IT Employment

Infographic: The tell-tale signs of an overworked employee

This graphic examines the obvious, and invisible, signs that an employee is being overworked, as well as the three most common reactions.

This graphic examines the obvious, and invisible, signs that an employee is being overworked, as well as the three most common reactions.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

75 comments
jack.w.mckee
jack.w.mckee

We're in a situation right now where the CEO of this small company is not only demanding unreasonable goals, he's demanding that we do things the software isn't capable of. When we try to explain "It doesn't work that way" or "This isn't possible" his response is "That's not an acceptable answer. We're smart people. We can make it work the way I want it to work."

pebbles1222
pebbles1222

I can relate! And most of the people around me agree; too many changes at one time affect the quality of the work. At some point it will be noticeable.

msimms
msimms

Yeah Timbo, that's the status of IT personel now that 80% of the work is outsourced.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

my only problem with this graphic is the comedic presentation of a serious problem...

premiertechnologist
premiertechnologist

The folks here are pretty smart -- brilliant, in fact... well, most of them anyway. So bad management makes the IT job miserable. Have you ever considered (and I've done this a time or two -- the ethics of it can go hang) that every occasionally [b]you[/b] can be the one to stress the incompetent dysfunctional managers? It takes some thought; it takes some planning; it must be done with care... but not only can it be done, it can be rewarding and satisfying and even, sometimes, a manager or two may reflect on their insane behavior and shape up. And no, giving you examples won't help, because 1) each situation calls for different strategies and 2) any manager who sees the examples given here will be ready for a counter, should you try something similar. The writings of Machiaveli are highly recommended ;) It isn't living well that is the best revenge, it's everybody learning their lesson.

geezer51
geezer51

So should we print the poster and put it on the wall next to the federal minimum wage poster?

pessimist
pessimist

As president of my Condo I am personally attacked by irrational old goats that can't even think clearly. Add Zero pay, an annoyed wife that wants all my time on her projects. And a City that needs input from civic groups. It's worse than the old corporate zoo. And it's harder to cope. I'm gonna have to die to get away from the stress.

Psycaustic
Psycaustic

I find this both interesting in the traits described are so common in the work place and sad in that they are completely avoidable... Here's my point, people aren't working at a place they hate because they WANT to, they do it because they feel they NEED to. Let's analyze this like the real IT people we are... The SOURCE of the stress is not likely from the job or work, the job is maintained because they need income, why do they need income? To pay for things... MOSTLY from requirements outside of the employer, more so from our own home. Its from having an outrageous mortgage, outrageous car payment, outrageous bills, and often outrageously EXPENSIVE gadgets and waste of money habits ($650 cell phone? and how about $150 bottle of wine anyone?). NONE of which is the responsibility or the problem of the employer. So we can surmise that the biggest problem being stress is NOT from the job at all its from the people making dumb a$$ decisions with thier money and thier lives. The problem is ignorance, and its easily remedied by learning to manage money and expenses more wisely specifically setting a goal to invest for income, or learn to put thier money into options that EARN more money OUTSIDE of the work operation they would find themselves in a position in which they can remove their dependancy on an employer and the entire super stressed working staff could simply say I DONT NEED THIS, I'M OUT. But since 95% of the people are completely diluted into believing they MUST have to have bachelors or masters degrees to land a career where they can earn 35k+ a year, they spend and spend what they have and then credit spend, and credit spend until they are COMPLETELY employer dependant because SOMEONES gotta pay the credit card bills. Don't treat the symptom by saying oh we need less stress at work; Cure the disease by educating people in investing strategies and teaching kids the same.

cpguru21
cpguru21

A lot of stress in our environment is often caused by folks observing what they feel is certain employees being treated better (or just different) than others. this leaves certain employees feeling like they are not worth as much, and contributes to low morale. It also contributes to a LOT of gossip. but on the whole our management does a pretty decent job. Thanks for the article!

bpate
bpate

I previously worked for a company that paid very well, but then wouldn't take no for an answer when it came to added work load. Finally my stress level got so bad I had to see a counselor. This was the best thing I could have done. The counselor advised me to quit and I did. While it took a while to adjust I feel it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I work for less money now, but the work load and stress levels are much lower and I am much happier.

muhammad.tahir
muhammad.tahir

Good Analysis. In countries like Pakistan, the main root cause for workplace stress is boss, contributing more than 50%.

DesertPete9
DesertPete9

In 1854 Henry David Thoreau wrote, " The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation." What's changed?

scorch
scorch

I agree in being surprised that this isn't ranked higher. I see as an increasing trend, especially in the IT world, is to require an individual to what should actually be several separate jobs. What I see as the prime example (though I may be biased, as I am a sysadmin) is the system administrator. If you take a casual scan of job postings, those few you can find, they want you to be a multi-OS admin, a Cisco expert, a DBA, a web expert, a programmer, a VOIP specialist, etc, etc, etc. If you are actually working, you find that more and more responsibility is dumped on you as downsizing and "lean" decimates the workforce. The low pay issue factors in here as well, as they only want to pay you helpdesk wages for all of the above requirements...

TommCatt
TommCatt

Of course we're going to feel more stress at work than anywhere else! If we feel that much stress at home, we have problems. Work, meaningful work, should be a challenge. That's where all that great Feeling Of Accomplishment comes from. Challenges are stressful. As for all those causes of stress -- yep! There they are. Is there, by chance, a solution for any of them? No? Well, you know the old saying: if there is no solution, there is no problem. The fear of being fired and the feeling we are underpaid are what drives us to constantly improve and take on more responsibilities, i.e. take on more stress. These aren't problems -- they're motivational factors that we use to make ourselves better and better. So be careful what you complain about. Men who retire and suffer no more stress than locating the remote tend to die quickly. Stress keeps the heart pumping.

The Management consultant
The Management consultant

What you need to establish at interview is: What are the attrition rates Can you take more than three weeks holiday in a row If you go on holiday will someone do your urgent work for you? What percentage retire from the company at 65 ? Can you work from home or have some flexibility to look after family? Can you buy more holiday? Above discribes a company on the edge of collapse May need strategic or leadership change High attrition rates usually accompany low retention of intercultural capital in the business Innovation and customer responsiveness usually suffer A low quality uncompetitive product or service is produced.However if this is the public sector all these maybe imbedded in its culture. It will be interesting to find out the negative impact on productivity the location of the work place has on the bottom line of the company? Has Google got answers?

premiertechnologist
premiertechnologist

My job used to be fun and I loved it, until incompetent management took over and wrecked it for everybody. I put up a sign in the office: [quote] [b]It is impossible to be competent in a dysfunctional enivronment.[/b][/quote] The stress went out of sight. My psychiatrist gave me 7 weeks off (with paid leave). My doctor has been afraid I have PTSD. I wasn't the only one. Sick leave for others increased. One guy they hired came, worked 6 days and then quit saying, "You guys are crazy". There have been lawsuits.... That all changed when they RIFfed me. Best thing really: Healthier and happier, retired, lost weight, better living conditions. I still get up early, but not to solve problems caused by carelessness -- My cat wants to be fed. We commune for awhile. It's all good. Bad management. Dysfunctional workplaces. Cause and effect.

Timbo Zimbabwe
Timbo Zimbabwe

Yes, I work for a POS company who has taken it upon themselves to ignore their employees and take the "disposable employment" model.... Needless to say, I'm looking for another job. I didn't work in IT for 22 years to be treated worse than the janitorial staff...

rdecastle
rdecastle

Many moons ago I read an article that was titled something like "You have to catch fire before you can burn out." I don't recall the journal (maybe from SHRM) or the author. I think of stress as the folks who are being shot at in Afghanistan, or the amazing geniuses responsible for launching the space shuttle, or those people who wash those really high windows on really high buildings...on the outside. I do not disagree that some believe we're under this tremendous stress at work; I simply think we could maybe use a nap, a cookie and some additional perspective.

IT-b
IT-b

Our IT shop bought a ping pong table. We're all overworked, under-staffed, and not really seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. The tasks we do are good and rewarding work - it just too much of it. When things get overwhelming a 10-minute game of ping pong actually feels pretty good. Then back to reality with a bit of a fresh mind.

phillipcecchini
phillipcecchini

We all know our employees are stressed. What we would like to know is how do we fix it without losing productivity?

mdbizzarri
mdbizzarri

Now that I am unemployed, I would gladly trade places with anyone who is "stressed" at work. Try dealing with looking for a job and support a family, and then see how stressed you get. It is certainly not video games and chore time. The problem with this article is that it assumes stress is a bad thing. While it can be bad, stress does help us grow, and motivates us. We are responsible for our own stress, and if we are stressed, is it because our wants are different than upper managements? Could the paradigms just be different, and they see a more complete picture? I think workers today have a LOT more rights than years ago. I am sure that women would take the stress over being stuck in "women only" roles. If you want easy, then get a job that you don't have to think, like an assembly line. Otherwise, figure out the stress if it is too much and deal with it.

gary.l.pope
gary.l.pope

I know it's from an old Rock 'n Roll song, but it is still true. "There are none so blind as those who will not see!" Dropping like flies around here, so just replace with multiple offshore workers, who stay for a while then move on. Building resume is only ambition that is recognized and encouraged. D..n you, if you just want to do a good job.

charles.loose
charles.loose

So what's new? Grow up! The only way to be stress free is to be dead. Not a good alternative. Why do you think they call it work and not play? Here we go again, trying to dumb down our society a little more. Give me a break. Ever hear of finding a new job?

mickyel
mickyel

I'm surprised fear of being laid off was so low also. I work in an environment where a majority of the employees are consultants and the as more permanent employees retire they are being replaced with consultants there is no plan to hire any more permanent employees.

shido641
shido641

Mark my words. You will see more employees replying to this post than employers. I am one of these people. I realized it now because, i have just become to myself lately, as the work packed on, priorities of work changed and ending up doing 5 things at onces, i have now become to myself and just adopted a "Yes Boss i will do it" attitude, i just dont care anymore if other work has not been finished. I am just waiting for the time it all blows up so i can say, hey i was just doing as i was told. Sorry that all 5 projects arent completed because a person cant do two things at once. I think employers fail to realize giving people more work before the first project has not been completed will just set the employee for failure.

Mike.Scheerer
Mike.Scheerer

From what I can see that chart pretty much covers everyone... Lets face it WORK is stressful, LIFE is stressful, we are all going to suffer from it in some form or fashion during our working lives and to be perfectly honest, seeing a chart like this just makes people look at it, and convince themselves they must be S-T-R-E-S-S-E-D.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

It sounds to me like you need to quit jumping from frying pan to frying pan...

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

...and don't want to wait till their portfolio has grown for forty years before they can buy a bottle of good wine, or own a home instead of wasting money on rent. Most people want a fair wage for their work, and don't want to kill themselves in the process. People don't quit a job easily mainly because they are'nt so sure things will be better at the next place. ...and if one had a BS or MS and expected 35K, they need more than a good job, they need a *real* psychologist!

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

and if the treatment is based on that, it's logical and fair, and should not be a cause of stress. Now if it's based on "best asskisser" or "sexiest body", dissatisfaction is justified. Check the want ads, 'cause you're not going to have you boss fired.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

If you want to build muscle, you stress the ones you have If you want destroy your body, you OVERSTRESS them. When you grow up, you won't have to be told that.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

...i had a very similar experience, even to the PTSD Retirement is a wonderful thing, but i still miss the (legitimate) challenges

'techy'
'techy'

I was working in an environment where the stress was crazy, and I went from administering one enterprise program to three enterprise programs! Unknown to me till 6 months in, the previous 4 people that had my position quit within 1 month of being hired, when someone tells you that, start looking for a different job, I didn't and gained 20 or 30 pounds! After another 5 months of that, I started looking for a different job, I lost 10% of annual income, but I lost the weight and I like what I do. I know my story is very rare, to get a job you like, but if you look in the right places, you will get what you need. I know one person that quit his job and started cleaning windows. Making money doesn't bring happiness, most of us know that. Having a job where you can make enough money to live a modest life, and being able to come home at 5:00 and playing with your 2 year old daughter, that's happiness, and those with family's know that when you see you kids running to you with smiling faces, you forget all that bothers you.

lord_beavis
lord_beavis

what is wrong with the janitorial staff?

sissy sue
sissy sue

Looking for another job is the best way to deal with a POS company. Good luck to you!

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

... but we had a boss who would allow us to leave the office and take a walk around the block. and that was a very refreshing thing. except in winter, when we wished for a ping pong table

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

Mister manager, use your common sense to recognize that a stressed worker is an less efficient worker. if you reduce the stress, you will not only get better performance, but you will also attract a better class of worker.

info
info

Some involve time on the part of management, so is hard to get, especially from management that think that a stressed and fearful employee is a productive, motivated employee. Communicate with them how you think they're doing a good job, and that they're valued. Show their current work level is doing well, and you hope they'll keep up the effort. Avoid adding new responsibilities to them, as this will increase their stress, despite making most think they're feeling better. Also, communicate on where you think they're falling down! To me, the 'Sword of Damocles' is constantly dangling over my head because our managers will smile, pat you on the shoulder, tell you what a good job you're doing and keep involving you in ongoing projects...right up until the moment they say, "You're not working out. There's the door." How do you KNOW where you stand if noone is pointing out what you could be improving on? Unfortunately, the rest require money, which is even HARDER to get and maintain... Like actively engaging an employee on how they can engage outside consultants or temp agencies to lighten their workload by performing planning or menial tasks? Of course, this is harder in IT because the time needed to make sure the job is done right might as well be time lost over the short term. The other would be hiring an additional employee to lighten the burden. Again of course, this introduces NEW stresses because the employee will think he's being primed for being replaced, and the new hire will start vying for favour and position over the established employee...

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

But they *don't* have an impartial judge on staff to determine who's right and who's wronged. If they want fairness, they have to call for outside help.

rdecastle
rdecastle

I should have added "the unemployed" to my brief list of people under stress. Sorry. My oversight. I've been there. It doesn't get better, but it is survivable. Good luck. (P.S., remarkably the mundane jobs can be the most stressful.)

jeb.hoge
jeb.hoge

Nothing would stress me out worse than being out of work and still having a family to support. I do have the benefit of having a manager who actually believes in maintaining a good work-life balance and watches out for us, but we're still expected to nail our performance targets and more, but because she's got her priorities in good nick, we CAN do that.

hippiekarl
hippiekarl

isn't very popular in this discussion. (Quick show of hands-----how many had the time ---at work---to read this article and down-vote comments that suggested people do what they're paid for on 'company time'?!)....Right; I thought so.

sissy sue
sissy sue

Which is why I have been a consultant since 1988.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

When management can reduce the stress on the foundation of the company, it's less likely to crack. Yes, stress is an inevitable part of living, excessive stress, however, is not.

TommCatt
TommCatt

What we want or don't want is absolutely irrelevant. It's all what we are willing and able to work for. And by "work," I include deferring gratification now for some better results in the future. If you "don't want" to do that, fine. Just don't complain that the world isn't fair. No one's going to listen.

premiertechnologist
premiertechnologist

Eventually, the PTSD fades. What am doing is that I have all sorts of projects I never got to: Learning in depth HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, JQuery, C#; thousands of 35mm slides I need to get digitized (I have the equipment to do so); going through decades of junk and cleaning it all up; writing articles. I figure there's several thousand years of work to do. It's a glorious world of discovery. As the poet said: The world is so full of things, we should be happy as kings. It takes discipline to avoid the James Thurber version: And you know how happy kings are these days.

premiertechnologist
premiertechnologist

And when I was at work 6 days a week, 10, 12, 14, 15 hour days, I was working -- not finding online entertainment. But then people say, "your old" (forbid that they should write "you're old"), indicating that their expectations is that people play at work instead of working, particularly if they are in IT. (That has always been true with IT Management -- we caught the Development Manager making online trades during work... and we're not sure what the other manager, his wife was doing).

hippiekarl
hippiekarl

I'm holding employees and management to separate standards at work! (I suppose they'd have appreciated my using an easy-to-comprehend *info-graphic* for clarity ;) ). The desk-jockeys here are convinced I must be 'management' (for coming out against 'reading comics' at work). I expect there's hypocricy in the latitude managers extend to themselves but not to staff---much like the military---but playing eTrade/Angry Birds/reading Dilbert/whatever the co-manager-wife was doing/golfing on 'work time' isn't the same as having Company training material itself rendered as 'the funnies' so that our crack workforce (MANAGEMENT INCLUDED; get it this time, kids?!) can understand it. I maintain that information which needs to rely on comics for its recipients to comprehend it is indicative of the shamefully poor education of the latter.