Computer programming can often be a stressful career with the deadlines and the continuous problems to solve. It’s all part of the routine of working in a team in a fast-paced environment with different personalities and characteristics involved. No two people are the same, and sometimes the differences can make the workplace difficult to maneuver.
One of the biggest challenges about learning how to work in that environment is understanding how to work on a team. Like any other skill, it must be developed and honed during years of experience.
After over 26 years of working on teams as a developer, these are my 10 best practices for being a team player:
1. Help people when you can. Be forthcoming with information. Share your knowledge. You are part of a team. If you discover something, such as a solution to an issue or a new tool that will make life easier, pass it on to the others. They’ll appreciate it and may return the favor some day.
2. Don’t take things personally. Don’t overreact to criticism. As a programmer, others on your team are there to review your work. They may point out issues or mistakes that you didn’t think of. Don’t be defensive, take it constructively.
3. Read and try to understand all your emails. Even if it’s a broadcast to all employees, it’s important that you assess what the impact is to you specifically. Ask questions if you don’t understand something.
4. Respond to requests in a timely way. If someone asks you to carry out a task, calculate the priority against your other requirements and complete the work accordingly. Provide statuses as you go along, and let others know if the work will be delayed.
5. Communicate with team members. Work with other people on the team, not against them. Make sure the lines of contact are open. Don’t assume you can or should do everything yourself.
6. Learn about your teammates. Spend some time to get to know people on a personal level. Don’t be pushy but find openings to ask about their hobbies and/or families. You may find some true friends for life.
7. Assume every day will be a good one. Be friendly. Go to work every day with a positive attitude. Smile and say hello to people. It will be contagious.
8. Learn as much as you can each day. There are many tools and practices to be understood in a programming job. Make it a point to ask questions and be curious about the things that are happening around you.
9. Don’t treat others badly. Learn to laugh a bit at yourself and with your other team members, never at them. Don’t be a gossip or a bully.
10. When you need a break, take it. If you work with people constantly for days at a time, it can be a strain. If you have the opportunity, and it doesn’t affect your work, give some distance.
All these items have one thing in common — they reflect a positive, constructive attitude. If just one person on the team is an optimist, it can change the whole outlook of the group. Try it and see what great things your team can accomplish as a result.