Tired

Jul. 4th, 2012 07:33 am
jennyst: Jenny on a photo of space (Default)
[personal profile] jennyst
[personal profile] awatson wrote a great post on burnout recently. I've mostly been suffering from those symptoms too much to write in here, despite my early dreams. If you want more OTW news, [personal profile] renay and [personal profile] hl are also writing a bit from different perspectives.

Board is difficult. We have three people who can hardly ever make a meeting at the moment. I would say you can see from our minutes, but I'm having trouble getting a quorum to approve the minutes so I can post them. And it's getting to be holiday season, so it's only going to get harder. We can't really have the discussions of big issues that we need if only half the board are there. So we tick along on the admin side, and work on making specific committees more sustainable.

That's an uphill battle, too. We have had an unlucky year, with six chairs having to step down in the first six months of the year - that's significantly higher than normal. We've also had a lot of experienced staffers finally hit the point of "too much". So for those who are left, training newbies is balanced with keeping things running, and trying to fit in some long-term strategic thinking in the gaps. It's easy to think that all we need to do is train and mentor more people for future leadership, but mentoring is hard work, even if it's rewarding. There are people who say they have tons of professional experience, but then don't seem to apply any of the expected skills to their org work. Which applies to me some days, too - I forget that the day-job skills for dealing with difficult clients could be applied to fannish friends in the org.

The AO3 performance problems have slipped off the headlines, but behind the scenes everyone knows it's only a temporary reprieve - we need to fix the actual problems so they don't recur. And because of the stress that's causing, still no-one wants to talk about any of the issues that were raised publicly during the last election.

I wanted to end this on a hopeful note, but I can't think of one right now. I guess that's another of the symptoms of burnout. Anyone want to volunteer for Board next year?

Date: 2012-07-04 09:16 am (UTC)
autumnus: A purple monochrome portrait of Zoe from Dreamfall, with drawn stars in background and "the Dreamer" written on bottom. (Default)
From: [personal profile] autumnus
board well, we knew this was going to happen. The chairs were less expected through :(

*hugs*

I think there needs to be a system on the org to make sure board members prioritize their work a little more since it is so important. This is not a joke.

hey if you want positive note I think there are several workgroups (like survey) that is doing awesomely. There are some part of the orgs where the morale is high.

edit:

Also to be blunt the reason why people don't apply their skills has unfortunately to do with the environment within the org. Sometimes it is just plainly not possible to get a voice or work in without the overhead of dealing with people, sometimes just because people don't have the energy in first place to work with it. the silver lining is that it means if we can fix the burnout issue that one will largely fix itself. Unless I am missing something.
Edited (addendum) Date: 2012-07-04 09:36 am (UTC)

Date: 2012-07-04 07:06 pm (UTC)
hl: Drawing of Ada Lovelace as a young child, reading a Calculus book (Default)
From: [personal profile] hl
Maybe sometimes is that, but I've been in a position of wanting to learn from people who are doing something professionally, and where they're given complete freedom to actually decide how the stuff is done -- since they're the ones with the Knowledge -- and people just... don't. Either they disappear, or they don't use it. I don't know what that is, but 'dealing with people' is an unavoidable part of 'working with people'. If no professional people can do that, then we're in bigger trouble than we can fix.

And yes, 'dealing with people' can be a drag, but, come on.

Date: 2012-07-05 12:13 am (UTC)
autumnus: A purple monochrome portrait of Zoe from Dreamfall, with drawn stars in background and "the Dreamer" written on bottom. (Default)
From: [personal profile] autumnus
well from my experience so far it is usually the case. it doesn't have to be that people get into a fight or have to do something extreme. People who work professionally with highly sought skills often don't have time to deal with convincing people that there is something to be learned of them. They have better things to do with their unpaid time. Furthermore they also see it NOT working pretty quickly and just walk out.

Sorry for being harsh but it is about time OTW realizes it is working with real people who has real lives.

You treat an org like an afternoon hobby, that is what it becomes. You want it to be a serious place, then that is how people need to act. It is as simple as that.

Date: 2012-07-05 02:18 am (UTC)
via_ostiense: Eun Chan eating, yellow background (Default)
From: [personal profile] via_ostiense
First of all, being a working professional with highly sought skills doesn't make one's off-the-clock time inherently more valuable than another person's, seeing as how the OTW is a volunteer gig and you don't get paid for it. Do I agree that there are lots of places where things could work better? Yes. Do I think that a committee member who makes tons of money in their day job has more worth on a committee than their fellow committee member who works retail? No. And trust me, unemployed people have much better things they could be doing with their time, too.

...and there aren't any people who work professionally with highly sought skills in the OTW? There are a lot; some put those skills to work and some, for whatever reason, don't. Their reasons may be valid, but that doesn't make it less frustrating when, as [personal profile] hl says, current staff/volunteer people are asked to help with a task relevant to their area of expertise (i.e. they don't have to make the case that they have skills to impart, because people have indicated that they want to learn and want their help) and then they disappear. The OTW has a lot of flaws, but the staff and volunteers also count as "real people who have real lives."

Date: 2012-07-05 09:49 am (UTC)
autumnus: A purple monochrome portrait of Zoe from Dreamfall, with drawn stars in background and "the Dreamer" written on bottom. (Default)
From: [personal profile] autumnus
Sorry for the lack of clarification there. I didn't mean people with highly prestigious jobs. If you have a skill that is highly sought (due to scarcity of it or sudden high demand) and you are in the market for non-profit job for certain hours, there is more demand for it both in terms of companies who will pay for you to work for them and as non-profits where the money is replaced by other things like acquiring experience, emotional fulfillment at getting something good done, reputation, networking, etc etc (these actually factor in paid job selection too, that is why some of us can elect to pick a lesser paying position for example). While I understand the frustration, it is also important that we understand why it is happening put a stop to it.

staff and volunteers also count as "real people who have real lives."
No. Most of the staff and volunteers count as real people who have real lives and yet somehow manage to keep going with this environment that is really not very accessible to real people who have real lives. The problem is there aren't that many people who can do it, and those we have are either already half burnt out or on their way there.

Date: 2012-07-05 02:41 pm (UTC)
via_ostiense: Eun Chan eating, yellow background (Default)
From: [personal profile] via_ostiense
I don't think we actually disagree on the facts that there is burnout and that working conditions in the OTW are stressful, but the way you're framing it is patronizing and insulting, and your statement "Most of the staff and volunteers count as real people who have real lives and yet somehow manage to keep going with this environment that is really not very accessible to real people who have real lives." doesn't manage to clarify whether or not you think that the people currently working in the OTW and struggling to make things better are "real people with real lives" or if only the people who quit are worth caring about.

Some people work for the OTW and make problems. They are real people with real lives.
Some people work for the OTW and try to solve problems. They are real people with real lives.
Some people work for the OTW and then quit. They are real people with real lives.

Framing one group as less important than another just because they're still toiling along is bullshit.

Date: 2012-07-06 08:23 am (UTC)
autumnus: A purple monochrome portrait of Zoe from Dreamfall, with drawn stars in background and "the Dreamer" written on bottom. (Default)
From: [personal profile] autumnus
*frustrated* I think I finally get (I really hope) what you and hl are feeling insulted about. One group isn't less important than others. Why does people think when I say "highly sought" people read it as "important"? It is two different things.

People's time, just like products is basically a limited supply. There is more demand for it, the market for it is more competitive. Thus people with this type of skillset tends to be the first to go, ergo this is where we first see the negative results of the underlying issue that is affecting the whole org.

Date: 2012-07-05 03:11 am (UTC)
hl: Drawing of Ada Lovelace as a young child, reading a Calculus book (Default)
From: [personal profile] hl
Given than I have been working on the org for about four years, and giving way more of my time than an usual job, with barely any breaks, I'm finding your comment more than half insulting.

Date: 2012-07-05 09:26 am (UTC)
autumnus: A purple monochrome portrait of Zoe from Dreamfall, with drawn stars in background and "the Dreamer" written on bottom. (Default)
From: [personal profile] autumnus
I am sorry you find it insulting. it wasn't intended to be that way.

Yes there are some people in this org that does it, regardless. Because they feel their contributions are worth it in the end, because they have a social network in the org that supports them, or they are just that type of selfless or high energy people who keep trying longer than others (they burnout eventually too, just takes longer).

People have a right to not deal with it on top of what their dayjobs and what else they have in their lives, as an unpaid volunteer. It might not be you who is causing this overhead personally, but the org as a whole ends up doing. People who have more sought out skills (technical, legal, whatever) is a small pool to start with. So you get even less people who would be willing to do that type of sacrifice. Even lesser because these skills tend to be scarce and needed on other non-profits and paid jobs too, thus it is easier to loose them to a project or other interests that feel more fulfilling to them.

Dedication and persevering throughout is a good bonus, but the org is big enough now that we cannot rely just on that alone to the degree we are relying on currently.

Date: 2012-07-05 09:51 am (UTC)
hl: Drawing of Ada Lovelace as a young child, reading a Calculus book (Default)
From: [personal profile] hl
I love it when you imply this is not true for most, if not all, the people working on the org, be them doing the same things in the dayjobs or not. Only that by 'love it', I mean, 'hate it'.

I'm not sure what you think is the solution to the 'communal projects imply working with people' bit, and that means that people who can't stand dealing with people can't handle it, because the org is one, and I've only seen problems come out of 'this person is too awesome/the only expert and they don't want to deal with people; let's just leave them to decide everything' type of thinking.

Date: 2012-07-05 02:45 pm (UTC)
via_ostiense: Eun Chan eating, yellow background (Default)
From: [personal profile] via_ostiense
I've only seen problems come out of 'this person is too awesome/the only expert and they don't want to deal with people; let's just leave them to decide everything' type of thinking.

Ditto. Been there, worked with those people, gave up and quit (thus contributing to more strain for the people who stayed, I'm sure). And for the record, outside of the OTW, I've worked with people who were at the top of their profession (people who had literally won Olympic medals) who didn't have a teaspoon of the "I'm special and highly skilled and I can't be bothered to try to work with you" attitude that causes so many problems.

Date: 2012-07-05 11:41 pm (UTC)
hl: Drawing of Ada Lovelace as a young child, reading a Calculus book (Default)
From: [personal profile] hl
After thinking some more (and having tea), I do get that you probably just mean that 'if people who are experts are not heard because other -- non expert, presumably -- people want to direct what happens, they will probably quit, which is not good', rather than any number of more insulting possibilities. I agree with that, and I agree it may be a real problem, particularly in some parts of the org (may because I don't presume to know everything).

I don't think that's a 'dealing with people' problem in the sense I was reading it before. If you're working for an org like the otw, you will probably have to 'deal with people', in the sense of training people to do your job, finding something to agree on when you're disagreeing with other people making decisions, advocating for your opinion accurately (and yes, that could include 'this is how we do it in My Real Job, where they really know what they're doing because of x'), and elevating stuff to board if it's bad enough.

On the hopes of explaining what I was trying to say, what I was pointing out is a pattern I thought I saw (which, on the other hand, may be only confirmation bias and the fact that I'll notice more when I had more hopes for their work), which is that some people come in saying they have particular expertise and then never apply it, even when other people put themselves at their disposition to train/order about doing what I call 'minion work' (i.e. the petty part of the work that anyone can do if directed accordingly).

So, if I haven't misrepresented you, I think we agree?

Date: 2012-07-06 08:14 am (UTC)
autumnus: A purple monochrome portrait of Zoe from Dreamfall, with drawn stars in background and "the Dreamer" written on bottom. (Default)
From: [personal profile] autumnus
yeah essentially we agree.

What happens often is that there are people who are trying to get these skills, and people who try to encourage and facilitate it. However often, there are others who sort of prevent that from happening under the hood. The reason I am maybe sarcastic and bitter about it is because I've been on tail end of this and seen it happen to others. It is common enough at least in some parts of the org. They say "do it, use it help us" yet when you offer a solution, try to take initiative there is an invisible wall there, in some case being treated like you don't know anything that or you are the one in the position of learning who actually doesn't have much of a clue. But no, if the hierarchy of elevating the problem doesn't worked in practice I am not sure we would have such an influx of experts who are unwilling to use their expertise.

I am behind what I said, but if you don't mind, at this point I am exhausted of verbal attacks and accusations. Feel free to contact me if you want to continue this discussion in private. You know my email.

Date: 2012-07-06 08:17 am (UTC)
hl: Drawing of Ada Lovelace as a young child, reading a Calculus book (Default)
From: [personal profile] hl
I'm sorry if I contributed to that -- these past few days haven't been the best on that sense for me either. I may take you up on that when I've more a breather, though.

Date: 2012-07-06 08:25 am (UTC)
autumnus: A purple monochrome portrait of Zoe from Dreamfall, with drawn stars in background and "the Dreamer" written on bottom. (Default)
From: [personal profile] autumnus
*hugs* actually after typing that I had a small idea, check my thread with via's at the end and see if that helps clarifying what I really think is a misunderstanding. If you still want to discuss it, feel free to take it up when you like, if you like. :)

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