Chapter 97. Your Job Is Not to Be Liked

Lachlan Holmes

Write down your primary goals as an engineering manager. If one of them is “to be liked,” or words to that effect, you’re doing it wrong.

Your job is to get results for the business. To get stuff done. As an engineering manager, this means providing direction and motivation, removing roadblocks and pain points, and ensuring great communication in the team you are managing and among peers and departments. All in a sustainable way. Bonus points if you improve any of these areas.

Perhaps you have an alternate set of goals: communication and motivation might come under the heading of culture, or collaboration and teamwork. Not different, just variations on a theme.

But there is no explicit mention of being likeable. Of course, we want to be liked. It can make any one of your job demands easier, or be a part of fostering a fun work environment. It’s also important to always be considerate of people’s feelings, and maintain positive relationships with your colleagues, reports, and bosses. But while it can be helpful, being likeable shouldn’t be a primary goal. If it is, you will find yourself making poor decisions and avoiding necessary conflict.

I once encountered intense resistance when I asked my teams to not use their laptops during sprint planning meetings. It was a large and diverse group, and some people wanted to code or ...

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