Winning the Internet

Beating Back Burnout Culture in the Progressive Movement

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Emilie Aries

Emilie Aries

As we get ready for Netroots Nation 2015, we’re taking a closer look at some of the convention’s most exciting training sessions. We’re interviewing the trainers and taking you inside some of online activism’s most popular and elusive topics.

Today we’re interviewing Emilie Aries of Bossed Up, LLC, who’ll be leading Beating Back Burnout Culture in the Progressive Movement.

NN15 Training Session

Beating Back Burnout Culture in the Progressive Movement
While committing one’s life to the service of others is valiant, doing so at the cost of one’s personal sustainability is counter-productive. The path to a sustainable progressive movement begins with investing in our own personal health, happiness and long-term vision for our careers. In this training, Emilie Aries, founder of personal and professional development training organization, Bossed Up, will review the latest research on burnout, its root causes, and how we all can do more to foster a climate of sustainable success—for ourselves and our movement.


Q: Tell us about yourself and your experience with professional development and preventing burnout.

A: I started Bossed Up after my own battle with burnout. After working for years in politics, fighting for causes and candidates I believed in, I realized I was never going to be able to sustain this pace over the long haul if I didn’t show myself the same commitment.

My over-achieving sprint-through-the-semester habits that served me well in college left me spinning my wheels, exhausted and over-extended in the working world. It took a near-crisis in my personal life to force me to re-evaluate everything – including the kind of success I was striving towards.

Off cycle and out of a job after our grueling battle for health reform, I was stuck in an unhealthy relationship and faced with a seemingly impossible series of choices. That’s when I first I decided to invest in myself and put my personal sustainability, health, and happiness first, after years of forsaking my own needs.

Over the course of two years I dove back into cognitive science and gender studies research that I had spent so much time researching and writing about in college. I realized that my story is not unique and brought together experts to create a safe space where more women like me could stop and get the support they needed to invest in their long-term personal and professional success.

Since our very first Bossed Up Bootcamp in 2013, we’ve brought together hundreds of women navigating career transition with expert trainers and a research-based curriculum that helps women take ownership of their life across work, love, and wellness.


Q: In your opinion, why is it so important that we take steps to prevent burnout?

A: A movement is only as strong as the people moving it.

I worry about our community’s reliance on unpaid interns, volunteers, and the idealism of the young and hungry. That doesn’t mean we all should be millionaire fat cats, but I do believe in bringing sanity back into our workplace culture benefits the individual and the organizations in which they work.

The good news, however, is that despite the systemic realities of our workplaces, there are many steps we can take as individuals to prevent the harmful effects of burnout culture from dictating our lives. It starts with recognizing our own personal agency – and putting it to use in advocating for ourselves in the same way we advocate for the causes and the campaigns we believe in.


Q: What are the two most important things to keep in mind when trying to keep oneself or employees from burning out?

A: Happier, healthier people are more productive.
Working more hours doesn’t mean you’re working harder. Especially with the advances in digital communication technology, we can and must to optimize our workplaces for efficiency – including efficiently managing our own energy. We must work smarter, not harder.

Leaders say no to make room for yes.
The tone for an office culture is set at the top. One of the hardest things a leader must do is decide what not to do. Without saying no, we have no priorities, no focus, and a team that’s not all pulling in the same direction. It is imperative that our leaders learn to say no instead of exhausting ourselves and our team’s energy in pleasing every and all stakeholders (I’m looking at you, coalition people!). By modeling that behavior at the top, our leaders implicitly give permission to others on the team to exercise the same key skill without fearing negative repercussions.


Q: Why should folks attend your session at Netroots Nation, and how can they connect with you?

A: You should come to my session if you’re down for the cause but hate the personal costs of fighting it. If you daydream about ditching the progressive scene to “sell out” in corporate culture. And join us if you’re feeling like the powerless leading the powerless. We’re going to have a very real discussion of how we can create more power for all by taking our power back first.

Chat with me on twitter at @BossedUpOrg and @EmilieAries. Follow us on Instagram (@BossedUpOrg) for inspiration to keep bossin and join our email list at for the real good stuff.



To attend this training, or one of the 39 others at Netroots Nation 2015 in Phoenix, register now.

About Melissa Foley

Melissa is the Director of Training and Mentoring for Netroots Foundation and New Media Mentors. She aims to use her MBA + nonprofit background to teach organizations to use new media tools strategically.


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