At the beginning of June, I made the decision to join Protegra, where I am looking forward to working with great people, growing my skills and experience, and making contributions to the developer and IT community through blogging, user group participation, and speaking engagements.
Before I started, I decided to take a week off between jobs to settle my brain, contemplate my new position and my career goals, and do some much-needed house-cleaning. It’s funny how you don’t notice how messy your house is getting until you start cleaning, or until you’re about to have someone over for a visit.
It made me think about how mess and clutter tend to build up when you don’t keep on top of it, and that also applies to personal and professional life. So I challenged myself to examine what kind of bad habits and toxic attitudes I might have been building up that I just haven’t been noticing or admitting to. Don’t get me wrong, I think I have a lot of positive traits and I’ve grown professionally by continually asking how things can be done better and how to increase team effectiveness, but every house has some cobwebs that need to get cleared out.
I wanted to share one of the things I came up with, because I think it can be a common trap to fall into and can sometimes be hard to recognize in yourself.
Negativity and Complaining.
I am an application developer. My life revolves around thinking analytically and logically, planning several possible solutions to a problem and rating them based on accuracy, performance, efficiency, development time, and risks for failure. But that also means that I tend to pick out how things around me could be done better, programming-related or otherwise, which isn’t a bad thing.
What is a bad thing is when I start acting like Captain Hindsight, handing out more criticism than praise and respect, and talking about people’s faults or performance issues to other people in a disparaging way. It’s an easy trap to get into, because it starts with complaining a little about someone’s legacy code, or concern over someone’s productivity. Left unchecked, it can grow into a negativity problem that easily spreads throughout an organization and kills the culture. I’ve been at a company where some of the people were so negative, I found somewhere else to eat lunch or tried to eat at a different time.
How did I get out of my negativity rut? I dug down to the root of why I was feeling so negative: I was taking too much ownership over that which I could not control. I felt like I was losing an uphill battle with poorly-written legacy code. Our team was under-resourced, so when people had performance issues, it directly affected everyone’s effectiveness. Higher-up decisions dictated that we work on several projects at once. My problem was taking these external issues on like personal burdens, when I should have been acknowledging them but focusing on actions I can take to make a difference.
That’s when I realized, no matter the circumstance, I can choose to be the best professional I can be. That way I can go home feeling satisfied every day, because I’ll know I did everything I could. Several positive traits come to mind when I think of a professional:
- raising others up with praise and mentoring
- going the extra mile
- taking risks with people by communicating with them
I think the last point is important; it is much easier to complain than to actually talk with people, because bringing up an issue means possibly stirring up a confrontational situation. But being real and having the hard conversations is what it takes to solve difficult issues, and it will make you and your team better off in the long run.
I’m proud to now call myself a Protegran, and I think it’s especially fitting that the name of the company is rooted from the phrase “Professionals with Integrity”. My commitment is to keep myself in check and to continually live up to the name.