I Give Up: What I really need from managers

There has been a repeating pattern at my office, and maybe yours too, where every couple weeks there is some kind of positive shake-up.  Either a new manager comes in with some awesome ideas, or a new set of processes or methodology is put in place, or a threatening letter is sent by a VP instituting a series of drastic policy changes to correct the harmful ways of the past.

My reaction to every single one has been supportive, in part due to my natural inclination to kiss asses, but also because they all, at least in intent, were implemented to address a severe shortcoming in our work that had been causing me problems.

The problem is that my job hasn't really changed in the year that I've been working there.  These shake-ups come in and maybe they stick in the departments where they're intended to, or maybe they go by the wayside due to poor planning or lack of support, but the net (perceived) effect on the actual day-to-day work of me and my team has been very small.

A large part of this is due to the fact that I work in the operations and maintenance side of the web development arm of a book publisher.  The changes that have been implemented, nay, the majority of all the literature regarding process and methodology improvement in the technology industry as a whole, has been from the software development point-of-view.

My job is not strictly development.  I deal with bug remediation and content deployment for applications that have already been deployed.  Maybe there are no new sexy software "operations" methodologies that could directly impact me.

Nevertheless, I realized that in the days and weeks immediately following these shake-ups, I feel better about my work.  I feel hopeful and inspired to work hard, as part of a team that I feel is maturing into a real enterprise-level technology shop.  But it always wears off.

And just as I bottom out and notice that the change announced a few weeks ago hasn't really changed anything for me (although it may have for other people, and maybe the change would be felt by me further down the line), another shake-up comes down the pipe.  "Hey, wait a minute, I'm still dealing with all the same bullsh- ooh, look!  Agile, Scrum, and Kanban!  Let's go!"  And I'll be boosted into another cycle of healthy productivity.

Now, a cynical person would become numb to these shake-ups and start to encounter them with a critical eye, and would stop believing that they hold any salvation for his stressful and frustrating job.  But not me.

I've decided that any significant change to the nature of my job, any "salvation", is going to happen so gradually as to be imperceptible except through hindsight across many, many months.  I should not expect to be able to draw a line between a particular management- or policy-level change and the reduction of a particular flavor of job frustration.  It's either going to get better or it won't.

If it does, it will be as  the result of a number of contributing factors, only a few of which will be high-level, policy-type changes.  In any case, I will wait until my semi-yearly 30,000-to-40,000-foot-level GTD review to make this decision.  In the meantime, I'll just work.

But I still need hope.  I still need a reason in the present to have faith that the future will be brighter.

So I need to see those shake-ups continue to happen.  I need to see new managers and new process methodologies being proposed, I need to see angry "we're not doing it this way anymore" emails from the executives, because those peak moments of decision, those "cusps", are what drive me forward.  Who cares if there's no resources or enforcement to back them up!  Their physiological effect on me cannot be denied.

I work better after these announcements.  For a short period of time, surely, but it propels me, it gives me faith, in the most loony, religious, out-of-touch-with-reality sense, it is the confirmation of my faith in my job.

I need it.  I need to have my reasons for the belief in the religion of work to be renewed.  If geeks were metaphorically minded, a baptism would suffice, but we're not.  We're hard and literal, we're emotional about things that more fortunate "normals" are able to brush off as "it's just a job".  We don't have that luxury.

So I'm giving up my need to see the miracles performed.  I relieve you, managers, from any responsibility to follow through on any change or policy.  It would be nice if you did, and I'll hang around longer if you do.  But that's not the important thing right now.

The important thing is that my dumb, superficial, lizard brain needs to have a reason to fire the endorphins that make me smile at you when I come to work.  Because if that doesn't happen, then I'm one of those people who hates his job.  And I would rather die than be one of those people.

I need promises, and I need hope.  Everything else is just a job.

@trent_reznor Let’s write a Nine Inch Nails rock opera together. Here’s what I’ve done so far...

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