A few years after the movie Office Space came out my brother-in-law told me I had to see it. “This is your life.” he mentioned somewhat tongue in cheek. Since he is a dentist he felt he could make fun of those of us who work in offices…
In the movie, the boss of a few programmers Bill Lumbergh passively asks for the team to do more and more. In one exchange he tells them, “Yeah……..I’m gonna need you to come in on Saturday.” And then follows that up with, “Oh, oh, and I almost forgot. Ahh, I’m also gonna need you to go ahead and come in on Sunday, too.” Managers can be hard on developers but, the programmers can be tough to work with too.
Working with a few will say irascible programmers I have found them a bit challenging. One of my managers used the term, “IPS” or Irritable Programmer Syndrome. Developers can become cantankerous when they get bothered or asked questions. Adam was one such developer. My co-workers and I would take turns asking questions to see if Adam was having a bad day. We joked he should have a yellow flag taped to him so people were cautious around him.
Again not to paint with a broad brush but, some programmers don’t like to talk. One programmer, we will call him Edward, was an extreme case. He asked for all requirements to be emailed to him. Edward wanted to be in no meeting either. Until I read Susan Cain’s book Quiet I did not understand this. She explained how we cater to extroverts to the determent of our introvert friends. Our open workspaces and numerous meetings are not good settings for introverts who need different environments to thrive.
Developers are not the most creative people. They are really good at finding why we can’t do things. We can be prone to saying no. This gives the lot of developers a bad name. The better way to do this is to give options. List the different ways to solve the problem. Also, when give a tough choice ask a few more questions. Try to understand what they are getting at.
Oddly enough many developers can act in a binary fashion. What I mean by that is they seem to see the world in black and white. They either agree with you are totally against what you ask. We need to understand the many options and tradeoffs that are out there. I know I can get this way when I am asked to complete something ahead of schedule. I may just answer “no”. The better choice is to ask questions and detail the tradeoffs. “If you want the TPS report done by Friday, which of my other two priorities should I de-emphasize?” Or “if we remove the report section we could have the changes done by Friday, would that be okay?”
Feed the Animals
A little-known fact if you want to influence with developers you just need to buy them food. A manager who needed some quick changes for her application realized this when she brought in pizza. After asking numerous other times for changes that were ignored. The pizza did the trick. Now there is one food that will gain the most influence over developers. That is chocolate chip cookies.