Can't We Just Be Nice?

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such as: "What does 'nice' mean?"; "If I find and point out flaws in the software, is that 'not nice'?"; "That creepy DBA who never gets to our requests should be held accountable, not treated nicely"; or "However nice or not nice I am has no impact on my bonus check amount." I'd love it for every company to put high value on a respectful work environment that promotes learning, creativity and innovation--that's how companies get to be successful. And organizations are often faced with hard, not-nice decisions, like needing to fire someone who does a bad job and refuses to try to improve.

I can't make everyone behave with courtesy and civility, and neither can you. But, I can remind myself often to follow the Golden Rule, and so can you. I think it could rub off on our coworkers. Why not experiment and ask that everyone think about being a bit nicer--whatever their definition of "nice" might be?

There's much more joy in working with nice people than with a bunch of grumps who don't have time for anyone who has a question or needs a hand. It's fun to be able to propose an idea knowing that, while your team or community might not go for it, they won't slap you down for saying it. So find a reason to smile, assume that everyone is trying their best, and treat them with respect. Why not make our lives more pleasant, our work more productive, and our teams more successful by being nice to each other?

User Comments

24 comments
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

I am one of those practitioners who told you that I don't think you know about testing.<br><br>I said that because that is my duty. It's not fun, sometimes, begin honest with people, instead of lying to them. Most people choose to be "nice" and to hold back their opinions. But, as I've said many times: this craft is not a tea party. <br><br>Instead of complaining about how hurt you are, why don't you address the concerns that I have tried to discuss with you several times? I suspect that you don't do that because you don't believe I'm serious. Well, that's not very nice, is it?

December 13, 2009 - 12:20am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

I welcome specific advice or critique: "You don't know anything about the XYZ aspect of testing." I'm always learning new things, and am happy to know a direction to go in. When someone tells me I don't know anything about testing, well, I beg to differ, and we can't really go forward with that conversation. I think it is much nicer in this particular case to agree to disagree.

December 13, 2009 - 5:48am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Lovely and enlightened article, Lisa. Your words capture a profound truth - collaboration and teamwork lead to success when we can trust and support one another.<br><br>People who disagree - those anti-socials who habitually show disrespect - will not ultimately contribute to their full potential. <br><br>One of our greatest challenges as we strive to move our industry to a true science is how we emphasize accenuate the positive and minimize/ignore the negative. The future is ours to mold. We need to take care of it and one another.

December 13, 2009 - 8:33am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

I just read Lisa's sensible post about improving the civility of teams. Being nice has huge benefits: improving software quality and the quality of life of people working together. The piece was based on Lisa's experience at multiple companies, the goals of manifestos, and let's face it, common sense.<br><br>What did you read, James? Was Lisa "complaining about how hurt" she was by any individual, let alone you? <br><br>Instead of tearing Lisa down in public by rehashing some arguably libelous attack that has nothing to do with Lisa's post, maybe you could tell us what you've observed in various companies. Wouldn't that be a good way to bear your heroic "duty"?<br><br>If you can't do that, listen to some Carly Simon first. She has a catchy hit from the 70s called "You're So Vain."<br><br>Then apologize to Lisa. In private.

December 14, 2009 - 5:39am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Thanks for this post Lisa. In my previous job, I worked with a team which was not very nice to me starting from the manager deep down. It was hurtful at times that the attacks were very personal rather than professional. In fact, at times, it felt very humiliating. <br><br>I took a chance with a few people (so called grumps), called them to a meeting room (individually) and asked for feedback and advice as to where they thought I was lacking. They not only provided feedback, but they were glad that I asked them for feedback. The same people who thought I was stupid started respecting me and guiding me in my work more than ever. I had a point to prove to them that I was good at what they thought I was bad at and took their help as well to prove my point. I became friends with these people though there were a lot of things that we did not agree upon at most times.<br><br>I worked with an architect in my last job who was really headstrong about the way he worked and treated testers like they were insects. By working with him very closely, I figured out that the reason for his outburst was that he was not happy with the testers doing their jobs. I thought 'if he had better ideas to make testing better, why not work with him?'. We had a common goal and we were in the same team. It helped to share and learn from him. Some people are temperamental by nature. It takes time for them to understand others. Is it not nice? It depends on each person how he/she wants to take it. <br><br>I would say 'Just because someone is not nice to you does not mean we should ignore the good things about that person'. Take the good ones, leave the bad ones. As long as it does not hurt your self respect or dignity, its fine to learn to handle people who are not nice.<br><br>Regards,<br>Parimala Shankaraiah

December 14, 2009 - 10:29am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

This is the good article...must follow

December 14, 2009 - 3:29pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Parimala, I love your attitude and your proactive approach! Thank you for sharing your stories. We can all learn from your examples! You're right, we're all complex individual with good points and bad, it's worth being patient and finding a way to work better together.

December 14, 2009 - 6:16pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Left a job because people weren't nice. I saw a lot of walls going up and even people who gave me hope we could turn things around and get back to the environment I originally joined, gave up. I went back a year later to visit friends and a bright, energetic individual who made my last year there bearable looked tired, broken and cynical.<br><br>Every company I've worked for since has a 'just be nice' environment. I think I'm a better person for it.<br>

December 16, 2009 - 7:30pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

This is a "nice" article Lisa. I always walk around with a smile, it is cheap and effective and also contagious. It has helped me a lot in my life and career.<br><br>I have worked in a few places where people aren't so nice, you can try taking Parimala approach, however, if it doesn't work, then know when to walk away. As working in a negative can be damaging to your mental health.

December 17, 2009 - 5:19am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Thanks for this post Lisa. Dealing with difficult people is certainly something that many of us deal with. I've tried to view each of these situations as a learning experience. In one particularly negative situation, what I extracted was how not to treat other people. It's still learning and I feel it refreshes my approach to others. I am a lead of a test team and actually had one manager tell me, "Your problem is that you are too nice to your team." I responded, "It's a two way street and I never want to forget that. I respect and appreciate what they do and the value they add. If they are successful, I am successful, and you are successful. In addition, if I ask them to come in at 2 a.m. on a Sunday, they'll do it because they know I genuinely appreciate it - and I'll be here supporting them." I never ask my team to do anything I'm not willing to do. We're all learning and growing from this - or we should be. This manager was dumbfounded - as if it had never occurred to them that this was simply a good way of working with people. <br><br>I'm not a psychologist, but it seems having a nicer approach to people, be they team members, peers, or those I report to, simply makes it a more professional atmosphere. This doesn't mean people don't make mistakes and it certainly doesn't mean we're always going to agree. However, there are better ways to discuss this and I think your post reinforces that. General or categorical statements don't really help. The first reply to this post is a great example. The sheer hubris of someone saying it is their duty without realizing that they're not helping you or themselves is, unfortunately, not surprising. It's about as helpful as telling someoen they are an idiot. Subsequent dialogue after that diminishes in value or ceases altogether. <br><br>So, respect people, appreciate their efforts (we all want the same basic thing), and be nice to them. You're paid back by a more positive interaction and experience. What's not to like about that?

December 17, 2009 - 10:42pm

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About the author

Lisa Crispin's picture Lisa Crispin

Lisa Crispin is the co-author, with Janet Gregory, of Agile Testing: A Practical Guide for Testers and Agile Teams (Addison-Wesley, 2009), co-author with Tip House of Extreme Testing (Addison-Wesley, 2002) and a contributor to Beautiful Testing (O’Reilly, 2009) and Experiences of Test Automation by Dorothy Graham and Mark Fewster (Addison-Wesley, 2011). She has worked as a tester on agile teamssince 2000, and enjoys sharing her experiences via writing, presenting, teaching and participating in agile testing communities around the world. Lisa was named one of the 13 Women of Influence in testing by Software Test & Performance magazine in 2009. For more about Lisa’s work, visit www.lisacrispin.com.

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