Network engineering can be really frustrating sometimes. Sometimes the root cause is technology, sometimes it’s broken process or poor systems. Mostly, the frustrations stem from interaction with humanoids, otherwise known as people.
I’m doing you a favour bud
However, there is a particular point of friction that can cause disproportionate angst. Favours. How many times have you done someone a favour, to have it kicked back in your face. You bust your hump to help out another engineer or manager with zero thanks. Someone throws you a crappy change request, but you fix it up rather than rejecting it. Next time, same crap-quality change request. Arrgh! How can these people be so inconsiderate? Don’t they realise I’m doing them a favour? 
No. They don’t realise it’s a favour. They think it’s your job. Don’t worry this post is not a rant how about how non-techies or managers don’t understand techies. That line of thinking is just lazy and, more importantly it is ineffective.
The line between business and favours
Seth Godin wrote a great post about the math of favours that you should read. I think the quote below is fantastic.
The disconnect happens when one party in the transaction thinks he’s doing the other guy a favor… but the other guy doesn’t act that way in return. In fact, when both sides think they’re doing the other a favor, it’s a meltdown.
This is important. How do you think that your communications and happiness would change if you took this to heart. Is is possible that this person thinks that they’re doing me a favour? Do they think that their request is reasonable and within the expectations of your role? Are you trying to do them a favour? Do they know this is a favour?
What can I change?
Favours need to be explicit or they benefit no-one. When you do someone a solid (from your perspective) you expect thanks. When no gratitude comes, you get angry.
Don’t sit there stewing angrily, that’s a waste of time and energy. You need to provide feedback and direction immediately. “Hey dude, I can see you’re under pressure. I can help you out this time, but here’s a link to the docs. If this issue re-occurs you’ll be able to handle it your self.”
What if other people are behaving the same way. Keep your social antennae activated. What if you start getting bad vibes about a request someone is executing for you. Often you’ll find that you’re unknowingly steamrolling a process, and burning up ‘favours’. Ask them “hey, is there a formal process to follow here?”. Or maybe “am I giving you the right information?”.
The Sherpa Summary
- When human interactions meltdown, it can have a huge impact on your effectiveness and happiness.
- ‘Perceived favours’ are at the cause of a lot of these meltdowns.
- Make your favours explicit and let people know if you want the interaction to be different next time.
- Try to suss out if other people think they’re doing a favour, and if anything needs to change.
I hope this helps in some way. I’d love to hear any ‘favour’ experiences you have in the comments.
 Sorry US readers, but I won’t be adopting American English anytime soon.