DEV Community

Peter Levine
Peter Levine

Posted on

It's Okay to Not Be Excited

A career in software engineering is a career where changes happen very frequently. It is quite common to move positions every three years. It is also very common now for organizations to have N year growth, exit, M&A plans. Change is healthy, however it is also healthy to be skeptical about change especially as it relates to changes in your organization.

Alt Text

"If you're not excited"

Over the past three years of my career I've heard the phrase "If you're not excited then ..." as a term used in meetings or in conversation about organizational change. While that change may indeed be extremely positive for the organization or for the individual or team that the person who relayed this message, it may not be for some. I personally think it is entirely okay to maintain a healthy skepticism of all change. What I don't recommend, however, is to fall into the trap of negativity. This change may be overwhelmingly positive for some of your peers and you should definitely take the time to celebrate with them. Forget about yourself for a bit and make time to celebrate. As a software engineering manager I've found that celebrating my teammates accomplishments is far more fulfilling than receiving praise. Post-celebration, however, you should feel empowered to bring some healthy skepticism to the change.

Change

Every change brings churn. I want you, reader, to take the time to self-reflect whenever your own organization experiences change. Re-think some of the decisions that you might have made about your career. How have you personally changed. Does the organization, post-change, still represent your own values? Like I said, change is healthy. I personally found a passion for empowerment, mentoring and creating goals for my teammates and I never would have had that happen if it weren't for organizational changes that lead to me becoming a manager.

By being 100% excited I think it leads to surprise which in my opinion isn't great for an organization. As a leader if you expect everyone to be excited you're setting yourself up for failure. You will experience churn. Some teams will experience; burnout, loss in morale, and productivity loss.

Positive Vibes Only

Ever since the advent of social media we've been inundated with the thought of keeping a positive only network. Endless articles and tweets of removing the negative people from your lives. Maintaining a positive, always lift you and your friends up mentality.

I have even noticed this becoming a thing in modern job descriptions. I've seen job descriptions mentioning things like: must have a positive outlook, be fun, light hearted etc. etc. Which is fine, I guess, but honestly that's a major turn off for me. It means those qualities are expected of you your entire tenure. What happens if you're having a bad day? Should you be worried about being let go because you're no longer a culture fit?

This leads to something that I like to think of as being "always on". What I mean by this is whether you're in person or over a virtual meeting you are always in this state of maintaining a positive atmosphere. This will ultimately lead to burnout especially for more introverted people. This is even harder for people who might have had trauma in the past. You'll end up honestly being two people, your work persona and your home persona. The more you do this the more I honestly think it will impact your home life.

Problem Solvers

As software engineers we are always putting out fires. We are challenged daily to use our critical thinking skills to solve major problems whether it is UX, bugs, architecture etc. We are by our nature constantly working on problems. As such we tend to think critically about every major obstacle. I personally feel like due to this very thing we sometimes struggle with being ultimately always positive.

Which leads me to think about humanity and our past. Until the very recent past have humans had the luxury to truly and honestly not have to worry about our basic needs. Due to the extreme fast changes humanity is going through due to the progress of technology I feel like we are too immature in tech to fully realize a 100% positive persona. It's hard and exhausting. It's so exhausting that we are feeling the affects virtually with what people are now calling zoom burnout.

Healthy Skepticism

One thing that I personally encourage on my teams are to have a healthy skepticism. As individual contributors, decisions are often made without our involvement. Even in agile / scrum / kanban we're supposed to always be open to change on the regular. By remaining skeptical and asking tough questions, it actually elevates us in a different way. It ensures decisions are thought through. It ensures you have enough evidence that you can defend that decision. You've done enough research that the questions no longer become uncomfortable and whomever makes the decision and their team can feel relieved that the appropriate amount of thought was given to the direction, vision, solution etc.

Comfort Zone

If there's one thing I want you the reader to take out of this, it's to keep asking the tough questions. Put your managers out of their comfort zone. In a modern organization our leaders should also be working for us on our behalf.

What I have always found humorous is that as individual contributors we're always measured for our performance and expected to give daily updates. Typically management does not have to do this. By maintaining an air of healthy skepticism of decisions made on your behalf it takes them out of their comfort zone and also ensures they ensure that those decisions are not taken lightly in the future. Both them and you will grow!

It's Your Career

At the end of the day it's your career. You only have one career. You cannot change the decisions in your past. Use every change that happens to your org or in your life as a time to reflect and ensure that this is the direction you want your career to head. Use your past experience of what questions you asked to guide your future. Make your managers uncomfortable! It's okay to not always be excited!

Discussion (0)