It is not your fault.
Software causes stress in the workplace.
The stress can come from things breaking down unexpectedly, like projectors not starting, audio missing in the video conference call or the e-mail draft disappearing as you refill your coffee.
There are also the thousand cuts from the paper free work place. Interfaces that are clunky, dropdowns with a thousand options, where the most common is the last. Forms demanding you to type in the same information three times and then complains about the format. (Perhaps by erasing everything you entered in so far.) Information portals with unreliable search and no predictable structure. Not to get stared on permissions to add or change information (or structure).
This text is about coping with what you can not change. Part two is about eliminating the source of the stress (bad software).
Put the blame where it belongs
Software should never make you feel stupid.
When the printer throws a tantrum or an app suddenly restarts, the responsible people are:
- involved engineers
- their managers
- the one buying/financing the software (sometimes)
Unless you are on that list, it is not your fault.
Software doesn’t have to be like that. The industry knows how to create intuitive interfaces. There are processes for writing reliable software. User research exists, just not enough. You deserve better software. No human is non-technical, it is the technology that is inhumane.
Write a bug report
Reporting issues with software has two benefits. If the software organisation is good, it will use the feedback. For organisations too immature to appreciate it, at least you can use it to let out some steam. Put your frustration into precisely worded descriptions and screen recordings showing the problem. Be polite, since that will help the organisations who welcome it and annoy those who don’t.
If the workbench has the wrong height, or the knives are blunt, you can not expect the best results. The same is true with IT. You have to adjust the expectations on your staff accordingly. (At least until you are able to fix the software.)
The cognitively ergonomics of a workplace are as important as the physical ergonomics. Software that is hard to use and/or unreliable, will affect the work, regardless of the attitude among the employees. It is biology.
Software developers also suffer from IT-related stress. No one is too clever to benefit from easy to use software. If you are taxed by flaky tests or buggy editors, know that you also deserve good interfaces and reliable experiences. You are not less for wanting to work smart rather than hard. If you struggle with getting software to work, it has nothing to do with your aptitude as a developer. You don’t have to be smart to make someone else feel stupid.
If you are a manger, or a role model, in IT, don’t idealise fire fighting. Acknowledge when infrastructure and tooling are slowing you down, and celebrate the canaries in the team.
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