Monday, September 8, 2014

Getting Emotional

It is easy to get emotional at the office.  
One of the hardest things I have had to master as a business leader and entrepreneur is my emotions.  A technology professional may not look like a bundle of frayed nerves but it is part and parcel of the career.  This week I want to discuss the role of emotions and how they play into life of a technology professional.

Before I worked in the technology business, I was a pit boss in a casino.  One of my mentors at the time made a point of reminding people “If you get angry you lose.”  In the hot house environment of a casino, late at night and with thousands of dollars at stake, people tend to get agitated.  It was my job as the guy in the pit to make sure that everything ran smoothly, no one cheated, and that everyone was having a good time.  It was not easy because you had to divorce yourself from all the different stimulus around you and focus on immediate tasks.  You also had to subsume your emotions because they would trip you during a conflict with a customer.

When I became a software developer, emotions came into play again.  I would spend hours attempting to solve problems and getting nothing.  It made you feel helpless and dumb.  It also did not help that your leadership was expecting you to solve the problem and then move on to the next topic.  This creates a feedback loop of frustration and self-doubt which makes it hard to step away from your work at the end of the day.  For example, one night I came home from work and spent the rest of the night muttering to myself about how I was going to get a web service to work.  It was so bad my spouse at the time said I was rattling off code in my sleep.  The next day I had a breakthrough and everything was right in the world but for a day my spouse had to endure me in deep thought.  This is not healthy to a person or a marriage.

Now, I have made the transition from software developer to Scrum Master.  This transition brings with it a completely different set of emotions.  I have deadline pressure from above.  I act as therapist and cruise director for the people on my team.  I also spend a lot of time in meetings when I really should be helping out my team members.  Finally, I have the joys of leading people who range from high achievers to clock punchers.  It is difficult and demanding because they look to you and if you are emotionally agitated; the rest of the team will be emotionally agitated.

So how does a software developer or Scrum Master deal with emotions?  Each person is different.  For me I spend a lot of time reading or attempting to unwind with movies.  I also use food as a coping mechanism which might explain why I am more pear shaped than most men.  Still I slip from time to time and tell someone they are being “lazy” to their face or roll my eyes at a Vice President who lacks my respect.  It is these emotions which define us and make the office such an interesting place.

Until next time.