5

I don't know how to approach my management team about this issue without sounding 'elitist', or like I have a bad attitude.

Quite often deadlines and requirements are handed to my team at the last minute. Discussing with my Senior Developer, we agree we need to set our own expectations, but we also need the support of our managers.

We've talked about a minimum of two weeks notice with the exception of an 'act of God', however in practice requirements are still sent to us at the last minute to the extent that we often work additional hours to get things done.

Now. I've worked in numerous roles over the years and full time development needs downtime. Lots of it.

How would I express this without feeling like I am 'better' than the sales or dispatch teams -all of whom work very hard and feel the same pressure- that working back three hours to meet a deadline kills the rest of my working week?

  • 1
    I mean that coding for an additional three and a half hours on a Tuesday to meet a deadline means I am tired and unable to focus for the next day or two. I get cranky and frustrated. Short with people. I make mistakes. – pcgben Oct 3 '18 at 1:09
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    What is a dispatch team? I don't think I've come across that phrase outside of emergency services or logistics before. – John Eisbrener Oct 3 '18 at 2:58
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    Uhm. They work in dispatch. This is not pertinent. – pcgben Oct 3 '18 at 3:26
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    Why mention it then? – Dave Battersby Oct 3 '18 at 10:06
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Frankly, this comes down to the dilemma of context switching and how it can have a negative impact on productivity. There are plenty of articles you can review that support this claim (a quick google search will yield many great results, such as this one, or this one, or even this one), but maybe the best representation of the problem was done by Scott Adams via a Dilbert comic:

Context Switching - Dilbert 2014-04-26 (via http://dilbert.com/strip/2015-04-26)

How would I express this without feeling like I am 'better' than...

I would suggest you talk with your manager, one-on-one, and discuss how you feel the additional, last-minute context switching could be having a negative impact on your projects and deadlines. Leave it up to your manager to decide if this is actually impacting your productivity or not. You don't want to imply your performance is suffering here, rather you just want to raise a concern.

An important note here is that you do not bring up other departments during this discussion. Don't make this a you vs. another department or person problem. This will immediately put your manager into a defensive posture when talking about this. Just discuss how the increased context switching is making you feel that your productivity isn't optimal. Ask your manager questions about ways to handle this differently so you can ensure a high level of quality. If you go about the conversation this way, the issue becomes an us vs. productivity loss issue and no one comes out looking like the bad guy.

Done properly, I've found this approach often will help raise awareness of the issue without making you look like an elitist or coming across as having a bad attitude.

5

You can not explain this to non software development people without coming across as elitist. The closest I've been able to come to explaining what we do is to compare our work to solving very complex maths problems in new areas we're not familiar with 8 hours a day. Not really the same as doing paperwork making calls and following well documented procedures 8 hours a day.

Unfortunately saying this comes across very patronizing and condescending. Don't do it.

Your manager should be setting the boundaries and giving you down time. If not, thats not a good place to work.

3

How would I express this without feeling like I am 'better' than the sales or dispatch teams -all of whom work very hard and feel the same pressure- that working back three hours to meet a deadline kills the rest of my working week?

Everyone is different. Some folks can handle a few hours of extra work without getting cranky and frustrated, being short with people, making mistakes and having the rest of their work week killed. Others cannot.

This clearly has nothing to do with feeling 'better' than the other teams in your shop. It's just about individual capabilities.

Just be honest with your management team. Tell them that these extra hours just don't work for you and that you strongly prefer to work a more typical work day every day.

Be aware that some shops would expect their Software Engineers to be available for this sort of extra work while others could be more flexible. If your shop expects everyone to occasionally work extra, this may not be the right workplace for you.

  • 1
    Thanks for your comment -I sincerely appreciate it. I think it's more about the stress that the deadlines/context switching add (as someone else has pointed out). I love my job. I love coding. I work hard. I also appreciate there are people who can focus for longer than I can -I find it mentally exhausting. To be clear -I put in about half an hour or so almost daily. I should add this overtime is unpaid. – pcgben Oct 4 '18 at 0:33
0

Dear manager's_name_here,

Working on tasks that are not part of the project plan on short notice has had a measurable and significant impact on project deliveries.

I would like to set some time to discuss the issue and come up with the framework for the team to better handle ad-hoc requests. This will allow us to deliver more work on time and to higher standards.

(Optional) I propose that the all requests come via X after it has been triaged with the Y team.

Best Regards P.C Gben

0

Working four extra hours, a middle day because other teams do not organize their work is actually counter- productive.

You efectivily either are not communicating well with your manager or he is not doing his job, which is protecting you from other departments

Ask your manager for priorities, and also suggest t hat any work requests have to be approved by him.

-3

I don't think that it is the extra time involved that is the problem. No offence, but a one-off 3.5 hours overtime is nothing at all. I worked 3 straight years of 60 hour weeks down in Florida and thrived on it. In Asia, a few (unpaid) hours a day is the norm, plus weekend work when deadlines near.

Rather, I think that your problem is stress – and I don’t blame you. You say,

Quite often deadlines and requirements are handed to my team at the last minute.

Which is just plain bad management (as is treating continuous overtime as the norm) – where is the contingency?

We've talked about a minimum of two weeks’ notice with the exception of an 'act of God', however in practice requirements are still sent to us at the last minute to the extent that we often work additional hours to get things done.

As far as management is concerned, the system works. They are getting the results they want (they would change things, if not).

As an aside, I can’t believe that you have always succeeded when given last minute requirements. Surely some of these must have blown up? If so, and management didn’t learn anything from it, that’s another strike against them.

In short, from management’s perspective, the system is working; you have asked them to change, and they don’t. Conclusion: polish your resume; there seems to be no alternative.

  • Yes, but there is a difference in the kind of work. If you are just doing unpaid overtime to save the company a few bucks, that is different form work under pressure. I can't find another explanation for being concerned over a one-off 3.5 hours – Mawg Oct 3 '18 at 11:49
  • I see that. I was just trying to come up with an explanation. After I finish my work day coding, I go home and do that match much personal coding, or more, each and every day (commercial development, which I market myself). I guess that, as you say, "Maybe some folks can handle extra work better than others?" – Mawg Oct 3 '18 at 11:55
  • Agreed (+1). Then I would suggest that he is in the wrong job, if not the wrong profession, and should look for opportunities with no overtime. – Mawg Oct 3 '18 at 12:04
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    "No offence, but a one-off 3.5 hours overtime is nothing at all." - What a thing to say. Suppose you were planning to do something after work and then all of a sudden your boss asks you to stay for another three and a half hours. If you could plan ahead, that would be one thing. By your description it seems you planned to work 60 hours per week. OK. But the situation would be quite different if you planned to only work 40 hours per week, and all of a sudden the boss wants you to work 60 hours per week. Or if you planned to work 8 hours on Friday at the last moment you are asked to stay late. – Brandin Oct 3 '18 at 14:29
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    It's not just 3.5 hours. It's pushing toward a new deadline (in this case a product launch) were configuration attributes were coming in as late as 4pm on the day of the launch. It's not the kind of thing that should be rushed. There's testing complete workflows etc. If it were 'just an additional 3.5 hours' working toward a regular sprint goal here and there, that would be a completely different story. I should add overtime is unpaid. – pcgben Oct 4 '18 at 0:37

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