is particularly the case when they are not paying for your time. Think of reasons to tell people so that they understand a ‘no’, such as ‘I’m doing a LinkedIn course and I want to concentrate on my self-development’ or that you have other, higher-priority demands on your time.
What can others do about burnout?
Ask people how they are. How they really are.
Recognise it in other people, and don’t treat it as a problem that they have; perhaps it is the way that they are being treated, and other people need to change their behaviour. If other people are not pulling their weight, point it out; the problem lies there instead.
Stop giving lip service to mental health. Your actions speak louder than your words. There is a fantastic course on LinkedIn which talks about resilience and how people can learn to say the right thing. Be very mindful of the signals that you give.