Active participation vs quiet disapproval

- Why are you leaving? - my good friend at work was asking me.

- It’s just… I need some rest.

I was leaving my job, where I’ve spent more than 5 years in a row… and never achieved much. Didn’t show a spectacular growth from %some_unimportant_person% to %some_director% and on top of that was pretty tired.

And actually I was leaving because of:

  • systematic errors (of mine)
  • quiet disapproval (because of my systematic errors)
  • brilliant jerks, who were giving me a hard time, because of two things above.

Brilliant jerks

Guys at work were always one of the 2 types. First type was always kind and generous, ready to help, ready to chat in spare time, etc. They were a pleasure to spend time, work with and learn from. Some of their stories I will remember forever. And the second type was… literally brilliant jerks.

(One of them once told me, that he will not waste his time answering my question, “just go create a ticket”. I can understand, that he was busy, but I will never understand the attitude of “I’m a big manager and you are a developer who never reached any heights here, so don’t bother me with your stupid questions”.)

Engineering clearly has problems with brilliant jerks, just check the google results, they’re full with articles like this one. And looks like I have problems, too. :)

Quiet disapproval

And even quiet disapproval is treating people like trash as well. I have a rule to go ask people about IMO stupid things they do. “Why have you made a decision to cross the street on a red light?” The answer is usually very close to “I thought all the cars were far enough for me to cross safely” and the problem is solved. I don’t create tension between us by thinking “this person does unexplainable dumb things”. Instead I understand, that it was just a mistake, we all do a lot of them. Nothing to worry about.

In engineering people hate systematic stupid decisions, mistakes, etc. But guys, seriously, you’re engineers, you know better than others, how to solve complex problems. Why in the world do you treat other people like black boxes? If other person makes stupid mistakes, can you see a system in that? Can you communicate your findings to that person, so that they’re actionable?

I understand, that it’s not always easy, but we don’t always solve easy problems too! Because we’re engineers. As a lot of us like to say, it’s all about engineering mindset. Apply your mindset widely, don’t leave it at your desk only, don’t use it while coding only (your code will be eventually refactored or deprecated anyway).

You don’t have to become a monk to be wise, seriously.

Systematic errors

So here are the main problems of mine:

  1. Deadlines. It’s extremely hard for me to estimate the time a new task will take. It’s also hard to stay motivated and work like crazy all the time. I was always getting deadlines like I was a senior or not getting any deadlines at all (and tended to take a lot of time to finish tasks).
  2. Absence of ambitions. I like the craft. I like making beautiful things, building smart systems, having fun in the process. I don’t like the frenetic race for the fancy positions. This is both good and bad.

And because of this stuff I got a lot of quiet disapproval from some of my former colleagues. This stuff… and… probably… probably something else?

But I don’t know what!

Because these guys never cared about me enough to share their thoughts! They were making a shortcut right to quiet disapproval! “She’s making a mistake systematically and she is choosing that!” But that’s wrong. A person on the other side can just never know.

It’s somewhat like a person that smells (we’ve all probably faced such a person at some point in our lives). It takes courage to come and politely inform that person, that here’s a shower available, did you know? :). But it doesn’t take anything to quietly disapprove (even worse, whisper behind their back, that something’s wrong with them).

And the truth is: people rarely choose the hard way if it doesn’t promise them some kind of reward. What kind of reward is available in this case? Nothing, just the gratitude of that person in question.

But we always remember the people who have taken the hard way for us. Stopped and explained, that they see systematic error(s) in our behavior, which we could fix easily and get something good out of that… instead of the quiet disapproval.


I’m sorry, guys, I didn’t mean to preach here. It’s just… I’m sure, the more people know about this approach, the more can take it. And I would like to meet more people, who can warn me about my systematic mistakes, instead of going, “just create a ticket, you idiot”.

Published 8 Apr 2019

I enjoy playing with cool tech. Freelance web dev. || Now learning: React Native || Yes, it is cool tech :)
Valia Walsk on Twitter