Megan Darnell
Sep 8 5 min read

The B Word

Welcome back to our series on the dirty words of fintech.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about - go and check out the first post on the F word … 

Spoiler Alert: it’s not what you think. 

In this industry, the ‘normal’ cuss words are more akin to a well-seasoned entree. Just as an expert chef adds rich flavor to a dish, throwing in a few four-letter words around here makes you feel professional as fuck. 

So no, the B word doesn’t rhyme with witch. It’s much worse than that.  We’re talking about Burnout.

Burnout is, in a word, surreptitious. It comes in different forms and degrees, but whatever form it takes, it can make you feel chastised into remaining quiet. And candidly, we’re the ones to blame. We have romanticized burning out as some sick form of martyrdom, idolized it to a point where I’m surprised it’s not a Boost option on Tinder,  and proclaimed it as the pinnacle of work ethic…

Spoiler Alert #2: it’s not.

So what the hell is it? Burnout is exhaustion, specifically exhaustion caused by prolonged and excessive stress. Hitting home, yet? 

Burnout should not be perceived as a lack of willpower, and it sure shouldn’t be the banner phrase “Welcome to Financial Technology, baby!” I know ‘the grind’ is real and important to success, but our flagship mantra shouldn’t be synonymous with a health advisory warning. 

There is of course, a spectrum when it comes to how companies deal with the “B” word. Some companies are wonderful in their recognition and provide tactical, proactive strategies. Others are blatant in their love of burning the candle at both ends. Sadly, there are some who are downright enigmatic. The last kind is the most lethal. They want to have their cake and eat it, too. While they may preach the equipoise gospel – they don’t practice it. Managers proclaim they respect and recognize their employees on a holistic level. They espouse how in order to work hard and do the best work, one must turn off and recharge. 

And yet…

In those same companies, if you aren’t working until 9pm - you’re not getting promoted. You notice the eyerolls and smirks directed at anyone bold enough to request time off. It reminds me of that little phrase ‘gaslighting,’ and we all know how that movie ends.

Which is a beautiful segway into the fact that employees who feel they have a lack of support from managers are 70% more likely to experience burnout. Couple that with the fact that over half of employees reported burnout last year. It makes sense that last year alone, burnout cost employers hundreds of billions of dollars.

With numbers like that, you would think that leaders might begin to recognize how treating employees like actual human beings is, get this, good for business. However, even with these shocking stats, over half of the workforce feel as if they cannot ‘turn off,’ ever. They feel as if they are required to be dedicated 24/7 to their employer. 

It reminds me of the lovely Lily Tomlin quote, “Things are going to get a lot worse before they get worse.”

Story time. *cue tiny violin* 

In my professional career, I’ve burnt out twice. The thing they don’t tell you about burnout is it’s a long game. It’s a drawn-out, slippery slope, a death by a thousand teeny, tiny cuts. Because of this very gradual decline, you’re in denial for the first 70% of it. During this time, you might just assume that everyone is feeling this way or that it’s one of those hard truths of getting older. 

Now for the subsequent 20% you’ll perhaps begin to toss around the phrase “burnout,” but you have no idea what to do. Besides maybe complain a lot more, develop an unhealthy habit or two, and hide under the covers whenever physically possible.

It’s only in that last 10% when the alarm starts sounding and you realize you’re going down with the ship. And that ship is sinking fast. This is when you finally begin to take a hard look at things and hopefully ask for help.

By then, it’s far too late.

I fought the landslide of burnout every inch of the way. I was still convinced that it was a blip, a minor setback, maybe fatigue but nothing to take seriously. I thought I just needed a little downtime and then I’d be right back to swinging for the fences.


Obviously, that was not the case. It wasn’t the case because I refused to listen to myself; I wouldn’t let myself heal. Because I secretly didn’t believe that I needed to. Sure, I preach the perils of burnout and how important balance and boundaries are … but I didn’t need that shit, I was different.

In sociology, there’s a body of work around “comparison stratification,” basically when we compare ourselves against our peers, we do so unfairly. Providing much more of an empathic response to the struggles of others than our own. That twisted bend in our human character seriously bit me in the ass. During that whole time, I relentlessly negotiated with myself. I actually convinced myself that since I had left my full-time job to finally recover, I should start a new business with my free time … flawless logic.

Unfortunately, I’m not alone. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a unique and glorious work of art that deserves to sit on a pedestal high above you plebs… but burnout comes for us all. Over ¾ of the workforce will suffer from burnout at some point, and it shows no signs of slowing. 

While names like António Horta-Osório from Lloyds Banking Group and Monzo’s Tom Blomfield have been able to open up the door for conversations around burnout, there is still much to do. There’s an interesting study showcasing that as an employee, outside of the obvious (avoid workplace stressors and get more rest), the biggest way to prevent/overcome burnout is through rich interpersonal connections. 

As leaders we must take heed. We’ve already discussed that the BIGGEST reason for burnout is a lack of support for our employees (aka deficient in sincere interpersonal connections). A Michigan State study discerned that in addition to support, promoting flexible schedules is Number 2 of the list of things we should be proactively doing. And no, I don’t mean the flexible schedule of “you can work your 90 hours a week however you’d like!”

Good employees are willing to go the extra mile when they receive the extra benefits and support needed to do so. Sincerely encouraging vacation, recognizing the need to get away from a desk (hold some walking meetings, damn it!) and setting holistic goals are great ways to get started. 

Never forget how meaningless it all is if you don’t practice what you preach. It helps no one at the company if their leaders say one thing and do another. Like I’d mentioned before, those are by far the most lethal to employee health and well-being. 

So please, really pause for a moment. Take inventory. Put your own oxygen mask on before assisting other passengers. Lead by example.


It’s 2022, for Christ’s sake, take care of yourself.

Signs You May be Burnt the Fuck Out:
-Physical symptoms: exhaustion, headaches, muscle aches
-Getting sick often
-A negative attitude
-Feeling like everything is overwhelming or your efforts are futile
-Neglecting your own needs, as if you’re a pushover
-Withdrawing from new responsibilities, challenges, and people
-Procrastinating, unable to concentrate
-Short tempered
-Difficulty sticking to regular self-care
-Loss of motivation and optimism


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