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Thread: Overcoming work place burnout

  1. #26
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    Now switching gears, I also remind you that you won't be able to be "excited" about going to work through a whole career regardless of what techniques you use. You may have to develop some different attitudes for the long haul. We all do, but it is different for everybody. I don't recommend resignation or cynicism, which happens to too many planners, but you may need to think about how to see your role in terms of evolution rather than excitement.

    Hmm..

    I'd love to hear that statement explored more....

  2. #27
    Cyburbian Planner Hottie's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by PlannerByDay
    I have many hobbies, and that may be my problem. All I do is day dream about what I'm going to do after work because I am not motivated to do anything at work but cyburbia and other internet websites.
    Figure out a hobby you can do at work.

    Soap carving?
    Origami?
    Tatting?

  3. #28

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    Re being motivated only by web sites: the other day I forgot my computer (it is a laptop) at home and got to the office without it. It was great! I got all sorts of paper filed. Maybe you need to leave yours off for a while and see where that leads you?

    As for evolution v. excitement, I am simply suggesting a direction one might want to explore. Think about being in love with someone for a while - after the romance there has to be something more. Work is the same way.

  4. #29
    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Maister
    It may be that you don't feel your talents are appreciated or have an insufficient workload. I suggest asking your coworkers if they have any particularly challenging situations/cases they are dealing with that they would care to hand over to you. Nothing like dealing with a sociopath or two to reinvigorate one's outlook, make one appreciate the fact that they are alive, and get the juices flowing once again!
    I don’t thank so Stan.

    I have a complaint that lists every house on the street… Not in a low mod area, and two of them are former drug houses and the boss wants me to bring a police officer. That will keep me busy for the next week. Maybe I will get shot at and can take a week of for ‘emotional recovery’!
    Not my monkey, not my circus. - Old Polish Proverb

  5. #30
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    it's all good

    I have been in burn out mode for real and ended up changing my direction but first, you have to ascertain a few things:

    are you depressed about anything else going on in your life - relationships, friendships, family issues, neighbor problems, looks/weight, money or lack thereof, house/car woes - anything - it's amazing how this stuff, when it gets added up, can affect your workday, just as bad workdays can affect your homelife, the other way around works just as well/bad...

    what is it about your work that you think sucks - is it a bad Board/committee/commission that you are serving, is every project you are on extremely controversial, are you overloaded beyond your saturation point of what can reasonably get done, are you not connecting well with your manager, do you feel disconnected in general with the organization, co worker problems, is the overall job description is something you feel you are beyond now and are ready for the next step up

    often it's a combination of alot of the above list and beyond that contributes to burn out, so assemble the list first

    once the list gets assembled, you decide what things can you change, and how best to change them and the things that you are not in control of and cannot be changed, can you live with them as they are?

    overall, the best manner to begin "burnout assessment" is to look in the mirror and see what you are either doing or should be doing to get out of the rut and once this is assessed, you can move into a phase of either changing the path altogether and leaving the organization or having a mental plan to change what you can change

    good luck, it sucks, i've been there twice in my career - but remember, in a new job, you are still you - you can't run from yourself - starting over just means a new file cabinet in a new office

  6. #31
    Member CosmicMojo's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis
    Now switching gears, I also remind you that you won't be able to be "excited" about going to work through a whole career regardless of what techniques you use. You may have to develop some different attitudes for the long haul. We all do, but it is different for everybody. I don't recommend resignation or cynicism, which happens to too many planners, but you may need to think about how to see your role in terms of evolution rather than excitement.
    I agree; everything in life is like a rollercoaster, constantly moving up and down. We deal with the ups and downs and look to the long term to get us through the downs.

  7. #32
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    Lee hits it again -

    Quote Originally posted by Lee Nellis

    As for evolution v. excitement, I am simply suggesting a direction one might want to explore. Think about being in love with someone for a while - after the romance there has to be something more. Work is the same way.
    woops - don't know how to connect this into my post above, maybe a moderator will do it for me - sorry

    this is truly an excellent point - your career is really like a marriage - you have to decide your commitment

  8. #33
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Re-hashing an old thread here:

    So here is my predicament

    I used to love my job. Always an adventure. New projects, always something to work on, fast paced, never a dull moment. Then 2008 started to slow down, but it wasn't too bad, and enter 2009 and it hit like a ton of bricks. Lost some projects, wrapped up others. My company reduced my work schedule from 40 hours/week to 32 hours a week in Feb. Then in June, I took an additional 5% pay cut. I have seen most of my co-workers around my get laid off. Now we have a direction of being X% billable per month. I received my target this month with a little note saying "additional call of days may be necessary depending on work load". I have been in the private sector for 6 years and what once was a great thing to go into work on a daily basis has been replaced with "god, lay me off now" attitude.

    Ok, now I know people will say "be happy you have a job" but at the same time i feel my growth as a planner has ceased since about 2007 here when I was passed over for a promotion and we hired someone for a senior planner gig who bailed in less than a year. How the hell do i stay motivated at my job when there is no revenue source coming in the next few months? I know the writing is on the wall (and i anticipate a layoff coming either end of this quarter or Q1 2010). On top of the add a job search that has been miserable for the last 9 months and you have one disgruntled, unmotivated planner. I need some advice please!
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  9. #34
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    CPSURaf, I am not sure how much advice I can offer, but I can empathize. What you describe is the same thing that I and other planners I know have experienced. Slowdown, followed by staff reductions, followed by a pay freeze, then more staff reductions, then a pay cut, then more staff reductions. Without much work to do and without many projects even to bid on, there simply is not enough to do to keep from becoming bored and disallusioned.

    I would be concerned about your company now focusing on billable hours. Just how is this goal supposed to be achieved when there is not enough work? On top of that we are all cutting our pricing to compete for the limited number of jobs out there. You are probably right to think your position is in jeopardy.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  10. #35
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    I would be concerned about your company now focusing on billable hours. Just how is this goal supposed to be achieved when there is not enough work? On top of that we are all cutting our pricing to compete for the limited number of jobs out there.
    I think this is part of the route of the problem. I have taken a paycut, yet my "billable rate" has remained the same and we have yet to drop our billable rates. So WTF is the motivation in that? We have let go most of the "indians" and the "Chiefs" are pretty much left.

    **sigh**
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  11. #36
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    Overcoming Burnout

    The Inner Game of Stress by W. Timothy Gallwey is an excellent book that you may find valuable on your stress reduction journey.

  12. #37
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    By the time I got laid off in August, I felt like I wasn't loosing much. I was working for a desing/build firm that offered no health insurance or other benefits. They had cut my pay, taken my sales commissions, and most of the jobs weren't even that interesting. I was getting paid only about $160 more a week than I now get under unemployment. Yeah, counting the days until the layoff is an uncomfortable place to be and to stay motivated.

    A friend of mine who has been living in Amsterdam for several years now and has traveled all over the world told me about people he'd encountered or read of who just decided to travel after a layoff. Just sold everything salable and used the proceeds for a low-budget world tour. I wonder how that would look on a resume. At least it would give you some good stories...some interesting memories to look back on when in your declining years. Could be a plan to look forward to in case of the layoff.

    Anyone see the "Lost Generation" article on CNN.com yesterday? Talk about lost motivations.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

  13. #38
    Cyburbian
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    If a firm decides to use billable hours/utilization percentages, I think they should monitor these numbers and establish quarterly goals for each person/department depending on the size and corporate structure of the firm. Personally, if the worker/department fails to meet these goals in as little as 2 consecutive quarters, they should be put on notice.

    I had 11 consecutive quarters of underutilization before I was finally laid off (for reasons beyond my control). I was very surprised that the owners kept me employed that long. Maybe it had to do with me being the only planner, staffing the department AND taking the initiative doing all of the marketing, networking, and pro-bono for that branch of the firm. Well, at least I got my AICP and LEED-NC exams paid for.

    Firms are continually shaking employees out left and right. If these firms are still around and big enough to compete when work comes back down the road, I think they should emphasize the sales side of consulting, even at the entry or mid levels. Base play with commission along with quarterly reports to ensure goals are met will ensure these workers prove their worth, rather than eating into profits as salaried workers. Placing these responsibility on the shoulders of the workers means that the owners should also provide merit based pay based on annual individual performance (or group performance for larger firms). In this corporate structure, the employees are taking on part of the jobs of the owners and should be compensated fairly for their efforts.

    I think there are many independent consultants working right now with jobs on the sides who will slowly start bringing on more staff. These are going to replace the large dinosaurs that are still constantly shedding staff because they didn't lay off staff earlier (sorry Raf).
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  14. #39
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    It really seems to be true that the public sector is countercyclical. When the economy was good, things were a little slow for us. Now, with all the stimulus money and some good timing, we're going gangbusters busy. And given what I hear out there, I am very grateful. And I am finding work very fulfilling, which wasn't true in 2005-6 at all.

    This is not to gloat, simply to suggest that bored consultants check out the public sector for a while. I'd be shocked if there wasn't some hiring related to stimulus money. We could hire more people if we wanted to, but we're choosing not to, mostly for political reasons. But other places may not be so constrained.

  15. #40
    Cyburbian chupacabra's avatar
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    Just sold everything salable and used the proceeds for a low-budget world tour. I wonder how that would look on a resume.
    I've thought about this. If you could spend an extended period in one spot and do some sort of volunteer work, I think it could look good. My guess is that the people most impressed by it would be the ones you'd be most interested in working for.

    Now, with all the stimulus money and some good timing, we're going gangbusters busy.
    I'm with the feds and we've been pumping NEPA work into the private sector for months now. I hope it tinkles down into employment for folks, or at least keeps some offices stable for a bit longer.
    You can grow ideas in the garden of your mind.

  16. #41
    Cyburbian
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    Stimulus money is another big red flag why I am seriously considering leaving the profession for good. If we need some federal bailout to keep our wheels cranking, then planning is slowly turning into a welfare profession. Politics aside, in the 1970s some planning jobs relied heavily on CDBG assistance which evaporated under Reagan. CDBGs relied on local borrowing. Today's stimulus money is federal borrowing, which can have catastrophic consequesnces in many areas, not just planning.

    Maybe I'm a fiscal conservative, but many planning jobs should be created when communities have the funds to hire and not to rely on some federal handout. There has always been some form of federal and state assistance for communities, even in good times. Unfortunately, many communities turned construction into a racing game, expanded too fast too quickly, demand didn't meet supply, and now many defaulted on municipal bonds and are hovering near bankruptcy.

    Stimulus money for tranportation projects is not meant to keep us employed (planning is such a minute consituency competing against much bigger sharks (AMA, AARP, etc.) competing for a slice of the pie). I think a lof of the infrastructure construction, like the WPA, is to ultimately improve interstate commerce. Goods move faster on better roads lowering the cost of transport (to offset the price of oil and hyperinflation which is just around the corner).
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  17. #42
    Cyburbian
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    Spot on Nrschmidt,

    Why does planning need stimulus money? There are too many planning positions (mainly in the US) that are basically social worker positions, and the salaries would definately prove it.

    I agree somewhat with Randall O'toole's article about planners creating the housing crisis. HUD, democrats and community activist organisations (which employee many US planners) gave people the idea that it was there right to own a home. Ive been busting my balls for years and still I cant afford a decent home in Sydney, what gives these low income people the right? How about you invest in some skills or training programs like the rest so you can make a decent wage? Its these "community activists" that have brought the profession down. Homeownership is a privilege, not a right.

  18. #43
    Cyburbian
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    I wasn't talking about home ownership. The housing crisis stems from easy lines of credit extended to people with questionable credit histories. The construction crisis stems partly from municipalities approving developments to line their coffers.
    Unfortunately, planners are advisors, and as such their passive, perhaps powerless role, in the ultimate decision making combined with a general contempt from the general public, has pointed the finger at the planner for contributing to this mess.
    "This is great, honey. What's the crunchy stuff?"
    "M&Ms. I ran out of paprika."

    Family Guy

  19. #44
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    I don't see where the stimulus has had, or has had a continuing major impact on our profession or related fields like architecture and engineering. First of all, the majority of projects favored construction on projects already sitting on the shelf. There was no need for significant planning or design services. Activities like the Neighborhood Stabilization Program have created some work for community development and housing professionals, but that money was a one-shot deal. For example, even this year, with all of the stimulus money provided, 19 states spent less on transportation than the prior year. Stimulus has been used to plug holes rather than create much new work. What happens next year when there is no stimulus. State revenues are down something like 20 percent, and municipal revenues are also taking a severre hit. No, stimulus funding may have stalled a more precipitous slide, but things are still getting worse in the public sector.
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

  20. #45
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by nrschmid View post
    Stimulus money is another big red flag why I am seriously considering leaving the profession for good. If we need some federal bailout to keep our wheels cranking, then planning is slowly turning into a welfare profession. Politics aside, in the 1970s some planning jobs relied heavily on CDBG assistance which evaporated under Reagan. CDBGs relied on local borrowing. Today's stimulus money is federal borrowing, which can have catastrophic consequesnces in many areas, not just planning.

    Stimulus money for tranportation projects is not meant to keep us employed (planning is such a minute consituency competing against much bigger sharks (AMA, AARP, etc.) competing for a slice of the pie). I think a lof of the infrastructure construction, like the WPA, is to ultimately improve interstate commerce. Goods move faster on better roads lowering the cost of transport (to offset the price of oil and hyperinflation which is just around the corner).
    Planning is by definition generally a "bailout" economy since it involves public goods and externalities, and therefore relies on government redistribution to internalize the externalities. I don't see anything wrong with that. If society doesn't need planning it won't fund it with tax revenue, which is the case in many places. There's no reasonable scenario where planning jobs will continually be paid for by the private sector.

    Anyway, all I meant is that people who are burned out in the private sector or about to be laid off or both could consider looking to the short term jobs being created by ARRA for some gap-filling work. I actually think that planning jobs created by stimulus money are just as legitimate as construction jobs or the improvements to interstate commerce. Take the opportunities to plan where you find them!

    In the end if you don't think much of earning a living directly, or indirectly, from tax revenue, you are probably in the wrong profession.

  21. #46
    Cyburbian
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    This is going to sound really picky but as I was reviewing the city's salaries published in the paper today (as required by law) I noticed that other than division director positions the people who made the most money at my city didn't have a college degree and did what most of us would consider blue collar work. The list got me interested in salaries of other workers in my town.

    I know nobody gets into planning for the money but the more I read about hairstylists salaries in my city ($43,000), blue collar city workers (over $60,000) average, local electricians and plumbers ($80,000 +) it makes me wonder what is the appeal of stressing through college if we're going to make less money than people who started working right out of high school. We can dream of changing the world but most of us are wise enough to know that's not going to happen doing traffic counts for new subdivisions. We talk about so many students going into planning but what is the appeal? You can make more money bartending at a popular nightclub and probably have more fun, too. Sigh...

  22. #47
    Cyburbian boilerplater's avatar
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    HUD, democrats and community activist organisations (which employee many US planners) gave people the idea that it was there right to own a home.
    This is getting the thread further off-topic, but wasn't HUD kind of forced to change it's focus from providing housing to making people home-owners? I think the idea was that home-owners, vs. renters, are better for a community, more personally invested etc. A lot of public housing was torn down with the idea that it would be replaced with "market-rate" housing mixed with subsidized housing. Wasn't that part of the whole "ownership society" concept? I think another factor squelching the conversion of renters into home-owners has been the loss of stable jobs to other countries, the loss of a manufacturing base, etc. Maybe a small part of it is the fact that there are some people who find it difficult to maintain a stable life due to addictions, emotional instability, etc. and trying to make those people homeowners will prove to be very risky.

    Another point I want to make is that my impression has been that a lot of planners were attracted to the profession because they were troubled by what they saw as the negative effects of development or by wishing to better current development patterns. In a lot of markets, developers appear to have no financial incentive to do better.
    Adrift in a sea of beige

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