How Burnout syndrome fuels turnover in tech companies

The state
of burnout
in tech

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But what is

Burnout is an occupational phenomenon resulting from “chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed”

2 in 5

of the workers surveyed show a high risk of burnout

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Techman loves what they do, but they feel pressured to work long hours, which leaves little time for personal life and creates work-life conflicts.

Meet Tech-man

Often, techman turns to anti-patterns: short-term fixes to get the job done. When this happens day after day, with no space to recover mentally or physically, stress piles up.

low moderate high
Stress level

30,000 Participants surveyed

Let's see what we found


Burnout level by gender

Striking a balance is even more complicated for our female peers. It may be because of their responsibilities as caretakers or even due to impostor syndrome
-Domenica Obando, CoFounder and CEO at Talently

Burnout level by role


The Ghosts of Burnout

Let's meet our enemies: Exhaustion, Self-Inefficacy, Cynicism, and Depersonalization. These are the 4 ghosts of Burnout and they are lurking on every corner, and techman must avoid them to get through unscathed.


The ghost of Exhaustion is usually the first to go after Tech-Man.

Once it catches Tech-Man, they feel emotional, creative, or physical exhaustion and are unable to unwind, and restore energy for the next day.

If exhaustion is sustained for long periods of time, Tech-Man can develop depression, cardiovascular problems, and other stress-related illnesses.

56% of IT professionals with high burnout risk can’t relax once their workday is over.

62% of the high burnout risk population feel physically and emotionally drained.

Gender Distribution

69% of women feel run-down and drained of physical and emotional energy after a workday, compared to 56% of men.

I went to bed feeling exhausted and woke up still feeling tired.
-Pujaa Rajan, Deep Learning Engineer at Node


Self-inefficacy is a conman and it makes Tech-Man doubt their abilities to accomplish to-dos.

Once the ghost of Self-Inefficacy strikes, Tech-Man is overcome with a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment. Eventually, they become unproductive and develop low morale.

Over time, they develop an emotional crisis that leads to procrastination and may end in "Imposter Syndrome".

51% of the high burnout risk population feel like they are achieving less than they should.

33% of the tech workforce with high burnout risk feel inefficient at their job.

You might think that team leaders would have a stronger sense of achievement, making them less vulnerable to this ghost. But there’s not a significant difference between ICs and managers.

Role Distribution
I’ve found that it is the little negative voices in my head that start getting louder until you’re consumed by self-doubt.
-Taylor McCaslin, Sr. PM at GitLab


Cynicism is the trickiest ghost Tech-Man has to face.

When it strikes, Tech-Man may act coldly towards people and no longer find satisfaction in finishing tasks or accomplishing goals. So they move slowly, carelessly, and are unproductive.

Once it strikes, it's the likeliest ghost to drive Tech-Man out of the job. In fact, Cynicism is the best predictor of turnover.

43% of the high burnout risk population feel less and less engaged in their work.

27% in the high burnout risk population don't see the value or purpose in what they do.

Role Distribution

Individual Contributors report higher cynicism (28%) than managers (23%). Similarly, nearly 30% of ICs don’t know their purpose or value, compared to 24,3% of leaders who report the same.

I remember thinking, I genuenly can’t imagine what any company could say to me to get me excited about joining right now.
-Jean Hsu, VP of Engineering at Range


This ghost's signature attack is exploiting an emotional defense mechanism where Tech-Man shuts down emotions in order to cope and continue working.

After Tech-Man is struck by Depersonalization, they become cold and distant towards colleagues, clients and superiors.

Lacking a sense of community, they may even compromise the working environment with a bad and callous attitude.

22% of the high burnout risk population feel that they are harder and less sympathic with people that they work with than they deserve.

26% of the high burnout risk population are worried that their job in IT is making them harsher emotionally.

29% of women worry about their job making them emotionally harsher compared to 23% of men. This may lead to a deterioration of relationships in the workplace.

Gender Distribution
I understand that the job, by itself, cannot be the sole motivation. But when people move to the extreme opposite, inertia takes over.
-Diego Eis, Director of Digital Products at Sympla

Job Demands vs Job Resources

Work-related stress is produced when there is an imbalance between the job's demands and its resources:

Job Demands are the factors that contribute to diminishing motivation, performance, and increased stress.
Job Resources are the factors that increase motivation and performance, and reduce perceived stress.

When demands exceed resources, the techman experiences tension and this can lead to distress. If this persists, the techman exhausts their resources and falls into a state of burnout.

Finding Balance

When there is an equilibrium between high job demands and resources, the techman feels challenged and empowered and this leads to the feeling of flow. This, in time, leads to high work-engagement and productivity.

Stress level In Flow
The Yerbo Balance

But don't assume that given a set of JD-R, every techman will react the same way. Personality traits, their history and career path will influence how they perceive their situation:

Someone with less social skills may perceive a meeting as a stressor; while someone with a lot of ability may feel they don't perform at the level their role requires, falling into feelings of self-inefficacy.

High Demands
Low Resources
Burned out

Tech-Man feels exhausted, without any strength or will to work. They don’t feel like they are contributing, and they’re unsatisfied with their tasks. Usually, they’re also feeling low levels of perceived self-efficacy and may feel stress from relationships with managers, peers, customers, etc.

Low Demands
Low Resources
9 To 5

The Tech-Man's job feels mundate, but they do it to make a living. They don't necessarily enjoy the work, but don't resent it either. They just do what they have to without looking for any kind of extra engagement.

Low Demands
High Resources
Bored out

Tech-Man feels low motivation, and doesn't want to do their job as it feels tedious and a waste of time. There's no real interest in completing any task as they're not challenging, thus it doesn't seem like the best use of the Tech-Man's time and skills.