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Don't pretend it didn't happen.

Sitting in my office, door slightly ajar, I heard Jimmy, the QA guy, talking loudly and sarcastically to of my programmers.
“So, Vinuth, will it work this time?  Huh?”

I sat up, listening intently. The dev mumbled something, and Jimmy snorted and left. As he passed my door, he smiled and pleasantly said, “Hey boss!”, giving me a thumbs-up.

Red face, I just nodded. I was upset. Jimmy shouldn’t treat anyone like that, but especially not one of his teammates. His sarcasm was over the top, and he was acting like a bully.

I sat back in my chair, fuming. If only Jimmy wasn’t such a bully and wasn’t such a jerk. If only he’d take correction better, rather than getting defensive and upset.

“I’m just glad I don’t have to live with him,” I thought. Turning back, I pretended it didn’t happen.

But pretending was my big mistake.

Pretending I hadn’t heard it.
Pretending it wasn’t a big deal to Vinuth.
Pretending “that’s just how Jimmy is” was a reasonable excuse.
Pretending that Vinuth should deal with it.
Pretending that no one saw how I handled it.

Today’s lesson:  When you see something amiss, don’t pretend it didn’t happen.

Maybe a developer isn’t following the process.
Maybe your boss is micromanaging your team.
Maybe someone is coming late to every meeting.
Maybe someone isn’t paying close attention to code reviews.

Pretending it didn’t happen won’t fix the problem. It will, in fact, send the message that either you approve of the behavior or blind to it.

Instead, have a conversation. Say something. Pull them aside and seek to understand the situation. Directly give someone correction that “What I just saw isn’t okay here.”

But don’t pretend it didn’t happen anymore.

Ok, have that conversation you’ve been dreading.  You’ll be glad you did.

About Marcus Blankenship

Where other technical coaches focus on process or tools, I focus on the human aspects of your Programmer to Manager transition. I help you hire the right people, create the right culture, and setup the right process which achieves your goals. Managing your team isn't something you learned in college. In fact, my clients often tell me "I never prepared for this role, I always focused on doing the work". If you're ready to improve your leadership, process and team, find out how I can help you.

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