Recently a post was making the rounds on LinkedIn wherein which a manager describes how poorly he had treated an employee. Something of a public apology, something of a warning for others, something of a teaching moment, I absolutely resonate with most of what he said. Here are many of the salient points:

I made him work 100 hours per week, for years, with no overtime pay.

I frequently made him pull all-nighters.

Saturdays off? Yeah right.

Vacation days? I gave him a week off after a few years.

I forced him to work when he was sick and on holidays – even Christmas.

Perhaps for all this he was paid more than other employees?

H! No, he’s never been the highest paid employee in the company.

On top of that, I always paid this guy last, when I paid him at all.

One time I even made him work for years without taking a single paycheck, and I’ve still never paid him back for that. Ha! What a sucker.

I’ve always kept my promises to other employees, but this guy? I break my promises to him all the time.

I should be arrested for how I’ve treated this employee, but thankfully if he tried to press charges nobody would take him seriously because, as you may have guessed, that employee is me.

Over the past few weeks I’ve been really puling my hair out when it comes to work, namely juggling all of the responsibility of managing an entire department and performing work within said department. I’ve talked about my challenges elsewhere on this blog, and honestly I want to focus on what advice I can give others who may feel like they’re in, or in danger of being in, my position.

Whenever someone asks me for career advice, and it does flatter me when they do, I always caution them “don’t be me.”

What I mean when I say that is not to deprive yourself for the sake of some ephemeral corporate- or self-imposed goal. I’ve worked for small local shops, for international firms, for myself, and now for a large multi-national corporation. If nothing else, I’ve learned the most important part of any job, any career really, is to set appropriate expectations. Whether it’s between you and a client, you and your team, you and your managers, or you and yourself, it is far, far too easy to get burned out by over-promising and eventually under-delivering.

It’s been a few years since I was really knocked out by the flu, but here I am, sick on the couch, instead of enjoying a peaceful weekend after a non-stop end of/start of year rush. I should have been home yesterday, but instead I was at the office for several important (to the company) meetings, a network install, and then after-hours troubleshooting with a top-priority client. Heck, I was writing emails back and forth with management and that client even today when I could barely lift my head off of the pillows.

Burnout is a very, very real thing. I’ve suffered from it time and time again, and yet I keep finding myself falling into old patterns of taking on responsibility for everything, delegating poorly, and feeling like the world rested on my shoulders, whether that was the reality or not. Just last week I told my boss that I needed to take some time off, and that I’d be scheduling it after the hectic rush of last week. He was happy to have me do so, and I’m honestly very lucky that he believes in the necessity for employees to take time off, to de-stress and be in a headspace that isn’t “work mode” all the time. Unfortunately I’m here, involuntarily taking Monday off due to illness, so I can hit the ground running again on Tuesday when I have a full week of potential client appointments, on-site project engineering, corporate training (both sitting in on and leading), and the usual managerial overhead of running a department.

While I continue to try and improve, and move away from old patterns, I can really only offer the same piece of advice I give everyone who asks – learn from my example, and don’t be me.