Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer Declares Burnout a Myth

Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer made a surprising statement at the 92nd Street Y recently: burnout is a myth. The reason we feel exhausted from work, she said, isn't because we're working too much, but because we're missing things that matter to us.

"I don't really believe in burnout," she said. "A lot of people work really hard for decades and decades, like Winston Churchill and Einstein. Burnout is about resentment. It's about knowing what matters to you so much that if you don't get it, that you're resentful."

Mayer knows a thing or two about working long hours. In Google's early days, she worked around the clock, putting in at least one all-nighter a week during her first five years on the job. "It was 130-hour weeks," she added. "People say, 'there's only 168 hours in a week, how can you do it?' Well, if you're strategic about when you shower and sleeping under your desk, it can be done."

Managers, says Mayer, should be proactive and ask employees who grow annoyed or fatigued with long workweeks what actually matters to them. "You can't have everything you want, but you can have the things that are really important to you and that empower you to work really hard for a really long time on things that you're passionate about," she said. For some employees, that means the freedom to leave work at 4 p.m. to make it to a child's game or music recital on time -- even if he or she is in the middle of a meeting with C-suite members.

What do you think about Marissa Mayer's unique take on burnout?

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  1. 2 joeybennet 07 Oct
    I echo Colin's assessment. Mayer was likely blessed with a strong neuroendocrine system, and good prefrontal contical function. And she's young. Burnout is a real change of the neural wiring of the brain that involves several limbic structures. I'm not making this up, I have the qEEG and SPECT scan to show what happens. It's the body and brain going into survival mode over years of pushing one's self too hard in an environment that many of us are not suited to from birth. Eventually it will happen to her, that's why so many top professionals have to retire early, or go on a long sabbatical. And when it does and she finally realizes it (usually takes years), she may declare that it does exist and the embattled advocacy on the topic will start. But that's a big may; we tend to be exceptionally stubborn. And the condition only amplifies that stubbornness.
  2. 1 Colin Ferguson 18 May
    She may be a wise manager but she's an idiot on this topic...Churchill suffered from major depression, a sure sign of burnout.  Einstein worked himself to illness when theories had to come out of their heads.  Both took time to recharge. 


    Learn your topics before you quote.


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