The Unix sysadmin's guide to getting along with co-workers

You might be the sole Unix geek at work or one among many, but there are things we can all do to develop and maintain better relationships with the people lucky enough to work with us.


OK, that teaser was somewhat tongue-in-cheek. I'm not sure that I really believe that anyone who works with me is "lucky", but I've learned some rules of thumb over the years about how to get along with the people with whom I work. Others I'm still working on. In fact, I've come to believe that maintaining good relationships at work is something that all of us have to put effort into on a nearly continuous basis. It's far too easy to become defensive, bitter, and jealous when things don't seem to be going our way. Over the years, I have had big successes I hardly expected and losses I didn't deserve, but good relationships with my coworkers have often made the difference between a really bad job experience and one that worked.

One of the top strategies for managing relationships at work is to always maintain an appropriate level of humor. It doesn't pay to be goofy, but a few running jokes and inside humor can lighten those hard days when you'd otherwise be inclined to beat your head against the wall or cry out in frustration. Keep your sense of humor, even when the going gets rough. Spend a little time away from the office together if you can. Share some personal events. Don’t base your entire relationship on trouble tickets and backups.

Another, perhaps related, tactic is to remember that you are not your job. I've had to remind myself of this time and time again. To a large degree, I often let my career become too big a part of my self-definition. One way around this -- other than having a deeply satisfying personal life (which hasn't always worked for me) -- is to base some part of your professional identity well beyond the walls of the building in which you work. Join professional organizations. Meet people at conferences and stay in touch. Develop and share tutorials on those things you're really good at. Find ways to use your skills that provide you with an independent sense of your worth. And don’t lose track of the fact that your coworkers are not their jobs either.

Try to avoid becoming isolated, even when your work is primarily independent of the work of your coworkers. For several years, I worked for a guy who cut me off from everything else going on in our division. He'd drop by my office once a week to ask what I'd been working on and then disappear for a week while maintaining conspiracy theories about how his boss was intent on making everything we worked on fail. Having connections outside the company -- my writing and part-time teaching -- helped me deal with the isolation, but I don't ever want to work like that again. In retrospect, I should have found some way to better understand and deal with whatever politics were feeding this situation, but I survived and he didn't.

Another lesson -- behave professionally. Make peace with your big disappointments without allowing resentment to build up, leaving you bitter or impacting the quality of your work or your relationships with your coworkers.

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123RF Stock Photo / lovleah

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