Jan 4, 2012: Dear diary, it is the end of another year and the beginning of a new one. This year I have the privilege of selecting 10 resolutions for IT-types like me at TechRepublic. I have based the resolutions on things people do at work that I find annoying. I hope that these annoyances will bring a smile to my friends at TR — at least for those who can relate to them.
1: I will never, ever put down my peers
I am amazed and then more than a little disgusted when someone I work with complains about a fellow IT professional. It seems to occur more often when lips get loose over a few beers, hopefully away from work. The party game is to discuss the personal shortcomings or perceived lack of value to the group of everyone from the manager down to the latest hire. This may be a backhanded way to raise the stature of those present, but don't kid yourself. What are they saying about you behind your back? The message is simple: Don't belittle my friends and co-workers at or away from work.
2: I will not monopolize meetings or conference calls
It may seem insensitive to you, but we really don't want to hear a journalistic report of your problems, gripes, and triumphant accomplishments during the group meeting or conference call. We just want to get back to work. Before you "contribute" to the group discussion, ask yourself if your words will add any value to the conversation.
3: I promise not to grumble about the paperwork
I have seen paperwork that ran the gamut from nothing to full-blown planning and tracking. If you work on a project that requires the latter, get as efficient as you can as soon as you can. It won't help to grumble about it. If you must, do it so I can't hear you. I have my own paperwork to grumble about.
4: I won't be an IM pest
It's bad enough when you have to spend the better part of an hour or more each day reading and answering emails. But the fact that you have to constantly suffer messages blooping onto your computer screen is annoying to say the least. Communication with your peers is important. Just please don't communicate the latest attire of the office babe, bemoan the latest request from the boss, or give a play-by-play of the stupid things said during a conference call.
5: I will not push other people's buttons
We all know someone who has taken the art of annoying others to new levels by bringing up those issues that will elicit a strong response. When we toy with tickling the dragon's tail, we may get burned. And so it goes with those we intentionally torment.
6: I will not refuse to help others this year
It sounds good, right? Not so fast. How do you help someone write better documentation? The best way I know is to critique their work and help point them in the right direction. Try that, though, and you will be known as evil incarnate for criticizing their wonderful work. How do you help someone solve a simple coding problem? One of the junior members of our team wanted to learn VB. Okay, wonderful. I always seemed to get these questions when busy — and when aren't you busy at work? I just didn't know how to teach someone "how to do it," so I always ended up writing the code and telling Junior where to put it. I'm not sure how helpful I was, but at least I tried to not be that annoying breed of programmer who refuses to help others.
7: I promise not to badmouth Microsoft
Take me to lunch and you can complain all you want about Microsoft's products, services, or vision. Do it when I'm trying to write code and I'm gonna get angry. We can all find things to vent about — perhaps the most annoying of all being Vista's UAC. Really though, I've heard enough complaints about Vista to last a lifetime. Microsoft bashing gets really old really quick.
8: I will not extol the virtues of Linux
For some mysterious reason, a few penguin-lovers treat their OS as if it were a religion, evangelizing its virtues. It's not. TechRepublic is the perfect place to let others know about your conversion from Windows to Linux — not on the job.
9: I will not bring the cheap stuff
It really used to annoy me when someone brought the inexpensive sugary donuts on Friday. The last thing I needed at 8 AM was a meal of fat and sugar. For goodness sake, bring a few bran muffins for the health conscious and old farts among us. And then there were the potlucks dinners. We once had a potluck and I vowed to bring fried chicken. It's a good thing, too. There were all kinds of soda — without the ice — various chips, and a lot of meatless, unappetizing side dishes. It wasn't a potluck — it was a party! People, some of us carnivores need meat to function at peak performance. Man does not live on snacks alone.
10: I will put off that big project again this year
It's always annoying when you get to the end of the year and realize that your resolution to learn a new programming language, build that new computer, or increase your Linux command-line competence has once more been quietly overlooked. This year, just admit up front that you will, once again, find a way to put off that big project.
Well diary, that's it. I have noticed that we are often annoying to others but no one tells us. Sadly, our silly little quirks of behavior and trivial misdeeds can lead to trouble, even serious personnel issues. "Why can't we all just get along?" you ask. I am not that naïve, but a little tolerance would be nice.
As you know, diary, I'm not a big fan of New Year's resolutions. They are always forgotten by spring. The best of intentions mean nothing more than destructive guilt when December rolls around and I realize my failures of the past year. So this year, when March pops up on the calendar and I have forgotten all my resolutions, perhaps I will at least be able to remember this one: Please let us all be a little less annoying to those we work with. It won't bring about world peace but it might bring some peace to the workplace.
Alan Norton began using PCs in 1981, when they were called microcomputers. He has worked at companies like Hughes Aircraft and CSC, where he developed client/server-based applications. Alan is currently semi-retired and starting a new career as a writer for TechRepublic.