On Crisis Fatigue

I’m not (usually) horrifically rude, but I happened to glance at the page of the woman next to me on the bus this morning and saw the words “crisis fatigue” at the top of one of her lists. Then I stopped reading and started typing this (honest!) because it got me thinking about the impact of crisis fatigue on geeks.

I don’t know the last time I talked to someone who wasn’t crisis fatigued to some extent. Just think about the news that we see every day:

  • The economy and its parade of tax hikes, layoffs, bankruptcies, and pyramid schemes
  • Swine flu and pandemics
  • Wars and violence–both foreign and domestic

Then add politics, traffic, weather, and the total randomness that folks call news. Now add work. It just seems like, as a society, we’re chronically over-stressed, under-staffed, over-caffeinated, under-funded and just plain tired.

Now think of geeks. Many of them live in environments of almost constant crisis. Servers and switches crash, applications are buggy, and few work environments these days have the staff or budget to fully replace the equipment or fix the problems. Add to that the sheer complexity of the products or systems supported and you can be certain that most of the user community has no idea why there are so many problems and why they’re taking so long to fix.

Are there ways to remedy the geeks’ and users’ stress? Absolutely. I’ve talked about having fun and communication as good remedies. But is it hard to remember to share a joke or communicate properly? Absolutely. There aren’t enough resources–humans, time, money, or hours in the day–to do things perfectly and remember to implement the remedies.

As a leader, it’s my job to be aware of crisis fatigue and attempt to implement remedies despite being crisis fatigued myself. Do I always succeed? Nope. I’m sick, exhausted, and stressed just like everyone else. But I do my best, and I’m glad that my moment of bus rudeness has made me more aware of the problem.