A Developer’s Dilemma

Five years ago when I was a graduating student , this question was asked in my first job interview at NEC.

What would you do if you have a conflict with another employee or if you can’t stand someone’s attitude and behavior?

I still remember my answer quite clearly. And right now, I think I’m being put to the test.

I don’t know exactly how to start this post – I just found myself wanting to write things down. There’s no one to talk to, aside from our teammates, that is; because confiding in an officemate, who’s not part of our team, is not a good  idea; telling a friend ain’t any better – all would be considered badmouthing even if that’s not our intention. Perhaps that’s the reason why I’m letting it all out in this blog-post-turned-diary-entry. LOL.

We had raised our concerns to our SM, but the only thing she told us was that we need to adjust. Thinking back, we never had this issue before. And in fact, some people commended our great teamwork. If I were to argue, I’d say things won’t work if we are always the only ones who adjust; I believe there should be some sort of a compromise. But I just let it rest, see how things turn out, and hope it’s for the better.

So what issue am I referring to, really? Working with someone who is NOT a team player.

Perhaps recognizing the underlying need to, the team gathered to talk about our latest member’s attitude and performance. We found out that we had the same feedback about her. Each one of us gave our observations and honest inputs. Some recounted the times when she had displayed that behavior and I did witness some of it myself.

There was this time when the team had a meeting to decide on some action items and stuff, then suddenly she stood and went back to her workstation, asking if we can stop the meeting and resume after 30 minutes, because there’s something she wanted to do. Everyone was stunned, including me. I thought to myself, what is she thinking?  Everyone here is stuck unless we decide on a definite action plan. If we were to stop, then we’d be doing nothing because, essentially, we can’t proceed. I would have told her this, but my other teammate beat me to it.

Also during that meeting, I asked if I could see her work output. She gave me a flat “No.” Again, everyone was shocked. I looked at her, wanting to see some traces that would tell me she was kidding. But no, she was dead serious. Being professional about it, with a calm voice I asked for the reason why I couldn’t. She turned to tell me, “Basta lang.” (T/N: Just because.) It was only after I insisted that I got to see her output. (It was important for us to check because it was some kind of investigation results which would help us in our decisions.)

There were a lot more instances wherein she was being uncooperative. I could list them all here but that would take me until tomorrow – it’s not that we are counting; we just can’t help but notice. 😦 And just last Thursday (11/13), when we were assigning the remaining development tasks, she was like a toddler throwing tantrums. She didn’t want to work on Task A but wanted to take on Task B, which was already started by my other teammate. Since she was really insistent (literally blocking everyone’s opinion by loudly saying, “Task B, Task B” -_- ), my other teammate had no choice but to give in. As I, too, was getting tired of her fits and seeing that it’s a lost cause, I made no more objections. Supposedly, anyone can take on any given task – because we are a Scrum TEAM. Aside from that, I don’t think it is wise to re-assign someone else’s task, depending on a member’s whim, especially when you consider that the other person was already making some progress on it.

What I really want to do though, is to change her perception on things. One of my teammates said that she views herself as someone with a supporting role. Yes, those were her exact words – “supporting role ra diay ko”. Maybe because she had a job level higher than us, she wants to lead the team. I really have no problem with that, and I would even support her. I just want to stress out that all tasks committed– no matter how big or small – should be viewed as equally important. At the end of the day, if the team fails to deliver those small tasks, it is still considered a failure. If members are egoistic or too proud to take on small tasks, then what will happen to those deliverables?

I don’t have any idea what’s going on in her mind. I wanted to understand the reasons behind her actions; to see things in a different light, just to make sense of all that she’s doing; and I’m trying to convince myself right now, that all she wants is what’s good for the team. But the challenge is, she doesn’t talk much. Whenever we ask her if she has some impediments  or if there’s anything unclear to her, she brushes us off, saying everything’s okay. That’s why we were surprised that near the end of the iteration, not much progress has been done, and she actually had a lot of questions. 😦

Before Alvin (our forever-team-Canoes’-general-and-gang-leader) left our team, I was sure that we’ll get by… with a smile (*no pun intended*). He was pulled out from our team, to be part of another – a spool of senior engineers. This gave me the vision of making our team, become better (even without our General and until the day he comes back ?), and then ultimately become a great team, whom POs, stakeholders, and anyone from the company, would be happy to work with. 🙂 We don’t need everyone to be senior engineers to be able to establish a great team. I believe that our team already had a good foundation – our teamwork and camaraderie. With each member contributing to the team, and helping one another build and equip themselves with the necessary skills, that vision will not be a long shot after all.

But right now, seeing things objectively, I must say we are struggling with our team dynamics. Finding that right balance and regaining what we’ve lost proves to be no easy feat. Part of me has given up on my vision, while the other part keeps saying I must persevere for this is just another roadblock I need to overcome.

How do we work with someone who isn’t a team player? We can influence people, but we cannot change them. What would be the best way to deal with this? Any help would be appreciated. 🙂

I, too, am having an internal struggle.

How do I unlearn?

 …

Unlearn to love someone.

Someone I’m not supposed to.

 

Update 11/27/2014

The good thing about our company is that we cultivate straight talk and open and honest feedback. In our retrospective, I have openly relayed our concerns to our new teammate – and I’ve seen improvements in our team communication, weeks after that. Also, during my 1×1 meeting with my manager, I’ve given her my feedback – which was the same feedback she got from the others. It’s good to know that she was taking some actions to address this issue before it gets out of hand, which probably explains the improvements, I guess. Good job to my manager! 🙂

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