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Common Problems Faced in Open-source Part I

Third blog post presenting the Outreachy project on Mental Health

There are different problems faced in open source that affect our well-being and mental health. In this blog, we will focus on conflict and burnout, common causes and some of the solutions we can implement.


Conflicts are unavoidable and are part of our day-to-day lives. When handled properly, conflicts can be beneficial as it gives insight into different perspectives.

Factors that lead to conflict

There are 8 main causes of conflict in the workspace

  1. Conflicting needs
  2. Conflicting styles
  3. Conflicting perceptions
  4. Conflicting goals
  5. Conflicting pressures
  6. Conflicting roles
  7. Different personal values
  8. Unpredictable policies

How to handle and resolve conflict

Define the problem: Try to explain the concerns that led to the conflict without being provocative.

Listen actively: Listen when the other person is expressing their concern and the impact it has on them. The possibility of a suitable outcome is improved when each person feels listened to.

Analyze the conflict: This will help clarify the specific problem that led to the conflict.

Come up with a solution: Creating solutions that are beneficial to both parties.

Agree to disagree: There are different perspectives that exist in a workplace due to differences in background and experiences which can hinder from reaching the same agreement. Therefore, in this case, respecting each others perspectives and differences can be the best option.


Burnout, according to APA dictionary, is “a physical, emotional, or mental exhaustion accompanied by decreased motivation, lowered performance, and negative attitudes toward oneself and others”. It results from performing at a high level until stress and tension, especially from extreme and prolonged physical or mental exertion or an overburdening workload, take their toll. Burnout can lead to a number of physical health concerns, including headaches, muscle tension, hypertension, and sleep disturbances.

Factors that lead to burnout

Several workplace factors can lead to burnout such as

  • Too much workload
  • Lack of work-life balance
  • Lack of control
  • Lack of meaningful rewards
  • Lack of fairness
  • Being expected to satisfy anonymous demands in record time
  • Lack of support
  • Incongruence between one’s and workplace’s value

How to prevent and recover from burnout

Relaxation strategies: Relaxation has become a popular method of dealing with stress. There are several strategies for reducing high arousal and achieving a feeling of calm. These include meditation, biofeedback, naps and a long night’s sleep, hot baths, and massages.

Self-understanding: The basic argument for self-understanding is that if people have better knowledge of their personal strengths and weaknesses, in terms of personality, needs, and motives, then they will have a more realistic assessment of why they are experiencing burnout. Such self-knowledge can then be used to change their behavior for more positive outcomes. Many techniques can be used to generate more self-insight such as mindfulness.

Coping skills: Preventive coping strategies are designed to change the person’s response to work stressors so that they have less impact (as opposed to changing the stressors themselves). Many techniques fall within this category, such as time management and conflict resolution, but almost all are characterized by some kind of cognitive restructuring (such as changing one’s job expectations, reinterpreting other people’s behavior, and imagining new goals and next steps).

Changes in work patterns: Given the link between work overload and burnout, a popular recommendation is to work less. This can take several forms—for instance, instituting more breaks in one’s work routine, avoiding overtime work, and taking more time off or more vacations. Other strategies focus on achieving a better balance between positive activities that one enjoys and the work demands that are more burdensome.

Social support: Increasingly, there is a recommendation to turn to other people for help in dealing with burnout. Social support can be found within both the workplace (colleagues, mentors, supervisors) and at home (family, friends, neighbors). And support can take many forms, including assistance, feedback, emotional comfort, encouragement, recognition, and humor.

Further Reading and References

Understanding Conflict in the Workplace

Conflict Resolution

Burnout: Definition, recognition and prevention approaches

Avoid the Burn