Mr. Snarky and I went out to lunch yesterday. We both had to work, but we work literally 5 minutes from each other, so I just picked him up and we went out for a nice lunch. We don't do this very often- we both have other preferred lunchtime routines. We really should try to do it more, though, because it gives us a chance to talk about our days in ways we can't over dinner, when the kids are also eager to share their days (Petunia, in particular, likes to tell us her day was "great!" and Pumpkin usually wants to tell some long and complicated story that I only have a 50% chance of following) or after the kids are in bed, when other priorities crowd in.
Anyway, on Monday, we found ourselves talking about our respective work issues, and since we are both managers, most of our issues involve fixing other people's problems, or fixing problems caused by other people's quirks. We do still occasionally discuss technical issues we are solving, but really, the technical issues are the easy ones. Dealing effectively with other people- that's the hardest part of my job, and I would suspect most managers' jobs.
This is not news, at least not to anyone who has spent any amount of time as a manager, but still, I sometimes manage to forget it. Remembering it yesterday- and getting ample opportunity to really live it today- clarified another reason for my recent career funk: I'm tired of dealing with other people's issues. And I don't just mean the "I have a problem, can you help me solve it?" sort of issues. Those are actually the easy ones. I mean the issues where I know that person A has a quirk that makes topic X a sore topic for him, but oops! Person B just sent an email about topic X and cc'ed not just person A but person A's boss. And oh, I need to get Person A to help me solve a problem related to topic X in order to finish one of my projects. Or the issues where Person C really wants to do something on one of my other projects, but doesn't really know how to do it yet, so either I have to say no and make Person C mad at me or figure out how to train/mentor without impacting any timelines. Or the issues where Persons D and E are having a long running and rather pointless technical argument, and I just need to get a decision made already, but neither really wants to budge because it has become a technical holy war of sorts, so I have to find some credible third party to break the stalemate and settle the issue.*
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. People come with quirks and baggage and pet topics and the like. That is one of the things that makes people interesting, but it is also one of the things that makes management hard. Sadly for me, dealing with other people's issues is a large part not just of my current job, but of just about any job I can envision on anything looking like my current career path.
This was a bit depressing, and I said so to Mr. Snarky. But then he said something that made us remember the time we went to one of those Texas Roadhouse type chains and were surprised to discover that when a particular song comes on the jukebox, the waitstaff all have to stop what they are doing and do some stupid dance. And I decided that maybe my job isn't so bad, after all.**
*These are not actual examples from this week. They are all fictional examples, culled from years of being a manager.
**Although... maybe next time I've got two developers locked in a technical standoff I'll tell them that they can do a dance off to settle the issue. That should go over really well.