Holidays and Engineers

October 24, 2014

It was holiday season and staff all over the place were going away and coming back a couple of weeks and lots of miles and unfulfilled dreams later. Everyone had forgotten to plan holidays into the schedules, and all sorts of key knowledge was away on the beach getting soaked in bubbly or gin, or high in the mountains getting altitude sickness, or somewhere steamy getting cerebral malaria. Those minions left behind flit from crisis to crisis, usually head-down in the detail, and working through those incremental changes and discussions and events and reasoning that those away are blind to in their holiday-bubble-bliss.

So when they come back, feeling like they have lived for years on a different planet, there is always some reconciliation and adjustment.

For returning seniors this is easy. Usually they expect things to continue according to plan, which of course they never have. “Why isn’t it different?!” they roar, and I shamelessly cower shamefully beneath their fury and whine “But sir! Without the tingle tangle of your invigorating lashes, smarmy-smarm, how can we work without you? toady-flinch” and they swear undying punishment and spit fiery acid and depart, mollified by this proof of their motivational powers, to make a new Action Plan and Move the Dates to the Right.

Returning engineers are more tricky. Engineers expect things that ‘belong’ to them – the things they look after, or have created, that are therefore personally theirs – to remain the same. It doesn’t matter if they knew it was a bug-ridden fragile morass of spaghetti code, or if they’d not even finished it, or even if they’d only just started sketching out some ideas. Beware anyone who has touched it, let alone written a replacement! “Why is this different?!” the returning holiday-enhanced minions cry, aghast at the Unexpected Thing that occupies their gaze. “This was working fine!” and “We agreed to do it my way!” they outrage, being free with the meanings of ‘this’, ‘working’, ‘fine’, ‘we’, ‘agreed’ and ‘do it my way’.

The usual response by the bitter, tired and holiday-less minion is personal and tactless: “Your stuff wouldn’t work” to which the outraged minion replies disbelievingly “Oh yes? What was wrong?” followed by a short verbal debug, an outline of why it was stupid to try using it that way, barely veiled assertions on each other’s appalling lack of skills, and further discussion until Huff.

Tact can only add a single step to the start of the sequence, such as the impersonal “We couldn’t get the existing set to work” to which the returning minion cries “what, my stuff?” and the discussion continues as without tact.

About the only useful mollify is to blame external factors or teams: “We were tasked to provide the outer nodule with more kahoobles so we had to do it this way” at least brings on Straight Huff, possibly with faint “This could have done it” whine, and reduces the shouting.

I’m going on holiday soon. Don’t Touch My Stuff.


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