Are Software Developers Naturally Weird?

Looking back at the strange software developer he’s worked with, one veteran coder asks the obvious question.
Posted October 18, 2009
By

Eric Spiegel

Eric Spiegel


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Everyone that works in IT is weird. Admit it – us techies all have quirks in our personalities and our approach to our work. The level of weirdness is just a matter of opinion, interpretation and context.

Something in the techie DNA results in more weirdness than mere mortals (non-techies). Perhaps this quirkiness is because a certain type of personality is drawn to the techie world. Or maybe we’re somehow transformed over time by our darkened working environments and exposure to computer screen radiation.

When weird gets in the way of getting work done, that is when it becomes a problem that cannot be ignored – but often is.

Management just doesn’t like to get involved in matters of weirdness. They close their eyes and hope (and pray) that it just magically goes away.

I am so very guilty of this, but more on that in a minute.

I can tell you that nothing irks coworkers more than having to deal with a personality that doesn’t mesh with their own on a daily basis. This doesn’t mean either person is wrong (or even weird), but it does mean for them to work effectively together, they need to recognize and talk through their differences. And – often – a manager is often required to step in and jumpstart this difficult conversation.

Sounds nice in theory, however I bet you could count on one hand how many times issues of this nature have been dealt with by management.

Why?

Well, from a manager’s perspective, until someone’s behavior is impacting deliverables, it isn’t worth addressing. And from the employee’s perspective, they don’t want to ratchet up an uncomfortable situation to an even more unbearable level.

In either case, the negative feelings and poor results usually have to reach a boiling point for someone to take action. And of course by then the damage is done.

Let’s be clear though, I’m not talking about extreme cases. There is a difference between weird and really bizarre.

When the level of weirdness turns into inappropriate behavior then we’re talking about a different story that usually ends up with a trip to HR and ultimately a pink slip. (In some cases a visit with professional help might be warranted.)

I’m instead focusing on the 99% of cases where someone’s actions make others unsure how to deal with them, thus creating a negative working environment.

Thanks to some of my techie friends on LinkedIn, along with some of my own experiences, here are a few such weird situations. These were actual scenarios where the behavior of a techie team member caused a difficult work environment to the extent that the result was decreased productivity and unsatisfied customers. And in one case caused a worthy team member to resign.

(And yes, I’ve changed the names to protect the weird.)

Weird Developers I Have Known

The 'Song Lyrics' Developer – When Ted would deliver his code for the QA group for testing, there would be much rolling of the eyes. You see, Ted like to sprinkle comments in his code that were not relevant to the software. And not just irrelevant comments, but just plain weird comments. For example, a case statement would be preceded with:

“I went down to the crossroads, fell down on my knees. Asked the Lord above for mercy, ‘save me if you please.”

Huh? Or, a comment next to a loop would state:

“You spin me right round, baby right round like a record, baby Right round round round”

Yep – song lyrics. The first is from an Eric Clapton song “Crossroads” and if you saw the Wedding Singer, you’d recognize the looping Dead or Alive lyrics.

But, again… huh???

Where these comments hurting anyone? Probably not, but they were at a minimum distracting. When confronted by his manager, Ted said he was just trying to make the code more interesting because he was bored.

This problem was more easily solved. He agreed to cool it on the lyrical comments if he could pursue some more interesting new technology side projects.

Next Page: The 'Incredibly Chatty' and the 'Inappropriate Phone Call' Developers


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Tags: software, developers, IT, developer salary


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