Making it work

http://edweissman.com/dear-boss-for-a-programmer-10-minutes-3-hours

Ed Weissman posted a retelling of a scenario where his boss asked him for “10 minutes” to solve a problems. He reluctantly agrees but ultimately spends 3 hours working on this fix, and for most of the time he’s browsing Hacker News while his boss and a coworker named Sue repeatedly fumble with software while trying to convey the bug to him.

Of course everybody has opinions on the internet, but what struck me was when one commentor by the id Michael suggests that our protagonist Ed could have tried to be more helpful there was roughly a 10-1 disproportionate rebuke of Michael’s thought, mostly along the lines of: It’s not the narrator’s fault or job description to help others who are incompetent with software.

I want to look at the larger theme here. Off the top of my head, I can come up with several ways to handle that situation better (e.g. mulitask with something work-related, help out your co-workers, have bug reports get CC’d directly to you, come up with a better meeting strategy) but the root problem here is either attitude or a naive idealism that business should function mechanically..

The attitude portrayed is: I want to do my piece, and only my piece, and if you aren’t able to interface with me in a rigid predefined way, then I’ll silently resent you / the system. To look at it as a naive contractual system (programmer only does programming, manager only does meta-optimization, etc) is to miss the chance to improve things.

How would you feel if you got bounced around accounting over an issue with your check because several people said “It’s not my job” ?  This is the same situation with the roles reversed.

And moreover, how can you expect to go anywhere if you take no ownership of outcomes and can’t be liked by coworkers?

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