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Do you find it hard to be honest with others about some aspect of developing software? Or maybe you find others are withholding truths, and you wonder why? Today I’d like to share some ways I have been dishonest earlier in my career, and I now see are common in our industry.

Not Admitting Being Unfamiliar With Something

In short time, we can gain a lot of knowledge about technology and software development processes. If we’re not careful, this leads to a “big head” or inflated ego, and we can feel embarrassed if we haven’t heard about “the new hotness”. If we’re honest with others when we don’t know something, they trust us more to be transparent, and they know they can share things they are excited about without us shutting them down in an attempt to be seen as the expert.

Saying “Yes” To Work You Don’t Understand

It is often that on software projects we are asked to estimate work based on the information another has captured for us. If we don’t fully take the time to understand it, or have a self-inflated sense of our level of skill, it doesn’t take much to agree to work when we shouldn’t. I learned to say “No” more strongly and honestly about 5 years ago, and it has helped me on numerous occasions. When I didn’t do this, I would often put myself under extra pressure, and have to reset expectations with the other party who is now upset that I can’t deliver what they expected.

Not Admitting We’ve Overlooked A Process Step

Software development is inherently complex and often requires many moving parts to be changed in a very specific sequence to accomplish work. As humans, we will inevitably make mistakes. Under pressure, I have failed to be honest with others that I simply forgot a step in my desire to be seen as the expert.

I have become MUCH better about being honest about this now, but it is very common in more junior technologists. When we take responsibility for forgetting something, we build trust with others who know we will hold ourselves accountable for our actions.

Making Generalizations About Others

In our desire to be seen as the expert, we can sometimes have just a few interactions with another person and then paint them as incompetent or lacking in skill to others. This thinly-veiled attempt to make ourselves appear smarter than we are casts doubt in all but the most unsophisticated of people. If the person you made a generalization about meets the person you said this to, they will find out that you are quick to judge and make inaccurate statements on a whim. Just don’t do this!

Not Being Honest About Your Level Of Contribution

We work hard to produce quality deliverables and value for our team and customers on software projects. And few things feel better than a customer or someone else at the company saying “great job!” But I have not always been as forthcoming about the work others did to support me in successes, and since getting better at this my ability to motivate others and build trust has gone up tremendously.

When you check yourself when receiving a complement and remember to include others who were part of the success, you build a positive emotional connection between you and them, and deepen the trust and loyalty necessary to keep a strong team together.