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Ask Slashdot: Communication Skills For Programmers?

timothy posted about 5 months ago | from the especially-when-the-idiots-are-in-charge dept.

Communications 361

An anonymous reader writes "As a new developer at a young-ish software company, I've been told my communication skills need some work. I'm not painfully introverted or socially inept, but I get lost in my work and only contact people if I need something from them or they ask me a question. Traditional advice isn't relevant to casual, less hierarchical companies — I don't have to hold my tongue when someone is wrong or worry about formalities. But I do need to connect with people professionally, since my team members and managers decide my perf and advancement. How do you keep colleagues abreast of your work without having exponentially many needless conversations?"

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361 comments

Beat them (-1, Troll)

TempleOS (3394245) | about 5 months ago | (#45402353)

You beat those niggers, and beat them over the head some more and beat them some more... You cannot beat it into them, sadly.

Re:Beat them (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402879)

all these years, all those posts, it was you

this whole time it was YOU

MODS PLEASE

Re:Beat them (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45403053)

Duly noted, and targeted. -- one moderator

Needless? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402357)

So this needless communication is actually needful?

Maybe just change your attitude. Forming relationships is very important at work.
Are you sure "communication skills" means that you aren't socializing enough? Perhaps your emails are inadequate, you aren't keeping people informed, aren't discussing ideas with others or are not adequately explaining your ideas.

The fact that you only talk to people when you need some from them is a problem. What about brain storming? Design meetings? Code reviews?

Getting to know people and taking an interest in their lives doesn't hurt either.

Re:Needless? (4, Insightful)

khasim (1285) | about 5 months ago | (#45402757)

It could just be his manager. I've often been dinged for "communication". As have most of the techs that I've worked with. It's an easy stereotype.

Now look at the manager who is putting that on a review. Has he been pointing out better ways you've could have communicated as they've happened? No? Then it is a problem with your manager or the system he has to follow.

The best anecdote for that is from a friend of mine who's boss (former tech with no management training) told him not to include him on his weekly updates for a specific project. Then dinged him for "communication" because he should have known to include him in his weekly updates.

Too often "communication" translates to "you are not my drinking buddy". And if evaluations are based upon that then you should find a better job where your boss understands "communication" himself.

Re:Needless? (1, Interesting)

Jeff Flanagan (2981883) | about 5 months ago | (#45403043)

>Too often "communication" translates to "you are not my drinking buddy".

It can also mean don't be an introverted dork who's only there to work. People will dislike you if you only communicate with them when you need something.
Source: I was once an introverted dork, but got medicated for my social-dysfunction, and am now an outgoing person who gets along well with co-workers.

Re:Needless? (2)

buswolley (591500) | about 5 months ago | (#45402759)

Agree. Communication skills = politik = Bullshit because communications skills just mean understanding people's turf, and how not to step on it (unless intentionally). Its this kind of bullshit that allows inept people to continue, bad ideas to live longer, or people having to choose between quality work and covering their bosses (and friend's) behinds. All you should need to do is: Be nice. Be kind. Say hello. Don't be abrupt. Say thank you. Do your job expertly. Be helpful and willing and understanding.

Beer (2)

flyingfsck (986395) | about 5 months ago | (#45402771)

You should be familiar with the proverb "Free as in Beer". There is also another use for beer: It loosens tongues.

How to be a Star Engineer (4, Insightful)

SirGarlon (845873) | about 5 months ago | (#45402947)

The fact that you only talk to people when you need some from them is a problem.

This.

Years ago, my boss pointed me to a good article titled "How to Be a Star Engineer. [encribd.net]" (Apologies for the annoying format; if you're an IEEE member or university student you can download a PDF [ieee.org]).

The article essentially says communication skills and attitude are what differentiates star performers from the rank and file. Understand the people you're working with, what they need, and provide that. Everyone will enjoy working with you, and you will become well-known.

Re:Needless? (4, Interesting)

s.petry (762400) | about 5 months ago | (#45403093)

I think you cover a some important aspects, but I do have a couple things to add.

Communications can not only be lacking, but contain too much information. I had a manager long ago that told me to use Word's grammar check and don't produce anything over an 8th grade reading level when communications were going to non-technical staff. He also told me to limit emails to one topic, even dealing with technical issues, so that people could not confuse issues. That has turned out to be very sage advice in my career, and I have since adapted my own style for technical emails where management is included. I add technical notes after my signature, and in the summary email I tell people to review "technical details" if they need or desire the technical details. That habit saves me writing two emails for everything, but does not confuse the non-technical people.

Something else I do with certain management types is to simply set a reminder to send out a periodic status update on large projects. If you have your head buried in your work, but nobody is aware of what you are doing, you are not seen as really working. A very simple status message helps people gain and keep confidence in your work ethics.

Lastly, periodically ask for assistance with small things. Even if you don't need the assistance, it lets people know you are there and working for a "team" as opposed to being the guy with the "Red Stapler".

First, learn the proper use of "exponentially" - (-1, Flamebait)

DontScotty (978874) | about 5 months ago | (#45402359)

First, learn the proper use of "exponentially" -

Second, the entire conversation CAN have important and non-important content. If something is completely needless, then inject something of need if it is indeed a conversation.

Third, stop wearing the "Bazinga" shirt. It is not helping your cause.

Re:First, learn the proper use of "exponentially" (4, Insightful)

Workaphobia (931620) | about 5 months ago | (#45402439)

Not to single you out when there are many other offenders around, but comments like yours remind me of something I don't miss on slashdot. You open up with an unsound criticism of someone's word choice ("exponentially" has an informal non-technical definition that does not equate to geometric growth). You close with a sarcastic putdown. You sandwich good stuff in-between.

Re:First, learn the proper use of "exponentially" (1)

Bigbutt (65939) | about 5 months ago | (#45402459)

Awwwwwwww

Can I keep my Soft Kitty poster up? :)

[John]

Re:First, learn the proper use of "exponentially" (1)

barlevg (2111272) | about 5 months ago | (#45402557)

Exponentially implies that the growth rate is proportional to the population size. So if the author's point is that every conversation he has leads to two more (matching my experience) then "exponentially" is used correctly.

Re:First, learn the proper use of "exponentially" (1)

donscarletti (569232) | about 5 months ago | (#45402977)

I think GP is objecting to "exponentially many", which although is a syntactically legal adverb + adjective combination, the issue is that "many" is not an appropriate adjective since it does not suggest any form of comparison or rate that could have an exponential relationship. I would suggest adjectives "more", "greater", or a participle like "increasing" to sound more natural and logical.

This is one of those things that would sound natural if said in conversation, but stands out as somewhat wrong in written English.

This is one of the few times in Slashdot where critiquing the story's grammar is completely on-topic and productive, since we have little else to judge the submitter's communication skills by.

How to win friends and Influence people. (4, Interesting)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | about 5 months ago | (#45402363)

Buy it, and read it. Then read it again.
This book changed my life. I had no idea how bad I was at dealing with people until I read it. I re-read it at least once a year.
http://www.amazon.com/How-Win-Friends-Influence-People/dp/0671723650 [amazon.com]

Re:How to win friends and Influence people. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402535)

Or better yet, take the Dale Carnegie course. Many employers will pay for the whole thing.

Re:How to win friends and Influence people. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402721)

Blech... Oh that brings back memories of taking that course. There are some basic techniques they cover that are valuable... Most I've never used, except for that trick they use to memorize a list of 12 things...

Re:How to win friends and Influence people. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402699)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011)

"Buy it, and read it. Then read it again.
This book changed my life. I"

Stopping being a drunken bum helps too, I guess.

Re:How to win friends and Influence people. (1)

alexander_686 (957440) | about 5 months ago | (#45402725)

It’s a great book but I find it a bit overrated. It focuses on acting like an extrovert and surface characteristics.

I would counter balance that book with one on listening, the other half (and much neglected part) of communication. Unfortunately I can’t think of any off the top of my head. Susan Cain put out a excellent book called “Quite”. It’s not quite on point for this topic but it may be worth a read.

Re:How to win friends and Influence people. (1)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | about 5 months ago | (#45402859)

I found that it covered listening quite well. Perhaps a different perspective when reading.
I point out that book, because it is actually readable. Not only that, it is enjoyable to read. Has some great examples, and some interesting stories to illustrate its points.
To each their own.

Default ding. (2, Insightful)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 5 months ago | (#45402367)

If you didn't screwup in any other way, your manager will put 'communication skills need work' just so it looks like he did something during the last review period.

Send an email to the whole team at the end of each day, summarizing what you've been doing.

Re:Default ding. (2)

angel'o'sphere (80593) | about 5 months ago | (#45402471)

Send an email to the whole team at the end of each day, summarizing what you've been doing.
That is definitely the most stupid thing to do.
I don't want every evening (or next morning) an email from every colleague. Neither do they!

Re:Default ding. (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 5 months ago | (#45402671)

Who cares what you want? I sure don't. This is a show for the boss.

If you don't have the skills to route my daily BS update somewhere more appropriate then your inbox maybe you should look for new line of work.

Re:Default ding. (1)

Lieutenant_Dan (583843) | about 5 months ago | (#45402785)

If you don't have the skills to route my daily BS update somewhere more appropriate then your inbox maybe you should look for new line of work.

Project Management?

Seriously, one could make the argument that for a comprehensive communication skill-set, knowing who you should be engaging is as important as the actual message.

Re:Default ding. (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 5 months ago | (#45402931)

I assume his project manager is already aware of his completed items.

This is a show for the boss. He will see the mail distribution list and think: 'This guy is keeping his teammates in the loop.' or some other meaningless bunch of buzzwords.

The whole point is to appear to be doing something about it. Even if daily emails are kind of 'scrummy' they are easy to ignore.

Re:Default ding. (1)

Bigbutt (65939) | about 5 months ago | (#45402505)

Shoot, you should be keeping track _anyway_, if nothing else for your reviews. I wrote a personal webapp that makes it easy for me to keep track of what I do, especially since I'm working on lots of little things and several big things. Then when review time comes around I can just review the year's work, filter out the misc cruft, rewrite the remaining into several paragraphs, and submit that.

[John]

Re:Default ding. (1)

six025 (714064) | about 5 months ago | (#45402631)

Send an email to the whole team at the end of each day, summarizing what you've been doing.

Please don't do this. Updates are good, but not every day via email. It's just annoying and a waste of everyones time. Can you imagine if everyone took this advice? 20 status update emails each day at 4:30, ffs ;-)

As for the main question: go make tea a couple of times a day, or grab some water instead of staying chained to your desk. Set an alarm if you have to. Walking around the office you will bump in to people, which is a good opportunity to say hi, tell them what you're up to or find out what they are up to.

Classic water cooler stuff, really.

Also don't make the mistake of thinking it's really easy for everyone else to start up conversation, and that you have some problem. Pretty much everyone one of us has some kind of hangup, phobia, social awkwardness that makes communication difficult - it just manifests itself in different ways. For example, someone might be an extrovert to compensate for feeling inadequate around other people. Inside, the same voice of self doubt is telling us "don't do that, it will only end in failure".

Hint: it won't or rarely does. There is nothing to lose from saying Hi to your colleagues.

Peace,
Andy.

Re:Default ding. (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 5 months ago | (#45403005)

Unless the boss sees you communicating with your coworkers it might as well have never happened.

Daily updates are a show you put on for the boss. They are easy to create (just copy yesterdays and change the details) and equally easy to ignore.

Re:Default ding. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402783)

I'm not a programmer, but a manager did this to me one time. He was limited on money and needed an excuse to not give me a raise or promotion, he thought he could get away with saying I was too quiet. He also lived in fear of offending the old fogeys at that office and wasn't about to promote a younger person. I didn't like it there and quit. There were obvious reasons to be quiet, it was a bad environment and one guy was attacking me and making my life suck for no real reason.

You can let your work speak for you, if people get onto you about not making emotional connections that is not your problem, you didn't write "bubbly personality" on your resume. On the other hand it is nice to get updates on your project and keep people updated on what you are doing. Management is supposed to do this with project meetings. If they don't then they might expect you to pick up the slack. I request information and tell my manager what I am doing as often as I can.

Re:Default ding. (1)

Escogido (884359) | about 5 months ago | (#45402891)

Send an email to the whole team at the end of each day, summarizing what you've been doing.

What? That's exactly what the morning standup is for.

Re:Default ding. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402939)

Yep, but apparently communication skills not important when hiring cheap labor that can't speak English very well. Many times I have had to deal with foreigners that can't even speak the language. I call it bullshit managers trying to justify their jobs.

Re:Default ding. (1)

westlake (615356) | about 5 months ago | (#45403003)

If you didn't screwup in any other way, your manager will put 'communication skills need work' just so it looks like he did something during the last review period.

This is the "feel good" answer that tells the geek he doesn't have a problem.

In real life, "Poor communication skills" often translates as "Doesn't work or play well with others."

Needless Conversation? (1)

scuzzlebutt (517123) | about 5 months ago | (#45402369)

What is a needless conversation? If connecting to your coworkers leads to career advancement and increased income, wouldn't it behoove you to reach out a little and, I don't know, talk to others? You're not a robot, right?

Re:Needless Conversation? (0)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 5 months ago | (#45402703)

Social engineering to increase your income makes you the worst person.

in b4 people replying angrily to justify this manipulative behaviour

5 minutes a day (2)

FatAlb3rt (533682) | about 5 months ago | (#45402373)

Send or post a short note each day where your supervisor can/will read it -
* What I finished - accomplishments, problems solved
* What's coming up - milestones, issues or possible stumbling blocks

That'll keep him in the loop and any conversations can be spurred from there.

Re:5 minutes a day (1)

Will.Woodhull (1038600) | about 5 months ago | (#45403017)

Send or post a short note each day where your supervisor can/will read it -
* What I finished - accomplishments, problems solved
* What's coming up - milestones, issues or possible stumbling blocks

Doing this weekly or monthly would usually be sufficient. Daily would be seen as pestering. You should keep a daily journal that includes your ToDo list, that shows the above, but that's not for communicating with anyone. That's CYA when things go wrong. You let your boss know that you are keeping it, but you don't let him or anyone else see it unless you have to defend yourself. You can do things like pipe up in a team meeting "Hey, I ran into a problem like that a couple of years ago. I could rummage around in my notes, and tell you how I fixed it if you want." Give others the opportunity to invite you to help them. While establishing this as a valid part of your workload, and not you trying to make brownie points instead of doing your job.

At the same time that you send your weekly or monthly "Here's what I'm doing" email to the boss (and to no one else), send out an email to the boss AND colleagues about the upcoming problems you anticipate, especially anything where you think you may need to do some research. The formula is "I'm going to need to expurgilate the southern database in a week or two, but I haven't done that for a while. Any ideas on where I can read up on the process? How about if I just do a normal cathartic exorcism of the index. I don't thing that would work but maybe I'm missing something?"

Spice that up with random requests for non-technical help and reportage of non-technical problems: "My Harley's clutch is beginning to slip a little, makes it hard to pop a good wheelie. Any suggestions about good bike mechanics?" Or "They are are going to be tearing up Interstate 12, starting next Monday. What are you guys going to use as a detour?"

You answered yourself. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402381)

"I don't have to hold my tongue when someone is wrong or worry about formalities"

You may not have to, but if you are abrasive or laden with four letter words, you are shooting yourself in the foot. It turns off co-workers, and customers alike. Clean up your speech. Learn to tell someone they're full of bull without directly stating it. Find any number of books about learning to sway others opinion rather than going right at them.

Re:You answered yourself. (1)

SirGeek (120712) | about 5 months ago | (#45402691)

It isn't necessarily the "what you said", its the "how you say it".
  1. If you need to email someone, don't forget to be pleasant (it actually can make a huge difference - saying something as simple as "Hi Jim, I wanted to let you know that there may be a problem with your spec. I believe it should be .... Thanks Mike."
  2. If you're replaying to an email/communication with lots of people, be specific in whom you respond to (i.e. the "Hi Jim" comment above). It makes you come across as much less "curt" or blunt.
  3. Ask the more senior programmers for advice there. They will know the 'political landscape' too.

As for keeping the team informed, ASK THEM WHAT THEY WANT :-\

It may be as simple as telling them "I've met milestone 20131112, I'm moving on to the next task unless someone needs me to work on something else."

Re:You answered yourself. (1)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about 5 months ago | (#45402747)

The only reason to read those books is to be clearer about when other people are trying to manipulate you.

Honestly, OP, please don't go down/up this "how to climb the greasy pole" route. Continue being polite but plain.

It seems OP's problem isn't his honesty, but his lack of ability to communicate updates.

Vague criticism (3, Interesting)

Workaphobia (931620) | about 5 months ago | (#45402393)

Did the person who told you this give you any more detail? Are you not engaging often enough, or are you not good at explaining yourself and listening during the times when you are engaged in conversation? The former is partly a matter of being friendly/comfortable with the people you're around. The latter is critical thinking -- what do I understand, what do they understand, will this choice of words be interpreted how I want, etc.

Re:Vague criticism (1)

TechnoGrl (322690) | about 5 months ago | (#45402789)

I have to agree with the above. Put your communications skills to work and go to the manager who told you this and politely ask for some concrete things you can do to improve as well as some past examples of where he believes you went wrong. Slashdot isn't going to (can't) help you with those things.

If in the hopefully unlikely chance your manager is not able to provide concrete examples of mistakes and ways to improve then you are being screwed over and that last "criticism" was actually a heads up for you that your next performance review and eventually your job is in jeopardy (been there and got the pink slip) . In such a case start networking around the company and see if you land a position with a different manager asap.

Re:Vague criticism (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45403115)

Your supervisor may be able to provide some insight in their perception. However a supervisor - employee relationship is not a one way street. If you walk in and say what's wrong with my communication, then you are putting the burden on the supervisor to identify and provide a solution for the perceived issue.

Instead, bring to your supervisor your own observations around your "communications issue" and potential solutions. Run them by your supervisor. By attempting to solve the problem yourself you will be seen less as a "communications issue" and more as a team member working to resolve issues.

Finally, I would recommend finding a senior co-worker whose opinion you trust and ask their opinion on the feedback first. Let them provide guidance and if they do mention that when you ask your supervisor. The last thing that a supervisor wants to do is solve communication problems for individuals that could be solved by interactions between team members. Instead they would rather be working on advancing the technology you were all hired to work on.

Have More Needless Conversations (3, Insightful)

Bigbutt (65939) | about 5 months ago | (#45402417)

I'm fairly introverted (18 out of 20) but I also make time to walk around Operations (I'm a Unix Admin) and chat. While I'm not a sports person, there are folks who share the same interests. So finding out about a few guys who play guitar lets me chat about guitars (or bass). I get to poke at the guys who ride cruisers (I'm not quite old enough for a cruiser yet :) ) and share stories about my own touring rides (going to Alaska again next year). Several are gamers of one sort or another so there's some cross discussion there, even over in Engineering where there's a fellow Shadowrun gamer and another guy who plays Bass.

Heck when I worked at IBM, one of the jobs was remote 100% remote (me here, a couple of folks in Rochester NY, one in Seattle, one in Austin, a couple in New Jersey, and a couple of guys in Boston where the contract was). I had a problem with it _because_ there was no interaction outside of work conversation.

Sure, you're a working guy but networking, even amongst your coworkers is important.

[John]

Communication skills are largely overrated (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402425)

You would be surprised how important little things can be, like a good stapler, preferably of an easy to spot color.
Remember if you don't get the respect you deserve you can always burn the building down.

Re:Communication skills are largely overrated (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402465)

Mod parent up - in flames.

The purpose of conversation is to listen and learn (2)

presidenteloco (659168) | about 5 months ago | (#45402451)

If you think that way, rather than: The purpose of conversation is to tell people what I'm thinking, then you will be a better communicator.
Listen, process what the other person's motives and needs are, and take the opportunity to learn something from them or their perspective.

It you think you know it all already, you are already done, in any business or endeavour.
If you think you know it all and can only pass on information, you are not really that valuable a contributor, because you are probably working hard and cleverly on the wrong problem altogether.

There is always something to learn by active listening. You get more out of conversation that way; appreciation, and knowledge, cumulatively.

Ask Questions (3, Interesting)

Mr D from 63 (3395377) | about 5 months ago | (#45402453)

Communication is a two way thing...your goal should be as much to find out about what others are doing as it is to inform them. Ask what they are doing, listen, then you can relate your similar experiences in response. Ask for advice or confirmation of ideas...people love to be asked to provide advice, and they'll gladly listen to what you are doing in order to be able to fulfill that desire.

People skills (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402461)

I have people skills. I deal with the goddamn customers, so the engineers don't have to!
What do you people want from me!??!?

Re:People skills (1)

jasper160 (2642717) | about 5 months ago | (#45403079)

That's all I heard when reading the OP. Bob Slydell: So what you do is you take the specifications from the customers and you bring them down to the software engineers.....

You have needless conversations. (3, Informative)

jerpyro (926071) | about 5 months ago | (#45402467)

I hate to say it but the retention rate for programmers is higher than everyone else. So, when you go to advertise what you've been working on (and yes, it's advertising) sometimes you'll have to re-hash the conversation four or five times. The trick is to re-hash the ideas and talk about things in a different way each time so that the topic doesn't get stale to the audience.

I wish (as do many programmers) that advancement was about nothing but pure ROI to the company (including future ROI) but it doesn't work that way. It's hard to measure, is labor intensive to figure out, and is a waste of time in a small company. So, failing that, you rely on marketing. How you get along with people, small talk, casual banter, idea roundtables at lunch breaks, those all contribute to your "brand image" and you need to take advantage of that image to paint a perception of intellectual value at your company. Make sure you're good enough to provide deliverables to back up your image. You also need to pick one or two things to be REALLY good at so that other people can ask you for help. Helping people helps you.

Gaming (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402479)

Pick a common ground. Start asking coworkers about what games they play, what hobbies they have, etc... That will start friendly conversations from which useful ones can bud.

3 tips (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402485)

1) Give short, frequent, and unsolicited updates. "Hey, still working on that project. I should have something to you by today. Hound my ass tomorrow if you don't have anything in your inbox from me."

2) Shoot the shit. Talk about the game, whatever sport it might be. Didn't watch the game? Look at the highlights. Go to espn.com and look at the score. Read the news related to sports. Or, if you don't like sports at all, ask people how their weekends were. And remember things about people. Someone tells you their son was sick over the weekend? Ask him the next day how his son is feeling. It's this kind of interpersonal interactions that are so important to the company and your career. They aren't necessarily value-add to a project, but they are value-add to your connection to other people, and you ultimately become a stronger employee in the company.

3) Make jokes when working. If you work in a small office that's relatively new (i.e. startup), then chances are you can joke about things that would normally get people written up by an HR department. I'm not saying be crass or creepy, but you can make fun of your team mates once in a while after you've established a good relationship.

Managers.. (3, Insightful)

sqorbit (3387991) | about 5 months ago | (#45402493)

I think many companies miss the point of good managers. I've had the positive experience of managing a small group of developers and they relied heavily on me to talk with other managers and upper management when it came to projects. I myself understand programming but am not a programmer myself, my background is based in networking and databases admin. I understood that developers needed time and resources to resolve issues or develop new products. It was my job to make sure the programmers had the resources they needed and also to make sure that upper management had a clear understanding of the time table and end result. This made the developers more comfortable and gave management the go between they needed to fully understand project needs. Everyone can not be great at everything, and if a developer is great at coding, but not so good at dealing with management why not have someone who understands be the communicator. Middle management often gets a horrible reputation for being a roadblock, but in some cases it can be exactly what is needed.

Start by asking for more specific feedback (5, Insightful)

MAXOMENOS (9802) | about 5 months ago | (#45402511)

You've been told that your communication skills need some work. Part of communicating is asking for, and learning how to receive, feedback. So, I'd suggest the following:

  • Go to the people who gave you the advice to improve your communications skills
  • Ask them if they can point to specific areas where your communication needs work, and to provide examples
  • Listen to what they say. Take notes - just bullet points - of the important stuff. Sub-bullet the examples, if provided.
  • When they're done giving you specifics, ask them if they might have pointers on where to learn more about improving those areas.
  • Dedicate real time - an hour a week at least - towards improving those areas.
  • Practice, practice, practice, every opportunity you get.

DO NOT:

  • Get defensive
  • Retaliate
  • Brush off their advice

Good luck.

Re:Start by asking for more specific feedback (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402717)

Each person is unique and brings their own skills and background together for the betterment of the company. It sounds like you are doing a good job. I would suspect that whoever said "you need improvement" was just trying to let you know that his communication skills are better than yours (at least in his own mind). We keep hearing that DIVERSITY is so important in the workplace. They should accept you as you are as long as you are not screwing things up. Or how about we go around the room and you can point out ways each of your co-workers can "improve".

Lunch (2)

Jeremi (14640) | about 5 months ago | (#45402515)

The least painful (usually) technique is simply to eat lunch with one or more of your co-workers most days. You'd be surprised how much useful information gets shared that way.

Re:Lunch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402809)

I too was going to suggest lunch. Eat with them, especially if there's a common lunch room. If you have occasional meetings where people sit around with coffees then bring in scones or cookies to share. Walk around with a box of doughnuts and chat-up a few people or leave them on your desk and they will come to you.

YES YOU DO!. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402525)

Quote.

I don't have to hold my tongue when someone is wrong or worry about formalities.

YES YOU DO!.

Trust me as someone in the same shoes you need to have those little inane coffee conversations and keep people up to date. You need to appear like you care and that you are approachable. Additionally almost nobody thinks like a programmer, or if they do have your skillset. When you are trying to explain problem that they might cause downstream you need to walk everyone through so they can see it like you do. DO NOT expect them to get it and just argee the point rationally.. Additionally you will approach problems in a hyper rational manner compared to other people with different skill sets if you are a introvert. Work at it, treat it like a debug, figure out what makes someone happy and angry and the approaches they take and really think about how they are going to respond and ask yourself if it is a socially acceptable to give them that question.

Trust me as a diagnosed psychopath, old DSM, you really need to work at it. (That is why this AC)

Have lunch with people (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402533)

If you already do this, then make an effort to talk more and to ask more questions. Otherwise, take the time to go out and get lunch with your coworkers and sit down with them in the lunchroom. In my opinion, it's more important to ask questions than to talk about your own work. I know it costs money and time, but they are both well spent.

I agree with other posters that the criticism is vague, but you should ask for more precise feedback from the person who told you that. For example, a common problem is assuming too much when explaining things, but maybe yours is that you go too slowly? Get them to tell you what they think you should work on, and then get feedback from other coworkers as to whether the comments make sense to them based on what they know about you.

Needless conversations? (2)

Ravaldy (2621787) | about 5 months ago | (#45402539)

By communicating on a non-work level you let people in, making them feel more comfortable speaking with you. A good team is one that communicates often and effectively. Above all, by involving yourself in the social dynamic at your work you will gain respect from your colleges. IMHO, respect is very important if you plan on heading a team or department at a later time.

Quality or Quantity (2)

Hairy1 (180056) | about 5 months ago | (#45402545)

I think you have to first ask what is required here; whether it is simply the quantity of communication, or rather the quality. The team and communication skills of developers are more correlated with success than technical skills. Communication means being able to effectively transmit what you are thinking and understand what others are saying. Perhaps you should ask your co-workers what aspects of your communication they have difficulty with. Is it that you are unclear, or do you not communicate with those you should? Are you really listening to people; by which I mean actually taking onboard what people say? The "needless communication" phrase indicates a certain degree of hostility towards communication. Obviously you should not have 'needless' communications, but clearly your workmates believe there are issues impacting your effectiveness.

Formalities (1)

captaindomon (870655) | about 5 months ago | (#45402555)

You do need to hold your tongue and follow formalities, that is the whole point. We have thousands if years of experience as a species in how to communicate effectively. It involves watching what and how you say things, and following acceptable rules for communicating with other humans.

Writing Ability (1)

Moriarty99779 (3429543) | about 5 months ago | (#45402593)

Have you considered that this critique of your communications skills is not solely focused on your being an introvert, but rather on your ability (or inability) to effectively communicate with the written word? Where I work, I am constantly sending and receiving emails back and forth with people who are half my age who have no understanding of how to compose an email, or what kinds of details to provide in a help desk ticket, etc. When they do write, they keep it to a bare minimum - a minimum that requires me to have to exchange a ton of emails with them when it should have taken only one, or two at the most. Why they don't simply enclose the required information the first time around is beyond me. Reading the emails is maddening. Incorrect spelling, poor grammar, lack of ability to explain a concept effectively - signs our educational system is going down the toilet. I think that this behavior is somewhat due to the overuse and acceptance of SMS as being okay to communicate ideas - whether personal, or in my environment, professional. Other factors - good old-fashioned laziness, and "I don't give a damn" attitude.

Re:Writing Ability (1)

pooh666 (624584) | about 5 months ago | (#45402815)

Couldn't empathize more. I think it is somehow culture, but I am not sure from where. When I try to teach people to just, "come to class" prepared, they act like I am mean and crazy. I got bug today that indicated they did all of the work to find out it was me causing the problem, but then didn't tell me what the error actualy was or show any of their research, just hey you did this fix "it" One thing I do know, there is a culture of the short email, the higher up you go in the food chain, the shorter the email should be. It doesn't matter how complex the issue is, it should be like 100 words or less. I wonder if that ends up being pushed down to the point where people feel like a short word count is more important that practical substance.

be courteous (2)

minstrelmike (1602771) | about 5 months ago | (#45402603)

" I don't have to hold my tongue when someone is wrong or worry about formalities"
You may not be correct.
That's not quite exactly the same as saying, "You are wrong."
You may not think you have to hold your tongue, but it certainly helps if you hold it in the best position to let other people feel as self-important as you yourself like to feel. It's called empathy. Try to fake it until you make it.

Use TCP instead of UDP (1)

middlemen (765373) | about 5 months ago | (#45402607)

The only communications I know as a programmer is TCP and UDP :) Use TCP if you want a response from your manager otherwise he might be dropping his UDP packets.

Re:Use TCP instead of UDP (1)

lowen (10529) | about 5 months ago | (#45402731)

And be sure to watch the window size, the latency, and be very careful about too many dropped or NAK'ed packets.

Respect (3, Insightful)

Bovius (1243040) | about 5 months ago | (#45402635)

>I don't have to hold my tongue when someone is wrong

I respectfully disagree. You should definitely speak up if something is wrong, and it's good that you're in an environment that allows you to. That being said, I suspect that the number one "communication problem" software developers tend to have is coming across as having an overactive ego, that your word is the divine truth handed down to the unwashed tech-illiterate masses, and that their opinions don't actually matter in the face of the cold, hard facts you bring to the table. I don't think this is the dev's actual attitude (most of the time), but it's so, so easy to come across that way. Coming up with ways to share an idea while making sure your audience understands yet doesn't feel talked down to is a skill I know a lot of devs could stand to learn. If your coworkers feel respected by you, that goes a long way toward improving communications.

The other problem I see frequently is a general lack of visibility into what progress is actually being made on the seething morass of shifting dev priorities. Even something as simple as a daily/weekly project status update e-mail to the right people can do wonders here.

(This question gets deep into greater issues of how much power tech people have and their perceived role in businesses and society, which is far too big a discussion to be had here. Short version: IT experts are witches).

Full disclosure: I am a career software developer, and like to believe I do pretty good at the communicating with business thing.

Re:Respect (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45403141)

Developers also often have amusement, disbelief, ridicule or sneering on their face as they talk to people they don't consider their intellectual equal, or when they talk socially about their pet peeves. And they tend to do the latter without regard to who might be in earshot.

Non-geeky people see it as a weakness, not a strength, if you can't be respectful in conversation. They may not even believe you're technically competent if they think your social skills are weak.

Monday-morning meetings (1)

dutchd00d (823703) | about 5 months ago | (#45402647)

Something that we did at my previous job, and that I have successfully lobbied for at my current one, is the Monday-morning meeting. The whole team gets together, everyone explains - in a few short sentences - what he's currently working on, and mentions anything else people might want to know about (when they will be absent, for example). The team-leader sometimes talks a little about upcoming projects or company news. Shouldn't take more than half an hour, and everyone gets up-to-speed on what people are working on. It's sort of like the agile "stand-up meeting", only once a week instead of every day.

Maybe you could introduce something like this? After all, why should you be the only one who has to explain what they're doing?

Make some friends (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402651)

A lot about work is who you know and who likes you. When things get tough, they'll keep a friend over the cave troll who does good work but never comes out to talk to anyone. You should always go chat with people once in a while, unless they themselves are cave trolls.

It's a difficult skill to master (2)

Virtucon (127420) | about 5 months ago | (#45402707)

Unfortunately if you're a talented developer or engineer just writing good code does little for your career. If you want advancement, more responsibility and the pay that comes with it you'll have to learn to communicate effectively. I see lots of talent get pigeon holed in an organization because they can't communicate effectively or become too impassioned about something that is contrary to the perception of management because labels get attached to that individual and those are difficult to get removed. More often than not, the individual leaves or in a layoff situation, especially if that person is very vocal or sticks out like a sore thumb, they're let go. You have to be able to communicate effectively, build conclusive arguments that drive your point and learn to work with your co-workers. Nobody said you had to love everybody or live in a yellow submarine but by doing this and building consensus you can demonstrate that even though you've got talent in development or engineering you also have soft skills and soft skills pay more. I can get Java, C# or C++ developers any time but couple that with somebody who can lead a team and deal with having bumps in the road and then they're a better asset. If they have enough experience and have managed a few successful projects then they're great candidates for further advancement.

Sure, sometimes you have to play company politics and the higher you go unfortunately the more political things become but unless you have killer IP and are running your own place, you'll have to put up with it wherever you go.

Be Proactive (4, Insightful)

HtR (240250) | about 5 months ago | (#45402735)

I had a similar situation once in which I was working away as a contractor, but the manager wasn't really aware of everything I was doing.

The best advice I received, which came from an outside source, was to start emailing the team leader and the manager a quick "status" update every week. Just a quick email about what I was working on that week, what I accomplished, and any issues they should be aware of or handle. It worked very well, and it tended to cut down any interruptions from them wandering by asking me "how's it going?" As time went on, they learned to trust me more as a professional, and it became less of an issue.

Now, I hate mandated weekly status reports as much as anyone, but if the perceived problem on their end is that they don't know enough about what you're doing, I would much rather start sending them email with the relevant information. Otherwise, you might find you have to start filling out detailed weekly status reports, attending regular status update meetings, or something else more painful that a quick email.

Not Needless... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402741)

Those needless conversations aren't necessarily without purpose. I mean, sure if they come tap you on the shoulder and ask you about the weather, that's pointless. Other conversations may come across as redundant for you but they may very well be helping the people coming to you with them.

Regarding formalities. It is one thing to allow someone to finish their thought, then tactfully tell them that you disagree with that line of thinking and here is why. If on the other hand you are cutting them off mid-sentence, telling them "they" are wrong (we know you mean the idea, but its all in the wording) and the whole situation can turn into a much more hostile one over something misconstrued.

My last thought, are you only having these kinds of communication problems at work or is this something that permeates throughout your whole life? You say you aren't painfully introvert or social inept, but you aren't exactly socially graceful either I take it. I was a huge nerd in high school and really didn't learn how to be really social until my 20s. Our society really likes to be social and involve themselves in every part of our lives, so I know how frustrating it is when people just can't accept you would rather go it alone more and actually are more efficient in that manner.

What I'm saying is you may just need to fake it a bit more when it comes to the social stuff. I know its painful, seems pointless and downright wasteful but being introverted really means we have to put on our extroverted hat and burn that energy so people don't think we hate them.

Go to lunch with your co-workers (1)

CQDX (2720013) | about 5 months ago | (#45402745)

Best way to make allies at work is to spend your break time chatting with your co-workers. You should talk about non-work stuff but invariably you all will talk about work and that is how others will get an idea of what you are doing without cutting into your productive time. Also make a point of chatting with your boss when ever you see him/her in the hallway. Nothing deep, a simple "hello, how are you doing" will suffice if your boss looks busy. But you want to give the impression that you are an out-going employee that is part of the team. If you get more than a few seconds, ask how was their weekend and slip in something about your progress. The boss doesn't need the details but just the impression that you are working on something important and that you are making progress. If they boss doesn't know what you are doing, make sure to request a meeting where you can give a summary of your project and your future plans. Ask for the boss' input and advice if anything to make them feel like you respect them. If the advice is good, take it and build a working relationship with your boss. If the advice is bad, don't reject it outright but take it home and think about it, weighing the pros-and-cons. If it's still bad, formulate a friendly rebuttal on why some other direction is better. Sell yourself. Get buy in. Manager's don't like maverick's even if they are good at what they do.

The Harvard Negotiation Project (1)

NotesSensei (997996) | about 5 months ago | (#45402767)

Besides the "god gave you one mouth, but two ears" most of the communication you will need is around negotiation. Here the Harvard Center for Negotiation published an excellent series of books: Getting to Yes, Getting past No, Difficult conversations, Lateral leadership and the Power of a positive NO. I wrote a little about it: http://www.wissel.net/stw/wisselblog.nsf/d6plinks/SHWL-6LR37S [wissel.net] You also might want to check out Toastmasters who hone speaking skills or "The contrary public speaker". While they are not strictly about communication, they are about making your point understandable (litmus test: explain to a Rotary Club what a Social Graph is - they live it, but the don't use that lingo). Hope that helps

Who initiates those "needless" conversations? (1)

QuietLagoon (813062) | about 5 months ago | (#45402777)

If it is not you, then you should be spending more time listening than looking for advice on /.

.
The first thing about having a productive conversation is to listen.

You learn more when you're not talking than when you are talking.

Some things to think about (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402827)

"I don't have to hold my tongue when someone is wrong or worry about formalities."

Don't be so sure about that. While you're probably technically correct here, you may want to be aware of HOW you say what you're saying. Sure, you may not have to call your boss Sir and you may be allowed to point out when they're wrong but there's a difference between politely letting them know their statement is inaccurate and cutting them off mid sentence with a "That's wrong, you're stupid, and you should feel bad."

As a tie in here, you may want to ensure that your requests for help and responses to questions are not overly curt. If someone asks you a somewhat obvious question, it can be tempting to give the dot dot dot response ("What's the US Capital again?" "...Washington DC" read: "Are You Stupid? Washington DC"). They are asking you for help. Be genuinely helpful. If you're able to come across as emotionally invested in their success, that makes you look great.

Come across a technical issue that the Business Unit needs to be made aware of so that a decision on how to fix it can be made? Make sure you detail the issue as well as you can, in such a way that explains it so anyone can understand it. Give your honest gut instinct of what the best solution would be and why, but also give other possible solutions.

Does your Team SCRUM? If not, maybe you could suggest it (even offer to run the SCRUM meetings, taking on a leadership role). 5~10 minute morning meetings where everyone says what they did yesterday, what they're doing today, and if they need help from someone in particular in under a minute does miracles for keeping abreast with what everyone else is up to, and everyone else abreast with what you're up to.

Don't be scared of being animated in person (use your hands to talk, have facial expression, etc).

Lastly, it's entirely possible that your communication skills are absolutely fine. Outside of work. Or in a different circle of people. But that while at work you've got your business game on and for whatever reason something is telling you "Be All Business" and that that is constricting your otherwise fine communication skills.

Having been told at the following job that my communication skills needed work (and which I disagreed with, it was more along the lines of "I couldn't care less about this job, so good luck at making me productive when this was supposed to be a Web Development Position instead of a SysAdmin position"), I wouldn't find it all that surprising that Managers who are in and out of meetings all day (do a lot of talking) see someone who's zoned into their work, interrupt them for a question, and get a response with less inflection than SIRI and wonder "Sheesh, is this guy a zombie?" or similarly ask for a status update over email and get about a sentence back from their employee and think the same thing (that you need better communication).

If it helps, you can pretend your coworkers are the type of friends you'd go to the bar with (assuming this isn't going to get you written up by HR for inappropriate comments, of course).

Difficult to tell (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402839)

It's difficult to offer a solution without observation but a general rule in tech is:

1. Be good at your job.
2. Don't be an asshole.

Find out what people are hearing (1)

butabozuhi (1036396) | about 5 months ago | (#45402841)

Not 'find out the gossip around you' (although that can be helpful to know) but find out if what you're communicating (verbal, written) is conveying what you hope it communicates. Sometimes we do/do not include details that the receiver needs. Sometimes our tone isn't what we intended. The only way to find out is to ask (and hopefully the open communication culture you indicate will provide you honest and helpful feedback). Perhaps you'll discover that you need to include a little more detail (or less!) or watch how you word ideas so they don't come across poorly. On the other hand, you may discover that all your peers and friends have no issues with your communication. At that point, sit down with your manager(s) and find out what they expect. As long as the mood is positive at your company, all this is good stuff. It's when company culture starts going south (or there is a bad manager) that this kind of self-improvement/discovery can turn nasty. Clear communication is critical for great relationships at work and home. Learning about yourself and how to better communicate is a great thing at any age.

Seems Follow-up is Warranted (2)

tiberus (258517) | about 5 months ago | (#45402885)

Possibly related case:

During a review my boss remarked that my appearance was not entirely up to snuff (my words, not hers). I immediately asked for clarification and got a less than specific answer along the lines of you're usually very put together but, some days you're not, which didn't help much. Months later I was witness to a comment she made about another employees scruffiness. Note to self, she doesn't like 5 o'clock, or in my case 3rd day shadow.

More to the point, did you ask for clarification, examples, guidance? Going about this, in a "flailing in the dark" manner is unlikely to produce the desired results. Social skills covers a wide range of material.

Stow the 'Tude, Queenie (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 5 months ago | (#45402895)

Granted, I don't know Mr. Submitter from Adam, but from the tone of your post you sound like a self-aggrandizing jerk. Not only that, you also seem quite keen on talking shit on and otherwise denigrating the people who have elected to employ you (albeit in a rather passive-aggressive manner). You show a complete lack of respect for proper procedure and formality, which, regardless of your personal feelings, exist for a reason.

I'd recommend you take that chip off your shoulder poste-haste. You might be the wunderkind you think yourself, but you also might not; so, maybe try to not be such a douche-bag about "having exponentially many needless conversations" with your co-workers. Or, find a different job where you don't have to worry about being "bothered" by your contemporaries; I know lots of places with plenty of janitorial positions available.

Re:Stow the 'Tude, Queenie (1)

c0d3g33k (102699) | about 5 months ago | (#45403039)

What a fascinating example of unintentional self-referential criticism. Your comments seem more applicable to your own post than that of the submitter.

I was very similar, but eventually got social (1)

Timmy D Programmer (704067) | about 5 months ago | (#45402899)

I'm only slightly introverted, or was, now I'm a lot more social. Here is my experience, it might work for you too.

If I have a few questions for a user, sometimes rather than sending an email I will invite one of the people who depend on my work to come sit with me at my cube to go over the questions. I let them see what I am doing, discuss some of the changes, even let them see me make some of the changes while asking for their input.

Me: "So would you prefer it to tab from this field to that field, and not to that button over there like it has been?"
Coworker: "Oh yes!, can you do that to the other screen too? that always messes me up".

This can be very empowering to them, exciting to see it in action, and appreciative that you have let them have a peek in at and participate in the secret world that has so much influence on their day to day work.
Do this over time and you end up getting to know your co-workers, what they know, how they work, and maybe even make some friends.

I'm in the exact same boat. (1)

TheBilgeRat (1629569) | about 5 months ago | (#45402905)

Same setup (new hire and entry level software engineer) basically. I only get to see my team in person every Tuesday and Thursday. We have email, jabber and phone for the other days. I think the same rules apply as any IRC channel - don't be afraid to own your ignorance, but make sure you have done a modicum of research before posting to your devel team listserv or pestering your coworkers with jabber texts in the middle of code-freeze or code-bash. Take it at face value and make incremental steps and get feedback.

Learn to value the people and the relationships. (1)

BlankStare (709795) | about 5 months ago | (#45402909)

If you can learn to place an intrinsic value on the people in your workplace and your relationships with them, instead of seeing them as a means to an end, both you and they will benefit.

It could be your attitude or it could be... (1)

halcyonandon1 (1568125) | about 5 months ago | (#45402945)

I've been a developer for over 10 years and I can say that in most environments, there is a divide between tech and the rest of the company in almost every situation.

If you're struggling to communicate with other devs or your supervisor, that's a different issue.

First, an agile process, where you define user stories and commit to work in sprints, is a great communication method that integrates with your work flow. From a top level, you define the business need, then breaking it down with tasks being more technically oriented. This adds a great deal of transparency and gives the business side something written in their language that they can review and track.

I've found that my personal communication issues stem from getting too caught up in substantiating everything. As a developer, there is a highly technical, logical discourse that can be had about anything you work on. Knowing how to communicate this simply, for non-technical employees, goes a long way, but can be a challenge. When I see someone getting lost in my words, I take a step back and give that individual control of the conversation. Then, I work with that person to help them understand the topic at-hand in a more constructive way.

The other thing is, remember to listen... take notes during conversations and don't just wait for your chance to speak. Communication is really about simply finding a shared perspective to explore.

The golden rule is that technology supports the business, not the other way around.

maturing (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402973)

They hired you because your brain is wired in a uniquely valuable design; and then they turn around and complain you're not like everyone else in your communication skills. It's a tough grind many of us have had to learn our way through. Yes, it will take extra effort on your part; you can only hope those around you appreciate the effort. Find yourself a mentor; try Toastmasters or some such. The good news is you can learn!

Sheldon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#45402979)

Is that you Sheldon?

Innovative company? Innovate communication (1)

realsilly (186931) | about 5 months ago | (#45402999)

OK, so you write code for a living and only reach out to people when you need an answer to a question.

Sounds like you might need a daily blog / journal. I've seen co-workers post a daily summary of what tasks / actions were worked on and the journal is injected with a few humorous lines of the individual's personal views. This is a form of communication that may suit your style better.
    * It provides team members the opportunity to know what your working on, and may encourage them to share ideas or come to you for fresh ideas.
    * It allows management the ability to keep apprised of the work your doing without having to bug you while you're in the middle of a train of thought.
    * For some colleagues, it will give them an insight in to your personality without you having to hang out by the water cooler.
    * It helps you remember what you did so that one day when you have to produce a weekly status report, you've already captured your tasks current and completed.

Communication does not always mean you'll be caught up in political BS at work.
Communication builds trust with colleagues.
Communication is not a needless skill, but it is a dying art.

You know you're a great communicator when you can basically tell someone to "go to hell" in such a way that they think the idea is theirs and look forward to the trip.

Good luck.

A couple of observations (4, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 5 months ago | (#45403011)

My first manager always told me that I needed better communication skills. Mostly this was because she was incompetent and couldn't keep track of her own work much less those reporting to her. In hindsight, I do not blame her, but rather the organization that promoted someone beyond what their skill set could handle.

At the same time, I did work on my communication and organizational skills. Since then I've earned five or six promotions and get consistently high marks in both of these areas. In my twenty years of a professional career, six in management, I've learned quite a bit and learned it can be distilled into just a couple of points

1) Know your audience.

This is the most important aspect of communication. My direct reports have learned (and I have told them) that I trust them and only expect a minimum of communication on a daily basis. I like status reports on a daily or near daily basis that let me know if you are on track. I also want to see reports when you see things going off track. Then we can sit down, go into more detail and I can do my job of providing additional resources or a manager's voice to get cooperation. If it is urgent, see me immediately. if not, it can wait for our 1:1. I want my employees to be able to work without getting sucked into a lot of meeting, be allowed to take ownership of their projects but then leverage my position when they need it.

But that is just me. Some managers want to be in the middle of every technical decision. While I don't agree with this management style, if that is your manager, adapt to his style. If he likes face-to-face daily, then give him the meetings. If he prefers a daily email, go that route. If he is a drop-by-meeting manager (I hate them) then keep talking points by your desk so you are ready.

How do you learn your manager's style? If he is good, he will explicitly tell you. Most managers are not good, however and don't receive any type of training. If this is the case, I'm sure you know who his favorites in the office are. Emulate parts of their style, or explicitly ask them how they deal with the boss. Also, occasionally, ask the boss how you are doing with communication. It will help reinforce that you are trying and he will generally view that favorably. Perception is at least half of the battle on communication...

For non-boss coworkers, communication is easier if you are already communicating well with the boss. Daily statuses on projects via email is likely the route to go. Whatever you are sending to the boss, send a similar update to your team. Develop a standard template so busy readers can scan for what they are looking for.

2) Be Consistent

For each of my direct reports, I created a template for our weekly 1:1's. There are 5-7 items on each that I go through. Sometimes most of the items will be "nothing to report". Others, there are lots. But by being consistent, I make sure everything is covered. I do the same for those I report to, either directly or as part of a project team. If you go the route of daily email updates, make sure they are done every time and have a consistent format. This will help you to be efficient with your time. Then make sure you follow through each day or however often you decide to. This creates a healthy habit in yourself, keeps people in the loop and reinforces the perception that you are an organized team player.

3) Get to the Point in EMail

Folks are busy, so spend a few minutes and think through a problem before emailing on it. When I see a long email on a subject, I immediately assume the person hasn't thought it through themselves and is looking for me to solve the problem. Don't spend three pages writing an essay. Don't go past three back and forths on an email chain. If you really need someone else to help solve something and you can't express it in two or three paragraphs, have a conversation.

Finally, a few minor points
* When getting an assignment, repeat it back to the person who assigned it so they can confirm. In most cases, follow up with an email your understanding
* A business communication course is a good idea if you really want to work on your skills
* No matter how good of a communicator you are, you will still deal with less-than-perfect communicators and often have to report to those people. Always cover your butt with email communication.

Good First Start (1)

Ronin Developer (67677) | about 5 months ago | (#45403049)

Best advice is don't reveal more than you need to share and, when you do share, do it in a clear, concise and non-rude manner.

Learning proper English (or your native language) vs slang is important in conversation and documents you prepare internally and for clients.

I have actually received resumes written in "text" speak. And, no, I am not kidding. Can you guess who didn't get hired?

Start smoking (1)

ottawanker (597020) | about 5 months ago | (#45403111)

In my experience if you really want to 'fit in' and be part of the group you need to start smoking. Those 5 or 10 minute breaks they take every hour to go outside to smoke is when they do all their social networking.

Read Fiction (1)

ddtstudio (61065) | about 5 months ago | (#45403127)

And by that I mean non-SF fiction (what's called in the article I'll link to "literary fiction"). Research has suggested that reading this sort of thing, as opposed to man pages, SF, or journals, improves empathy and communication skills: http://www.theguardian.com/books/booksblog/2013/oct/08/literary-fiction-improves-empathy-study [theguardian.com]

Also, learn about different types of intelligence. Daniel Goleman's books are a good place to start.

Basically, don't neglect non-STEM topics in your, your friends', or your children's education. You may think that you'll never need to learn how to diagram a sentence, or the history of philosophy, or art theory, for work, and so you ignore them because programming shows your big brain to its advantage, but: you have to work with people, share ideas, listen to other ideas, if you really want to do something great. Or, you know, be a human.

Find out from the source - the manager (3, Informative)

Stolpskott (2422670) | about 5 months ago | (#45403133)

The manager is the one who has made this comment, so I would surmise that one of two scenarios is at work here:
1. The manager has either noticed for themselves, or they have received feedback about you, to the effect that you do not communicate effectively with others within the company.
2. The manager is looking for a reason to give you a less-than-excellent performance review (a couple of potential reasons for this, the most common one being that the less than perfect review impacts your bonus, thus saving money for the company; alternatively, this could simply be a manager who just does not give excellent reviews because they think it leads to complacent employees).

In both cases, the best thing to do is ask the manager for their advice. You are a young, (relatively) inexperienced person on the team, and from my perspective it is safe to assume that you are interested in improving yourself and doing the best job that you can - that means that if you could self-identify things you can do better, you would have done so and be doing them. So take the manager to one side and explain that you are looking for some specific input about what areas of communication could be improved. Usually in my experience, where it is not a matter of the manager finding fault to save on bonus payments, it is not about communicating more, but more effectively. If that is the case, the best advice I could give is to look up a public speaking organisation - Toastmasters (www.toastmasters.org) is one of the more common ones, and one that I have worked with for a few years. You can learn more about effective communication, and also about leadership as well, both of which will carry your career a lot further if you are a good programmer, than just being a good programmer.

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