Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Stepping in on bad behaviors

It was one of these Tuesday afternoons, and nothing said it was supposed to be any different. There was the scheduled regular weekly meeting. And there was the work around the meeting, probably on yet another release and feature. Business as usual.

I was having a great time, socializing with my team on the work we needed to do. Or most of my team at least. But then the meeting starts.

At first it was all regular, checking in on what we're working on just like we do. And then we start talking of a specific area.

The specific area has been for years something we'd call a silo. I have recently been part of breaking that silo, and the code quality revealed makes me think of Matt Wynne's funny sarcastic talk on Mortgage-driven development. But as always when you do something like this, you bring out discomfort and pain.

So when I asked on progress and things I could help on in the area, I could anticipate all sorts of responses from the developer. And there it was again: the personal insults, the insisting of me being unreasonable and the wishes that I would just walk away and leave. Something has been learned though: the sexist remarks that completely strike me off balance are gone and just a memory that keeps me on my toes.

All I did in my perspective was to try to negotiate on the next testable increment, and the push back was harsh and personal. I can deal with it. But what surprised me was how my team of 8 others, including the project manager reacted. Most of them were looking into their toes, hoping they were invisible and pretending they did not hear anything. None would join, correct me if I was wrong or help us resolve the issue. I feel often alone at work, and I felt even more alone, realizing I'm the only one who goes face first into resolving a conflict, trying to talk it through and understand.

But this left me thinking of dynamics at work. Is it really normal that if you see something bad happening to someone you know, you rather stay away? I'm hearing it's a phenomenon that everyone waits for someone else to step in.

I asked my team why no one spoke up to learn they felt that I was doing fine by myself. That I did not need help. But a little support would surely have been nice.

I get similar feelings from some online arguments. So if you feel you're an outsider joining in, please do. It just makes it feel so much better in case there's really something threatening going on.