On Frustration

I’ve noticed that geeks tend to get frustrated fairly easily. They especially do not like when others are pursuing or demanding courses of action that the geeks believe are clearly wrong. Add in their losing arguments about the actions with said others, and you have some really frustrated and angry geeks.

As a leader of geeks, I’ve found myself between the geeks and the “others” (any other Lost fans out there?) many times. In each case, it has been my job to make sure the geeks take the “wrong” course of action. Not a fun place to be, because pissed-off geeks can bring technology departments to a screeching halt.

I believe that much of this frustration happens because geeks just aren’t accustomed to losing arguments–especially if they believe that the other side’s opinion is just plain wrong. They also dislike when others will not listen to their logic. That it might be because the others have valid business reasons and logic for the “wrong” actions does not usually enter into their thinking, in part because the business reasons and logic have been expressed in language they do not hear or understand (see below post On Language for more on that).

So what do you do if you’re in the middle? Well, there’s no sure-fire fix here. I try to do three things: let them vent, apologize, and try to make it easier for them to carry out the “wrong” task. If they are still struggling with frustration after several days, I try to schedule a night out for the team–bitching about the “others” (and even about me) in a non-work environment often makes the task easier. Also? Many geeks like alcohol.

No geek likes doing something he sees as wrong or being unable to convince folks with his logic. All you can do as a leader is try to ease his pain and hope that your actions help the department to start running again.