Oh dear politics and how to survive in a non-Spartan environment

Today I seemed to have been too complacent after going smooth with coding work. In the afternoon my self-importance is stoked further by coming up with some complicated diagram describing the work I am doing. It not only gives a visual overview, but also allows my manager and collaborator to monitor my progress very closely. Being a forgetful individual I thought this is an ingenious mnemonic device. Indeed I often get so absorbed in pipeline building work these days that by the end of the day or even midday I forget where I am coming from. Taking text notes also doesn’t help so much since parsing texts is typically slow and too linear for certain tasks.

In any case, after sharing the diagram with another colleague, I brought it up again during hipchat conversation, in addition to lots of technical talk about what I am doing and wish to accomplish. This seemed construed as an act to steal the thunder from that engineering colleague who is supposed to take over the work. What we discovered in our earlier conversation was that it made much more sense for me to continue the major code change, a dilemma faced by any company seeing a lot of staff rotation or turnover. So after the dust settled, he asked that I spend no more time on updating the diagram and instead focus on answer some tickets that he created. Fair enough, I said will do but also highlighted the benefit of keeping the diagram for quick reference, and then hanged up immediately since I feel any more presence will expose my interpersonal weakness further. I don’t mind it being viewed as a silent rebuttal. It’s better than wasting time pursuing an argument that would aggravate our relationship further without achieving anything.

So lesson learned? I don’t necessarily have to share progress report with parties of conflicting interest. In this case, sharing with my manager may be a good idea, since at least it demonstrates some thoughtful effort. I can’t treat collaborators all like family members, since their personal objectives are typically misaligned with mine. I am glad I became sensitive of the gravity of the issue after seeing red flag words like “waste time” or perhaps “spend too much time”. In any event it’s better to err on the side of caution. Tomorrow may spell some catastrophic turnout, but I am at least mentally prepared so will not get a sudden deflation of ego. These kinds of social nuances are the most stressful to me during work. I am constantly struggling between the need to be honest and the need to be not too honest, in case it infringes on other people’s territory. I am not yet sure if I really want to hone in on such skills. But if I were to stay in IT I probably have no choice.


About aquazorcarson

math PhD at Stanford, studying probability
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