Why the Highest Paid Developers "Fight" Their Coworkers

Originally published at: https://www.sitepoint.com/why-the-highest-paid-developers-fight-their-coworkers/

You’re going to be asked to do it.

At some point, if it hasn't happened already, your coworkers or your boss will ask you to do something foolish. Something you know will make things worse for you, your coworkers, maybe even the business itself.

If you're like most developers, you do it anyway.

That's what most will do, right? It's better to keep your head down, avoid making waves and simply do what you're told. Job security isn't a thing anymore, but that's one of the best things you can do to keep your job, for a while at least.

This Common Mistake Creates a Career Handicap

This is the problem.

Most employees want to keep their jobs and their clients. They don't have the leverage or control they want over their own careers. They need their job. In fact, most people are terrified of losing their jobs.

This has a cascading effect.

Research shows the fear of losing your job creates job dissatisfaction and a lack of commitment at work. This, in turn, affects job performance, negatively increasing the likelihood that you will lose your job. It's a vicious cycle that seems to repeat itself over and over.

But there's something worse than the fear of a job loss.

It's the misplaced confidence or expectation of job security, the kind of confidence that crushes you when you're actually let go. Both of these issues are a problem, and both of these issues are continually ignored.

Why is it a problem?

Because 78 percent of employees live paycheque-to-paycheque. This includes workers making $100,000+ per year. This is the real reason why most employees have no leverage, no ability to say no. This is the reason most developers won't fight with their coworkers.

Why Developers Need to Fight Their Coworkers

What do I mean by "fight?"

This article is quite long. I admit I gave up trying to read it all. The article could probably could say more if it was half as long.

It depends on what you define fight to be. Fighting requires more than one person. I think that using the word fight dooms the person to failure. It is better to say things like problem resolution. Simply using a different term can have drastic affects.

Since you say right I will use the word wrong. At least not in my experience. Perhaps things have changed since when I was employed or perhaps it is a cultural difference. I hear that people in India do what their employer says even if it is unreasonable. For me, we often did things that we considered the correct way. I learned that the best way to get a standard changed is to comply with it, whereas most developers might not.

I do not know if you made this point, but if an employee is asked to do something they think is a mistake then they should at least get it in writing. Something such as an email clearly documenting what is to be done.

Documentation can be very useful. If a developer must fix someone else’s mess then perhaps the documentation (specifications) could indicate that.

Managers like meetings. Managers are much more likely to listen to the results of a study performed by multiple employees.

But again, simply calling it a fight can make it a fight. Don’t do that. Think in terms of analyzing the problem and solving it.


@SamuelCalifornia, thanks for your feedback.

It sounds as if this article wasn’t meant for you. With some of your feedback, I can see where you’re coming from. Other comments I don’t understand.

For example: “fighting requires more than one person?

I’m curious, when you’re “fighting” temptation or the urge to do something wrong or say something unkind to someone else, who are you fighting?

I called it a “fight” because that’s precisely what it is. If a manager decides, for example, that it’s more appropriate that you miss your wedding anniversary for a non-emergency when you requested (and received) that time off four months ago it seems like the word fight is more appropriate.

In my mind I’m fighting for my boundaries, my relationship and myself.

It’s of course, fine for us to agree to disagree. But I see no reason why I should accept your viewpoints and experience over my own.

Then there’s reality.

Are you really suggesting that employees get each and every “mistake” in writing? If so, I have some questions.

  • What (sane) manager will provide their employees with a written record of a poor or inappropriate request?
  • If your manager asks you to do something immoral (i.e. build a poison pill into your dev project, against the wishes of the client) do you really think your suggestion of “get it in writing” will work?
  • What about managers who are focused on staying in power rather than managing well? How will your “get it in writing” advice work for hapless employees?

I’m not working with an idealized notion of how things should be. I’m taking things as they are.

You’re welcome to disagree.

Respectfully, the advice you’ve shared is dangerous. The unwillingness to call a situation what it is strikes me as naive. I suspect there’s a bit of political correctness at play here but I can’t be sure.

In one respect you’re right. When someone is abusive, threatening, manipulative, incompetent or inappropriate it’s a problem. This problem often requires “fighting” (i.e. standing up for yourself), as the solution, as I’ve done here with you.

The article isn’t focused on prescribing the problem it’s designed to deal with a solution that’s sometimes necessary - fighting to resolve the problem.

I believe this will be more clear for those who choose to finish the article.

Hope this helps.

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I agree that this would be a good way to make your employer think about what they’re really asking. If they’re not willing to sign it, they should not have asked you to do it in the first place - and they should realise that and take back the request.

Make no mistake though, if they do sign it and hand it over to you it’s not a guaranteed “get out of jail free” card. If it’s illegal you may still be sued, even if you have a letter you were doing it against your will. You shouldn’t have done it all, and you knew you shouldn’t have.

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No it is not. I am more mature. My comments cannot help you if you are convinced they will not. I hope my comments can help others.

A classic fighting technique is to exaggerate what someone said then criticize the exaggeration. Your article is about fighting your employer, not temptation.

Psychologists are familiar with the concept of a Self-Fulfilling Prophecy. That specific article says:

A self-fulfilling prophecy refers to a belief or expectation that an individual holds about a future event that manifests because the individual holds it

Simply by believing you must fight makes a fight.

I am not suggesting that employees get everything in writing. They should try to. They should however put in writing themselves what their understanding is. And if (in your first point) they decide it is a poor or inappropriate request and make a different decision then it seems you have done something good without a fight.

As to your second point, you are again exaggerating and criticizing the exaggeration. Your article is not about immorality.

As for managers who are focused on staying in power rather than managing well, if you have a written record of what has happened that contains facts but not opinions and emotions then it is just a matter of time when that can be used. You can slay the giant with facts instead of letting the giant continue to dominate.

I sincerely hope there will come a day when you realize the value of what I am saying.

@SamuelCalifornia have you considered your tone or approach? I suspect people would be more willing to give you a fair hearing if you approached with kindness, respect, graciousness and courtesy.

Why take the time to insult and condescend to someone you’ve never met? Why attempt to tell me, someone you don’t know, what I was thinking when I wrote this article?

I’m surprised you’re this interested in responding to an article that you couldn’t be bothered to read in its entirety.

If you couldn’t be bothered to read/finish the article perhaps it’s likely that you’ve missed the salient points?

Either way, we’ll have to agree to disagree. Good luck.

@rpkamp in theory this works. In reality this breaks down. It can work for major/important items and it should be done (when/where appropriate). But consider the examples I shared in the article.

When someone attempts to steal credit for your work

How do you even get something like that in writing? How do you set good boundaries - gently and appropriately letting your co-workers know it’s not okay to steal credit for your hard work?

What about this one?

No, it’s my anniversary, I can’t come in on Saturday.

Let’s say you requested (and received) approval from HR for that time off four months ago.

He demands that you come in for a non-emergency. No one else. Just you.

You then ask him to provide you with a request in writing. He gives it to you. Now what? He’s still demanding that you come in to work on your anniversary. What if he says No to your “get it in writing” request? He’s still demanding that you come in on your anniversary.

Has it eliminated your problem in the present?

In most cases the answer is No.

Sure, you can use your documentation to defend/plead your case later. But what about your missed anniversary in the present? What about the effect their bad behavior has on your marriage right now?

That’s the issue I’m driving at here.

Very good. So you understand what I attempted to say.

@SamuelCalifornia ditto.

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