Dealing with workplace stress

January 17, 2020

Although as software architects we don’t have direct subordinates reporting to us, our choices impact many development teams inside the company. On a weekly basis we deal with more than 50 software developers divided in more than 10 teams. We support them to develop and evolve the company’s products. At the same time, we see how they interact with each other, if a team or a single person is going through a stressful period, or when conflicts arise.

Here below is a list of action points where the Umbrella tech department could improve when it comes to identifying and dealing with stress and conflicts in the tech department.

# Improvement Resources needed Time frame(start)
1 Special support for newly created teams Postpone architects’ low priority activities As soon as possible with team X
2 Online training for front-end developers The cost should be around 400$/developer By the end of this year
3 Collaboration between team A and B Few hours of meeting with both teams Before Q1 2011
4 Relationship between agile leaders and product owners Few hours with development managers As soon as possible

Situational leadership is the kind of leadership architects use with development teams. Different people, situations and tasks require an adaptive leadership style that starts with a directing approach and aims to evolve towards a supporting or delegating approach. At the beginning of their life, newly created teams go through a stressful period: while morale and expectations are high there is a lack in knowledge and experience. With these teams a direct leadership approach would allow stress to keep stress under control and motivation high, because teams would always perceive their tasks as attainable.

In the Umbrella tech department the only constant is change. In order to avoid the stress caused by the lack of knowledge developers need a continuous learning process. Junior resources have to fill their expertise gap and senior resources have to get better at what they already do and keep an eye on new emerging technologies. Due to the current COVID-19 situation, in class training and conferences are not an option but luckily online training resources are a great opportunity.

When the collaboration between teams does not work well is like when someone in the chorus is singing off key. You understand something is off but to identify who or what is the real cause of the problem requires some investigation. Differences between teams are a fact and, as mentioned above, diversity can be the cause of conflicts. While productivity fall or a motivation drop can be the symptoms of a conflict the causes can be multiple like a personality clash or competition. Clarifying the responsibilities and expectations of each team can be the first step to resolve this conflict.

Conflicts are not only between teams, from time to time conflicts are inside the same working group. In the Umbrella tech department there are two key roles for every development team: agile leaders and product owners. When these two people clash the entire team would notice it and productivity of the entire team could suffer from this situation. As for the clashes between teams, clarifying the responsibilities can help. Another action point worth considering here is an improvement of the communication between these subjects.

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Written by Claudio Maccari . Passionate developer and former windsurfer. You can read more about me here