Preventing burnout

We had a discussion in the Reps Group on Telegram about burnout. It was more or less everyone agreeing that it’s a real thing that affects us all. How could we help make sure contributors don’t get burnt out?

A few links that may be of interest:


Here just some random points from me:

  • Talk to others about what you’re doing and what is frustrating you
  • Don’t do anything that isn’t fun for you and don’t just do it “because you would let someone down”
  • Delegate as much work as you can and try to not build ecosystems where you’re the only one doing the work (this also helps with the bus factor)
  • Tell others your concerns/frustrations as early as possible, don’t hold it in until you can’t handle it anymore
  • Try to not do too much work during holidays
  • and sometimes, at least for me, it’s good to not care for a moment and see what happens

Thanks for starting the topic here!

Edit: and the fact that it’s after 10pm on a Friday here and I’m still working on stuff might not help my credibility…


Burnout in Tech is a huge problem, huge topic. Combine that with people who work in tech and volunteer in open source… it’s a great topic, thanks for starting it Tanner!

Around the time I started volunteering in a core-capacity at Mozilla I made a new year’s resolution to to do ‘less, better’ (taking one or two things, and focusing on doing those really well) vrs a mediocre job of many things), because like many of you ( I think ) I tended to over-commit. Some reasons I did that were:

  1. Guilt / not wanting to let people down (not good at saying ‘no’)
  2. Love of the work (hard to say no to great opportunities)
  3. Unrealistic Optimism (basically I had no idea how I would fit things in, but I just figured I would find a way lol, which I did but not in healthy ways.

When I follow my resolution to ‘do less, better’, it feels like permission to say no. I find the burn out feeling slows, and the sense of accomplishment increases because (surprise, surprise) I did a better job. I would say that a similar pledge is worth taking when you feel this way. In the long run it will help the things you care about as well (ie: really investing in one or two areas at Mozilla vrs all of them will benefit Mozilla better overall).

Also + 1 to MIchael’s comment, I have done this too:

and sometimes, at least for me, it’s good to not care for a moment and see what happens


Very good observations. It’s always good to find out how far you can reach but not by going too far.

Over-committing always kills it as you find yourself with so much work that most if not all end up getting no or poor attention.

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I think that if we used the right project management tools, it would also
make it easier to visualize how much we’ve already committed to and be more
realistic about how much time we have. Too often we commit to an idea
because we like it and we want it to succeed and not because it fits in our

@Kensie what PMT’s do you use?

I heard of a contributor that has contributed for 4 years to mobile engineering projects on bugzilla, he is an exceptional programmer. He is invited to conferences regularly. He was just in an all hands meeting at this recent conference and they announced “we just hired 100+ engineers in the last 6 months” while he was sitting there listening. This contributor has been applying for 4 years on and off and continually contributing throughout. I know Mozilla wants to keep their free sources of work free for as long as possible. But this is just psychological terrorism, especially this specific case.

At some point Mozilla has to care about financially/mentally supporting their passionate contributors, as they are obviously happy to contribute to Moz. A job req went up on the listings site just last week and not a single member of the mobile engineering team even mentioned to this contributor to apply for it. Although they should ideally hire him without even telling him to go apply we just posted a req.

There are some extremely passionate people contributing with the “false hope” that Mozilla will hire them one day. Getting a call back and then rejection for positions which these contributors are extremely qualified for, it feels as if they intentionally just called to continue to give the contributor false hope, in that if they keep contributing maybe one day Moz will hire them. This causes burn out and even turns them away. Contributors feel that if they stop contributing, then Moz will hire them.

Moz needs to reconsider how they deal with existing contributors that are super passionate. I’m not saying offer them all jobs, but the ones that are extremely passionate you know of them. This contributor of 4 years deserves it. I know Moz is also a corporation and needs to be spend their money wisely but Moz really needs to rethink their “keep free resources free for as long as possible” methodology.


Laura Thompson did a couple talks related to this, which I wasn’t aware of.

I haven’t yet watched them, but I definitely need to take a look tonight. I’d like to hear her thoughts.

There are “factions” at Mozilla with different ideas on how community and
the expectation of paid work, should be managed. There is one group that
believes that volunteers shouldn’t be doing the work expecting to be hired,
to preserve the volunteer culture. I don’t quite understand this argument
so if someone else reading this does, please feel free to expound.

However I have been thinking about this lately for Community Ops, and I
think that this is hurting not just volunteers, but Mozilla. Mozilla’s
goal should be to make as many of its volunteers as possible hire-able.
Maybe they won’t get a job at Mozilla, but every day passionately
volunteering at Mozilla should make them more and more qualified to get a
related job. Not only would this create a reputation we want - “we attract
the best volunteers and produce skilled contributors” but it would also
help inject the Mozilla attitude into every other organization that hires a

And maybe some people do just want to do it in their spare time and want to
work in a different sector, but that should be their choice.


Thanks Kensie that’s cool.

I like your idea on how to make them hire-able at least somewhere if not Moz.

I don’t understand that first thing either. An idea to prevent burnout is to hire people that you know won’t burnout. The ones that want to do it in their spare time, you won’t hear of them or you might, but you’ll know, as they won’t be applying for positions. The ones that do want to be there they have proven themselves to contribute 7 days a week under false pretenses that Moz will eventually take care of them mentally/financially (those calls from Moz for applied to positions do lead them to believe that). Take out the cost of living problem from these contributors and they’ll contribute even more and forever. These people are not just passionate they love contributing to Moz. Love is something that doesn’t die.

I think volunteers realize they won’t ever get hired, when the apply to Moz they now compete to see who gets rejected first.

I’ve burned out before, it’s because I was there for the paycheck that’s it. I think volunteers prove they aren’t coming for the paycheck. But the other side is, if we have a person out there who won’t do anything for us/Moz (non-volunteer), and we can get him to work for us with a paycheck, then we should spend our money there. This is corporate mentality but it’s important to not just success but survival… and we don’t want Moz to die.

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This is part of the “professional development” and “volunteer curriculum” that I think fits into the Leadership development initiatives we want to run at the participation team this quarter.

How to grow inside the community and don’t get stalled.

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I want to acknowledge seeing this, but suspect that many layers involved which without that detail, make it hard to respond to. For example if we knew which person you were talking about, we could look into it - but only on his behalf.

I have never heard, a team talk about avoiding hiring volunteers - like ever, in the Mozilla project or many others I’ve worked with. I did hear a story recently of a contributor who made this similar type of complaint, only to be told “Dude we had no idea you were interested in working with us, we thought you were happy with your job, and volunteering”. So also what part of this is missing communication, or visible pathways (wondering).

As for “false hope” of getting hired. I’m hoping with some of our leadership training that we can help people set and reach their goals in the broader sense of the world vrs an all or nothing version? I don’t know, but open and willing to talk talk this through a bit more.

  • If this person you mention wants to send a direct email, I can help him ask the questions he needs answers to.
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Thanks PMed you name :slight_smile:

There was an old governance thread that got into this. It was a few years ago, and especially came up when Mozilla was in a “we need to grow our abilities by hiring outside experts” phase. Also, the talk isn’t specifically about avoiding hiring volunteers, it’s about avoiding giving volunteers the impression that they will get hired. I think this leads to some behaviours that add up to avoiding hiring volunteers compared to how the development and involvement would work if they weren’t trying to avoid that impression.