TITLE: Developing Empathy AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: June 23, 2005 6:28 PM DESC: Having to be a manager helps me to understand how hard the job must be for people who have to manage me... ----- BODY: One thing I have noticed in my last few weeks preparing to move into the Big Office Downstairs: I view the actions of the administrators around me in a different light. Where I might have reacted immediately to some behavior, often negatively, I now am a bit more circumspect. What could make that seem the right thing to do? If nothing else, I am aware that I will soon be in the position of having to make such decisions, and it probably looks easier to do than it is. Kind of like playing Jeopardy! from the comfort of your own home... even Ken Jennings is an easy mark when you're sitting on your sofa. Swapping roles is a great way to develop empathy for others. This is certainly true for students and teachers. I do't know how many students who, after having to teach a short course at work or having to lecture in place of a traveling advisor, have told me, "I never knew how hard your job was!" Those students tend to treat their own instructors differently thereafter. Playing many different roles on a software team can serve a similar purpose. Developers who have tested or documented software often appreciate the difficulties of those jobs more than "pure" developers. Of course, playing different roles can help software people do more than develop empathy for their teammates; it can help them build skills that help them do all the jobs better. Writing and testing code come to my mind first in this regard. Empathy is a good trait to have. I hope to have more of it -- and put it to good use -- as a result of my new experience. -----