Monday, December 14, 2009

On Thick Skin

We have several teams here at work, and every week those teams have a team meeting. The topics range from escalations to design discussions to estimations, etc. Some of the team meetings are kind of casual about being a team; they just happen to work fairly symbiotically and meetings are often superfluous (and skipped). Other teams have their team meetings with huge regularity and it's a perfectly calm experience. One team, though, that's a real doozy. You can hear their meetings from down the hall. Yes, they really do yell at each other. And here's the thing.... when it's done, they're all still friends and they've solved their technical problem.

I've written before about being nice. It's important to treat others with respect and generosity, and to provide both positive and negative feedback in a manner that allows them to hear it without getting defensive. But...

You have to have thick skin.

For better or for worse, people aren't always going to be nice. They're going to say something harsh, or they're going to get frustrated and lash out. Witness the yelling team, who yells because they care so deeply about their product. And you need to handle it.

So what does thick skin mean?
  • React to the problem, not the message. Someone who is frustrated probably isn't going to be expressing themselves clearly, but that doesn't make the underlying problem any less real. Your job is to find the underlying problem.
  • Don't take it personally. It's unlikely that the person is lashing out at you personally. It's more likely to be frustration with a situation or a problem, and you're just the unlucky winner.
That's really it. Yes, it would be nice if everyone were nice all the time, but it's not going to happen. So make sure your skin is thick for those times when nice ain't happening.

1 comment:

  1. Thats true Catherine. Just before 2 minutes one of my designer colleague asked me why dont you point out bugs violently as you are a tester(i.e. you have the rights) n I said there's a thing 'manners' in world, I try utilizing it everytime its possible.