Millennial Burnout


I know it’s been your life for the past twenty years. And for that I am genuinely happy for you, you seem like a great guy and I would wish you nothing but the best.

What I was trying to say is that your experience isn’t shared by a great many Americans. I would go so far as to say the majority of Americans, and feel confident that is an accurate statement. To them, I think what you describe sounds like a fairy tale and not “how the world works”. Telling people that their wage and working conditions are just a negotiation between themselves and their employer and just to go elsewhere is akin to telling them to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.


Maybe, but some of this stuff seems like it’s just acknowledging the reality of the situation. You can’t pass laws and really “fix” what you are seeing as a problem. You don’t actually have the power to do that, due to the nature of the global economy.

Imposing overbearing labor restrictions will further the incentive to push jobs overseas, which will ultimately harm the employees in the US. Attempts to counter that with isolationist trade policies will likewise backfire, and further harm those people.

Now, aside from attempts at government intervention, a different angle from this is merely a discussion of “what should we want, as employees.”

In that case, this becomes something more akin to just a discussion of our goals and motivations when going into these negotations with employers.

My company is small, and we don’t live in a huge metropolitan areas. We compensate our employees well, but real big tech companies can outbid us for their time. The flip side is the stuff I mentioned previously… I take care of my engineers, because doing so makes sense. I don’t force them to work 60 hour weeks. I consider them investments that get better over time, rather than disposable objects to be used. And thus far, my attitude has worked out. I’ve built up a really good team of very talented engineers who are happy.

But again, they could probably get paid more money if they went to Google. Free sushi and massages and crap. I’ve had Google try to poach my engineers from me before.

But they failed, because I think the folks here recognize what we’ve got going. It’s sometimes harder when we’re recruiting though, as it’s not always apparent the value to NOT being as stressed out as you guys are talking about.

So maybe if folks cared more about that stuff, it’d be easier to recruit top talent. I’ve got no problem with that.


This led me to check it out on Amazon, and then purchase it’s predecessor Sapiens.

I’m about 50 pages in. Thought provoking already.

Imagined realities…


You say that, but places like France have made it illegal to email workers after hours. We can also raise the level of income required to pay people overtime when they’re on salary- it was set to go to 48k (from the current 23k), but then Trump won the election, and essentially his labor secretary paused the effort. Looks like it might go up to 30k soon (a joke, really)- 48k was almost reasonable- it should be cost to 60k, IMO. Salary shouldn’t be a way to get people to work for reduced wages. Period.


Yeah, but there’s nothing left of France besides a crater filled with yellow vests, cigarette butts, and the occasional sad baguette poking above the ruin.


I am sorry I couldn’t hear you over the noise of so many bootstraps being pulled upon.


It was fun being a salaried employee on $35k/year and getting to spend about five weeks a year, every year, doing 60-70 hour weeks without compensation.

You may be surprised to learn that that is exactly the same amount of fun doing it still, 7 years later, for $38k.

Now mind, I am lucky to be in a position where I could move on, and choose not to try to for a few reasons, but I definitely know people who feel locked into this shit by debt and commitments and family and all sorts of other shit.

Life sucks, get over it, is a pretty shitty political ethos.


Given that it’s the government that ‘negotiates’ to prevent your employer from simply enslaving you instead, I’d maybe think about that a bit more.

You can actually pass laws and fix what we’re seeing as a problem. Other countries do, and it seems to work. Plus their workers are happier and healthier and better off.


But the problem is that… they don’t need to hire you at all.
There are a few billion other people in the world who are ready to jump into that labor pool.

That’s the point of what I said there. Not that you can’t make laws within your country… but that in the modern economy, your country isn’t the only place where you can hire labor.

That being said, things like overtime restrictions on lower salary bands could be viable.

In my experience, some of the lower salary bands especially take place in things like retail, where they are effectively just used to exploit mid level managers. Those kinds of jobs probably aren’t vulnerable to being pushed overseas, so it might not hurt much.

Of course, the flip side is that in retail, the profit margins are already generally damn near zero. And brick and mortar retailers aren’t doing that great these days anyway.

One other thing though, when citing things like France… Their unemployment is pretty consistently up around the level where we consider it totally insane. Their “normal” unemployment rate is between 9-10%. Their economy isn’t really that great. Having no job at all, even in france with a nice safety net, is still garbage.


Sounds like a race to the bottom.


Yeah, you know what? You’ve convinced me. Our corporate overlords have grown too powerful, and we should just hope and rely on their benevolence.

Or hey, you know what? We can use the government to keep them in line. Now that corporations have broken the backs of unions, individual workers have no power, you’re right. So we, as a populace need to go over their heads. Democracy is the ‘Marketplace of Ideas’, after all, isn’t it? Or is that not the sort of marketplace that’s ok for conservatives?

It’s ok for The Market to push and push and push people to the breaking point (it’s just business! Nothing personal!), but when the people get together and push back, ‘that’s not how it works’. I think we need, and are due for, a correction. It should not be legal for companies to exploit workers- yes, even if the workers want to allow themselves to be exploited.


Well, either we restrain the worst depredations of Capital, or we eat the capitalists. I prefer the former, but the latter works too.


Well, it’s a race to a more equal standard globally.

Developing countries have dramatically lower standards of living than in the west. So there’s a lot of ground for them to make up, before they start demanding the same thing that we’ve grown used to. Eventually, they will, but it’ll take a while.

But honestly, this suggests that the idea of folks in the west actually improving their standard of living much at all, in the near term, seems unrealistic. It seems like it’s more likely that you’d see a decrease, as that prosperity essentially gets transferred to developing countries. If we can hold steady, while those countries get better? That might be better than we can hope for.

Again, you can try to just force stuff on employers, but I think you’re gonna run the risk of just pushing those jobs overseas, and increasing your unemployment significantly. Maybe not, you could potentially emulate a country like Germany, rather than France, although I’m not sure how Germany’s labor laws compare. I seem to recall them actually working fewer hours annually than most other countries, and I think they have the lowest unemployment rate in the EU.

Germany suggests that you could potentially do something, while not spiking unemployment, but I’m not sure what their special sauce is.


The special sauce is lowering the cost to the employer of having employees while not decreasing the standard of living of the employees. The path to doing that is to remove the cost of healthcare, childcare, and education from the employer/employee relationship. When the employee doesn’t need to meet these costs out of pocket, his marginal cost to the employer can be less.

The costs of these services will be paid from taxes, so a high-income individual will end up paying much more for them than a low-income individual. But from the perspective of an employer, it allows employees to be hired profitably when the value of their productivity may be less than the total cost of keeping them healthy, educated, fed and housed. Not everyone can be a talented engineer.


So you can only do your hard partying on Saturday?

My youngest, who did band and thus had to do summer school, ended up loving it because it broke up her summer and it also concentrated the class into a shorter period and made it “easier” for her. I think lots of kids end up liking those aspects.


I just attended the East Meets West conference which brings together investors and entrepreneur from Asia and the US and Canada in Honolulu.

One of the more provocative statements was from a Chinese-American venture capitalist who told the audience that he has the 9-9-6 rule (I think it is lucky number). He expects any entrepreneur that he helps to work from 9 AM to 9 PM six days a week. He does encourage them to take one day off a week.

That’s a 72 hour work week. It is reasonable for people to ask for higher middle class wages, or a less than 40 hour work week, but it is a bit delusional to expect both. We live in a global economy and when some significant fraction of the 1.4 billion Chinese are working this hard, they deserve and are going to get a majority of the world’s wealth.


The down side is if you don’t link healthcare and retirement to employment, people might have the decide it’s better to walk away or risk it all and start their own company.


Most people would not be able to do this, either look for something like a 30-35 hour gig in their field or a related one or ask their current boss if that’s doable. It would be hugely risky. If they don’t agree, they’re probably assuming you’re about to leave and help you leave so they can get a full FTE again. We used have 9-5 jobs though so don’t let any business owners convince you it never happened though.

In my case, if I asked and they said yes what would happen is I’d get a salary based on 35 hours instead of 40 which is fine, but I’d wind up working the same amount of hours simply because obviously the work is there. It’s not as if expectations or needs change, just a marking in an HR system that people don’t care about now.

I don’t actually hate my job, or my team. Most days it’s okay, and I like the work. The frustration is due to how fixable some of these issues are. The expectations need to be managed, and the people who can do that won’t. The way people blow off meetings, that amount of time wasted on really ridiculous things could go a long way, and when it’s obvious someone is burning out for a variety of reasons but one of them is they have to or else… well that’s also an addressable issue.

It’s not in the interest of the company or the employee to have an employee burnout, so why sit there and watch it happen?

As for the 40 hour debate, the only absolute finite resource we have as living beings is time. No one is ever going to value your time as much you do, don’t ask them to do that; you will always be disappointed.You need to ask them for tangible things they can work with. If someone doesn’t understand why someone else values their time, no amount of explaining will fix that.


Good grief. If this is in relation to anything but the actual entrepreneurs who grind themselves to death for a shot at making it and retiring wealthy at 40, that’s absurd.

Also, I’m sure capital would like everyone to work more hours. That’s… Not really a useful observation.

ETA: not rolling a 20 as an entrepreneur sucks. My brother basically burned his whole life down for the privilege of getting sued to death by patent trolls. Don’t fucking glorify that toxic shit to me.


Yes, there is a world of difference between someone working a lot of hours to build a business, which they can then reap the profits off of, and asking every employee to do so.

One is a person using their sweat equity to make a large payday in the end. The other is working for a paycheck, where the ultimate benefits of all that work are accrued to someone else.