Monday, November 27, 2006

when you can't get along with other developers

Many years ago I was involved in a free software development project with write access to the source tree. For reasons that are not relevant to this post (and which I hope all the participants would regard as trivial after so much time has passed) I had a disagreement with one of the more senior developers. This disagreement continued to the stage where I was threatened with expulsion from the project.

At that time I was faced with a decision, I could have tried to fight the process, and I might have succeeded and kept my position in that project. But doing so would have wasted a lot of time from many people, and might have caused enough productivity loss for enough people to outweigh my contributions to the project for the immediate future. But this didn't seem very productive.

So I requested that my write access to the source tree be removed as I was going to leave the project and unused accounts are a security risk.

I never looked back, I worked on a number of other projects after that time (of which SE Linux is one) and the results of those projects were good for everyone. If I had stayed in the project where things weren't working out then it would have involved many flames, distraction from productive work for everyone, and generally not much good.

The reason I mention this now (after many years have passed) is because in another project I see someone else faced with the same choice I made who is making the wrong decision. The people who are on the same private mailing list as me will all know who I am referring to. The individual in question is appearently suffering health problems as a result of stress caused by their inability to deal with the situation where they can't get along with other people.

My advice to that person was to leave gracefully and find something else to work on. If you don't get along with people and make a big fuss about it then they will only be more glad when they finally get rid of you. Running flame-wars over a period of 6 months to try and get accepted by a team that you don't get along with will not do any good, but it will convince observers that removing you is a good idea.


Ben Hutchings said...

He seems to be a bit stuck in that - so far as I can tell - the work he is doing on the project is part of his job at a hardware company.

etbe said...

That's interesting.

I wonder what his boss makes of it?

It's surprising really, most people when doing their paid job will avoid controversy and try to get along with other people even if it means tolerating some things that they might not tolerate when working for fun.

In any case, if you have a job that causes the amount of pain that the individual in question apparently experiences then the best thing to do is to leave it.

People in high-volume call centers often have to endure work that is so unpleasant for them due to lack of other options. Computer professionals have many career options open to them and can find another job if necessary.

I would be happy to help that person get another job (they are quite good at coding), and I'm sure that I'm not the only one.