I'm looking for a new job and I've recognized a pattern at some of my previous places that I'd like to correct. I usually don't gain enough trust to influence process in a positive and lasting way. I've found most companies are very focused on business priorities, and for good reason. Many of these issues are or could quickly become existential issues. It's also a complex system with people with various goals and constant change.
I've learned what I want. I want a good, hopefully interesting job, where the people are nice and reasonably competent, and I make a decent wage. Then I want to go home. I have hobbies/health/interests to maintain and explore, and demands on my time will only increase. I'm happy to work extra in case of emergency, but I see no reason to work like I'm in a startup when I'm not being compensated that way nor was that part of the original agreement.
I'm looking for strategies to:
- Gain trust in a new environment so I can maintain quality and avoid unnecessary emergencies
- Set boundaries so I can only work extra when there are real emergencies, instead of each time there's something new to learn, some arbitrary deadline no one agreed upon, or something else we could've planned for
How do you gain trust in a new environment? I've seen other developers do it by working extra hard for the first couple of months to deliver things faster or fix languishing issues other developers haven't had time allocated to fix. I'm generally against this approach but I've seen it used effectively (though usually as a springboard to new projects/promotions). It sets a bad precedent and makes it harder to set boundaries in the future. Otherwise I like it, and if it was temporary I'd be all for it.
The only other way I can think of is learning more about people (learn their names quickly, their interests, and listen to them). I personally prefer to interact with people through good and interesting work, but hobbies are cool too. This approach also seems very slow.
Looking for more ideas to gain trust with management (as well as co-workers, but I usually don't have issues there).
Onto the second (related) question. How do you set (and when do you reinforce) boundaries at work? I've heard of a couple strategies that I'll list below... but the closest I've gotten is just pointing out issues in the process (this ticket doesn't have AC, if I need to track down AC that takes more time. I'm happy to do it, but it obviously takes extra time that hasn't been allocated). Doing this is not a recipe for setting boundaries, it's a recipe for isolation. You get labeled as a complainer, rather than someone who's trying to do 2w of work in 2w, or someone who's trying to increase the health of the systems within/on which you work. Second closest was burning out a little. I'm looking for new ideas.
Quick other strategies I've heard of and flaws I can see:
- List your tasks and ask your boss to prioritize them, pointing out that you don't have enough time
- This seems a bit confrontational to me, like it would damage the long-term relationship if you don't do it carefully
- Simply saying no
- Also seems confrontational/damaging
- Very vague... when do you say no? to what? how?
- This also requires Business-Analyst + PO type work: you need to evaluate/get high-level estimates for incoming work and always know your current capacity so you can successfully back up your "no", or tell when you'll be able start on the new work.
- Conditional "no"s (similar to the above bullet), where you say "I can do that, but I'd need X training first, or I'd need some current project delegated)
- Similar issues to above-- you really need to be on top of personal planning, rather than relying on the people who usually do that (POs/PMs/etc). This is mostly fine (especially as you get to more senior levels), but as always, takes more time and reduces the amount you can do when you're not planning
I want to have a good professional relationship with the people that I work with, but not at the expense of my time outside work or my personal and professional goals. I need to be able to (at the bare minimum) keep work at work. Ideally I'd keep the software/processes I work on/in maintainable and even fun to work with!
Thanks so much for reading and I'm hopeful to lean on your wisdom to create a more sustainable work life for myself so I can grow, accomplish more, and have a happy work/home life.