Thus spake Zarathustra on the theory of employee exhaustion

A certain concerned member from the People team of a new age organization wrote thusly on an internal mailing list: (reproduced with permission)
This is probably unscientific but might have some truth none the less. People seem to be tiring early on in life these days. Give most people half a chance to talk about it and forget tiring, they will most probably talk of retiring!

I am not talking about a phenomena exclusive to our organization here so please don't read deeper into the general shallowness of these thoughts - it seems to be true across employees in many companies. Most of these people that I have come across have typically been part of the industry for more than 7-8 years. I think this is about the time when the fatigue starts setting in?

This fatigue makes you think: think if you want to continue doing what you are currently doing; think if you want to do something else and if something else then what that something else is; or maybe you don't want to do anything else; probably you are sure you don't want to do what you are currently doing - what else you do is something you think you will figure out later! You feel like going on frequent leaves whether you are able to take such frequent leaves or not is a different issue.

Then you may want to take a long leave rather than frequent leaves. When you come back from your long leave, you feel refreshed but only for so long. Soon enough you look forward to more holidays. With every successive long leave you take, the time for which you feel refreshed after coming back keeps reducing (marginal utility?). So you want to now take frequent long breaks! Then you think of working part time if at all. The movie Office Space denotes this in a much more exaggerated sense where the guy simply decides to stop going to work!

Hmm the point is that not one, not two but a whole bunch of folks seem to be feeling this way, across companies and probably across industries. It is kind of similar to Fatigue Theory (progressive exhaustion leading to internal fractures). Fracture relates to breaks. So, with progressive exhaustion you want a break :-p. I am hoping most of you have never felt this way (in which case, three cheers to our organization in general and our People team in particular lol).

For those who have felt this way or heard your friends talking about similar stuff, what do you assign this exhaustion to? Any practical remedies?
In responding to which, a certain employee became an instrument of Zarathustra.
Thus Spake Zarathustra

>>what do you assign this exhaustion to?

The median experience level for this kind of mid-intellectual-life crisis has been observed to be 8 years, 4 months and 2 days.

In modern careers, approximately 27.4% of yuppies come to the realization that it is all maya. Henceforth, members of this enlightened population will be referred to as "escape artists". This term should not be construed as hinting at escapism. After all, spake Zarathustra, one does not brand the heros in the film "The Great Escape" as escapists. Nay, they were true seekers of liberty. As to use of the term 'artist', it signfies that creativity is generally a striking characteristic of this group of people.

Sooner or later, an escape artist remembers some childhood limerick and is tempted to consider it gravely.

Wire, briar, limber-lock
Three geese in a flock
One flew east, one flew west
And one flew over the cuckoo's nest.

Pondering over such profound rhymes, one begins to agree with the taunt: "Even if you win the rat race, you are still a rat". But the path to liberty is riddled with thorns. One's prefrontal cortex begins to play the security card. It argues that in order to maintain a certain level of consumption, it is imperative to have stable postive cashflow. It reminds one that one is an individual, a wage slave, and not a faceless corporation that may be bailed out by governments in times of delinquency. Therefore one cannot be reckless with respect to leaves of absence.

These countervailing forces lead to bouts of absence and reporting to work.

>> any practical remedies

This topic, spake Zarathustra, must be broached with utmost caution. For it is all too common to confuse practical remedies for easy remedies. In a world where every man must toil for his next parantha, there is no easy lunch. Practical remedies exist, they may not be easy.

The meta level template of the remedy is the principle of loose coupling. This principle might be all too familiar to exponents of the black art of SOA. Essentially, the principle states that a robust system can be constructed out of discrete subsystems that are not tightly coupled with each other. Tight coupling results in implicit dependencies and leads to a brittle system. e.g. an extremely inter-dependent world is necessarily fragile - a certain bunch of crooks on Wall Street can, by their reckless behaviour, affect the fortunes of a totally independent set of crooks in Hyderabad.

An employee is tightly coupled to her employer. The promise of a fixed monthly salary magnifies the coupling because nobody promises the employer a fixed monthly income. The employer, spake Zarathustra, has to resort to all manner of tricks and compromises (T & C) to keep paying salaries. These T & C lead to disenchantment among the escape artists. They transition to the NED state. (NED, for the uninitiated, stands for No Enthu Da ). The NED state is the other end of the spectrum from the TED state. No, this does not refer to the enthusiastic state of speakers in TED talks, although it might be a useful simile. TED, for the uninitiated, stands for Total Enthu Da.

How do we reduce the coupling?
That is left as an exercise for the reader. Actually, the answer is available, but only on entering into a premium rate consulting contract with Zarathustra.


Exhaustion reference:

NED Reference:


1 comment:

Narayan Raman said...

Can you call me and tell me what you wrote towards the end? I went into the NED state by then :p

Good one :)

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