Burned out...:-(

...

I'e been at home since june 20th. So my tenth (9.9 to be precise) day away from work. I'm not fine. Not at all. I'm having anxiety attacks and moments of anger. I'm scared, inecured and have moments I just want it all to be over (as in: everything. As in: my life). I've been trying to stay on top if it, but I feel like I'm losing.

...and I can't fucking properly explain it. Well...I can. And I'll do so below, but it's just...words. The emotions behind it might make me look like a crybaby, but that doesn't matter to me anymore. I'm just going to write it. It's long and boring, so...feel free to not read. I'm NOT in the mood for replying to comments. If yours ends up being deleted, it's because I didn't like it. Repeat it for some reason, and that changes from "I didn't like the message" to "I don't like YOU". Anyway...


I've been with my current company for exactly seven years now (perhaps even to the day the moment I crashed). And I can't deny it: the first five were a dream job. I still have the same three colleagues, one of which became our boss roughly three months after I started. When I started, the company (who's running restaurant chains) were heavily in the process of switching cash registers. Meaning: well over two hundred completely new devices, a new program, a new way of doing things, the whole shebang. I was hired as a PC tech support employee (the only one), but was almost immediately thrown in the deep end because that new program needed to communicate with our bookkeeping program. The sole programmer and me learned, got on top of it, and started off becoming friends. All was good.

Less than a year on the job, a bomb exploded at Zaventem airport. We lost three stores (luckily: no real casualties, though the mental trauma weighed) and the place was closed for months. Meaning: no revenue for a large third of our stores, but we survived.

The end of that year (2016) we sold our outlets in the Netherlands. We survived. The workload didn't diminish as much as you might think, as the Dutchies were very independent (meaning: if they called, they REALLY had a problem). Zaventem, I started to notice, was a different situation. But ey...I went there perhaps once every month. Barely knew what we had as stores. Didn't need to either: I'm PC support. Okay, and cash registers, but these are really PC's as well. Just with more exotic hardware appliances.

In 2017 and 2018 we had some changes in upper management. By the end I had had more CEO's in that job than anywhere else. Projects came and went. It dawned on me what the others already knew: some people were there to come up with ideas that others had to implement...and nobody to support it. Especially in Zaventem this became surrealistic. At one point I had to go install an extra USB card reader (a raspberry pie with a cheap card reader and some software aimed at modernising a weird new payment mode). Just do that, they told me. I wasn't supposed to know how it worked. But that can only work if the cashiers know what the fuck the device is...which they simply weren't told. A year later I had to go collect those things. Most cashiers had no clue what the device was. One even insisted they didn't have it at their store WHILE I WAS POINTING DIRECTLY AT IT!

But ey...not my circus, not my monkeys.

My main annoyance was when I was tasked to prepare and hand out roughly 50 tablets. Well...not so much THAT. My boss said Italy (basically the real bosses of the company) had some program that would make a rollout easy. By that time I was weary because thus far all earlier attempts amounted to wasted time. In this case, it was both wasted time AND effort. My boss ordered the tablets...and then I was told the program would only work on a different brand. It needed protection X, software Y and configurations...I can't recall at this point. By the time I finally got it installed I had made multiple complaints to my boss because their supposed help required do me MORE work than just doing things manually. But I had to keep at it.
...only to finally learn that
A. the program couldn't push URL's (a problem because of the six purposes, four were simple web pages)
B. the programs weren't pushed directly. It was just that the user had access to an alternative store in which they just could install the two remaining programs (that were freely available in google's play store).
The whole endeavor was like going to buy a car and ending up with a shrubbery insurance instead...somehow. :wacko:

But anyway: it was 2019 by this point, and the above was just an anekdote. Then my boss's boss quit. She was a nice, albeit shy/nerdy woman. She didn't talk much, but was well respected in that what she said she meant, and that she did what she was supposed to. Her replacer...is a story on its own (not mine, luckily enough). But it's important to know that ICT is dumped under bookkeeping for some reason, so this replacer had no idea what the four of us were doing all day, let alone why, let alone how much work anything of it was. Looking back, that's the real start of my situation.


And okay: girlfriend and me moved in 2019. My commuting went from a 20 minute bicycle ride to an 80 minute bike+train+walk door-to-door situation. But I still considered it a dream job. Heck...when our child got born in january 2020 I at first didn't want to take parent leave.

Then corona hit everyone. I said before and say it again: best possible timing for girlfriend and me. I worked with my father-in-law on our house renovations and watched our baby become a toddler much closer than I otherwise would've. I missed my job, but after months it turned out that no open stores meant no real projects. The second part of the condition became apparent here as well: our Antwerp office had to move to a smaller Antwerp office, but I was relocated to Zaventem. Against my will, but I wasn't consulted (well...worse: I was questioned where I wanted to work. Then my answer got ignored).

Well...we could've done many things, of course. Like updating our cash registers to windows 10. But ey: when we slowly started reopening in 2021, we quickly found ourselves on the back pedal, as if we had to keep up for the missing year. In a sense, we did. The problem: upper management had fired many management positions in Zaventem, and the remaining either quit or were too new. Zaventem had always been a place where the cashiers and lower management were clueless, but were it was somewhat of anekdotally funny before (1) became more and more issues we had to deal with.
Well...I had to deal with, because my best colleague/friend I hardly saw anymore, my boss was increasingly busy elsewhere and the last colleague always managed to not be around when needed.

And this all started piling up on my actual activities. This got even worse (and I still find baffingly surreal) when our ICT stock had to move. It was from one floor below our office to...behind customs. Really: whenever I needed a fucking MOUSE I had to spend nearly half an hour going back and forth. And nobody fucking cares. Well...my boss says he does understand, but doesn't do anything. I had taken the initiative to move my own desk from roughly the center of gossip town to a windowless small, claustrophobic office because that data sync job between that (now no longer new but still needing support) cash register software and the bookkeeping software requires close attention, focus, a clear mind and careful solutions. It's like disarming a bomb sometimes, just not as explosive. It's a job that requires a calm atmosphere, not interrupted and careful monitoring.
None of which I had until I took the initiative to move. It was only silently approved by my boss, but HR had given away my previous spot less than a week later.


But anyhow...shit first hit the fan last december. Between april and mid december, one of our projects was updating the laptop's antivirus software. Took this long because everybody worked from home and it required everyone to come in and let us tamper on their computer for twenty minutes. I told you Zaventem weren't the smartest guys, right? I had plenty of "oh...right. I totally forgot you asked me to let you know when I came in. But I'm working from home now? Why can't you do it now?". But ey...job done, right?
Mid december our boss had to inform us Italy wanted a different antivirus software. To be installed everywhere by the end of 2021.

It was madness. Colleague and me had to inform everyone, write instructions, draft up a list of laptops, properly test it out, and...
...and colleague didn't budge. Worse: he didn't do jack shit (his job was to install it on the servers...some are still unpatched right now), and only critiqued me on the stupidest details. When I mailed him to cut the crap, he (okay: we) started a flame war that made clear he didn't consider the project his, wasn't responsible for anything and "everything should be done by PC support".

Yeah...thanks. It's all on fucking ME. He didn't budge. And our boss...said he wouldn't take side, but in reality just started belittling me from that moment.

I got the upgrade done. All boss communicated to above was that "there was critique in the team" regarding the timing (impossible), manpower (I had to drop everything for two weeks) and ignored that colleague went on absent leave for two or three weeks.

That was the first time I really considered changing jobs. Colleague was never really my friend, but we got along. He just brushes off work, but because he's good friends with the boss he can get by on minimal effort (with me usually picking up the slack).

2022 would become much worse. My friend and colleague had become caught in a back-and-forth between a paypod deliverer and our cash register program manufacturer (read: both point fingers at the other whenever things don't work...which is at least once every week). And since the end of covid we're opening stores a hellofalot more.

Oh, right: this also slowly evolved in my direction over the years: first it was just plugging in the hardware for the devices. Then configuring the hardware. Then contacting worldline, the bookkeeper who has to contact the government, our programming software manufacturer...basically, spending roughly 4-5 hours to ensure a cash register becomes actually USABLE in a store is all my job now. And boy, did we open stores the first half in this year. Our stock's empty, and that means we're larger now than when we had outlets in the Netherlands!
Except they aren't manned with intelligent people who get a clue that if their scanner doesn't work, perhaps it's because it has gotten unplugged.



...

sigh...

and then the main issue: i-coupon. The airport didn't learn from stupid payment methods last time and went for it again. This time using the barcode scanners. The same one our cashiers often unplug it because I the fuck don't know. But passengers with a delayed flight now get a QR code for a reduction in our stores. Provided the cash registered is configured for it. And it is registered.

Seems simple in theory. That's probably because I wasn't involved until it started going south. My colleague-friend had done all the configuring, and tested it. But when complaints came in, it wasn't through official channels but through our direction. Meaning: we were told to "fix" things without even knowing where there was a problem.
Colleague and me spent an entire day going over all the stores and not really finding a TECHNICAL issue. Cashiers often had no clue what the QR-code was. Lower management wasn't there. And at least in one store I'm 100% certain they literally unplug their scanners for some reason. It's only by accident we stumbled upon an actual technical issue: apparently there were two types of QR codes in circulation, but we weren't told this in advance. So colleague-friend chased the correct drivers, which we later installed. Meanwhile, he also noticed that when passengers showed their code on their phone, it was much harder to scan (remember: these devices are old and cheap, and never meant to scan anything but products). Boss ignored this.

Friday before easter my phone exploded. By my boss, really. Direction had been pushing him, claiming "multiple problems" with these stupid coupons. He acted as if colleague and me were somehow responsible for it, and insisted we checked it out ASAP (we were all working from home that day).
That next day colleague-friend and me spent ANOTHER day going over all the stores and finding zero incidents aside what we already knew: cashiers who were clueless, management unavailable. Okay, and a weird one: too much lighting in the store so the codes literally couldn't be scanned. And that one store doing its sabotage thing again.

Both colleague-friend and me relayed our findings, insisted that the cashiers be trained better, that management should freaking HELP instead of not being there, and that it was impossible for us to fix the lighting in the store. Oh, right: I should mention that cashiers are a rotating bunch in Zaventem. No idea why, but it's rare to see a same face there for long, so all training has to be done rigurously and repeatedly. It's not that we only hire morons (although I'm not that sure we don't...one of the anekdotes is that we once somehow ended up with a cook who couldn't cook).

I didn't mention that boss was supposed to get back to us about which types of codes were in circulation (friend and me just enabled all kinds to make up for this) but never did. I just told him I considered this just one project that was going to fail sooner or later, so we shouldn't be bothered by it. I just wanted to get back to my FREAKING JOB instead of running around the airport chasing problems that are at best self-made and at worst vague ("oh, it works now. why didn't it work when you weren't here?").

Instead, we all had to rework our work schedules so there would be someone at the airport each and every day. And then rework that again, because the three of us had actually done it by the time boss presented his solution (which was literally a copy-paste job of what we had done).

... I mentioned I'm a father, yes? I obviously can't work from home all the time, but the two work remote work days I really need because girlfriend has a busy schedule herself and our toddler has to get to and from the kintergarden. So all this back and forth really got on my nerves. I had to find solutions for a problem that wasn't even ours to begin with.


...

Monday the 20th started as usual. I woke up at 4:45, arrived at work slightly before 7 o'clock in my claustrophobic excuse of an office and had a complex job to do (sync issue between the program and the bookkeeping program). Then boss walked in.
Direction had told him there had to be someone at the airport at all times. I was confused, as it was less than a week since we had agreed to do exactly that.
It wasn't that. They wanted ICT to go round and "make sure icoupon works". And boss just assigned that to me. It had to take preference over my job.

(note: I had roughly 200 unread mails in both my mailboxes at that time, and hadn't even opened our program where people were SUPPOSED to make ICT requests).

I...could at best mumble. Still somehow presumed that we should take turns. Nope. Boss told me our remote-from-work days were a privilege that could be revoked at any given moment for any given reason (do note: before 2020 I was the only one who never worked remote).

I managed to keep myself composed until he left. Called girlfriend (was 8 o'clock at that time...she had toddler-kintergarden duty). When talking I got so angry I threw the (old) monitor aside and kicked the door. I...couldn't control my breathing. I panicked. Could hardly breathe. Luckily I was in that secluded office, or I had no idea what would've happened otherwise.

I stayed there close to an hour. Girlfriend calmed me down. Do what was necessary. Try to retain control. Most of the airport was closed due to a strike (also the reason direction expected more of those stupid vouchers being handed out). I had an official request in one of the closed sections of a scanner that wouldn't work. I decided I could do that: it was within the request, was a calm job and was 9/10 just a user error. So what that I couldn't get any real work done, right?

On my way out of the office, boss called me over. Said something of a phone that needed to be activated. Something of a...

...something...

...some...

I remember walking out in the middle of his explanation. Went back to my claustrophobic office, unplugging my laptop, putting it in my bag and then heading out.
Muttered to boss I couldn't do it. Walked out. He followed. I repeated I couldn't do it. Had no idea when (if?) I'd be back.
He wanted to know what "it" was.
Anything. Nothing. I just...couldn't. I was going home.
He said something of I couldn't just leave like that.
Told him I was incredibly angry and was about to hit with things.
(fuck...i wanted to throw my airport badge in his face. I'm now glad I didn't do it, but I really, really wanted to do that).
He said I couldn't function like that.
Swallowed my annoyance, repeated that I was going home, and left. "On foot if I have to"

Left.

Phone rang. Still don't know what that was about. It had updated earlier and was acting a bit weird. I don't think it was anyone (it's not in my history), but I panicked and was so angry I nearly threw it against the wall.
(note: this is my personal phone. It just has work's sim card).


Only in the hall I managed to calm a bit. Trains home left half an hour, and though I really NEEDED to be out it wasn't smart to actually try walking home (it's an hour long train ride, so...you don't just WALK home).
I called our safety prevention person. Great guy, have a good working relationship with him. Roughly sketched what happened. He understands too well (fuck...he's almost in the same boat at times). Agreed I should go home. Rest. See a doctor. Those things.


So...I went. I was completely numb. Even worse: when half a day later, girlfriend arrived with our child, I could barely muster a smile. I faked it.



I'm...I'm still faking it most of the time. Talk about the steam deck's advantages (those are real), giving out games...but I'm not fine. I'm just...not.


...I might continue later. For now, I'm on absent leave. I'll see the doctor for the second time later today. And a psychiologist (physician? "psycholoog" in Dutch) in 20 days or so.

The weird thing: I had sollicitized elsewhere nearly two months ago. I've got a talk upcoming monday. That's looking good, but I don't know if I can even compose myself good enough. I...I just don't know.






(1): at one point, we received a photo from upper management from a cash register whose screen had somehow gotten turned sideways. What would literally be at most a five minute job ("ctrl+left or something when taking over the pc remotely") was ignored and the cashiers had put the monitor on its side instead :P

Comments

Okay, I read the whole thing. I'm not here to offer a magical piece of advice like it will help, because it won't, and I think you know that yourself. This sounds like it's been a long time coming, and it'll be a long time fixing too.
I've been where you are and I know how it can unleash a chain reaction of stress and absolute, utter discord. Once something like this snaps, all of the weight above comes tumbling down. You need to understand that nobody has the right to demand more from you that you're capable of. You'll find the right way through in time, whether that's a change of career or a change of lifestyle that lets you heal.
I'm glad you've got the family so you're not alone in it. I know sometimes it feels better to not have the family so then at least nobody else is relying on you, but they're a blessing. Take the time you need. Thanks for posting this.
 
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Hello,

thank you for sharing your story. First of all I want to gratulate you for having a child, that is awesome.

It is really interesting to get a look inside you profession, even if the circumstances are so unfortunate. From an outside perspective it looks like the cooperation is degrading and they are taking you down with them. In fact you are the first to take the punshes. The systematic irresponsibility of higher ups that eventually channel down the responsibility to entities, who are smart enough to be in the position to take responsibility, but are simply not in the position to acutally make the critical decisions. Here you are at a point were you simply cant win, they will squeeze you as long as possible, and if people like you are not taking the shit anymore the whole thing will collapse. They are really banking on people like you buffering all this systematic failure. It is like Atlas who barely manages to hold heaven and earth apart.

What may help you right now a little bit at least may be 500mg-1000mg (all at your own risk I am not a professional) of magnesium glycinate, 1/4 teaspoon ascorbic acid and water kefir with molasses.

In the long run the only bulletproof solution to make sure you wont be the one carrying the shit of others, is to make sure your testosterone level is higher than those who bother you by a good bit. I can give you my tips if there is interest.

I am not optimistic about your work situation, it seems to be toxic, and seeing how agitated you are, you have been taking way too much shit for far too long. I hope you will find a way, and that this can at least be a fruitful lesson to you. Don't take shit from others. You might loose your position, but that may be better in the long run. You just cannot let them grind you down like that. Stay strong, stand your ground, defend yourself. Fight for you to be treated properly. If they drive you into madness, that is a really shitty deal for you. You are making it tooeasy for them. Make it costly!

I wish you all the best!
 
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"I was questioned where I wanted to work. Then my answer got ignored"
The cynical bastard that is me would actually note your answer was more than listened to. If they don't know who you are, what you do... and getting rid of you is hard (see also most European employment law) then making you quit is a solid solution.

That said I have identified the real problem. You care. Don't do that, they certainly don't care about you. Be utterly mercenary. Only way to roll when encountering such people.
 
Do not think of your opinions as wrong or fitting a crybaby, since they're appropriate of the situation, even though I'll take a page of @FAST6191 's book and point out the problem lies in the fact you're probably one of the last workers actually caring about a job well-done. And while this is hardly something condemnable concerning yourself, it is obvious that the results will only hurt you.

Also, I'd recommend getting a sandbag. It's much more productive and less costly punching it than throwing things around and breaking stuff.

And take care of yourself and your family. It's the most important thing to do.
 
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"I was questioned where I wanted to work. Then my answer got ignored"
The cynical bastard that is me would actually note your answer was more than listened to. If they don't know who you are, what you do... and getting rid of you is hard (see also most European employment law) then making you quit is a solid solution.

That said I have identified the real problem. You care. Don't do that, they certainly don't care about you. Be utterly mercenary. Only way to roll when encountering such people.
Hmm... In their defense, their move was about half a year after I've moved away myself. So the new office in Antwerp (roughly 2 streets from the previous) became almost to the minute the same travel distance as to Zaventem. Hence my proposition for half/half, even though i disliked the mentality in the airport. But yeah... It's certainly called by someone who underestimated what i did and moved me to be able to give more work.
(the strange thing is that Antwerp office is going to close for the remainders, but I'm not going to wait for that to happen, let alone whether it'll improve anything).

I'm not the least one who still cares, but that's what makes this so hard. I don't mind quitting on those who gossip more and circumvent extra work(1), but i'll also abandon those who'll end up doing lots of the things I'm currently doing, this increasing burnout chance on their behalf. Though I've gotten support from those whom I've told I'll be leaving, it still hurts. :(

(i suck at being selfish)




(1): again in their support: they're aren't lazy workers there anymore. Just inefficient ones and those assigning more work all the time
 
Man...something drew me to sit down and read what you have shared.
I am really glad you got to write/type it all out here.
Looking at this, to go back to those moments, can be very therapeutic.
Kind of also dealing with people coming and going these past few years.
What you have shared has really made me think about various things
And I want to thank you for sharing.
I hope that you can get the help and support you need for your family to continue going forward !
 

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