Soft Skill: What’s Important to Your Teammates

At my current job, we use FogBugz, which is pretty cool. It is also very flexible. There are lots of cool things you can do in FogBugz.

There are so many things you can do in FogBugz that it’s worth talking to your teammates about which things you should do. For example, I can change who things are assigned to. I can change priorities and milestones and add comments and edit previous comments and attach files and…

In other words, I can be very productive, or I can make a royal mess of the bug tracking. So there are rules about what to do in FogBugz, and, because I like my job, I follow those rules. For the most part, so does everyone else.

Bug after the rules, there are things that would bother my teammates. For example, I could enter estimates in such a way that they overwrite the original estimator’s estimates, or I could enter them so that they do not. If I overwrite the original estimator’s estimates, that would make the original estimator sad, and I work with the original estimator pretty often, so that’s not what I want to do.

That is only one example. There are dozens of things. For example, maybe it bothers someone when you take over a meeting room, but didn’t have it booked in the scheduler program. Or maybe there’s a rule on one project that the names of columns which are foreign keys to another table should always end with ‘id’. Or maybe someone doesn’t like hearing your crunchy snacks and crinkly chip wrappers.

Anyway, these things are like extra, bonus, almost-rules. Following them makes your teammates happy, and violating them makes your teammates sad. So make your teammates happy!

You will notice that there are two steps:

1. Learn the Important Extra Non-Rules

If you want to follow these conventions, you’ll have to learn them. This learning comes from two basic processes: paying attention and asking. For example, I could think to myself, “Self, you know what, there’s a lot of columns that end in ‘_id’ in this database. I wonder what they have in common. Oh, you know what, they’re all keys to other tables! I bet I found an almost-rule”. Or I could say, “Hey Steve, is there are a protocol for getting a meeting room to work in, or do I just look for one that’s empty?”. Do both of these things. You want to work with happy people, right?

Also, and here’s the soft skills part: pay attention to what other people notice, either positively or negatively. Did you get thanked for booking the meeting room correctly? Do it again that way next time.

2. Follow the Important Extra Non-Rules

This step should be pretty obvious, given that we’ve completed step 1. But there are many people, and I’m sure there are some in your office, who just can’t be bothered. They know the correct way to book a meeting, or the correct naming convention for enums, or whatever, and just don’t. Resentment can slowly build up between these people and the rest of the team. Don’t be a part of that resentment, either by harboring it or contributing to it. It slows down the team, and certainly won’t help you in you next performance review.

 

Till next week, happy learning!

-Will

 

 

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