Facing Burnout Head On

Tuesday, August 23, 2022


I read an article on Huffington Post the other day about the current climate of people “quietly quitting” their jobs. The article profiled a young engineer who realized she had chosen the wrong profession in her first job out of college. She knew she wanted to make a transition, so she opted out of the certifications required to advance within her company, continued her daily tasks, but began saving enough money so she could make a transition when she needed to leave.

It occurred to me that I’ve been “quietly quitting” a contract editing gig I’ve had for almost a year now. When I first took the job at a lifestyle magazine, I was familiar with the other staff and had written for the publication for many years. I was excited about the opportunity to help them shape the stories and editorial direction of the magazine. But after juggling freelance writers, photographers, invoices, and coming up with most of the story ideas myself with no back up, and helping them start an additional publication during the pandemic, I’ve gained almost 15 pounds, lost a lot of sleep, and had to get the magazine through a summer production while having Covid. I began quietly figuring out how I could transition out of the job. It made me sad, because at my three-year anniversary an acquaintance sent me a LinkedIn message telling me how much he enjoyed the direction I’d helped take the magazine in. He had no idea how much I’d been struggling, and I was too ashamed to tell him. 

The woman in the HuffPo article said that in her case, “quietly quitting” didn’t mean she quit doing her job. In fact, she didn’t want to burden her co-workers, so she continued with her assigned responsibilities. But she stopped taking continuing education, and spoke up more in meetings where she felt like projects needed more team members. I’ve done the same thing. I’ve juggled communication between sales staff, placated belligerent writers, written more articles when freelancers took their summer vacations, but told the publisher I felt overwhelmed and needed back-up so I could quit working so many nights and holiday weekends. I complained several times and laid issues out in e-mails point by point. But when I resigned yesterday, he told me he wished I told him how much I was struggling and he would have gotten me help. 

One of the appeals of working as a freelance writer and editor is being able to work on a variety of projects. I felt like I could never get caught up with my editing gig. There was always another issue to plan, more photography to assign, and more writers to find. For a job without paid time off or benefits, it didn't provide enough balance. My current gig began to bleed into my time for researching and recording my podcast, and I was too tired at the end of the day to open the document with my novel I need to edit. It was time to leave. I wish I could say I'm relieved, but I'm still under the stress of trying to help find a replacement for the role, although I've suggested it be hired out as a job share so one editor isn't overburdened. Sometime in the next few weeks I'm sure the relief will set in. 

Have you ever suffered burnout with a job? Was your employer receptive to your suggestions for improvement or did you ultimately end up leaving?

Renee Roberson is an award-winning freelance writer and editor who also hosts the true crime podcast Missing in the Carolinas. 


Sioux Roslawski said...

Renee--You obviously made the best decision for yourself.

Is it reasonable to expect that the publisher--knowing the work that kept churning out and knowing how many/few people were responsible for that work--knew what an overwhelming load it was?

I think that you and your family should have a celebration when the relief sets in...

Angela Mackintosh said...

Renee, I just read this! Good for you, and I agree with Sioux. I know how hard it is to leave a job, but relief will set in soon. Sometimes we have to make big scary leaps and see where it takes us. I just love how he said he'd get you help AFTER you resigned. I remember you voicing your concerns about the workload many times in the past year and a half or so, and the fact you left one publication a while back (and you told him why if I recall correctly) should've been a huge flag. He's obviously clueless.

Almost every magazine editor I've talked to is burned out, and there's a lot of hopping to other publications. It's a stressful job! I call myself the burnout queen because I'm either smashing deadlines or trying to recover from them. I realized two years ago that I need to keep things as simple as possible. For me, that looks like surrounding myself in nature and making long-term goals. It's also about not stressing about what will happen, including money (which is not easy as the breadwinner), and keeping my eyes open to signs that I'm headed in the right direction.

I just finished moving to the Sequoias and I'm sitting in a pile of boxes. It was the hardest move of our life because hubby and I did it ourselves, and we're older now. I'm covered head to toe in bruises, and look like I've just been in Fight Club. Lol. But right when we pulled up in our Uhaul the other night, I saw a huge blazing meteor shoot across the sky followed by a shooting star. And since then, many things have happened that are telling me I'm where I need to be. I've never been one to believe in this stuff, but I'm learning to trust my instincts. You made the right choice and I believe it'll become apparent soon.

<3 Ang

Sue Bradford Edwards said...

I know this was a brutal decision to make. But the need to do it was summed up by the publisher's reaction.

I think we've all been here. I had an educational writing gig early on that I had such high hopes for but my supervisor got his job through family connections. He didn't know the field and we were having to teach it to him as we went. As people quit, he tried to force the work on remaining writers. I actually fell back on an excuse I loathe -- it isn't what's in my contract. I finished that contract and ran for the door (figuratively).

It sounds like you have definitely made the right decision!

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