People do stupid sh*t

Estimated 4 minute read · Saturday, 28 May 2016

"If you don’t fail it’s because you did not risk enough, and if you didn’t risk enough it’s because you didn’t put your whole self out there." by Carlos Barrabes

People do stupid things. It's guaranteed and there's no way to control it. That's what makes epic fail videos so popular.

While we aren't failing on such epic proportions in our professional capacity, we are still surrounded by a lot of stupid things that collectively make up our days. Like it or not, everyone contributes.

I keep saying that we are all human, we all make mistakes and we all have subjective perspectives. I know this. But it doesn't mean that it doesn't get frustrating.

Yet I constantly find myself doing stupid things even if I don't know it at the time.

Lower expectations

Unfortunately I have exceptionally high expectations; a disadvantage of being a millennial or Generation Y. It makes it hard for me to deal with what I perceive to be inconsiderate behavior and bad work etiquette.

It gets exhausting to try be patient and stay understanding. I need to lower my expectations. Bring it closer to reality without negatively impacting me. I don't know how to do this entirely but I know that I need to stop chasing unicorns.

Accept the reality

I kept trying to find ways to completely eliminate pain in our team. Then someone told me that although pain can be minimized it can never be eliminated.

This shift in mindset took boulders off my shoulders. My goal would never be reached so I need to aim lower.

The reality of our existence is that there will always be stupid shit happening around us. We are married to it until death do us part. We need to accept it and find better ways to deal with it.

Highlight frustrations

I let frustrations build up. This in itself is stupid. All it takes is a conversation with the person in question. Often uncomfortable but such to be had. If conversation doesn't work, escalate.

This is simple right? Not for me. I didn't even think about it until it was brought to my attention.

Get the right people talking

I was getting worked up because people weren't talking to each other. Maybe they were but they weren't all on the same page. Then someone told me if everyone talks to each other all the time, no one would be able to do any work. We need the right people to talk to the right people.

Hmmm. I accept that, especially in large organizations. So who are the right people?

I don't know but we can start where we have control and try branch out to find the right people to give us the answers we need.

  • What information does the team need in order to maintain their product and create new features?
  • What information does the team need to make sure all aspects of their product is working (monitoring and health checks)?
  • What would a new person need to get started in the team?
  • What keeps impeding work from getting done?

Highlight team dysfunction

Another stupid thing I find myself doing is fulfilling roles when there is a gap. I'm naturally cross-functional and can slot in anywhere: Process → UX → Design → Frontend → Backend → DevOps → Technical Support.

I don't see anything wrong with being able to do this but a big red flag needs to be raised when it causes extra overhead which impedes my duties and causes unnecessary stress. The business needs to be aware of the underlying problems.

  • Do we have a shortage of professionals in the team?
  • Do we have professionals with the right skills in the team?
  • Are the professionals in the team actually doing their work?
  • Are the professionals in the team being asked to do work elsewhere?
  • Are the professionals a cultural fit for the team?
  • Is there an underlying problem causing a spike in staff turnover?

Notice how I did not once use the term resource. Spread the word.

Find a mentor

Being a human being is complicated. We are tangled with all sorts of psychological behaviors making us all different. It's interesting to see how we are shaped by our experiences as we age. But we don't have to figure out this life-business on our own.

Find people who can offer you food-for-thought. This is usually someone that doesn't agree with your current mindset. Use these opportunities to extract valuable insights from conversations to help you cope better with frustrations.

My final thoughts

Liz Ryan wrote that "sometimes we do things that seem really stupid at the time but that turn out to be smart moves in the long run." So maybe something appears stupid now but actually has great benefits later. Who knows?!

As we are all part of the problem I guess we just need to find better ways of dealing with it. It's also a good idea to use it to our advantage so that we can continuously improve. Be the change we want to see even if we make a blunder of it. Hopefully it's not as costly as what happened to these companies:

If you don’t fail it’s because you did not risk enough, and if you didn’t risk enough it’s because you didn’t put your whole self out there. ~ Carlos Barrabes

A big thanks to Thane Thomson for sharing his insights with me to help me cope better with my frustrations and bring me closer to reality.

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