Woe to the lone wolf…
I work in the software development sector, but don’t be afraid, this post isn’t really just about software development, but more about the people aspect and its daily challenges. Although many of the things I’m going to mention might just seem to be common sense, many of us always again have to experience the exact contrary.
Disclaimer: Many of the quotes I’m using here are from the book Team Geek by Brian W. Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman (published by O’Reilly).
When thinking about software development, many people still have the image of the lone nerd programmer in mind, which is hacking down strange, hardly comprehensible instructions on his computer, usually in a dark room. Well, they might still exist, and yes, software developers occasionally are a bit nerdy. But things have changed a lot. Nowadays, communication skills are often much higher valued than the technical ones.
Software development is a team sport.
Things have gotten complex. Most often, too complex to be handled by a single person in a reasonable amount of time. As such, you are forced to work in teams. There are people talking to customers, those that are the technical experts and yet others dealing with organizational, project management stuff. Basically, different roles with different competences, collaborating, exchanging opinions and discussing different solutions and alternatives. You’ll need all of them, equally, to realize the end product and have satisfied customers. All in all, a highly communicative and collaborative process.
But then there are those, completely ignoring such fact, those lone wolfs - as I call them here - those…
- …who think they are the center of the universe, that they are omniscient and infallible.
- …who don’t care about the others they are working with nor appreciate their abilities and accomplishments
- …who don’t trust anybody
How to Deal with Bad Eggs
Dealing with such people - and I bet everyone can share such experiences - is extremely frustrating. Lone wolfs are poisonous, especially in a team where people work hard and are busy and then suddenly one comes in “throwing stuff at you”.
The hardest part of software development is people.
Usually, such person is happy and friendly as long as she gets what she immediately needs, but then quickly gets offending once things don’t get her way.
Anytime you have a visitor who demands that something be done, your alarm should go off. The person puts all her energy in complaining about the inadequacies of the software, but is unwilling to directly contribute in any way.
Ego is probably the right term I guess. But how to deal with such irritating people? Some of the tips mentioned in Team Geek are, to..
Ban Behavior. Usually, to start talk about “them” (the poisonous) and “us” (the nice) is not healthy. So don’t ban people, ban behaviors. I don’t accept a person shouting at me, someone that doesn’t respect the time and the help I offer, someone that casts aspersions on other team members. Bad behaviors should in no way be tolerated. You should immediately inhibit it and avoid it to be spread across your entire team.
Alway be Nice, But Do not Feed the Troll. The best thing is to always be nice. Many frustrated people aren’t really frustrated with you or the work they do, but merely due to other, external circumstances. By being nice you help the person to calm down, to focus on what is really important and to solve conflicting situations in that way. However, if you have tried that many many times and the person always again falls back to its old behavioral patterns, being nice just won’t work out any more. Then it is the time to simply remove your attention, as the more attention you pay to such people, the more of your precious time and energy you’ve wasted.
Don’t Get Overly Emotional. I know, it’s too easy to quickly get emotional and upset. But it’s not worth it! Try to take a step back, keep calm and break things down to the pure facts.
Last but not least, you may follow all of these tips and it still might not work out. Then, you should also know when to give up and recognize a lost cause.
Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity. (Robert J. Hanlon)
The Key really Is Respect
Really, the key is respect. As a martial arts practitioner and trainer one of the first things we learn to our students is to respect each other and the things around us. It is the basis for everything that follows. Similarly, Brian W. Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman mention three main pillars:
Humilty, Respect and Trust (HRT)
You’re neither the center of the universe, nor are you omniscient or infallible. No one is! Therefore, respect others and the work they do. Appreciate their abilities and accomplishments and mainly, have trust in their competencies and that they will do the right thing.
I strongly recommend to read the book Team Geek by Brian W. Fitzpatrick and Ben Collins-Sussman. It contains a bunch of valuable inputs and real-world example. I bet you will recognize many of your own experiences in the book.