Trust and respect are two very important words in software development. They can influence hiring, firing, personal interactions, and building teams. The importance of these words is only overshadowed by their complexity. Genuine respect is not something that can be demanded or requested. It must be given freely. In general terms, trust and respect go hand in hand. A person cannot force others to trust him or her in the same way that respect cannot be bought. If a developer receives a poor evaluation, chances are pretty high that he is not trusted. Although trust and respect in programming can vary by person, team, and company, it can be dissected and placed under a microscope for further analysis.
Earning respect is not a one-time process. It must be earned, then kept. Trust and respect are always faster to lose than they were to achieve. Additionally, once lost, it takes longer to re-establish. Trust is built upon concepts such as reliability, dependability, and effectiveness, but other intricacies are at play. Earning trust will always be a two-way street. The following is a list of areas where developers misstep in seeking trust and respect:
- Don't believe that social interactions with others are optional and that simply producing quality code is enough to deserve respect.
- Only provide insight into well-educated areas. Be careful about taking authoritarian stances because they will be challenged.
- Be an advocate for ideas, but avoid being confrontational. This may not be easy. Spend time expressing opinions and educating others. Don't forget, "seek first to understand, then to be understood."
- Remember the adage "you're not the smartest guy in the room." This is an important reminder for those whose heads get too big. Humility in programming and life is an invaluable asset.
- Don't blame others or make excuses. First, take ownership for a mistake. Second, take steps to avoid making the same mistake again. Repeating mistakes will greatly hinder trust.
- Make commitments to others and follow through. Making a commitment creates hope. Meeting a commitment builds trust.
Trust is about the soft skills of human interaction. There is no magic wand or repeatable formula. Similar to growing a garden, the only proven method is continuous guardianship. Ignoring others, arrogance, disrespect, and/or being too pragmatic are recipes for disappointment.
NOTE: Sometimes a developer will make positive strides toward garnering trust and respect but still fall short with some individuals. This may be due to the stigma of previous mistrust. This may never go away. If this situation exists with a boss, it would be prudent to seek other employment. A new environment provides an excellent opportunity to press the reset button.
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