Apps

What stresses developers out the most?

Most developers are under an immense amount of stress because of customer demands, technical issues, pointy-haired bosses, or some other factor. Let us know what your biggest stressor is by taking this quick poll.

In my experience, most developers are under an immense amount of stress on a regular basis. Some deal with it better than others, but that doesn't diminish the fact that the IT industry places heavy demands on those in it.

Customer demands, tight deadlines, budgetary constraints, the economy, technical issues such as poor tools and documentation, coworkers, and pointy-haired bosses all conspire to send us to the loony bin! What puts the most weight on your shoulders? Let us know by taking this quick poll.

J.Ja

Disclosure of Justin's industry affiliations: Justin James has a working arrangement with Microsoft to write an article for MSDN Magazine. He also has a contract with Spiceworks to write product buying guides.

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About

Justin James is the Lead Architect for Conigent.

85 comments
ash0279
ash0279

A co-worker complaining about heavy workload almost each day at work.

jck
jck

It's really a mix, in that staff/management often tend to screw up my deadlines. For instance: I have been working on a software project for 3 weeks (from home in bed healing from a surgery, no less), and last week the boss emails me and says it's due in 8 days...and it's not negotiable. This is opposed to having been originally scheduled for 2-3 weeks farther down the road. But I guess someone came along and decided that he needed to promise it to them sooner. So, I end up suffering.

rapitorul
rapitorul

Americans are way too stressed. Way! Way! Waaay! It's a sickness.

BigBlueMarble
BigBlueMarble

Pick your euphemism: outsourcing, offshoring, right-sizing, resource action... they all spell layoff or termination. As more of my colleagues who are essential to our team functioning are let go, I am in constant fear of getting The Call with no advance notice. Knowing the few of us who are still around could be "snipered" at any moment is highly stressful. I can handle a boatload of stress. Nobody makes it in IT if they can't. It's not the workload or deadlines that "harsh my gig." It's knowing that I could find myself unemployed, irrespective of how well I do my job or how hard I work. IT people are merely resources these days - not human beings.

deborah.reid
deborah.reid

I suppose management is the trigger, but it is specifically management driven deadlines. I fail to understand why they ask how long a development effort should take then turn around and say "Get it done in half that time." Then they're surprised when it can't be done on time!

lclaudio.rodrigues
lclaudio.rodrigues

The most stressing factor is accounted for by customers who think they wil help the developer by telling him HOW to do the job, instead of telling WHAT the job is. Most frequently, in those cases, the customer thinks he knows more than the IT pro, because he "owns" the problem. Also, that kind of customer exibits a resistance to accept the developer's ideas of how the solution to his problem should be put together. That has been a chore in my professional life.

reisen55
reisen55

You are doing your best - meeting goals and expectations, commendations pour in - YOU ARE A PRODUCTIVE AMERICAN WORKER!!!!!!!!!!!! whoa....AMERICAN? High salary High benefits GOTTA CUT COSTS OUTSOURCE THEM OUTTA HERE Bangalore is the golden city of low cost support. Stress? Do you best and still get fired for some drone unit in a phone booth half a world away reading from a script.

frerichsmarkm
frerichsmarkm

In the 20+ years I've been developing software, it never ceases to amaze me that management seems to think re-aligning the #1 priorities weekly delays the completion of the software erog, blowing the deadline. So on top of the typical stresses you encounter, you also have the stresses of managing the management!

Tony DeRosa
Tony DeRosa

The lack of management communication, team building, knowledge sharing and empowerment. Management by intimidation is the most stressful environment to work in and the least productive.

tgstambaugh
tgstambaugh

During 25+ years of development, I've been on far too many projects where arbitrary deadlines were set that had no basis in reality. Deadlines are good and necessary when they are based on actual time estimates or on real needs. But often they are set based on a whim of management, or decisions by those with no technical understanding of what a project requires. I remember a site manager that cut the project timeline to 1/4 of the original estimate, stating "I don't think it should take that long" as his reason. Or "the project from hell" where a State legislature set an implementation date that was impossible to meet. We met the deadline working up to 120 hours a week, but the system was full of bugs and holes as was to be expected, and I had to take 3 months off to recover from severe sleep deprivation - I was hearing voices in the final stage of that project and got no more than 2 hours sleep at a time for weeks. Never again. Yeah, unrealistic, arbitrary deadlines stress me, just thinking about them stresses me. :-)

rmalkar
rmalkar

I would say bit of everything. But recently I'm stressed because of constant innovation in technology making me feel everyday that what I learned yesterday is of very less use today. Learning is not that much pain but for nothing makes you feel you just wasted your time. 2C.

gary.hewett
gary.hewett

Unrealistic and/or arbitrary deadlines especially when set by outside influences that have no concept of the issues really being dealt with. Basically there are two camps of people - those that get it done first/fast then get it right and those that get it right then do it fast or for real. Sadly the first batch usually gets the bigger paychecks...

Charles Simon
Charles Simon

Changes of direction. Half way through one project you get pulled off it to do something completely different - NOW!!! Then when go back to the original project your expected to finish by the original deadline!!

ScotlynHatt
ScotlynHatt

As I have been at it a while, I don't let the usual crap get to me. I am most concerned with the idea that I sit on my ass for most of my waking life. If you are a professional developer and have been at is for a few years, you understand that all of the customer crap, last minute, changes, and poor management knowledge come and go. They are part of leading this life. Once you are comfortable with this, it is time to be comfortable physically. I think about my chair, my keyboard/mouse ergonomics, my exercise routine, and my eating habits. If you want a long career at development, these things matter. Dealing with back problems, carpel tunnel, and obesity is not the life you want as you pursue your passion for code.

paglrg
paglrg

Outsource, they hired them off the street. They know nothing about computer and just can't believed just how stupid these outsources are.. Because we have to deal with them constantly till they get the idea and then another step to go and it start all over again.. Outsources are ineffective...

WebWatcher
WebWatcher

I deal with the forgotten requirements: Accessibility and Usability with Adaptive Technologies.

bluesnake
bluesnake

I think one killer is office politics. I can work around technical problems and work 24hrs however getting stressed out because of office politics is another thing. Better invest this energy is productivity!. Another real killer is lack of communication - the manager keeps the developers in the dark of what's going on in the team and business, where there project or projects are heading. Yet another killer is when a manager adopts point above and reluctant to share information in order keep you "down there" in the ladder. Everyone has a career to follow so let subordinates breath. Anyone experienced this type of stress?

lfaku
lfaku

definately co-workers!!! Bottlenecks!!!

maximesaby
maximesaby

dishonesty particularly from customer (on site the worst) , about business or priority management

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

I voted "Other". The reason being is that I do not know what other category my main stress source might fit in. First, keep in mind that in my field of work, EVERY project is a new and unique situation. No two jobs are the same, not even close. The main thing that stresses me out is the seeming expectation on the part of our customers that I can solve ANY problem in the next 5 minutes. Or, if I can not, I must be an idiot. ROFLMAO ... I can't even figure out how to tell them that some problems just take time to solve. I try to explain, but they simply haven't the background knowledge to even understand what I'm saying. Forget trying to advise me about simplified explanations, putting things into common everyday language and frameworks, etc. BTDT. The basic problem is that more and more, the people I deal with have NO experience with how things REALLY work, or any experience with attempting to do it themselves. Their experience and background is having watched a show about it on "How it Works"; a 30 second blurb they watched or heard on on TV, the radio or on some Internet based instructional video, or via some lecture given by a college "professor" (who probably never actually did whatever himself, personally). Whatever, they expect instant answers and instant solutions. And that's not how the real world works. It's a wee bit more complicated than that.

DaveSlash
DaveSlash

My biggest stress as a long-term developer is when the requirements are vague. The customer doesn't really even know WHAT they want, and they hope we'll magically and/or telepathically come up with what they REALLY want. As a corollary to that point, changing requirements is almost as frustrating. The decades-old quote from end-users says: "It's exactly what I asked for, but it's not what I want. Change it." That sounds ridiculous, but it's all too common.

sergioms_li
sergioms_li

At least at my experience, I've been with two General Directors who even that didn't have an IT career, the have been involved within an IT area before in their professional lifes. That's a factor that makes them think they know about IT enough to be much of a handrill at the head of the IT managers and developers, always trying to "help", telling how to do things and saying that everything they ask for is simple to solve.

ByteBin-20472379147970077837000261110898
ByteBin-20472379147970077837000261110898

If I have to stay up coding too late, and don't get my sleep, that can cause more stress than anything (which equates then to *anything* being stressful!)

nusyaputera
nusyaputera

Yes agreed, not about heavy-workload only, the co-worker trying to compare it with the salary differences, managements, his routines, managements, tea lady,.. When the (management)-meeting arrive, suddenly he keep his mouth-off-and-a-very-very-silently spoken, "..oo i hate this job,..."

reisen55
reisen55

KUDOS SIR. You've hit the nail on the head. IT technicians, be they programmers or network engineers, are ALWAYS at risk of outsource or offshore replacements. WHY? BECAUSE AMERICAN MANAGEMENT thinks that we are just a commodity item. Hey, those servers are working fine and all those guys do is watch them. WE DO MORE THAN THAT and maybe there is a reason why they are working - because WE DO WATCH AND CARE FOR THEM. But, what the hell, those highly trained, newly certified kids in Bangalore can do the same job (not quality job, just the job itself) for 1/4 pay and NO BENNIES. Great. Can the American workers and hire cheap foreign labor in a CRITICAL area and see what happens. Aon Group. Outsourced to Computer Sciences Corp in 2004. 140 staffers fired in December, 2005. 260 servers infected by a worm in October 2006. 30 days to get a new computer 90 days to get a new email address. THAT is what happens.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

The difference between then and now was there was less resource. Not always too sure how much of the current resource is fit for purpose nowadays, but that's another issue. All we can do is use the job we have to gain experience, beef up our skills and add to our toolsets. Job security is and always was a myth, career security however is our hands. If an employer promises you security, they are lying their arse off to get you to accept useless scut work and less pay.

Justin James
Justin James

I know exactly what you mean. Like some management teams assume that you padded the schedule so that you could stroll in at 10 AM and leave by 2 PM or something... J.Ja

joeller
joeller

There are so many wiseass jokes I could make about that but I won't because I remember when I had a job that I loved. I lost that job through corporate mergers, and have really never been happy since. Congratulations, I hope hope that your joy is never diminished

Javaman59
Javaman59

>> We met the deadline working up to 120 >> hours a week, but the system was full >> of bugs and holes as was to be expected I've found that there is a type of manager who will repeatedly present the message that the deadline is everything - it doesn't matter if the system has holes, just hit the deadline. So, we go all out for the deadline, as instructed, and then, when the holes and bugs appear, the manager takes no responsibility for the priorities he/she set, and criticises the developers. "You should have designed it properly..", "You should have tested it properly..", etc... Still, I salute your effort! I've worked on some tough projects, but never quite as bad as the one you describe!

Justin James
Justin James

Over the last few years, I've invested a lot of money in good monitors, a vertical mouse, and a great keyboard (the Kinesis Advantage). In addition, I lost a lot of weight and work out 5 - 6 days a week. As a result, I am able to be much more comfortable and work much longer without needing a break than I used to, and focus much better. I am no longer nagged by little aches and pains. I feel better at 30 than I did at 25. Another thing that helped was quitting smoking and no longer drinking caffeine. The constant need to leave the desk to satisfy my cravings for nicotine and caffeine were taking me "out of the zone" every 30 - 60 minutes, and putting me on a constant up/down/withdrawl cycle that make me miserable. Leaving those two substances in my past has revolutionized my ability to be productive. J.Ja

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

You're all too correct about the vague and/or changing requirements issue. But I didn't even think about that being a source of stress since I've come to think of it as the normal condition and way of things. We do contracted custom programming. And in our contracts we tend to be very specific, in writing, about what the customer wants and expects and what we agree to produce. Of course, during the process of actual development, testing, demoing, etc customer always "discovers" new needs or requirements and wants us to include those. And comes up with the age old line of "Ummmm, I know that's what I said and agreed to, but that's not what I meant." From our perspective, a certain amount of this is expected and tolerated. And within the agreed to pricing, we include a bit of extra "buffer" in the costs we plan on and charge the customer to cover these sort of expected events. So we go along with it, up to a point. Then, once they've used up that "buffer", we draw the line and get hard nosed about it. And point out the very specific terms agreed to and the fact that we even exceeded those. Now, Mr Customer, if you'd like more changes fine, but its going to cost you more. This is a common business practice. Happens all the time everywhere. Home builder contractors deal with it ALL the time, for instance. Customer will be shown plans that match what the customer said he or she wanted. Usually at least 2 or 3 times as the customer will want to change his/her mind about something or other each time. Finally a plan will arrive at the stage where customer agrees to sign on the dotted line and okay the start of the building process. But as the building goes up, inevitably customer decides upon further changes. Fine, a certain amount of extra costs were built in to the agreed upon contract amount. Contractor executes the changes. Up until that "extra" amount is used up. Then goes hard nosed and starts saying, "No, if you want any further changes it going to cost you extra." It's all just business as normal.

programmer07
programmer07

you took the words right out of my mouth. What's worse, in-house IT departments which care nothing about documentation. Nothing's worse than undocumented requirements which aren't signed-off on, hence they change frequently. Perhaps I spoke too soon. Could the lack of a decent "Change Management Process" be worse?

CRMatthews
CRMatthews

I can mostly deal with the lack of sleep (for 31 years now), and the sometimes inadequate documentation in development tools, and when things simply don't work the way they are "supposed" to. Overcoming technical challenges is what makes being a developer interesting and, can I say, fun. The biggest problems I have are dealing with customers of the "It's exactly what I asked for, but it's not what I want" variety and the ever changing (and vague) requirements. Dealing with State government regulation changes that are both ill-defined and constantly changing is certainly a challenge.

MadestroITSolutions
MadestroITSolutions

The same could be said from the developers. We think we know how "business works" but the reality of it is that we are always overengineering things instead of just making sure the simple requirements that were handed to us are solid code complete. :)

MadestroITSolutions
MadestroITSolutions

I go to sleep every night at 2:00am anyways, LOL. What I find really troubling is the lack of PERSONAL LIFE!

Justin James
Justin James

I'm the same way... take away sleep, and I become both totally useless and an actual liability, as my temper gets quite short. J.Ja

reisen55
reisen55

Job security never exists, except at IBM in the 1950s But generally it used to be that if you did your job WELL and met standards, your job was more secure than not. No longer so. Today you can do YOUR BEST WORK and meet standards and be complimented on that AND STILL BE FIRED just BECAUSE you are an American worker being paid wages to accomodate the American cost of living as opposed to Indian cost of living wages. NOT FAIR.

programmer07
programmer07

Thanks. This is rich! The VP of IT at the company I left a couple of months ago had this exact attitude. Please understand that I don't exaggerate when I quote him as saying: "There are 24 hours in a day. Work three 8 hour shifts." I realized he mostly pushed the developers as hard as he did, because the requests came down the pipe from the CEO. Still, it drove me nuts. I worked on a team which created custom apps to manage sensitive, customer financial data. Given that, I didn't feel good about getting the code written quickly and pushed to production...bugs and all. Taking a line from another forum user... "It doesn't stress me out anymore."

joeller
joeller

Ergomonics really does matter. And being uncomfortable really does affect your performance. I am proud to say I quit smoking 12 years ago last month after smoking for 29 years at a rate of 4.5 packs a day. I stopped drinking coffee for the most part about 6 years ago and now try to only drink caffeine-free sugar-free drinks (which means I have to bring in my own as the government vending machines don't stock any.) I have noticed an improvement in my motivation and concentration as a result. (Except when the government building are pumping contaminated air from the smoking area into the ventilation system.) However, since I started working on this site 8 months ago I have begun to experience constant pain in my knees because the office chairs don't raise high enough for tall people (as the government buys everything for people between 5'6" and 5' 9") and I spend the entire day in a kneeling position. All this as stated above is part of the life of a programmer, but the frustrating thing is knowing the problem and not being able to resolve the issue.

Osiyo53
Osiyo53

I'm not sure what point you're making. We're in the contracted work type business. And its highly competitive. Now, while we have preferred customers with whom we've established long term relationships and understandings. A certain amount of our business is with new customers, about whom we will know very little at first. They have a problem, or a new requirement, that can't be handled in house and put the job/task out for bid. We bid on it, and IF our bid is acceptable to the customer, and IF the customer finds our reputation for past job performance acceptable, we get the job. At such time we may know quite a lot about the requirements of the job at hand. But not much at all about the customer business/organization or individual personnel within said organization that we'll have to deal with. Usually, we know nothing beyond the publicly available info about the company/organization, and something about their financial situation. We'll investigate and find out about that last before even bidding on the job because we have this strange urge ... to get paid. Promptly and on time. It'd be nice if before doing business with a customer if we could sit down with em for a lengthy period and grill the heck out of em personally to see if they're the kind of people and personalities we'd prefer to do business with. But in our world, that's not the way things work. As concerns what I consider unreasonable expectations on their part. The truth is, if they actually knew better, did really understand the technicalities behind how things really work and get done ... as well as they sometimes fool themselves into thinking they do ... why did they need to hire our expertise in the first place? I'm certainly not speaking about ALL of our customers. Some are very technically knowledgeable. Others are not, but they are reasonable and realistic. I'm speaking about certain types of customers. The types that THINK they know a lot more than they do and can't seem to resist the urge to try to tell yah all about it, to inform you that in their estimate you're taking too long, or not doing it right, and so forth. And/or the types who really don't know much, if anything about it, except that in their estimate the work we're doing shouldn't take so long, shouldn't cost so much, and so forth. The last sort usually are of a mind set that, "Heck, it can't be that hard or complicated. I once figured out how to change the screen resolution on my desk top all by myself." ROFLMAO ... But in all honesty, sometimes I just want to scream in frustration. Or tell the person, "Will yah just go away, Idiot, you haven't so much as a clue." However, they ARE paying customers. So I just grit teeth, smile, and TRY not to let it get to me. I'm not always successful.

MadestroITSolutions
MadestroITSolutions

I just got off a project that was supposed to last 3 months and involved changes to an existing application. We started back in October of last year. The requirements kept changing to the point where we could have written the whole application again from scratch!

ZoomZoom
ZoomZoom

Sleep, or lack there of, has a huge effect on my productivity level... and when I'm tired and non-productive... my frustration level of being so snowballs into one stressed out developer. I've always needed my 8 hours sleep. When I don't get it, I'm about useless because I can't seem to figure out fairly simple things that otherwise wouldn't need a second thought. My wife thinks needing 8 hours sleep is all in my head so thinks nothing of keeping me up late when I have to be up early (and no, I wouldn't be complaining if it were for THAT!). She's a night owl and for whatever reason feels that talking should be done after midnight. I'm very curious to hear how other developers are about sleep. Does your productivity level go from 100% to 12% when short on sleep or am I just a wuss?

metalpro2005
metalpro2005

That's why code reviews (which I would like to call decision reviews through code) should always be seen in the context when the code was committed. Makes great reading.. :)

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

our deadlines were immovable, so when we got behind we'd have to increase our hours. I remember working weeks at a time at 16-18 hours a day with 4 hours of sleep in between. After a while it would become self-perpetuating, because nobody had any clear brains any more and the mistakes multiplied.

Tony Hopkinson
Tony Hopkinson

Management option for replacing us in days gone by were simply more limited. Seen as white collar, union power, scarcity, whatever, they were c**nts then as well. I didn't start in IT, did my first seven years on the shop floor, I was lower than shyt :p Anyway go for career security, the only thing you can rely on an employer to do, is do without you.

BigBlueMarble
BigBlueMarble

Well, there's NEED, and there's what is possible. I function best with 6-7 hours of sleep on a regular schedule. More than that, and I'm dragging and easily distracted. Less than that, and my productivity and accuracy decline exponentially. At the moment, I'm working 30 hours on; 6-8 hours off 6 days a week. I spend the 7th day sleeping it off. This makes having a life outside of work and sleep pretty much impossible.

joeller
joeller

Love the weekend naps. Now if that could be transferred to the workplace.....

Sterling chip Camden
Sterling chip Camden

Any more than that, and I'm actually more groggy. Less than that requires too much caffeine.

Justin James
Justin James

I try to not get less than 7 hours of sleep. I can function on less than that, but if it happens too often, it's like not sleeping at all. I'd love to get 8 hours a night, but it's just not possible right now. Even at 7/night, with my workout schedule being what it is (I really grind myself down), I have a tendency to utterly collapse on Saturday or Sunday, have have a total shutdown and end up with a huge nap in the afternoon. J.Ja

joeller
joeller

I suffer from sleep apnea so to get 5 hours of rest I have to be in bed for 10 hours. However with this new 1:45 -- 2:15 commute I I am up at 6 AM and getting home around 6 PM add in household chores and family requirements and it is usually 9:00 PM or later before I'm and headed for bed. By Wednesday each week my mind feels like mush. By Friday it is like pulling teeth to derive the code to carry out a simple process. I usually spend part of Monday redoing my Friday coding. My Boss doesn't suffer from sleep apnea and stays up past midnight every night checking out new technologies. He doesn't understand why people cannot be productive on 4-5 hours of sleep.

dstadler66
dstadler66

Loss of control. Agile practices mean that one is always working under deadline. When a developer begins a new gig she/he has to get a new environment up and working and be productive from the word go. Until you do the stress can be immense. Before you work that out the stress can be off the charts. On my first print I worked 14 hour days working *around* those issues, on the second the average was down to 10 or less *and* more productive. Fuzzy requirements are a pain but I ask around and usually nail things down quickly enough. Expanding bug reports are more stressful because management doesn't understand scope creep very well. The lousy economy is very stressful right now.

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