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Why You Should Encourage Criticism

Internal Communication
Feedback

2 July, 2018

Amandeep Midha
Amandeep Midha

Principal IT Consultant at BEC

Amandeep Midha discusses the benefits of allowing for criticism and debate in your company and of allowing even junior developers to provide open feedback.

Problem

In 2004, I was hired as an individual contributor by a big company who wanted to rewrite their entire UI to have all of their models' front-end architectures using Struts. When I started working there, I found that they were using an XSL-based UI, with iframes sitting right next to each other and with one big page being built up of a number of subpages. This wouldn't have worked with Struts, as the framework required us to use just one parent page.

Actions taken

While I was aware people might be frustrated by finding this out, I decided to be very frank and upfront about this. I explained that before we could start using the new framework, the building blocks would need to fall into place and they would need to meet some preconditions. I was lucky that the company I was working for at the time gave me the freedom to communicate, even when what you were communicating wasn't what they wanted to hear. Typically, most companies don't allow or encourage more junior staff members to speak their mind. However, what I really appreciated about this work environment was that they didn't mind whether you were a junior developer or a very senior person in the company, they would hear you out regardless of hierarchy. You can encourage people to be willing to speak out by building up a good rapport and a good level of trust with them. Get to know your ICs as people, rather than just as developers. By building up a level of trust, you empower people to be able to provide you with constructive feedback and to say no when they think something can't be done.

Lessons learned

I always try to keep people around me who aren't afraid to speak their mind and who are comfortable with providing me with constructive criticism, rather than yes-men who promise that everything can be done. It's okay to have fiery debates and arguments with your colleagues, as long as nobody is attempting to criticize just for criticisms' sake.

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