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Techies and marriage.

Saw an article on IT execs and marriage today http://www.cio.com/article/493408/IT_People_Are_From_Mars_Why_Your_Marriages_Are_From_Hell_or_Headed_There .

The article pretty much blames the IT execs, which should be familiar to the men among us.

I think the execs complaints could be boiled down to Joel's article "Human Context Switches Considered Harmful."  http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000022.html  I think what we would like our spouses to understand is that the cost of a 5 minute phone call to troubleshoot the cable system is more than 5 minutes.  Unfortunatley, the analyst interviewed seemed to completely miss that point, taking a, "why not invest 5 minutes?  Isn't your spouse worth it?" attitude.

What was unaddressed is that taking two 5 minute phone calls, might result in 30 minutes of lost productivity, which will delay your return home by that long.  If spouses were armed with this information, they might choose to fight through the manual rather than call the spouse.
John McGuinness Send private email
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
 
 
Crud. I read the article and saw the part that said to call your spouse and say something like "I only have three minutes before my next meeting, but I just wanted to tell you I love you."

Now she is pissed because she thinks I want something big or am having an affair. That 2 minute phone call just because a half hour of screaming and crying.
John Goewert Send private email
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
 
 
Just out of curiosity - if Marketing is whooping it up 8 cubes away, do you stay late to make up for the time you lose when they break your concentration?  How about the five minute coffee breaks?  Microwaving food?  Going to the bathroom?  Interminable meetings?  How closely do you track the length of your lunch breaks?
Some days you're just not going to get everything done, you're not going to be able to focus and get "in the zone".  It took me years but I eventually accepted this.  Management doesn't expect you to, at any remotely decent corporation.
I also don't think coders are exactly the focus of the article, but that is another matter entirely.
noodling Send private email
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
 
 
If sex is involved then shouldn't it be all good? Like come on, who listens to women in the first place?
Entity Send private email
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
 
 
On a day-to-day basis, no, I might not monitor it that closely, though I do take my lunch to work most days, and do try to make sure I get in eight hours at my desk on days when I do take a lunch break.

Things like bathroom breaks are factored in. 

But in the long term, if I lose productivity due to interruptions from home, that is going to have a cost somewhere.  Maybe I work longer hours to make up for it (with more interruptions leading to longer houts...)  Maybe I miss the next promotion.  Maybe I put in some time on the weekend.  But the cost is real, and must be paid somehow.

The article seems to take the general attitude of, "It's just 5 minutes; what's the big deal?" It is helped because it seemed to cherry-pick complaints that were expressed in a somewhat jerky way.  ("I'm meeting with C-level executives...")  But I think it was a missed opportunity to expose the major disconnect, that a 5 minute interruption costs more than 5 minutes.
John McGuinness Send private email
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
 
 
That cost is only real if management perceives it to be real, and if they perceive number of widgets produced to be the performance metric by which they judge promotability.  You're all concerned with quantity over quality.  It reminds me of an acquaintance who insisted on putting his typing speed on his resume, with the idea that this would impress people because he could code so fast.  Past a certain point, this isn't what gets you promoted.
noodling Send private email
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
 
 
What is going to result in better quality?

* 2 uninterrupted hours
* 3 hours, with 6 five minute interruptions mixed in.

---

This is my problem to manage.  But one of the obstacles to manage that is the lack of understainding of the true cost of interruptions, and I think the article would have been more effective if it had some strategies for effectively communicating that.
John McGuinness Send private email
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
 
 
I understand what you guys are saying about interruptions it is true, but the advice given is correct as well. You can blow them off, then you have resentment and marital problems which are going to be worrying you and eating into productivity during the day. balance is needed. Not everything is black and white. If you have a needy wife who calls you, limit it to one call during the day and do it during lunch when you have a moment, which is when you should be doing personal calls anyway. Management can help establish discipline by implementing a "no personal calls" policy, and give a written warning for infractions. If your wife calls to chit chat while you are coding, have your boss write you up for an infraction and then show that to the wife. Explain that she needs to call only during lunch.
Scott Send private email
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
 
 
-> Joel's article "Human Context Switches Considered Harmful."

Wow, I had completely forgotten that Joel said it takes him SIX HOURS to task switch from one programming task to another.

Usually people say "30 minutes" and then others say "switch faster than that". But me, it always takes a full day to do a switch, glad I am not the only one.
Scott Send private email
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
 
 
The psychoanalyst is right and many (most?) men know that, but will try to pretend otherwise. Sure, the calls are interruptions, but interruptions are a part of the work day. You just have to manage them.

I've been in the same position with my wife calling multiple times a day about trivial matters and her getting upset when I told her that I couldn't keep taking the calls. Finally I realized that she was just (a) bored and (2)  wanted to talk to me, but it took a long time to understand this and almost as long to find a solution that worked for both of us.

You really need to decide which is more important: your work productivity or your home relationships. Once it's put in those terms it becomes easier to decide what to do -- or at least it did for me.
farmboy Send private email
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
 
 
"Sure, the calls are interruptions, but interruptions are a part of the work day. You just have to manage them."

This doesn't change the fact that every interruption breaks flow, and with a regular stream of interruptions your productivity or work quality are greatly reduced. If you don't believe this is true, you were not a good developer to begin with.

Somewhere in there was the question, would you rather have 2 hrs with no interruptions or 3 hrs with 6 regularly spaced interruptions? Which situation gets more work done? Better work done?
Scott Send private email
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
 
 
"You really need to decide which is more important: your work productivity or your home relationships."

This is why companies need to implement policies whereby excessive personal phone calls are a fireable offense. Then the question becomes, which is more important, entertaining your wife during the time I am paying you to work because she is bored and there is nothing on TV, or being able to support your wife and keep her in a house bored with no job? After you are fired, you will have plenty of time to stay home and talk with her about how bored both of you are, and hungry as well.
Scott Send private email
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
 
 
Right, it has to be managed.

But I think that part of managing it is allowing the spouse to understand the true cost of an interruption.  From the spouse's perspective, it is difficult to understand why the IT worker can't take 10 minutes to explain how to get *Dora* on the DVD player so the kids will be entertained and s/he can have a few moments of peace.

What the article seems to suggest is that the IT worker either silently absorb the cost, or attempt to pay it up front with quick phone calls on his or her own schedule.  I am skeptical about how sustainable a solution this is.
John McGuinness Send private email
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
 
 
John:
"What is going to result in better quality?

* 2 uninterrupted hours
* 3 hours, with 6 five minute interruptions mixed in."

It all depends on what you're doing and what sort of worker you are.  Some tasks can be handled via the marathon approach, and in fact, sometimes that's the only way to get the job done.

Other times, if you're trying to do everything in one sitting, it can be detrimental.  Take the case of putting together a UI, for instance.  You get 1/4 of the way done, then the phone rings.  After the call, you take another look at a toolbar layout or something, and realize "wait a minute, I should put this button somewhere else and change that icon, it'll make a lot more sense that way."  That example might be a bit contrived, but you get the idea.

Personally, I value interruptions.  They help to break up the workday, and if I'm doing something like fixing a weird bug, an interruption can keep me from spending too much time riding a stupid train of thought.  I imagine most of us have had the experience of wrestling with some silly problem, giving up and going to a meeting for half an hour, then coming back and solving the problem in five minutes.

As I said, it depends on the individual.  Some people marathon, others do short sprints.  Some people hate interruptions, and some people need that "brain refresh" from time to time.
Justice Walker Send private email
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
 
 
"If you don't believe this is true, you were not a good developer to begin with"

Wow! So now I'm a crappy developer if I can manage interruptions and still maintain my productivity? What other insights can you share?
farmboy Send private email
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
 
 
Here's an Atwood post with some data about task switching: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000691.html

If you think you are good at multitasking, think again, and if you still think so, then you are an exception and should be grateful.
John McGuinness Send private email
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
 
 
@Scott: "This is why companies need to implement policies whereby excessive personal phone calls are a fireable offense."

I agree in principle, but what constitutes "excessive"?  I know a guy whose parents are entering into Alzheimers/dementia, and for the moment coordinating their care demands a fair bit of his attention.  He's getting things done by extending his workday, but should the workday interruptions mean he should lose his job?  I don't think so.  Some humanity has to be applied or we're just cogs in a completely soulless machine. 

If this is a black-and-white, one-call-over-the-handbook-limits issue for a company, I wouldn't want to work there.
a former big-fiver Send private email
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
 
 
Neither Atwood nor Joel are talking about the same thing you're talking about.  There's a difference between switching between multiple projects and fielding a five minute interruption.  The latter of which is no more of a distraction to me than the half hour the guys in the next aisle have spent discussing the deck one of them is building on his house.  Ahhhh, spring in the midwest, when a young man's fancy turns lightly to thoughts of home improvement.  This is actually fairly standard for this office.
noodling Send private email
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
 
 
@John: Jeff Attwood has some assertions, but for anything like data I see only Weinberg's bar chart. (But I do like the expression "big-ass blind spot"--only I'd be inclined to apply it to my delusions about my fitness.)

Anyway, persons whose tasks (or tasks then at hand) do not require concentration often fail to understand about tasks that do require concentration. Yes, I've had a relative by marriage sit in my office and ask "what language is that" while I tried to clean up somebody else's PHP, and No, I didn't find it helpful, I sort of wrote off the next 15 minutes as shot. But I've had programmers snap me out a of PL/SQL trance with at least equally bad results. I'd also say that the scale of the work has a big effect.

And I'm not sure how we got from CIOs to where we are in the thread.
George Jansen Send private email
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
 
 
We're talking about executives here, most probably very highly paid. Spouses might complain about long work hours, but I wonder if they complain about that big fat paycheck.

If you want that fat paycheck but still complain about your spouse not being around, then you've got a serious marital problem.

Likewise, if you're willing to deal with a 50% pay cut to get your spouse home by 6:00 every night, and your spouse insists on the rat race, then you've got a serious marital problem.

About the calls: if you're an executive, just have your calls screened. Not being an executive, when I need to concentrate I just switch my phone off and let the answering machine get it silently.
(User deleted) Send private email
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
 
 
In a prior life, I wasn't an executive, but I was a very well-compensated technical person.  I used all of the excuses listed in the article with my then-wife.

I've heard from well-informed sources that her disengagment from our marriage started after about a year of no daily contact & "I don't talk about work at home". 

My current job requires the same daily concentration and effort that my old job did, but I talk to the current missus at least once and often several times a day,  Oddly enough, my productivity with a happy spouse is no worse than it was with an unhappy one, is certainly better than it was immediately post-divorce,  and I seem to be able to find the time to do the after-hours things I need to without pushback. 

Take from this what you will.
a former big-fiver Send private email
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
 
 
"Former big-fiver" knows what he's talking about. You cannot make your spouse feel like a constant nuisance. You cannot make your spouse think that work is more important than they are to you. You cannot treat them with distrust ("If I take your phone call at work, you will be interrupting my work all the time" -- don't you see how offending it is to someone who loves you?). If your spouse stays at home with the kids, you cannot treat them as if they were lazing away while you are working, because they are not.
quant dev Send private email
Thursday, May 28, 2009
 
 
'do it during lunch when you have a moment, which is when you should be doing personal calls anyway. Management can help establish discipline by implementing a "no personal calls" policy, and give a written warning for infractions.'

Out of interest, in this policy world, how do I call my GP to book my appointments for, oh.. lets just say, liver function tests? Surgery only takes calls 8:30-12 and 2-5 -- they're closed for two hours over lunch.

Do you want me spending my creativity trying to think of a solution to that or trying to think of a solution to a problem you're actually paying me to fix?
Katie Lucas Send private email
Thursday, May 28, 2009
 
 
For those unable to comprehend the provided context and prior explanation, the purpose of the "no personal calls" rule is to give the employees a third-party to blame things on when explaining to their spouse why she can not call him 15 times a freaking day to chit chat about how bored she is.

It is not to stop employees from making doctor's appointments to cure their brain cancer.
Scott Send private email
Thursday, May 28, 2009
 
 
On the other hand, following the provided example, in the US if an employee has serious health problems, most larger corporations will do what they can to fire that employee so that their group insurance rates don't go up.
Scott Send private email
Thursday, May 28, 2009
 
 
There is a solution, which unfortunately involves a little lie: "he can't take the call right now, he is in a meeting".

If you have a cell phone, then shut it down.
Achilleas Margaritis Send private email
Thursday, May 28, 2009
 
 
@Scott,

I don't think the answer is to hide behind some blanket "no-tolerance" policy.

In part because if you do, and then an obvious exception like scheduling the doctor's appointment comes up, you'll have to answer why that was an exception, and your family that you are supposed to be reponsible for is not.  That doesn't sound like a fun conversation to me.

---

My problem with the article isn't that it called on the IT folks to be more compassionate with their families.  There certainly is room for that, especially those that express their concerns in the way their execs in the article did.

And I don't think the solution is for everyone's life to be built around the requirements of an IT person's career.

But there are legitimate concerns behind those complaints, and I think the article missed an opportunity to engage them.  And I think that if it did, it might have found a more receptive audience for its calls for more consideration.
John McGuinness Send private email
Thursday, May 28, 2009
 
 
The article never gave the family members' viewpoint, just the IT workers' complaints.

The IT workers never said they refused all calls, never called home on their own, etc. They just said that they resented their families expectations. The councilor drew a bunch of conclusions from there.

If this were a serious discussion (the original article) of a serious subject, the other side would have been interviewed and the actual situation might have been documented. For instance, I think that the idea of pre-empting the calls by calling home yourself for 3 minutes would wear thin in a short time (at least if your spouse has half a brain).

The current article is nothing more than a puff piece expousing a pseudo-expert's view points. Nothing substantitve.
anomalous Send private email
Thursday, May 28, 2009
 
 
The survey sample is of CIO/Director level executives in the IT industry. This isn't a representative sample of "IT Folk".

If you took the same survey of CFO/Director level executives in another equally tough, demanding industry (say investment banking) I bet you would find similar results (except for the phone calls asking for tech support).

I wouldn't read too much into this -- I think the problem is more with the level of the people interviewed rather than the industry. Climbing the corporate ladder is tough, and there are a million novels out there about how climbing the corporate ladder can lead to sacrificing family life .. I remember reading "Room at the top" in high school about someone completely not in the tech industry. This was a common theme of 60's novels ... but back then, the problem was with sales/marketing executives.
Larry Watanabe Send private email
Thursday, May 28, 2009
 
 
Man oh man I can't believe there are people on this board who want to equate someone scheduling their brain cancer surgery with their doctor (a one time thing and of great importance) with an employee who is frustrated because he can't get things done because his wife is calling him six times a day when she gets bored during commercial breaks when her soap operas aren't running.

One of these can very legitimately be prohibited!
Scott Send private email
Thursday, May 28, 2009
 
 
"OH MY GOD NO, IF YOU BAN EXCESSIVE PERSONAL CALLS, EMPLOYEES WILL DIE FROM CANCER."
Scott Send private email
Thursday, May 28, 2009
 
 
Also, what is it like at your companies with unlimited personal call policies I wonder? Have you never had a problem with this coming from the receptionist who is supposed to be routing customer calls:

RING RING!
Hello?... Hi! Nothing, what about you? Gonna see him this Saturday. I guess we'll go roller skating. No, not yet. Depends. They are? How are they doing? You told him WHAT? I can't believe you said that. How is your diet working?"

ETC ETC - for 50 minutes.
Scott Send private email
Thursday, May 28, 2009
 
 
For those who think that is normal, here is the correct answer:

"XYZ Corporation. Melinda speaking. How may I help you? ... He is out of his office at the moment, may I take a message?"
Scott Send private email
Thursday, May 28, 2009
 
 
@Scott,

I am not equating them; I am saying that if you are hoping your company will institute a policy you can point to to stave up phone calls and prevent an uncomfortable conversation, that's not going to work.

Having a policy with no exceptions is unworkable; having a policy with exceptions brings about the question of what is an emergency.

There's no getting around us having to establish guidelines on our own, unless we have an incredibly sensitive and clairvoyant spouse who already knows.  Pointing to a company policy isn't going to do it.
John McGuinness Send private email
Thursday, May 28, 2009
 
 
I actually appreciate the distractions, lol.

Getting a random phone call makes me happy and actually makes it easier to get in the zone and stay there.  If I'm frustrated with what I am working on and I get a phone call (or text, IM, e-mail, etc.) from my husband the 2 minutes of chatting helps me relax a little and then get back to my work with a clear, focused mind.  I don't mind if those phone calls are completely insignificant and can wait until later...  they let me know I was thought of and make me feel good.

That said, my husband (who is not a "techie" by any stretch of the imagination) can't stand these distractions so they are pretty rare.  That may be why I am still able to appreciate them, haha.
Tina Orooji Send private email
Thursday, May 28, 2009
 
 
this whole thing makes me laugh, haha.

31 replies, only 2 replies are from women...
victor a.k.a. python for ever Send private email
Friday, May 29, 2009
 
 
@viktor "31 replies, only 2 replies are from women... "

Not only that, but also many of them are very condescending towards women, simply mysogynistic. Look at the stereotypes here:

"because he can't get things done because his wife is calling him six times a day when she gets bored during commercial breaks when her soap operas aren't running."

"Like come on, who listens to women in the first place?" (I hope it was a just a sexist joke)

"If you have a needy wife who calls you"

"which is more important, entertaining your wife during the time I am paying you to work because she is bored and there is nothing on TV"

"explaining to their spouse why she can not call him 15 times a freaking day to chit chat about how bored she is."

If your level of disrespect to your wife has reached such a high level, divorce is the best option IMHO.
quant dev Send private email
Saturday, May 30, 2009
 
 
Don't be stupid. The entire premise of the discussion is that the person has a wife sitting at home with nothing to do and is calling several times a day over nonessential matters. She is needy and bored.

If she wasn't, she would have a job or keep herself busy and not have to be calling to say nothing all the time.

We are not talking about women in general, we are talking about a specific given situation with a woman who is calling all the time at work.

How many times a day does a husband call his wife at work? None, because he is not needy and bored.
Scott Send private email
Saturday, May 30, 2009
 
 
Premise:

"You just have to manage them. I've been in the same position with my wife calling multiple times a day about trivial matters and her getting upset when I told her that I couldn't keep taking the calls. Finally I realized that she was just bored." - fb


Response:

"which is more important, entertaining your wife during the time I am paying you to work because she is bored and there is nothing on TV, or being able to support your wife and keep her in a house bored with no job" - scott

Counterresponse:

"scott, you ignorant mysogynist to say she is bored"
Scott Send private email
Saturday, May 30, 2009
 
 
And nothing to to with fb's wife here, he just pointed out why the women who do this are doing this, they are at home bored, nothing to do, so they pick up the phone like they did when they were in high school calling their girlfriends and yakking all weekend.


Woman needs to get a job, find a hobby, or start a desperate housewives coffee club where they can meet and gossip.
Scott Send private email
Saturday, May 30, 2009
 
 
Scott:
If you are unable to see the attitude you project in your responses, then I doubt that there is anything I, or anyone else on this forum can do to demonstrate it. If you really care, ask a trusted friend to read the thread and interpret it for you.

To anyone else who actually cares about their relationship with significant others, just realize that continually ignoring them for arbitrary reasons (it's not impossible to find a few minutes during the work day to return phone calls, or just say "hi") will lead to resentment and hurt feelings.

And as for the comment about husbands being too busy to call their wives for no reason: well, believe it or not I do just about every day call my wife simply because I want to hear the sound of her voice or to describe exactly what I would do if I could get her alone on a conference room table. If she's important enough to marry (or live with in delicious sin :-), then she's important enough to stay emotionally and mentally engaged with.

I'm now officially exiting this thread.
farmboy Send private email
Saturday, May 30, 2009
 
 
+1 farmboy

@Scott

I guess that if you need to impose hard and fast rules for developers about doing personal calls from work, your workforce is already demoralized and demotivated.
quant dev Send private email
Saturday, May 30, 2009
 
 
I don't have hard and fast rules, in fact I don't have such a personal call policy at all. Why? It's not needed because the people who work here are professionals. They would never think of abusing the trust I have in them. But many of you work at such places where it is a problem, for you have said so in this thread. I am merely proposing some solutions. The responses that a personal phone call policy would stop people from talking to their doctor about critical medical issues is just simply 100% retarded and the people bringing up that stuff know it is BS, they are just making up absurd situations because it is the internet and that is what they do.

Dealing with the problem as stated - we have people who are bothered by spouses calling and interrupting them. The question is how to get it under control. I proposed a workable solution. The boss implements a policy and then the worker can tell their spouse "I love talking to you but my mean boss says we have to limit it to two 10 minute personal calls a day or I'll be fired." Then the worker is off the hook. He doesn't have to tell the bored wife that she is interrupting him and messing up his flow, he can blame it all on the mean boss.

If I ever in the future have a worker who can not get work done because he is constantly being interrupted by his spouse, then I will implement the policy so that he has a way to get her to stop bothering him without losing face or damaging the relationship. This may save both his job and his marriage, but I'm willing to go there because we care about our employees here.
Scott Send private email
Sunday, May 31, 2009
 
 
"to describe exactly what I would do if I could get her alone on a conference room table"

Hm, I missed this part. Now that on the other hand, would get you fired. Talking sex on the phone during work hours is a form of sexual harassment on the other employees. Discuss the explicit sex at home, it has absolutely no place on the phone at work during work hours.

Wow, I can't believe you talk sex on the work phone. That is so out of control and unprofessional.
Scott Send private email
Sunday, May 31, 2009
 
 
Totally agree with what farmboy said. Scott, you've missed the point entirely - I don't think anybody's disagreeing with your basic premise, but when you come out with things like "Woman needs to get a job, find a hobby, or start a desperate housewives coffee club where they can meet and gossip." what the hell do you expect people to say?

I've never worked anywhere that has a personal calls policy and my wife has a steady job, but I'm not narrow minded enough not to have empathy with other people. I hope your point scoring has made you feel all warm and fuzzy instead about how great a programmer you are and how your company is the best in the world - now I'm off to do something else because I don't actually care.
Ritchie Swann Send private email
Monday, June 01, 2009
 
 
Wow.  I'm speechless.

Just to put it out there, could it be love rather than boredom?  Some (please don't think I'm generalizing, I know this isn't the case for everyone) women use gossipy, pointless conversations as a way to connect.  In the middle of the workday, whether you are at work or at home (since homemakers also have a lot on their plates), there is no time for deep conversations.  The silly little "Hi.  How are you?  What did you eat for lunch?" stuff is a way to form a very basic connection with your partner.  Maybe that's all these spouses are looking for?  A quick, easy way to express love and tighten the bond?
Tina Orooji Send private email
Monday, June 01, 2009
 
 
But is it quick and easy?  If I am in the zone, I dislike being interrupted for anything less than an emergency.  Being interrupted while in the zone makes a big difference to my productivity.  I suspect that many ITers would agree about the effect.

What I do do that too many do not is that when I surface, I check for messages.

Sincerely,

Gene Wirchenko
Gene Wirchenko Send private email
Monday, June 01, 2009
 
 
In the original article there was a list of 5 complaints. I was struck by complaints 2-4:

2. Don't call me at work unless it's an emergency.
3. If I don't return your phone call, it's not because I'm mad at you/don't love you. It's because I'm busy.
4. IT management is not a 9-to-5 job. It's complicated, demanding and stressful.

I don't know if any single respondent listed all three, but if my spouse told me "Don't call me at work, but you must understand, and be patient when I take work calls in my off hours." I'd have a pretty clear idea of where I stood in their priorities, and I'd be out of there.
Charles E. Grant Send private email
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
 
 
I've seen discussions on this topic before, but the problem is that everyone who replies is thinking of someone slightly different.

For example, the last poster said his spouse/long term relationship saying not to call him/her at work would make it pretty clear their relationship was over.

And that makes sense if you and the person you're dating are relatively stable people who don't have a problem handling the idea that the other person can be relatively cold and reserved on the phone without it being a crisis, or that you can not always be their #1 priority 100% of the time.


But there's plenty of relationships that simply are not like that and the calls go like this:

Her: Man, I am booooored. I want some excitement and to be reminded that I'm wonderful and special, so I'm going to call my husband. Ooooooh, he's going to be so excited to hear from me! I'm sure he'll break up the monotony of my day and make me feel special again.

Him: I'm in the middle of writing code. It's like I'm playing a giant game of chess and I'm trying to think 20 moves ahead. My head is calm and logical as I collect all this highly logical ideas in my head and fit them together. I'm disregarding irrelevant information but I can still barely keep track of it all. And anything I say out loud is heard (and often interrupts) the 6-10 people working around me.

Now she calls you. Aaaaaaaaaaand go!

Can you see how this goes? She's bored and not exactly invoking a sense of excitement when she calls you. You have your head on a logical plane and are dismissive about anything irrelevant. She wants excitement and affection - your thinking is cool and logical. She wants your full attention to feel special. You don't want to pay attention to anything that's not relevant to the task at hand. She's oversensitive because she only called you because she felt needy. You're cool and distant because that's the optimal way to approach your task. She gets upset. You don't want to deal with emotional stuff right now. Plus, what do woman like? They like feeling special and like they have your full and total attention. You can't give that to her at work.

So quickly it becomes apparent to you that this is NOT going to go well. So you try to do what she wants - when she calls you give her your full attention, you try to sound happy to hear from her and be more emotional and stuff.

But that doesn't work out well for you. She's still not truly happy because she feels like you're "holding back" or something as a result of the fact that you can't switch fast enough. Your coworkers are really, really annoyed at you that your emotional conversation is interrupting their cool and logical train of thought (believe me, I'm not saying they're right, but I have experienced this). Context switching from a cool, logical, and complicated mindset to an emotional, supportive, short attention span one really puts your head in a spin. I know I, for one, can lose a half hour of productivity - and that's on a GOOD day. On a really bad day the entire rest of my day is shot. Your boss is upset you're not getting your work done as fast.

Now, being emotional and supportive isn't a problem for you at home when your head isn't filled with code and stuff. When you get home you actually want to go back to being emotional, caring, supportive, passionate - etc etc. So you think "She calls me at work and feels like I'm ignoring her and she's upset. But she doesn't (usually) feel like that when I'm at home. But my career is shot if I spend all day in that emotional mindset she likes. So...maybe if she just doesn't call me at work, things will be great!"

The thing is you actually don't like spending so much of your day being cold and relatively emotionless. You'd really rather be happy and passionate and caring, etc etc more of your day. And THAT is why don't like to talk about work at home. You don't want to get back into that "work work work" mindset that recounting work would be about. You want to stay in happy emotional time, both because of that and because she isn't going to like you as much in your work mindset.

Now, that's almost as bad of a solution as her idea that every time she calls you you'll be available and supportive and wonderful.

IMO, a far better balance is:
1. When she calls and you're in the middle of something you need to work it out so you can say you can't talk, and she's fine with that.
2. She needs to realize she's often not going to be the center of your attention when she calls you at work and not feel slighted because of it.
3. She needs to not *always* call you when she's feeling *needy* or you start to dread her calls.
4. You need to take her call when you're not so busy because you don't *always* have your head in the middle of code. If you're always busy you need to make a certain small amount of time to talk to her - your boss expects you to handle interruptions from him/her and you manage it, do the same thing with calls from your wife/girlfriend.
5. When you do think of her in the middle of the day in a happy way, give her a call. If she's not there leave her a message - women do love that "I'm (happily) thinking of you at the moment" stuff.
6. Sometimes when she calls and you're working on something really boring, go ahead and describe it to her. She's going to be bored to tears just as you expect. However - when she thinks of you being at work it's better she pictures you doing something she finds really boring than her picturing you partying all day with that cute new secretary (or whatever she imagines - sometimes she just imagines you having a good time while she's stuck at home not having a good time).

Naturally, there are many, many variations on this theme. Maybe she's more needy. Maybe you're not that emotional at home, either. Maybe after a while you've reached that point of "I love you, but I don't always like you that much. How are the kids?" But the above is what's happened to me between 2 well meaning, not terribly misadjusted people. I do take a little offense at the articles suggestion that it's always the person with the career's fault - sometimes the person at home really just needs to be ok with the fact that they're not the 100% center of the world 100% of the time (they can't be if you want to hold down a job).
PaulRivers Send private email
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
 
 
+MAX_INT to PaulRivers.  You, sir, just put forth the absolute best analysis of the whole issue in the entire thread.

The big thing that surprised me in the article was that the wives of the execs were pretty much assumed to not have jobs of their own.  I suppose the stay-at-home business is more common at that level, but out of the married guys I work with, 95% of their wives have jobs too (even if they have small children).
Justice Walker Send private email
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
 
 
Thank you very much Paul Rivers for your well written, entertaining and useful post.

It occurred to me reading it a situation where it  may be more clear.

You are a brain surgeon. You are in the middle of brain surgery. Your work and profession require that you be utterly focussed on the task at hand, a 6 hr long complicated surgery. The slightest detail overlooked, and the patient will be a drooling moron for the rest of their life, if they even survive.

The phone rings. According to many posters here, and the psychiatrist cited in the article, if the surgeon does not take the call and reassure the wife, he is a cold and uncaring monster and the marriage is doomed.
Scott Send private email
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
 
 
"The phone rings. According to many posters here, and the psychiatrist cited in the article, if the surgeon does not take the call and reassure the wife, he is a cold and uncaring monster and the marriage is doomed."

You have a notable tendency to hyperbole and black and white thinking.

I could counter with the equally imaginary scenario of  a spouse calling to say that their 3 year old has been killed in a car accident, and the doctors need to know if they should be taken off life support. The engineer screams at his spouse for destroying his "flow", hangs up and goes back to  composing his really devastating reply for a JOS forum flame war.
Charles E. Grant Send private email
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
 
 
"You are a brain surgeon. You are in the middle of brain surgery. Your work and profession require that you be utterly focussed on the task at hand, a 6 hr long complicated surgery. The slightest detail overlooked, and the patient will be a drooling moron for the rest of their life, if they even survive."

The good thing about CRUD programming is that nobody dies after all...
darkt Send private email
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
 
 
Thanks, Paul.

I think it takes a balanced approach on both sides.

It does sound like the execs in the articles making those complaints could use some lessons in sensitivity.  But they weren't going to get those lessons from that article, since it failed to address their concerns.
John McGuinness Send private email
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
 
 
"The good thing about CRUD programming is that nobody dies after all..."

Just today, I've been working on a CRUD program to ensure that nobody dies. It's for the manufacturing line of a medical device.
Mark Ransom Send private email
Friday, June 05, 2009
 
 

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