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There’s always one …

Everyone will experience jobs where there is at least one person who is difficult to work with. In software development this has a long history and there have been many articles and books written addressing how to not be the one. Sometimes they are considered brilliant jerks. Often times they are a person with a long tenure, and for many debatable reasons continue to behave the way they do, because the company or team has simply absorbed the pain.

Honesty about ourselves

But before we explore how to navigate people who are difficult to work with, we must be honest with ourselves and assure that we are not them. There many variations to an old adage: if in a group you can’t identify the jerk, you are the jerk.

“If you run into an asshole in the morning, you ran into an asshole. If you run into assholes all day, you’re the asshole.”

Raylan Givens – Justified

This may sound counter-intuitive, but it is most often more valuable to assess your own personal behavior first, before deciding how to behave around others that are toxic. With proper introspection we can find ways to understand and empathize with others that sometimes takes the emotional weight out of interactions.

Authenticity and courage

Regardless of whether you are the toxic person or not, in order to improve collaborative environments it requires courage to be willing to change. It also takes clear thinking about our authenticity so that we don’t suffer needlessly from other peoples bad behaviors. In the best cases this is a reciprocal engagement between co-workers, and in worse cases it’s conflict. Some people are incapable or unwilling to change, no matter how evident you make it to them that they are problematic.

What can we do?

In our sessions we will work on methodologies for navigating a way through, around, or over these individuals in ways that are both emotionally safe and professionally productive. We’ll exercise empathy to try and understand where others come from and what makes them behave the way they do. With that context we can then apply methodologies to work with them and create environments that are conflict free. Most importantly, we find ways for you to be happy and free to grow and express yourself at work.

I am an engineering manager, product engineer, full-stack developer, and professional coach, with over 20 years of experience in application and systems development. I am successfully putting together code and culture for any size team, from enterprise to start-up.

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