Respect - The Currency of IT

Just ready Jeff Ello's article The Unspoken Truth About Managing Geeks (thanks to Michael Feathers for tweeting it.) Jeff talks about the stereotypically negative behaviors of software developers and how organizations can deal effectively with these behaviors.

The part of the article that I found most interesting is the discussion of respect: how to earn it, how to keep it, how to lose it. I can attest to the fact that respect is the number one factor in my reactions to those I work with. I have worked with a team lead who was pushy, bossy, rude and consistently corrected my code and coding style (he even took away my mouse because it was a crutch.) Why did I put up with it? Well, he was an order of magnitude better than I was and I wanted needed to learn from him. I would go home from work mentally exhausted from paired programming, but at the end of several months, I felt like Neo in the training construct: I knew TDD. I knew how to separate concerns and used dependency injection and refactor bad code. I had never have learned so much so quickly in my previous 7 years as a professional coder. The best part was that as I began to actually understand the concepts, not just the forms, he listened to me and talk to me as a peer. I was gaining his respect. Had the company we worked for managed their finances better, I imagine I would still be working and following the lead of this great developer today.

Contrast that with another job where I worked for a team lead who had completely stagnated. He would quote from books that he studied at university 15 years earlier as though they were the final word on technology. He clung tightly to his outdated data and information. While a fun guy to hang out with, he never earned the respect of the team and, though regularly promoted, he has become completely irrelevant to the ongoing development efforts of the company. In large part, my departure from that company was due to the fact that I couldn't bring myself to respect the leadership team. They would regularly make deeply technical decisions for the teams for which they were completely unprepared (and counter to the advice of the expert developers on those teams.) The advice from on high was often illogical and sometimes contradictory.

All in all, the idea that technical prowess leads to respect and respect leads to effective cooperation rings very true to me. I feel as though reading this article has helped me more fully understand my own psyche and motivations in the workplace.


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