Resentment in the workplace
October 27, 2010 9:47 AM   Subscribe

Please help me curb the growing resentment I have towards my workplace. (very long!)

My employer is pretty great, from a work-environment point of view. Pretty relaxed, decent pay for the work, not too stressful, friendly people. I work in software development. But I am overqualified for my position, and software development is not the field I want to work in. I took this job because it has enough overlap with the field that I do want to work in, I wanted some non-academic work experience, and they offered me the job. (So this is pretty much my first "real" job).

However, pretty much as soon as I started, I became aware that our product is, essentially, bad. Poorly developed, incredibly buggy, and has a reputation amongst our clients as being bad (internally there's a lot of uptalk, but I have spoken with clients at seminars/conferences and they have told me that our software is known for being unreliable and untrusted - it was totally humiliating). Additionally, the pace of development is incredibly slow, and people spend huge amounts of time in totally (to my mind) useless documentation processes. It would be different if the documentation was useful, well-written and organized, but it's a mess, and my experience so far is that it is a major hindrance to actually accomplishing anything.

I was hired to develop a new chunk of the program, and I recently finished that. It was a major headache to work within the existing architecture, but I had little choice. Now we, as a team, are in a test & debug phase for the program as a whole. So instead of working on my own section, I am working on the program fundamentals and trying to resolve known bugs. I find myself trying to fix small little errors, only to realize that my options are either to majorly gut and re-design fundamental aspects of the program, or continue the patchwork workarounds that make our software so bad and so difficult to maintain in the first place (no can do!). Many of those who begun and perpetuated this patchwork-workaround-minefield are still with the company and developing. Now it feels like my job is to try to fix my coworkers mistakes. And I resent it. That is very much not a good thing for me, and I am pretty bad at hiding my feelings so it is also bad for my work environment as a whole.

So, what to do? My opinion is that if the others were not capable of detecting the problems I have found, then I definitely can't trust them to fix them, so I kind of *have* to do it (my name is attached to this software now!). And I feel like if I move on from the company later (or sooner, preferably), then I will have little to show for it, since all my changes resulted in only tiny improvements from the user's perspective (and helped more with improving the speed at which new features can be added in the future). More resentment feelings, more bitterness.

Positive aspects here are that the main person responsible for the mess is aware of the situation, is somewhat embarrassed, and offering some support (as opposed to being combative, which I was a little worried about). I don't think that person can really do much to help fix it, but it's good to know he's not working against me and not taking it personally. Also, other more competent people in my team are very happy that I have figured some things out and that I have somewhat of a plan. But it still feels like an uphill battle, and it is a very demotivating situation.

I am searching for other work, but I am not too optimistic that I will get anything for a while and I may have to consider moving to another city. What can I do, until then, to keep myself motivated, and how can I view the situation without just becoming resentful of my coworkers? Thank you for your help!
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I don't have time to spell out the details and commiserate on your situation, with which I completely sympathize, but you're doing two things: being decent at what you do and being a whiner.

Look, all software sucks. There are reasons why metaphors like baling wire and glue persist as software development idioms. So, as someone who both knows what the customer wants and can fix software to the level that the customer likes, you should start positioning yourself to become the development director or whatever they call the boss of that application, or at least a tech lead or something. Until you achieve that, get over yourself and keep fixing your coworkers bugs. That's what 80% of commercial software development is, and bugfixes are better than starting over from scratch. Also, read "The Mythical Man Month."

And, rereading your initial paragraph, it's your first real job? You don't know jack about writing software in a company.
posted by rhizome at 10:33 AM on October 27, 2010 [3 favorites]

You seem to have the same problem I see in my coworkers. Your worrying about things that aren't decided at your level. You need to buckle down and focus on the things you can control. Your coworkers's competence levels and the feelings of the user are beyond your influence. You need to focus on the tasks you were given and be proactive as far as what your boss is going to need. Your job is not the ultimate product, your job is to execute the vision of management.
posted by Rubbstone at 11:43 AM on October 27, 2010

At this point in your working life, you are a cog. You are being judged on your ability to perform the work assigned, not on your ability to create something new, or to demonstrate your knowledge or to rewrite someone else's designs.

So, to keep your soul from dying while you put in your time at the bottom, focus on the good points of your job - a boss who understands your frustration, a chance for trips out of the office to conferences, some decision-making power on how to approach your work, good coffee in the break room, whatever. Learn all you can about the part of the job that overlaps your real interests. Consider doing something after work (open source project, volunteer work, ??) to keep you excited about the real field you want to eventually get into.

It sucks now, but it won't always be like this.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 12:05 PM on October 27, 2010 [1 favorite]

The book "Working Effectively with Legacy Code" by Michael Feathers might help.

You can tell yourself that you're becoming a better developer because you're learning so much about what doesn't work, and why not. You can learn from other people's mistakes instead of from your own! In addition, you're amassing plenty of good "war stories" that you can roll out later in life when you've found a more inspiring job.
posted by emilyw at 12:44 PM on October 27, 2010 [2 favorites]

Here is your recipe for influencing what you can.

Welcome to the "real world". If it's any consolation, the way things work at your company is exactly how everyone in industry thinks academia works.
posted by tel3path at 1:27 PM on October 27, 2010

You can tell yourself that you're becoming a better developer because you're learning so much about what doesn't work, and why not. You can learn from other people's mistakes instead of from your own!

I actually used almost this exact line in an interview once, to try and put a positive spin on a dreadful work situation similar to the OP's. The interviewer seemed impressed with the answer. (I was offered the job.)
posted by SuperSquirrel at 8:15 AM on October 28, 2010

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