Dealing with Conflicts



Updated August 7, 2023

If you stick with programming long enough, you’ll eventually be a part of some emotional discussions. As programmers, we take pride in our craft, and it can be easy for individuals to get attached to certain solutions or architectural designs. You’ll deal with conflicting views at some point in your career, and emotions may run high.

It’s okay to disagree with your teammates, but how you handle yourself will speak volumes about your character and how your teammates view you. In fact, healthy debates are a sign of a high-functioning team, but the discussions must be respectful. While it’s good to debate the pros and cons of different designs and algorithms, it can be bad if things turn from a civil conversation to a full-blown argument.

In rare cases, passionate developers may get into tense arguments over which solution is the better approach. It’s possible that each approach has its strengths, weaknesses, and trade-offs, and that both developers are correct. No solution is perfect, and that’s okay.

If you find yourself in a heated discussion and you sense that emotions are running high, the best thing you can do is to keep the conversation as civil as possible. Take the higher road if possible, which sometimes means making compromises. It may even be best to table the conversation and walk away to let everyone cool off. You can always pick up the conversation again at a later time once people have the opportunity to reflect and think things over some more.

Always remember that it may take months or years of hard work to build up trust between your coworkers, but you can lose that trust in an instant if you lose your temper during a heated discussion. You won’t always be able to convince people that your ideas are the best, even if you feel like they are, and that’s okay. A good quality of a senior developer is that they realize that no solution is perfect and they sometimes have to make decisions on suboptimal solutions.

Pick your battles, because you don’t want to lose the trust of your teammates over the name of a variable or which design pattern to use to solve a problem. Being a senior developer means making compromises, and sometimes it’s best to just go with the flow every now and then.

Wrapping Up

While it may be difficult to realize when you’re just starting out, poor communication skills often contribute to programmers plateauing in their career. As a programmer in a senior position, you will lead technical projects and mentor younger developers. To continue on the trajectory to staff and principal engineering roles, you’ll need to learn how to build support for your ideas and work cross-functionally with nontechnical people across your company. And if you choose to go down the managerial path, good communication skills are even more critical, as you’ll be managing projects and people constantly.

Complex software systems cannot be built by one person alone. Modern-day software solutions require multiple people, both technical and nontechnical, to collaborate and deliver products that meet evolving customer needs. Successful teams consist of a broad set of people with diverse backgrounds and skill sets, and the ability to connect, collaborate, and solve real problems with different people is a rare skill that is often overlooked by programmers.

Once you reach a certain technical level, everyone will have the necessary skills to solve the problems at hand in some way, but not everyone will have the communication skills to convey their ideas and gather feedback when they need to. The bottom line is that the higher up you advance in your career, the more you will stand out if you are an excellent communicator. The best programmers communicate with empathy and listen to what others have to say, and those who communicate the best will be the first to advance when it comes time for a promotion.

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