So when I started writing this blog, I envisaged that sometimes interesting questions would come up regarding people management, which I could write about. And they do (people are way more interesting than computers). However, most of the “this happened and I learned a thing” thoughts I have aren’t easy to safely anonymise – especially given the pretty small readership of this blog is mostly from my place of work (Hi folks!)
So instead, here’s the general advice I try and live by, and try and encourage in others. It’s pretty simple, and is a good starting point for managers, managees and coworkers trying to cover any kind of problem or issue.
- Talk about the issue to people who can actually help close the issue down. The number of issues I’ve encountered where “Bitch all about this issue in the pub or on one of our chat channels” was considered an acceptable replacement for dealing with it really surprised and shocked me, until I realised that I used to do exactly that.
- Initially assume good faith. Differing viewpoint >> Partial Ignorance or Partial Incompetence >> Malice. Even if you already think you know where the other person is, be ready to discover that they’re back towards the “not-a-bad-person” end of the list.
- Bring your adult ego state to the conversation, and engage their adult. If they bring their parent or child, then you can engage with that, but be aware that for any interesting issue, you won’t be able to close it out until your adults have engaged and accepted the next steps. If this doesn’t make sense, read the first few chapters of Games People Play by Eric Berne. Maybe someday I’ll try and post a summary, but I’ve tried and given up before.
I’ve said the advice above is simple. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s easy. In particular, there are two problems that I keep bumping up against (with myself as much as with others). Over the years I’ve converged on two blogs, which I recommend as they help with these.
- Being honest and adult. Our brains tend to make stories that paint us as heroes, and we don’t like to see anything against that – which means having grown up conversations, assuming that the other person isn’t a total arsehole, maintaining your cool and adult engagement, etc. is really damn hard. Ask a Manager is full of useful advice for how to approach issues sensibly and pitfalls to avoid, and if you look on there, probably the one you have (or a similar one) is covered already – probably from both sides!
- Talking to other people. Especially where I work (software company full of geeks), actually talking to people, about issues, that involve conversations that might have tension in, can be daunting. For this, I’ve found Captain Awkward useful. It’s not specifically work related (though the “Work” section is large), but it contains lots of conversational starters – Captain Awkward calls them “scripts” – which are good ways to help break that initial barrier.
=== Edit 2017/10/08 – Fixed Ask A Manager link