Nerd Guru

Because technical people need good soft skills to get ahead.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Making yourself easy to be scheduled: Part 6 - Be good to yourself and your teammates

While in the throes of a schedule, there will come a time when you are interrupted by a teammate for a piece of information or an unscheduled mini-task that will distract you from completing your current task. Do you help you coworker and risk being late yourself? Or is it better to stay on task and help them when you are done? Picture yourself at a meeting where you and members of your team are communicating status to your scheduler. Which statement is a worse reflection on you:

Coworker: “I was late on my Menagerie design task because failed to get back to me on a piece of information, I am deadlocked, and cannot make any further progress until he/she gets back to me.”


You: “I was late on my Kobayashi Maru documentation task because I had to help with his Menagerie design task.”

Either statement will make you look bad, but the first one makes you look worse. If a situation like this comes up, it is really a failure to recognize a functional dependency earlier in the scheduling process. It is much better to make your teammate look good at the cost of making yourself look bad than it is to have a colleague make you look bad in front of the scheduler. In cases where the scheduler is also your boss and the one who fills out your performance evaluation this is especially true. When faced with the choice between making a teammate look bad or yourself look bad, choose you. There will be time to make up for the mistake later and pointing fingers at someone else makes the situation worse.

Not only do you have to be good to your coworkers, you have to be good to yourself too. One of the down sides of being “that guy” are statements like, “I haven’t taken a vacation in 3 years and I’m beginning to lose days because my vacation bank is full.” Everybody appreciates hard work, but if you are not taking the vacation days that the company gives you to the extent that you are beginning to lose them, you are cheating yourself. When you do this, you are essentially giving your company money. Companies of a certain size have to keep cash on hand to reimburse you in the event that you leave for another job and you still have vacation days left. When this happens, you are monetarily compensated for the days off you never took. This is why most employers cap vacation time accumulated. If you exceed the cap on the number of days that your company allows you to accrue, you lose that money should you choose to leave.

Even if you never leave your great company, they give you a certain number of days off per year and they give them to you for a reason. There are times where 60-80 hour work weeks are needed to meet critical schedules. Just as important, though, is taking time off to recharge yourself both mentally and physically. Even the President of the United States heads off to Camp David every few months. Is your job more important than his?

If you go take that week in Hawaii every once in awhile, you might be surprised that the building did not burn down and your company did not declare bankruptcy in your absence. A tired, cranky, overworked employee does no one any good. Do not become one.

At the same time, you need to be sensitive to schedules to a certain degree when planning your time off. Again, notice to your scheduler is the key. There are certain events that cannot be predicted, but most time off is planned at least a few weeks (if not a few months) in advance. As soon as you know about your vacation time, make sure your scheduler is informed or if you are starting a new schedule after you have already planned something, let the right people know as soon as possible (a good scheduler will ask about planned time off at the beginning of a new schedule, but do not count on that). You have a right to that time off and almost no boss will ask you to change your plans if you give enough notice. If your boss does, that may be a sign that you need to find a different boss.


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posted by Pete Johnson @ 9:48 AM   0 comments

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