Product Manager’s Burnout

Product Managers & Mental Health

Swapna M
3 min readOct 11, 2019

Do Product managers burn out?

A Product Manager’s job is pretty slick — you’re not doing the exact same thing on any given day. One day you’re tackling compliance issues with your risk / legal team , the next day you’re providing feedback on the go-to-market strategy to the marketing team, still on another day, you might be reviewing the next quarter’s roadmap or something entirely different. Given the set of unpredictability and new challenges that you face and solve every single day, you keep learning a lot of personal and professional insights, that in itself is exciting for any professional.

However if you look at it broadly, it is still the same rigmarole of research, user testing, problem statement definition, hypothesis, validation of said hypothesis, implementation, experimentation, marketing & sales enablement, launch, feedback, iteration, maintenance. And a whole lot of problems thrown in.

This cycle can cause burnout in some cases, especially if you’ve been in the same team or company for quite a while.

I recently asked a Senior Director of Product at a major retail company — Haven’t you ever felt burnout as a Product Manager? His answer was no. Burnout due to long hours at work, yes, but not due to any monotony or disillusionment about product management as a function or his role within his company.

Valid answer. However I’ve definitely felt some “dynamic” monotony, disillusionment about product management and drudgery in my role at different points in my career.

That doesn’t mean that my work is boring or I don’t love my job or that I’m not working on some amazing creative things — I led this recently

However, there might be days or phases within a year whereby you feel tortured or just blah or frustrated, overwhelmed, annoyingly comfortable or disillusioned for a variety of reasons. Even product managers are not perfect.

To say that my world as a PM is perfect is not fooling anybody. You might be working on game changing products, but you’re human. Even the creative task of solving a customer pain point is going to <X> you at times (replace X with annoy, frustrate, vehement, overwhelm, feel like drudgery etc.) . And that is okay. It is more than okay to say it out aloud, accept and acknowledge it and then work on it to get out of that rut!

In view of Mental Health celebrations this week, I want to put a few things out there —

  1. It is OKAY to feel burned out in your role as a product manager — not just because of the long hours you’ve put into your work, but also because of the demands of this role, the grittiness of character and willful strength that this role demands.
  2. It is OKAY to want to pursue new things outside product management — in fact, you should celebrate it and try to explore what else interests you. Eg. Try out marketing for a few weeks, keep close company with your customer support team, tag along a sales person or shadow a business stakeholder in your company — the opportunities are endless.
  3. It is OKAY to take a BREAK — It is okay to take a step back and re-evaluate your priorities if necessary. And it is more than okay to do something completely different in your organization or outside. Eg. Volunteer in your local community, sign up a financial planning course, take dance lessons, or work on your idea that you’ve been putting off for so long.

You can also —

  • Talk to your boss or mentor/ colleagues/ peers — Talking to a safe circle, whether that’s your boss, mentor, colleague or even friends/ family can provide you some fresh perspectives on how to deal with burnout. They might help you figure out the next step in your professional journey, or you might feel inspired by listening to their stories. Or just the simple act of talking or listening might refresh you and provide you a new vigor to restart things.
  • Set up some time to learn a new skill
  • Read fiction or partake in some other guilty pleasure activities (Gossip Girl anyone?)

Do you feel burnout at work? (even though you adore your job)