That was probably the least flattering thing I had been called. Maybe even worse than being called an idiot.
Im sure any developer would have done the same thing. Actually, maybe not. But they should! Ill let you be the judge.
Heres what happened. I had just returned from a meeting with the CIO. Yep, a little ol developer like me had requested a face-to-face with the big dog. I found over the years that it is so true that the squeaky wheel gets the grease. Therefore, I went out of my way to be squeaky.
I had a few years of coding under my belt and was just starting to take some graduate classes. One of the hot topics in class was telecommuting especially for technology workers.
I thought Gee, why shouldnt every developer be able to telecommute?
So I emailed the CIO directly and just like that I had my meeting scheduled just that simple. Youd think the CIO gets tons of emails from employees with suggestions. I have found that is not the case. And that doesnt just apply to the CIO, but also to others in management.
At my meeting, I used my full allotment of time to explain why telecommuting would give the company a competitive advantage and how we could avoid the downsides of too much goofing off at home. The CIO was impressed with my preparation and asked me to write a report on it to present to the management team.
Yay! I was excited. So when I came back to my cubicle, I couldnt wait to tell everyone. I mean, they could be no less than thrilled that I was pushing forward such a great perk that would benefit us all.
Thats when I learned that while it is true that speaking out and coming up with ideas are typically welcomed by managers, it is also true that these actions can be perceived by co-workers as being overly obsequious (i.e. too much sucking up to the boss).
Everyones comments ranged from Admit it. Youre just trying to get noticed, to Remember us little guys when you get the big promotion. And of course, the infamous brown-nose comment that many people get labeled with when they go out of their way to improve an organization.
(I must admit the definition of this term is quite humorous, but I digress )
Sorry, but I dont see it that way at all. If you have a great idea, why keep it to yourself? Some developers have told me that its their job to write code, not to propose methods for fixing the organization.
So its okay to suggest a way to code better, but not work better? Really?
To me that line of thinking belittles developers. If an organization is going to improve, ideas need to come from everyone. Of course you cant spend all your time idea mongering, but as long as your development work is being performed well, why not use your brain to noodle on different and new ideas? And then share those ideas!
Ah, but then you may open yourself to the same accusations of having ulterior, self-serving motives. But guess what?
Because even if speaking up with fresh approaches is self-serving and helps you climb the career ladder faster, what does it matter if you are improving the organization?
True, if youre truly sucking up just to get your name and face in front of management, then your scheming will be smelled a mile away. Your ideas must have value or youre just making a fool of yourself and wasting everyones time.
The Fool AspectLet me delve into the dont make a fool of yourself caveat a bit deeper.
Everyone has worked with or been in school with the person who always has their hand up. Its the Hermione Granger syndrome. For those who arent Harry Potter fans, Hermione is always the first to answer any questions that come up in classes such as Defense Against The Dark Arts, which leads to annoyance and snickering by her fellow classmates.
You dont need to be in your face 24 hours a day with answers and suggestions like Ms. Granger. Give others a chance to shine. Even take the time to encourage others to get involved outside of their development work.
Be RealInstead of publicly trying to show how smart you are, find time for one-on-one interactions with different people in management. Besides emailing suggestions, try finagling a casual lunch with your manager or discuss your ideas at a company function or happy hour.
The bottom line is that if you put forward ideas that help the organization, and youre sincere in your efforts to see them through, management will be appreciative. More important, it will reflect well on you when annual review rolls around.
Oh sure, maybe the end result is self-serving. Having been a manager for many years now, I know that if a developer is proactive with suggestions, Im not only listening, but Im noting their ambition because they are going the extra mile to help the organization.
And there it is. The word ambition just sticks out and juxtaposes nicely with brown-nose.
Ill say it again who cares!
Unless of course you just want to be in the good graces of your coworkers who have no ambition and would prefer to see that you have none, either. In that case, just write your code and go home when the whistle blows.
I personally feel that this approach is a waste of brain power. Developers are smart and those smarts are wasted when they just bury their head in the monitor, trying to block out the world around them.
I guess theres nothing inherently wrong with that because the work assigned is getting done. But it will likely result in a maximum of Performs To Expectations on their annual review.
If you want to hit the Exceeds Expectations mark on your annual review, dont be afraid to speak up and voice your suggestions. And most of all, dont be worried about taunts from your coworkers who may just end up reporting to you.
ALSO SEE: Why Developers Get Fired