Calling the Baby Ugly

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Question: The other day at work I almost got fired for speculating on Slack that we needed a better training program for our framework than just “send ‘em all to Stack Overflow and let ‘em figure it out”. The framework is really well-engineered, really solid, it’s just not that easy to learn, so why pretend that it is?

Answer:

“Never call somebody else’s baby ugly,” said my project manager, during my tag-team beat down that occurred over the telephone, out of the blue, like 2 weeks later. “The client can call their own baby ugly, but you’d better drink the Kool-Aid.”

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PUA for Work Teams

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Question: Can I use Pickup Artist tactics to bend my team managers to my Will?

Answer:

No. PUA only works for obnoxious males who have, or pretend to have, a power advantage. The tactics consist of veiled insults designed to induce a state of uncertainty. If you’re a manager, these tactics are tailor-made for you, but you probably knew that already. If you’re rank-and-file, use “The Rules” instead.

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Leadership Never Looked Like This

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Question: After years of membership in my local professional organization, they finally roped me into serving as an officer, which means a lot of meetings where nothing ever gets  done. I thought leadership would be more glamorous somehow.

Answer:

Not everyone gets to be an Elon Musk or Steve Jobs type of leader, with apparently absolute power and authority to scream obscenities at his senior engineers who somehow continue to put up with it. Most of real leadership is service: in the trenches, often between equals. This means persuasion or indirect prodding rather than shouting, although competence  with things like web site management can allow you to take over entire committees without anyone objecting.

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Fewer But Better Russians

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Question: I’m tasked with making a set of developer docs more user-friendly so that people will adopt our open-source framework, but the core developers don’t see why being able to find things in the docs is such a big deal. Maybe they think everyone should just read the code.

Answer:

Remember the old movie “Ninotchka” with Greta Garbo? She’s a Soviet agent during the Cold War, back when Russia was Communist and was called the U.S.S.R. and was considered bad. Melvyn Douglas is a charmingly detestable capitalist who wins her over, eventually.

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Agile Sprint Planning

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Question: So I have started to lie openly on my Agile status reports. However, I told my team that I was lying, which makes it OK, right? 

Answer:

This is what happens when “optics” are more important than “results”, because upper management is so over-committed that all they have time to do is review spreadsheets, rather than talking to actual humans.
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Where Can I Get Some ADD?

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Question: Everyone here seems to work successfully in 5-minute increments except for me. What am I doing wrong? Do I need Adderall?

Answer:

I used to think companies specifically hired for 20-somethings with ADD. Later, when it happened to me, I realized that the environments themselves cause ADD even in people with normal attention spans. If you’re resistant, the last thing you need is Adderall! I’d try coffee, binge-watching TV, gaming, sleep deprivation, or maybe dodgeball.

Not the Droid You’re Looking For

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Question: Sometimes in our team meetings I have to bring up blocking issues, and lately I’ve been getting yelled at for being negative. Even mentioning them privately gets me slammed as “wildly unproductive.” Pretending that a problem doesn’t exist won’t make it go away. That’s just crazy.

Answer:

I think you nailed it on the crazy. This is a microcosm of the world at large, where declaring things as true is the norm more than ever before. Your project manager probably feels like she’s losing control of the project. She’s got pressure from above as well as from below (that’s you, punk bitch), so cut her a little slack if you can.

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Tools Overload

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Question: We have so many management tools that I have to do the same thing 5 times in each tool. When am I supposed to to any work?

Answer:

I don’t think people will have time to check for that, frankly. They’re all stuck in stand-up meetings themselves and responding to multiple calendar invites for the same event, over and over. Eventually yes, you’ll have to produce work. A lot less than you’re shooting for, though. Match your productivity to everyone else’s, and just give up on trying to crank out anything substantial. If they don’t have time to check on your work, they might not have time to check the management tools, either. Only enter your stuff in there if somebody complains.

Office Spirit Animals

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Question: The other day someone asked me what my spirit animal was. Should I try to name something noble?

Answer:

Well, it could be one of those personality tests that they use to weed out the loners. Ideally you want to present yourself as a personality type that will mesh somehow with the bigger picture. Consider the affinities of the people who already work there, especially management, although don’t get too uppity and run with the wolves if what they really want is rabbits. Read the employee manual carefully.

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Nasruddin’s Audience with the King

Question: I finally met my favorite author whom I’ve worshipped from afar for 20 years, and she was a complete asshole. I’m crushed! How can I read her books now?

Answer:
Sometimes great books are written by assholes. And sometimes, assholes write great books. The books are still as good as ever, so stick with what’s working. And from now on, only buy her books used or borrow them from the library. Getting too close to greatness can be hazardous to your health.

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