Why it's important to object, compromise, and a small example at Frappe
There was some debate/banter around a topic between two colleagues at Frappe in July. One of them decided to write about it.
Me: I propose this much EPS for longer blogs.
Other person: That’s too much.
Me: Not really, I don't think you get it.
Other person: But this and that and that and this.
Me: rolls eyes
Me: a week later it probably is too much.
This was a rough representation of a conversation that went down internally at frappe over July. While I haven’t attached the conversation because it won’t add much value, here are my thoughts and learnings from it.
Hierarchy, decision making, and freedom
I have mixed feelings about hierarchy. I see it necessary to tame the chaos that comes without it. But the order that comes with it is only as good as the person making those decisions. The word manager has some negative connotations surrounding it. Perhaps it comes from how the role is perceived. Managers have targets and sometimes in trying to meet those targets, they can be aggressive, emotional, and micromangerial control freaks. A good manager is a great leader, not a scrum expert.
Many companies are also to blame with the vertically higher skilled employees being promoted to manager. Only being exceptional at their job doesn’t make someone a great manager.
You see, people are terrible with freedom, once they have it, they don’t know what to do with it. This inherently comes with human nature where people are bad at making decisions. Think about it, in the prehistoric era all that homo sapiens had to do was wake up, hunt, fuck, eat, or get eaten by a larger animal. There was no complex decision making. Most of the day could pretty much be summed up in—I hungry, I hunt. I tired, I sleep.
Come 21st century and the evolutionary traits remain with most of us.
A small spat at Frappe
Enough with the psy and history class, let’s come back to the topic. Well, Frappe is a smaller company that runs without hierarchy. This means that people don’t give orders, they make requests, proposals, and objections. Personally, I’d prefer a more organized approach but seeing how most people aren’t ready to be a true leader in the highest sense of the word, this works today.
We use discourse to engage in discussions, make proposals, share thoughts, create polls, and other things. Important bits of communication get lost on IM and a forum also gives a more accountable atmosphere where people have to be weary of what they write. It makes a better platform for productive conversations than impulsive replies.
The energy points squabble
Anyway, at Frappe we use this thing called energy points to roughly record how much work has been done by an individual. Each activity has a certain number of points associated with it. It’s not an exact science, works well for smaller redundant tasks but is crude for larger abstract tasks.
For some context, the points threshold to reach for every employee is 2,000/month. An issue resolution gets 20, a call 30, a help article 60, and so on.
So, recently, I thought of writing larger or long form content for the ERPNext blog. Naturally, longer content takes more time and effort so I proposed more points for them. After a couple of days, a colleague objected, saying it’s not warranted. We had a lengthy discussion and finally reached a conclusion. In a regular hierarchical structure, this person would’ve had nothing to do with the work I do and what I said would’ve been final (if I didn’t have a superior).
Making a choice
There were two things I could’ve done here.
- Fight for the proposed points to get more easily and be relieved from thinking about reaching the minimum threshold
- Drop it and come to a compromise because I’d rather be writing blogs and copies than long ass replies
Needless to say, I chose the 2nd approach. Not only to save time but also because it was the right thing to do. After thinking about the ordeal for a couple days, I realized what this developer was saying made sense after all. It’s not an apples to apples comparison between developer, consultant, and writing work. But it didn’t matter enough to go into micro depths and participate in longer arguments.
Also, I’d rather be left alone and do my job because I really like it and don’t see the need for any rigid measures to tell me how much work I’ve done or get a pseudo sense of achievement. Having said that, I understand how this can be dubbed as a necessity to maintain some accountability.
It’s not every day that you get to object something. A lot of events happen out of sight where you don’t even know it’s going to happen until it has. But for the things that are visible, it’s worthwhile to raise your voice and object what’s wrong. Even if it’s not perceived wrong on a broader level, it’s good to voice your opinions now than later. This way, you as an individual will not be overcome with resentment later.
I understand that not everyone is brave enough, confident enough, or adept enough in their communication to do this. A good way to do this is ask yourself some questions. “Does this change upset me? What do I not like about this? Do I fear this change? Is it unfair on a broader level?“ Then write down your answers and make them readable. This way, you have a structured response to type or recite when the time comes.
It’s a struggle when what you want is different from what others want or think is fair. Perceptions can be wildly different and without walking a mile in the other person’s shoes you really don’t know their struggles. That is, unless, you have exceptional emotional intelligence. I don’t, I’m learning.
Well done compromises are a win-win. When there’s conflict of interest, find a balance, a midway that everyone is comfortable walking. Enforcing authority or aggression is a short term fix and grows old quick. Compromising to some extent saves time, reduces the bitterness of conflict, and is sustainable in the long run.
Even though the situation itself wasn’t very important, speaking on a broader level, the ensuing discussion was something that made me think and learn. Or maybe it was just some good banter. The quality of the objection/arguements should be given more merit than the person making the points. In this situation, my revised proposal for 'energy points' was taken as a fairer assessment and everyone could agree to it.
Something I took from this and thought about is that it’s easy to pass orders with little thought or judgement. In reality, it’s hard to account for everyone’s sensitivities and make decisions that everyone is okay with. Of course, you can’t keep everyone happy at any given moment. In times like this, it’s important to object what's wrong and to compromise when you know you’re wrong. But it’s even more important to object politely and know when to compromise.
Marketing at Frappe