This post is no translation, but rather a variation of its German counterpart, Ärger, Wut und “gesunde Produktivität” and less focuses on technology and work life than my related post about Anger, Laziness, and Healthy Productivity in the practical DEV blog.
I write my blog posts mostly for myself, to order my thoughts, and to persist my knowledge. I allow myself to make mistakes and wander from the subject. Although I use auto-correction and translation software, but I don’t want to delegate the process of writing to an algorithm like chatGPT.
Getting serious about avoiding perfectionism and overthinking, I decided to keep the silly buzzword headline and just put together some more notes and observations that I made in the past months.
When asked what “healthy productivity” could mean to me, it sounded like a trivial topic to begin with: freedom, flexibility, and trying not to work too much, the usual stuff that you would read in any magazine article about “new work” written by uninspired interns or a chatbot. Further obvious thoughts: There are few companies actually caring for diversity, inclusion and good working conditions, and sometimes it’s even worse in social service or honorary posts. Those who get involved above average tend to get exploited and burned out, while other suffer bore-out in their irrelevant positions.
You have to stay angry. And happy!
What an inspiring motto, found on a poster by Junges Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf theatre, at a time when people had to stay home and suffer from the pandemic.
Anger is often misunderstood. Of course, I prefer to be happy, euphorical, and open-minded, but sometimes we get angry for a good reason. It might be powerlessness, grief or disappointment that transform into anger and rage, which at least come with a feeling of power and can bring motivation and energy.
Rage, an Emotion that must not exist at Work?
I often get angry about bugs, problems, and missing features or documentation. This might be seen as annoying, funny, or an actual problem, but as any psychologist will tell you, rage is an emotion to be taken seriously. Of course, it depends on the actual situation: sometimes we are just stressed by the workload or having a bad day, and we should rather take a break away from the computer screen. That’s the “work-life-balance” approach, embracing apparent “laziness” and “procrastination” as a source of energy and inspiration.
We can also get angry if we plan or promise too much and fail to meet our own expectations. Maybe some software has a steep learning curve, and it is kown to be impossible to learn and use in few days or even hours. Another possible reason is a stubborn mindset not ready to let go of concepts how to do something, when there is a totally different approach taken by the specific tool.
Finally, there are some reasons for rage and rants that can’t be be tackled by a change of personal behaviour. I don’t want to get too political in a technological community (but I will elaborate in my personal open mind culture weblog), but there have been increasing debates about gatekeeping, injustice, gender pay gap, and even harrassment preventing people to do their job in STEM / information technology and get paid and respected accordingly. The so-called “marginalized” groups are often a majority in the world-wide population, but the tech sector is still dominated by white dudes from rich countries. And that might be directly connected with some other systemic problems that many popular software and web apps lack proper testing, documentation, and accessibility.
Using Anger as a Positive Motivation
Rant! Sometimes it helps to say a swear word or write an ironic blog post or chat message. But some other times it doesn’t, unfortunately. While it seems perfectly appropriate to swear and shout on a construction site, it can get you strange looks and worried reactions in an office.
Question and observe: what’s happening? Am I really angry? Maybe I just need a break? Is there something I might be doing wrong? When we discover that we tried to (mis)use a tool with the “wrong” mindset, then maybe it wasn’t the right tool in the first place. Also there can be different strategies to use the same technology. Take a step back and try to change perspective. Talk to somebody and/or write down actual questions.
Problems beyond our Control
If it’s a greater issue beyond our own control: who could help us? Is there possible support, communities, a way of getting in touch with other people who are in the same situation? That’s one positive aspect of the internet and globalization: you can connect with like-minded people all around the world, and you can raise world-wide support for your issues.
Using our Power to Support and Make a Change!
Being in a privileged position, we can become the ones giving support, choosing what to work for, who to work with, where to invest our money. Stop our teams hiring the next white German dude with a high reputation on StackOverflow. Stop unknowingly taking part in common exclusion and harassment. Support, upvote, link, and talk about issues raised by people who face more serious problems than we do. For a start, Abbey Perini’s 8 Ways to Support Women Developers offers very specific and measurable aspects that need our awareness as a “typical tech guy”.
And there is Leah Thomas’ Intersectional Enviromentalist, a book and an initiative imagining a more equitable and diverse future of environmentalism.
There are many valid reasons to get angry.
I started to write another post about productivity and might have wandered from the subject a bit, but this is my retrospective takeaway: don’t try to suppress rage and anger! Take it seriously and make use of its positive energy. After a coaching session, I drafted a post about “healthy productivity”, and I decided to keep those words in the title as it can be very unhealthy to suppress seemingly negative emotions, and a lot of people think they have to. We don’t need to shout and get aggressive, or lay down and cry, but there are other ways to take our emotions seriously, and that can help us grow both personally and professionally as well.