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How to Deal with Organizational Chaos

There are often brief periods of great organizational chaos, such as lay-offs, buyouts, ipos, firings, new hirings, and so on. These are unsettling to everyone, but perhaps a little less unsettling to the programmer whose personal self-esteem is founded in capacity rather than in position. Organizational chaos is a great opportunity for programmers to exercise their magic power. I've saved this for last because it is a deep tribal secret. If you are not a programmer, please stop reading now.

Engineers have the power to create and sustain.

Non-engineers can order people around but, in a typical software company, can create and sustain nothing without engineers, just as engineers typically cannot sell a product or manage a business effectively. This power is proof against almost all of the problems associated with temporary organizational mayhem. When you have it you should ignore the chaos completely and carry on as if nothing is happening. You may, of course, get fired, but if that happens you can probably get a new job because of the magic power. More commonly, some stressed-out person who does not have the magic power will come into your cube and tell you to do something stupid. If you are really sure that it is stupid, it is best to smile and nod until they go away and then carry on doing what you know is best for the company.

If you are a leader, tell your people to do the same thing and tell them to ignore what anybody else tells them. This course of action is the best for you personally, and is the best for your company or project.

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