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Is programming an unhealthy/high stress lifestyle?

While I've been in the field for several years, this is my first job where all I do is code all day.  I've fallen into this pattern where I sit on my ass all day at work and then go home (around 8-9 PM) and sit on my ass in front of the computer to work on improving skills since my employer is pushing me to be certified. 

I usually exercise a couple times a week and stay fairly fit.  However, I've noticed I've gained an inch or two around the waist over the past year.  I know I need to hit the gym more bit I'm usually EXHAUSTED when I'm through with the workday (after sitting on my ass all day).

The stress of working for people who have never wrote a line of code in their life is pretty high.  I report to three different people, NONE of who understand what to code and what makes a successful project.  They keep pushing for projects to be done FAST without giving me time to pay attention to details (thorough testing, proper planning, documentation, etc).  We've been lucky so far but I'm afraid the shit is eventually going to hit the fan and I'll get blamed for it if/when it happens.  I play the roles of project manager, programmer, tech writer, DBA, trainer/mentor, and tech support....and it's tiring to play so many different hats and have to switch personalities so many times throughout the day. 

Being one of only two programmers doesn't help either.  The other guy is inexperienced so I'm teaching him.  I find myself staying after work (donated 5 extra hours to the company free of charge this week) to fix bugs caused by the other guy due to his inexperience and bugs caused by releasing projects faster than they should be.  I work just as many hours as the manager for less pay!

Programming seems to affect my ability to communicate/be assertive (just like in this thread - http://discuss.joelonsoftware.com/default.asp?joel.3.231548.29).  It's not a lack of social skills but the difficulty of going in and out of "the zone" so many times throughout the day since I wear so many hats. 

I can't help but think that being in the corporate pressure cooker doesn't help much.  It's a good company and most of the people are friendly, but when you're in the company of a few toxic co-workers who want to climb the corporate ladder using any means necessary (usually at the expense of their morals), it tends to poison an otherwise pleasant work environment.  I noticed the work environment is MUCH more relaxed if the 2 shit stirrers of the group (i.e. the dumbest/most manipulative employees who coincidently are on the management track) are absent.

I carry a Blackberry and on call 24/7.  I don't get called too often (a few times a month) but it seems you never fully leave work behind.

If I keep this up, I fear I'll be on the fast track toward high blood pressure and other health problems.....has anyone developed health problems from this lifestyle?
Gonzo
Saturday, May 05, 2007
 
 
I'd have to say you may want to reconsider where you are working. Not all programming / development jobs have to be as stressful as yours. While I may only be interning at the current large company I'm with, they have a very flexible schedule, even for regular employees. You can come in whenever you want and work whatever hours you want as long as you get what's assigned to you done. No 8AM -  8 PM work schedule. If you feel like working from home during the week, it is no big deal as long as keep your team leader in the loop.

Very low stress, especially so as an intern. If something I own breaks, they expect me to fix it and put in a few extra hours (paid of course) if it's a critical component, but other than that there's no reason I'd need to put in extra hours in the week. From what my coworkers have told me, when you come in to fix an emergency, the company takes care of you too, providing any food and other necessities you may need while you're stuck at the office fixing things.
Josh McFarlane Send private email
Saturday, May 05, 2007
 
 
Why don't you: look for a job somewhere else.

If you're a good developer you shouldn't have to put up with this sort of shit.
Matt Send private email
Saturday, May 05, 2007
 
 
1) You have to give the bosses a time estimate at the beginning, IN WRITING, and then stick to that time, give or take a couple days. If you estimate two weeks and find once you're into it that it can be done in two days, hold back and don't give it to them until two weeks. At first though, you will probably more often underestimate and risk being late, so use the slack from one project to pad the other in order to get them both done "on time". And when you deliver, put it IN WRITING so you can always go back and show both the start estimate and delivery. Managers like things they can measure. After a while you'll get better at time estimates, but the key is always deliver on time, not too early, not too late and always put something IN WRITING.

2) Don't cover for the other guy. His work is his work. If you find an error, send him the info IN WRITING on what to do to fix it and let him correct himself. If you have to correct his things, send him an email saying what you changed and why, so that you have it IN WRITING. Don't CC the managers on any of that. It's just between the two of you (for now). But if you have a written trail and get static later, there's your ammunition.

3) Don't be available 24/7. Make arrangements to be "out of town" most weekends (make up a good cover story) and put it IN WRITING so the bosses can't say they didn't know you wouldn't be available.
SumoRunner
Saturday, May 05, 2007
 
 
You are destined for a short life and you are going to have friends.  It often takes developers years(or their lives) to realize that people are playing on _our_ insecurities and _our_ fears to make us do things for _them_.  Even today, owning my on firm, there are days when I have to remind myself that "everything that can go wrong – won't" and “poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency for mine”

Let's start with pay. Why?  Because we would feel much less stress if we were paid $1,000,000 per hour. It's illogical, but true. 

If you are salary, would you have take a 20% pay cut?  30%?  Do the math - for every hour you work, over 42, you are taking a pay cut.  (I use 42 instead of 40 to eliminate the hours people whine about like asking how someone's night was).

If you are hourly - do you know what your bill rate is to the client?  In almost all cases, the bill rate to the client is between 100 an 150% of what you make per hour.  For example, the typical bill rate in Boston for a java developer with J2EE experience is $85/hour.  This is a base coder.  How much of that are you getting?

Knowing your bill rate, you can decide what you are worth.  If you are worth 80/hour, then how much is your pimp(the firm who finds you work) worth?  Generally - I figure 15 to 30% if the firm is really good.  Really good means they are contacting me with work on a regular basis.  If I am looking for them – they are poor.

If you are doing the math,  I have probably made your stress higher.  So, let's account for that. It is OK to work to live and not live for work.  Let me say that again - It is OK to work to live and not live for work.  Somewhere in the past 40 years, Americans have become convinced that supporting the office is the most important thing.  It is not – marketability is.  Your boss (or more likely their replacement), will terminate you without notice and without severance.(http://discuss.joelonsoftware.com/default.asp?joel.3.490806.9).  Everything you do, should improve your ability to stay employed _elsewhere_.  If it is valuable somewhere else, it will be valuable where you are.  My exception is a technology used in your current environment.  Learning java while working for a .net employer is of little value unless they see themselves going to java. However, it may be worth pursuing if you see more opportunities in the java world, or the PM world or the pottery world.

Lets move to the crack-berry.  I run a consulting firm without one and without IM.  How is it possible?  What if someone needs to contact me?  Self-important, poor performing, low level managers require that type symbiotic contact.  It makes them feel powerful; “I demand your attention now!” Developers, PHBs, etc. will often carry them because it makes them feel valuable - it is an illusion. CEOs of a company with a crack-berry? Only if they want to appear to be tech savvy. 

Pick a time each night and shut it off - every night.  Unless you are involved in an organ transplant, you must control your “outside work” time.  If you are in that much demand (and some of my people provide that type of support), it comes at a price.  Anyone covering on-call 24 hour support for the same income as those not providing it are throwing money away.  (BTW – avoid  mentioning you are going to turn it off – this just sets off the PHBs of the world.)  You could be anywhere where the signal does not reach.

Now, for self-improvement you have two options.  Look at it like something that makes you more valuable. Certify in things that add value to your career or longevity at your current position.  If your boss wants you certified, understand why.  It may be they want to get you a raise and a certification will make that 90% easier. It may be worth it.

The one item I really want to stress :-) is communication.  Poor communication is the #1 reason I see people dropped from projects and the #1 reason for stress in a project.  Worse, I am speaking about the skill itself, instead of a failure to communicate something.  Good communicators make business people feel more comfortable.  Poor communicators, pull the pin on a grenade and then complain later that people misunderstood or “blame the messenger.”

For this I offer several suggestions that will affect your career as much or possibly more than your technical skills.
 - Join toastmasters (http://www.toastmasters.org/find/) or something like it.  Too many people believe they can present something effectively or recognize they lack the skills, but try anyway.  Many companies have a club that meets in their building.  If you know you are uncomfortable speaking in front of people, it will help you become (more) comfortable.  If you cannot imagine speaking in front of a group, then go to a meeting as a guest.  You get to lurk and see what happens.  Even people who believe the are good speakers will be better.
- Remove the words _no_ and  _not_ from your vocabulary.  Scan every email, double check yourself before a sentence comes out.  These are trigger words in most people to indicate resistance.  “We cannot find the problem”  Did you even look?  “We cannot do it by Tuesday”  - So if I paid you $1,000,000 it would not happen?  "No, you misunderstood" - So, I am stupid?
Instead, try: 
“We are still looking for the issue and I can provide an update in x minutes/hours/days/etc.”  This keeps someone from the “are we there yet” syndrome.
“To make it by Tuesday is going to require two more people working 20 hour shifts and an extra $20,000” 
“The technology has yet to mature to where it can deliver a stable business environment for you.”  (This is a good one for the people who read Information Week and presume everything is available right now)
- Never send an email explaining anything without someone you trust reading it first.  More problems are created by what appears to be an innocent statement – taken out of context.  From one of my communications classes:
    I did not say she caused the issue.
Now read the sentence with emphasis as below:
    [I] did not say she caused the issue.    (It was Roy, I merely repeated it)
    I [did not say] she caused the issue.    (I sent an email)
    I did not say [she] caused the issue.    (It could have been any moron on her team)
    I did not say she [caused] the issue.    (She incapable of causing two neurons to fire)
    I did not say she caused [the issue].    (There are plenty more than this one)

Now, should all this be necessary.  “Can't we all just get along?”  - nope. Life is interaction, with little choice in the players.  As Jimmy Buffet sings “I've had some good days and bad days, so going have mad days.”  We have all taken a message the wrong way and then complained when others have. This just reduces the possibility and the stress associated with it.

Finally, you really have to believe you control your destiny.  If you let others convince you that you are merely average – you are.  If you let others determine your future – they will.  Put a list on your refrigerator of 10 things you want to do in the next 5 years.  Learn to scuba dive or sky dive.  Visit Paris or Denver.  Whatever.  Something unrelated to work.  Because we work to live.
MSHack Send private email
Saturday, May 05, 2007
 
 
I really feel for the OP on this issue because I think what was expressed by the OP is a common phenomenon in the software engineering industry today.

As a fellow Software Engineer I can tell you what I would do.....I would TAKE MY TIME, be METHODICAL and move forward at a pace that is COMFORTABLE FOR YOU. The problem with your experience and how you are vocationally being treated is that NO HUMAN BEING can work like you are working forever. We aren't robots and what will happen is that you will eventually experience BURN OUT and once that happens, your work will suffer tremendously and so will your attitude and state of mind. Get off this path IMMEDIATELY.

Let me tell you what I tell my boss (and I'm a consultant which means I tell a lot of BOSSES this) when I'm asked "how long will it take to complete project X?"

I look them straight in the eye and I say "I DON'T KNOW." It gets done when it gets done.

No one wants to hear that but that is the reality of software engineering. I try to give a reasonable estimate but when I do that I tell executive staff that I am most likely not going to be accurate in the assessment.

I've developed some project management software that I think will help me in this area should I get pressed enough on a project. Fortunately, for me I've not had to use the software...

However, if you can get executive staff to sign off on an extended time frame for developing your project X, this is what happens.....once the project is finished, and you've been given the necessary time to develop it, it (or my apps anyway) run WITHOUT problems, bugs (marginal anyway) and perform well.

Once management sees the value in that, YOUR integrity will NEVER be questioned again, and on subsequent projects, you will most likely be able to negotiate the time you need to develop your projects correctly.

The bottom line here is this: either tell management that you need more time to develop apps the correct way, or quit the job if you continue to be unduly pushed or you feel that you are working excessively.
Brice Richard Send private email
Saturday, May 05, 2007
 
 
I am a developer (usually C#/ASP.NET) in the midwest. I have been in the industry for 6 years now. I have had three jobs during that time. I have never had a bad review. I have been promoted quickly and given leadership roles. I've tripled my pay in the last 6 years. I'm in the top 10% of wage earners.  I must work 70 hour weeks, right?  Wrong.

I get to work around 8:00 to 08:30, I leave around 4:00 to 4:30. I will work overtime on very rare occasions for free. I'll work consistent overtime, if I'm paid for it. I don't answer work related calls outside of work except for very rare circumstances.

I've always had some co-workers who put in 12 hour days and field work related questions and emails while on vacation. Why do they do this, it doesn't get them anywhere? I've been far more successful than many of these people.  I have seen no correlation between working insane hours and being successful.

If you want to be respected, respect yourself. If you act like a some pushover who will work long hours for poor pay, guess what you will get? Seriously, you will get more respect by standing up for yourself.
An above average, but not great, developer
Saturday, May 05, 2007
 
 
Gonzo, been there and I can relate.

Here's the thing: some company owners (generally small company owners) believe that their employees are their personal property and are their servants. If you permit it, they will gladly eat you alive.

I currently work as a SW contractor for a small operation that is run by a whiz kid who is about half my age who lays claim to massive sales growth. The guy's a pure salesman with no real concept of what is easy or hard or unknowable. The stress of fielding his demands for timetables etched in stone that are based on integration of products from unresponsive third parties is just colossal.

When I started working with this outfit, they would do shit like send me barrages of emails over the weekend because a bunch of 20 somethings in their office are jumping up and down over some program I was developing for them. After a couple of these cycles I put my foot down and told them to back the fuck off. The cycle has still repeated itself. Recently I have made it clear that if they push too much I'll quit.

The bottom line is this:

Many, many businesses and departments in this industry demand a level of personal responsiveness, flexibility and accountability from their technical people that they are unwilling to pay properly for. Their entire business model is built around paying for dirt cheap resources that they can repackage and mark up for a profit.

After all, if you are run ragged covering for a second employee in addition to doing your own stressful job, isn't it the case that your employer is going cheap on new hires and thereby putting the burden on YOU?

I don't know the answer to this. In my own locality, most of the technical groups operate this way because there are too many stupid bastards around with no pride willing to be pushed around for a few bucks.

It does help to develop singular, one of a kind technical and domain skills that can't be readily backfilled even in a weak hiring scene, and then charge top dollar for them as a consultant.
Bored Bystander Send private email
Saturday, May 05, 2007
 
 
MSHack, that was a good essay. It's also 1289 words. Are you a real fast typist or what? How long did it take you to put that article length post together? Me, it takes a long time to do the complex posts like that. I think one that length would be like 3 hrs of work. I'd like to get that time down and then write more articles.
Meghraj Reddy
Saturday, May 05, 2007
 
 
>>"Why don't you: look for a job somewhere else.

If you're a good developer you shouldn't have to put up with this sort of shit. "

There is nothing else in the area.  The alternative is to work in the big city which would require selling my house or double my already long 45 minute commute.  I guess that's something I'll have to consider, unfortunately.


>>"Don't cover for the other guy. His work is his work. If you find an error, send him the info IN WRITING on what to do to fix it and let him correct himself. If you have to correct his things, send him an email saying what you changed and why, so that you have it IN WRITING. Don't CC the managers on any of that. It's just between the two of you (for now). But if you have a written trail and get static later, there's your ammunition."

Thanks for the suggestion.  But there are some days where I work and he is not there and we work different hours.  If I'm the only one there that knows how to fix it and it needs to be fixed now, then I have no choice.
Gonzo
Saturday, May 05, 2007
 
 
>>>>"If you are hourly - do you know what your bill rate is to the client?  In almost all cases, the bill rate to the client is between 100 an 150% of what you make per hour.  For example, the typical bill rate in Boston for a java developer with J2EE experience is $85/hour.  This is a base coder.  How much of that are you getting? "

I don't know what my hourly rate is but I'll tell you one thing.  They've wasted hundreds of thousands of dollars on crap software in the past.  My co-worker and I just wrote a software package in a month that they were quoted over $100,000 to write from an outside vendor.  I've written similar software in the past in 3 weeks that they've paid someone $30,000 to write.  Both of us are making the 40-50K a year range.  Granted it's in a low cost of living area but it's still not a whole lot more than what the local truck driver is making.

>>>>"It is OK to work to live and not live for work.  Let me say that again - It is OK to work to live and not live for work.  Somewhere in the past 40 years, Americans have become convinced that supporting the office is the most important thing.  It is not – marketability is.  Your boss (or more likely their replacement), will terminate you without notice and without severance."

If I don't "live to work", they'll find some other chump who will.  That goes for any company. 

>>>>"The one item I really want to stress :-) is communication.  Poor communication is the #1 reason I see people dropped from projects and the #1 reason for stress in a project.  Worse, I am speaking about the skill itself, instead of a failure to communicate something.  Good communicators make business people feel more comfortable.  Poor communicators, pull the pin on a grenade and then complain later that people misunderstood or “blame the messenger.”"

It's not a matter or an inability to communicate.  It's the lack of time to communicate.  I'm so bogged down in my software projects it's hard enough to think clearly let alone spend much time communicating.

I should have asserted myself a long time ago.  Now they are expecting me to bust my ass because it's my "normal" work ethic and they expect it out of me.  I was manipulated, played, whatever, and now I'm paying the price for it. 

>>>>"The technology has yet to mature to where it can deliver a stable business environment for you."

Good one.  Thanks for all your tips.
Gonzo
Saturday, May 05, 2007
 
 
>>>>"As a fellow Software Engineer I can tell you what I would do.....I would TAKE MY TIME, be METHODICAL and move forward at a pace that is COMFORTABLE FOR YOU. The problem with your experience and how you are vocationally being treated is that NO HUMAN BEING can work like you are working forever. We aren't robots and what will happen is that you will eventually experience BURN OUT and once that happens, your work will suffer tremendously and so will your attitude and state of mind. Get off this path IMMEDIATELY."

Thanks for clearing that up for me.  Yes, I've turned into a robot and I'm burning out.  I've given them my VERY BEST over the past year.  I've developed so many solutions for them.  And that alone increases my workload because I have that much more to maintain.  I really need to delegate but there is nobody to delegate to.  Out of a dozen people in the group, only one other person in the office has the skills that I have.  There's too much bullshitting/grandstanding and not enough people doing actual work and they are getting away with it.

>>>>"The bottom line here is this: either tell management that you need more time to develop apps the correct way, or quit the job if you continue to be unduly pushed or you feel that you are working excessively."

They fear that I'm going to leave (I've been told this by my boss and a few others) and I get the feeling that they are trying to squeeze as much work out of me as they can before then.  What they don't know is that this is a self fulfililng prophecy.  It's not a bad company.  But by having this mindset, they are speeding up this process.  I guess it's time to have a talk with the boss.  This gig isn't worth jeopardizing my health over.
Gonzo
Saturday, May 05, 2007
 
 
Short answer - find a new job, your sucks.  Even take a pay cut of needed, but find a new job.

Saturday, May 05, 2007
 
 
>> I've given them my VERY BEST over the past year.  I've developed so many solutions for them.  And that alone increases my workload because I have that much more to maintain.

Dumbasses (such as your management) take good performance for granted. It's sort of like how a child doesn't grasp complexity and thinks that some complicated device such as a car or a computer is "self evident" and simple on the inside like a potato.

IMO you have made the mistake of playing hero too much too often. You've made the completion of highly ambitious tasks so transparent and painless to your management that they now expect a superhuman level of achievement.

In my further opinion, you have gotten some excellent advice in this thread regarding tactics to manage the expectations and the workload. But the problem you have is your work history. If you come down from superman to normal worker, your bosses could see it as slacking off.

I would probably just lay my cards on the table and tell my management that your good personal character and work ethic has lead to your current situation and that you demand relief if they don't want to worry about keeping you.

Also you probably need to learn how to stay out of that programmer's zone that we all love and respect which leads to great results, at least do so at times when necessary, because it directly degrades the ability to deal with shallow horse's asses in management positions.

You mentioned in this thread that there aren't that many suitable jobs in your area. I understand completely. The thing is, the lack of suitable jobs also means that there is no "incubator" function to create other people like yourself in the local talent pool who can handle this workload. You may feel that you would be hurting to leave but I guarantee you that your management will be hurting even more. 

I live in a similar area. I know schmucks in the local area (sorry) who give so much to their employer, including nights and weekends, because they are scared to f*cking death of the alternatives.

Overwork for others creates a monster that will eventually consume you. It's just profit to these people. To you it's your life.
Bored Bystander Send private email
Saturday, May 05, 2007
 
 
> Life is interaction, with little choice in the players.

Actually there is a surprisingly large amount of choice.  Have you considered quitting and punting on the whole situation?  The market is pretty good right now.
politico
Saturday, May 05, 2007
 
 
>>>> In my further opinion, you have gotten some excellent advice in this thread regarding tactics to manage the expectations and the workload. But the problem you have is your work history. If you come down from superman to normal worker, your bosses could see it as slacking off.

Yes, great point.  Expectations are pretty high now and it's my own damn fault.

>>>> I would probably just lay my cards on the table and tell my management that your good personal character and work ethic has lead to your current situation and that you demand relief if they don't want to worry about keeping you.
.
You're saying I should tell him outright that I'll be looking for a new gig if things don't change??  I'm not sure he'd take that too well.

In addition to all of my development-related work, I am also "in charge" of several vendor-based systems.  If fix it or work with the vendor to fix it.  This is another distraction that keeps me from reaching my development goals. Should I tell my boss that somebody else needs to take over some of these responsibilities? 

I'm also "officially" a supervisor for the techs in the office (no real authority, just an excuse to work you OT without being paid).  When they have a problem or somebody calls/knocks on the door when the techs are not around, I'm supposed to stop what I'm doing and help.  Meanwhile, none of them do my job because they don't have the skillset and don't seem willing to learn.

There is no structure in the department.  The managers seem to think that one person can know and do EVERYTHING.  They are pushing for every individual to know and do everything, even thought it is impossible.  Shouldn't a functional IT department be subdivided?  (i.e. networking, app development, etc)
Gonzo
Saturday, May 05, 2007
 
 
"Both of us are making the 40-50K a year range."

I don't care how low your cost of living is, working 12 hours a day and being on call for 40-50k is INSANITY. I'd rather work at McDonald's than put up with that kind of crap.
sloop
Saturday, May 05, 2007
 
 
"I don't care how low your cost of living is, working 12 hours a day and being on call for 40-50k is INSANITY. I'd rather work at McDonald's than put up with that kind of crap."

I work 9-10 hours a day, the commute makes it 11-12.
Gonzo
Saturday, May 05, 2007
 
 
"Actually there is a surprisingly large amount of choice.  Have you considered quitting and punting on the whole situation?  The market is pretty good right now. "

I have to admit the thought has crossed my mind, but it's much easier to find a job when you already have one. 

I guess it's time to have a little one on one chat with the boss and raise these issues.  Perhaps he doesn't realize the amount stress I'm dealing with and he'll be willing to work with me.  If not, then it will be time to start looking.
Gonzo
Saturday, May 05, 2007
 
 
I will agree with others that this is a crappy situation.  Borderline abusive. 

At one point you said something like "it's the same at any company".  Not so.  It is common enough, but decent working environments are also common.

You may not have a lot of options in the local area.  However, as long as you feel like you *must* keep this job, you'll keep getting shit upon.  IMO you're going to have to decide that the situation *must* change, come what may.  To find your nerve, you might consider what you'll be like if you go on the next five years the way you are now . . .

Good luck.
Matt Conrad Send private email
Saturday, May 05, 2007
 
 
"I work 9-10 hours a day, the commute makes it 11-12."

Great, so you commute 2 hours a day to your abusive employer. It doesn't matter how you look at it, there's no way to put a positive spin on your situation and you shouldn't have to put up with it.
sloop
Saturday, May 05, 2007
 
 
I'm going to recommend a few books, and a few pages, to read.

Death March:
http://www.amazon.com/Death-March-Developers-Surviving-Impossible/dp/0130146595
http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?DeathMarch
http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?DeathMarchValues
http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?FortyHourWeek
http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?WhyDoYouPermitThisToBeDoneToYou
http://www.igda.org/articles/erobinson_crunch.php

And a series of books with "The Gentle Art of Verbal Self Defense" in the titles:
http://www.amazon.com/Gentle-Art-Verbal-Self-Defense-Work/dp/0735200890
http://www.amazon.com/Gentle-Art-Verbal-Self-Defense/dp/0880290307
Some of what MSHack mentions would also be covered in Ms Elgin's books.

Much of the reason for death marches, or any other term you want to use for high pressure environments, has a lot to do with unrealistic expectations. As some of the above posters pointed out, you're going to need to start managing the expectations of your bosses. Some people can't exist without crises, and I've worked for a few of those. They get an emotional charge out of putting out fires, to the point that they'll create fires to appear to be needed/wanted/necessary. To deal with those people you might have to learn to play office politics to deal with their shit stirring.

Abusive people are *very* good at making you think that the problem is *you*. 

>We've been lucky so far but I'm afraid the shit is eventually going to hit the fan and I'll get blamed for it if/when it happens.
And this sounds to me like they've done a good job of guilt tripping you.

I'd also recommend ditching the crackberry. Or, alternate weekends where your village idiot takes point.

Programming isn't unhealthy by itself. It takes mismanagement or an unhealthy environment to do so.

Time estimation of project length is a skill that it sounds like you need to develop. The only way you can do so is to record your estimates, and why you made that estimate, and as time goes by, your aim will get better. Many mismanagers like to play "guess my number." No.
http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?GuessTheNumber
http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?GiveMeEstimatesNow
http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?IwantaPony
http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000245.html

>I get the feeling that they are trying to squeeze as much work out of me as they can before then.
You need a vacation. Get a month off. No phone. No crackberry. Nothing. If you think you can't afford it, then think how long it will take to recover after you burn out. Many folks who burn out from 80-90+ hour weeks take 2+ years to recover to where they're not useless. Some never recover at all.

>The managers seem to think that one person can know and do EVERYTHING.
Most people I meet who have this expectation have been in the Navy, where everyone does get cross trained to do just about all other jobs on the ship.

I don't know where you live, or if it is practical, but I'd recommend taking a bike to work and go biking at lunch. And for god's sake, take an hour for lunch.
Peter
Sunday, May 06, 2007
 
 
"Here's the thing: some company owners (generally small company owners) believe that their employees are their personal property and are their servants. If you permit it, they will gladly eat you alive."

Oh yes, which is why I advise graduates to join large corps when they graduate, and avoid the small companies when ever possible.

Sunday, May 06, 2007
 
 
>Here's the thing: some company owners (generally small company owners) believe that their employees are their personal property and are their servants.

I've worked at a number of nano-ISVs and it's true. Wife is business manager, dullwitted son gets to play "marketing director", programmers are underpaid and overworked.

For every tiny company like FogCreek, there are dozens that will exploit you badly and kick you to the curb the minute business has the tiniest downturn, and without any severance pay, either.
dot for this one
Sunday, May 06, 2007
 
 
"For every tiny company like FogCreek, there are dozens that will exploit you badly and kick you to the curb the minute business has the tiniest downturn, and without any severance pay, either."

Not to mention no benefits, oh, and large company will discount your experience at small companies. Making it harder to get onto the gravy train...

Sunday, May 06, 2007
 
 
"Oh yes, which is why I advise graduates to join large corps when they graduate, and avoid the small companies when ever possible. "

Yeah but then there is more political BS to deal with.
anon
Sunday, May 06, 2007
 
 
>>>>"You may not have a lot of options in the local area.  However, as long as you feel like you *must* keep this job, you'll keep getting shit upon.  IMO you're going to have to decide that the situation *must* change, come what may.  To find your nerve, you might consider what you'll be like if you go on the next five years the way you are now . . ."

It's hard to tell.  I could be rewarded for my hard work, get transferred to another site and get some type of a promotion/pay raise.  Or remain where I am at and be promoted to a senior guy (with marginal yearly raises).  Doesn't look like the managers are going anywhere else anytime soon though so being promoted to manager is pretty much out.  If they do end up leaving, the slackers would likely be promoted ahead of me.

I've noticed that those who can't do the grunt work well end up on the management track.  This seems to be normal in most companies, eh?

>>>> "Time estimation of project length is a skill that it sounds like you need to develop. The only way you can do so is to record your estimates, and why you made that estimate, and as time goes by, your aim will get better. Many mismanagers like to play "guess "

Well I already have to do this.  I provide a rough estimate and have to present it not only to my boss but upper management as well. 

>>>> I'd also recommend ditching the crackberry. Or, alternate weekends where your village idiot takes point.

Not possible.  They frown on employees who do not answer the phone in a timely manner.

>>>>You need a vacation. Get a month off. No phone. No crackberry. Nothing. If you think you can't afford it, then think how long it will take to recover after you burn out. Many folks who burn out from 80-90+ hour weeks take 2+ years to recover to where they're not useless. Some never recover at all.

A month would be nice but I don't have that much vacation time.  Even if I did, 2 weeks would probably be tops.  I work 45-50 hours a week, but it sometimes feels like I work 80-90 because I'm working just about that entire time (except for lunch). 

Thanks for the reading material, Pete, good stuff there.
Gonzo
Sunday, May 06, 2007
 
 
"Yeah but then there is more political BS to deal with."

You can have more money, less stress, better health, but there's more political BS.

Or you can have peanuts, 24/7 on call, health failing by age 40, but less political BS.


You would choose the second choice.

Never underestimate human stupidity in deed.

Sunday, May 06, 2007
 
 
>>>>You can have more money, less stress, better health, but there's more political BS.
Or you can have peanuts, 24/7 on call, health failing by age 40, but less political BS.

Political BS causes stress.
anon
Sunday, May 06, 2007
 
 
"You can have more money, less stress, better health, but there's more political BS."

Or you can have peanuts, 24/7 on call, health failing by age 40, but less political BS."


Or you can have both....
Gonzo
Sunday, May 06, 2007
 
 
Both?

Trying to have your cake and eat it too?

Sunday, May 06, 2007
 
 
> Not possible.  They frown on employees who do not answer the phone in a timely manner.

Please! Take my money! Take my wife! Anything but *frown* on me!

Dude: it may not be the career that's high stess; it may be your reactions when you're negotiating.

I think you realize this: you said, "Programming seems to affect my ability to communicate/be assertive".

Perhaps you need to make some friend, sensible people, study an 'emotional intelligence' book (somewhere here might recommend some), maybe get some professional 'counselling'.

> when you're in the company of a few toxic co-workers

Are you competing with them? You might try to ignore them; or just change jobs and work for a company that has more selective hiring, management, and can offer some career development or whatever you want.
Christopher Wells Send private email
Sunday, May 06, 2007
 
 
"Both?

Trying to have your cake and eat it too? "


Nope.  Not getting any cake or able to eat it.
Gonzo
Sunday, May 06, 2007
 
 
>>>> Please! Take my money! Take my wife! Anything but *frown* on me!
Dude: it may not be the career that's high stess; it may be your reactions when you're negotiating.
I think you realize this: you said, "Programming seems to affect my ability to communicate/be assertive".
Perhaps you need to make some friend, sensible people, study an 'emotional intelligence' book (somewhere here might  recommend some), maybe get some professional 'counselling'.

Maybe "frown" wasn't the best word to use.  We are required to answer our phones when off duty.  If you don't answer the phone (or don't respond in a timely manner), there are repercussions and you're in the doghouse.  I've seen it happened to one guy and he was eventually fired.  He was not fired for that reason but they were looking to get rid of him anyway
Gonzo
Sunday, May 06, 2007
 
 
Sorry, I'm not trying to hurt you. I meant that it might be a serious problem (your life) which you need to learn to deal with: you might be in a http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boiling_frog situation.

Having a wider social circle might help you, especially some supportive relationships.

I think that sometimes you need to be able give people, even bosses, some 'bad news': not all the time, preferably not even often; but sometimes.

Oh, to answer your other questions:

> I know I need to hit the gym more bit I'm usually EXHAUSTED when I'm through with the workday (after sitting on my ass all day). ... If I keep this up, I fear I'll be on the fast track toward high blood pressure and other health problems.....has anyone developed health problems from this lifestyle?

I used to bicycle to and from work, which was quite good (daily) exercise. Since then I've been practicing Tai Chi for the last 3 years or so: that has helped me learn to relax (continually), and can (depending on how you practice) be gentle enough that it doesn't matter whether you're tired (it's invigorating rather than tiring).
Christopher Wells Send private email
Sunday, May 06, 2007
 
 
<next five years if nothing changes>

> It's hard to tell.  I could be rewarded for my hard work,
> get transferred to another site and get some type of a
> promotion/pay raise.  Or remain where I am at and be
> promoted to a senior guy (with marginal yearly raises).

Come on, you know better than this.  If any of this happens it will only be because you forced change.

Past behavior is the best indicator of future behavior.  If your bosses have so far treated you as a resource to be used up, they are not going to spontaneously heap rewards on your head next month.  Or next year.

You're going to have to 1) assert yourself where you're currently at, whatever the consequences, 2) find another place to work, or 3) resign yourself to your present unsatisfying situation.

Nothing will change unless you make it change.  Good luck.
Matt Conrad Send private email
Monday, May 07, 2007
 
 
>>The managers seem to think that one person can know and do EVERYTHING.
>Most people I meet who have this expectation have been in the Navy, where everyone does get cross trained to do just about all other jobs on the ship.

But, while the Navy may want its personnel to each know how to run an entire ship, they assign an abundance of people to actually run the ship.

(That is: they want any one of their personnel to be able to do ANYTHING, but don't normally expect any one of their personnel to do EVERYTHING.)

>Maybe "frown" wasn't the best word to use.  We are required to answer our phones when off duty.  If you don't answer the phone (or don't respond in a timely manner), there are repercussions and you're in the doghouse.  I've seen it happened to one guy and he was eventually fired.

Ah, so you're on call 24/7. How often do they actually call you? How much of your "none-work" life is consumed by work? http://www.ballardspahr.com/press/article.asp?ID=185
Don Edwards Send private email
Monday, May 07, 2007
 
 
"We are required to answer our phones when off duty.  If you don't answer the phone (or don't respond in a timely manner), there are repercussions and you're in the doghouse.  I've seen it happened to one guy and he was eventually fired."

Oh my god.  Quit, now.
anon
Monday, May 07, 2007
 
 
>Yeah but then there is more political BS to deal with.

Umm, the politics at tiny companies can be unbearable. There is no wiggle room, no appeal to higher levels, and every penny you want to spend comes right out of the owner's hide, when what he really wants to do is pay it to his dull-witted son the "marketing director."

As a tax deductible way to fund money to family members.
dot for this one
Monday, May 07, 2007
 
 
>>>>"Having a wider social circle might help you, especially some supportive relationships."\

Yeah, that might help, but it's hard to make new friends after leaving college.  I live in a smaller town and there is not a whole lot to do.


>>>>"I've been practicing Tai Chi for the last 3 years or so: that has helped me learn to relax (continually), and can (depending on how you practice) be gentle enough that it doesn't matter whether you're tired (it's invigorating rather than tiring)."

Not a bad idea.  I've been looking into boxing and jiu-jitsu myself.
Gonzo
Monday, May 07, 2007
 
 
"You're going to have to 1) assert yourself where you're currently at, whatever the consequences, 2) find another place to work, or 3) resign yourself to your present unsatisfying situation."

I'm leaning toward #1.  If that doesn't work out, then go with #2.

"Navy, where everyone does get cross trained to do just about all other jobs on the ship."

Hmmm, makes sense as there is an ex-military presence at this company.  That's another reason why I might be held back.  The military guys will look out for each other.  I have the utmost respect for their service to the country, but that does not change the fact that they will promote one of their own first.

"Ah, so you're on call 24/7. How often do they actually call you? How much of your "none-work" life is consumed by work? "

A few times a month,,,,
Gonzo
Monday, May 07, 2007
 
 
"I'm leaning toward #1.  If that doesn't work out, then go with #2."

You got your order backwards. I'll let you figure out why.

Monday, May 07, 2007
 
 
I'd be interested in how this turns out. Be sure to tell us, Gonzo!
Jakob Magiera
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
 
 
Gonzo, just a quick note on feeling tired after work.  I feel the same way, but one day inspiration struck me for rationalizing being physical no matter how tired I am - the mere fact that I was sitting and staring at a computer screen all day long.  If that doesn't work for you, you could also try working out during your lunch break.  This will force you to get out of the office and recharge your batteries and work off some stress.  I've been doing it for some time now, and have found it to be a great opportunity to get back into shape and still have my evenings.  I eat my lunch when I come back while I am working.

So, all-in-all, I don't think that programming is necessarily an unhealthy job if you try to stay active outside the job.
BenG Send private email
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
 
 
Getting physical is definately the way to go. I figured it out after I got RSI (repetitive strain injury) from working too much with mouse and keyboard, which knocked me out for a year altogether and still causes me pain (about seven years later). Only physical exercises got me back into my programming job/hobby, which I love.

A while later I discovered martial arts as the way to go for me, building up both physical and mental fitness. I joined a Tae Kwon Do group (later also Wing Tsun Kung Fu) and it changed my life.

Take care
Johannes
Johannes Wallroth Send private email
Friday, May 11, 2007
 
 

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