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
Joey McAllister's picture

It's great to hear about your experiences, Mike, and I bet your team works together well and does great work! I like the way you put it, that general or categorical statements don't help. It works the other way too; if you're trying to reward someone for doing a good job, a generality "you do good work" isn't good reinforcement, but "your ideas to use a BDD approach for testing this story helped us flush out some hidden assumptions and helped the product owner clarify the requirements" is much better feedback. So perhaps I should say, be nice, and be specific!

December 17, 2009 - 11:33pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

First of all, I find it ironic that a couple comments regarding this very article regarding being nice were... in my humble opinion... not. (Either way, that's neither here nor there... moving on to Lisa's article.)<br><br>You do catch more files with honey than, say, bleach. However, if you work in an environment where everyone is solely focused on being nice to one another, I find that it makes it difficult to deliver in a timely manner.<br><br>I myself prefer to work in an environment with a healthy balance (e.g. folks are effective in doing the work at hand as well as open to conversation, new ideas, etc.).<br><br>Lisa - I wonder if it would be beneficial for the team to talk about the project ahead of time with the appropriate folks involved (Business Users, Dev, PM, QA, etc.) to be pro-active in addressing any potential downstream issues. Also, I have a sneaking suspicion that milestones may not be often met, which can lead for everyone feeling the burn come launch time.<br><br>In a nutshell, I think that being nice to one another is needed to some degree, however, it shouldn't be the only thing.

January 5, 2010 - 10:40pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Melanie, I think you're right, we can't be walking on eggshells worrying whether we're being nice enough. We have to create a respectful environment so that everyone feels safe, and then if there is something that sounds less than nice, we can give the person who said or did it the benefit of the doubt.<br><br>Reading articles about New Years resolutions, it seems to me that it might be better to set small goals: "I'll shout out one of my co-workers today for something I really appreciated", "I'll pick up the phone and call Joe instead of sending an email because we will communicate better that way".

January 5, 2010 - 11:17pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

*** BEGINNING OF COMMENT ***<br><br>I would like to add that I never much cared for the word, 'nice,' to describe folks.<br><br>It always seems like that's the generic word folks go to when they give their first impresson of someone that they meet at a party. 'Hey, did you meet so-and-so?' 'Yeah... he was really nice.' [Please also see 'fine.' (For example: 'How's it going?' 'Fine.') 'Nice' really doesn't mean much, on accountah... well... to me, it really doesn't say much.<br><br>Is your definition of the word, 'nice,' similar to, say, Dictionary.com's (<a href="http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/nice" rel="nofollow">dictionary.reference.com/browse/nice</a>)? *copied and pasted below for your viewing pleasure*<br><br>..........<br><br>1. pleasing; agreeable; delightful: a nice visit.<br>2. amiably pleasant; kind: They are always nice to strangers.<br><br>..........<br><br>If so, read on.<br><br>*** DISCLAIMER: The following is my humble opinion. I am not trying to stirring the turd. ***<br><br>First of all, my initial thought is that you are probably a very empathetic and feeling person. You appreciate and enjoy the connections you make. You are very relationship-minded. If you do not receive the same in return, it may seem like someone is not being nice to you. It is hard at times when you may not feel like you are part of a team since you want to have that connection. Realize though that not everyone is like you. And, if I may be so bold, that's okay.<br><br>*clearing throat*<br><br>Realize that your needs are not necessarily the same as the co-worker you are soliciting help from. If you just show up unannounced when you have a problem and/or question, they could very well be in the middle of something. By you showing up unannounced, you don't allow them to help you when it's convenient for them, resulting in you getting your feelings hurt. You then react, thinking that they're not being nice when, in fact, they're just busy. They react to your reaction and the cycle continues. [And I'm not talking SDLC. *pause* Get it? '... the cycle continues.' 'SDLC = Software Development Life Cycle. *pause* I know... I know... it's not my best stuff. (Never mind.)]<br><br>And, hey... here's another thought: Sometimes it ain't you. They could be going through some personal issues that you don't know about. (I'm sure we've all had those times when someone we know has such a strong reaction to someone or something that we find surprising, only to find out that, in most situations, it was something totally different and not you at all.)<br><br>Here's a couple of possible solutions:<br><br>Possible Solution #1<br>When you do go over to their desk to talk to them announced, ask them first if it's a good time for them. [Even if you make small-talk (Please see my earlier 'fine' example in paragraph #2. *smiling*) and then ask them anything, that's really not much different than just walking over there and asking them the question. (Some folks may feel that you are being rude and disrespectful of their time by you asking them anything when I'm sure that this is not what you intended to do at all.)]<br><br>By asking them first if it's a good time for them, you are requesting something, not demanding it. *pause* I know... I know... the word, 'demanding,' probably got you a little irritated, however, seriously... think about it. By you asking them if it's a good time for them, you're being respectful of their time. Now the onus is up to them to say if it is or not. (Please keep in mind that this still can be hard for some folks but, hey, work with me, sister.) By you asking if they have time for you and they don't, you won't react (e.g. take it personally) by feeling that they're not being nice because you know that they're busy. Then it's just a matter of finding out what time works for them.<br><br>Possible Solution #2: Find out the best way to communicate with specific folks. Some folks may prefer a different medium other than face-to-face [e.g. email, IM, (scheduled) meeting, telephone, etc.].<br><br>Anyway, that's my two (nice) cents.

January 6, 2010 - 3:05am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Melanie, your ideas sound sensible to me. <br><br>Each organization has its own culture, and individuals are highly complex. Whatever works to foster a safe, respectful, learning culture is good.

January 6, 2010 - 3:14am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Several years ago I worked for a boss that was verbally abusive. I put up with it for a couple years only because finding a job is not exactly a fun nor quick proposition. This was ten years ago so the economy was not as bad as it is these days. I'd finally had enough of this inappropriate behavior from my boss and had fortunately found a new position and was able to leave that position. <br><br>Now I work in a totally different environment where everyone considers the team first. It's not always consistent because we're human. People make mistakes and have bad days and act grumpy. I believe life is too short to continue working in an environment where people mistreat each other. People mistreat coworkers for all sorts of reasons but it's not worth ruining your health staying in a job where it's pretty obvious that coworkers and/or bosses will not compromise and could care less about the feelings of others. If people have the attitude of my way or the high way and they won't take the highway, you might want to consider looking for another job. <br><br>Believe me, a good boss makes all the difference in the world. The boss is the one who determines whether members of a work group work together cooperatively or are at each others throats.

January 7, 2010 - 1:43am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

The description of somebody as "nice" does not mean that the person cannot be tough, demanding and disciplined. It does mean that the person cannot act like a jerk.<br><br>For example, when reviewing a document -- even if is a lousy piece of work -- first thank the person for producing it and sending it to your for review. Then point out at least one thing that is good. Only then launch into the comments (aka things that needs to be fixed or improved), in all cases sticking to constructive criticism as opposed to sarcasm, snearing or personal attacks.

January 12, 2010 - 7:22pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

It's difficult enough to garner respect as a tester from the development community, so to have a tester (albeit a well known one Mr. Bach) trash another tester, further diminishes the work we do. Shame on you for making this a public slap in the head. Guess where you say in your website that you want to 'infect people' with the excitement of testing, you meant a negative virus. Pitiful.<br><br>Lisa, I worked with you a bit in AT&T some time ago and I fully support your comments. Sometimes we can just be awful to each other and it makes coming to work such a chore and totally de-motivates you. Nice may be a common word, much like 'normal' is. But once you are on the other side of those words, coming back to nice and normal can seem like heaven.

January 12, 2010 - 7:48pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Donna, it's so nice to get back in touch with you here in cyberspace! I really enjoyed working with your team at AT&T. Everyone was professional and enjoyable to work with, even in those high-stress times leading up to a release of a huge and complex project. I have many happy memories from that time. I really do think civility and respect make a huge difference. We may not remember later on the exact things people say to us, but we remember how they made us feel.

January 12, 2010 - 10:46pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

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March 16, 2010 - 4:18am

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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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