People are hard work

When I’m asked to state my occupation on a form like an airport arrival card I write “manager.” I used to say “programmer’ or “developer” but as of the last few months the most accurate thing is manager.

I’ve been managing people for the best part of ten years, always keeping a couple of fingers, if not a full hand, on the tools. I’ve hung on to the pendulum for a few swings but eight months or so ago I became a middle manager and left doing actual production work behind.

My role is dynamic, interesting, and challenging. Building and empowering teams can be incredibly rewarding. It’s harder to measure success, but man it can feel good when a team I’ve helped build does great work.

Some days, though, I find myself incredibly frustrated, much more so than any time I was a programmer dealing with difficult tools or complex requirements.

The reason for that is people. People are unique. That is to say, they’re all different. They have different motivations, different ways of understanding, different ways of thinking & speaking, different sizes & shapes, different wants & needs, different. People respond to different inputs in different ways. Even when they’re the same, they’re different. Different people have different things in common.

Perhaps the only thing people have in common is that they are hard work. I’m hard work. You’re hard work. Your family and friends and co-workers are hard work. People are really fucking hard work.

Luckily, a bajillion people have written books, presented talks, and posted on the internet about how to work with people. I’m going to use this blog to point readers to the ones I’ve found useful.

To kick things off, here’s a talk from Jennifer Tu titled “Humans Aren’t APIs” in which she discusses techniques for dealing with situations where someone won’t do what you fucking ask! you and someone else aren’t in agreement about a request.