Thursday, April 18, 2013

Running On Empty

Empty Cup
A friend of mine told me about an experience with their child psychologist the other day. It was mostly about dealing with teenager issues but one thing they mentioned that I found interesting was how every child has a sort of "love cup".

The idea is that every time the parent plays with, compliments or encourages the child as he/she grows up, another drop is added to the love cup. Any time that the parent ignores, tears down or hurts the child, drops are removed. If the parent removes too much from the love cup, the child will respond in unfortunate ways such as rebellion, anger or poor self esteem. If the cup goes beyond empty (negative), the child may become self-destructive which would require a lot of drops added to the cup to even get to empty.

It's an interesting theory which I've found to be true not only with observing children of friends and family but my own children as well. With every drop added, the more I see children respond positively to their parents as well as being happier overall.

Hearing about this idea of a "love cup" made me think about how I should spend more time with my children but it also made me think of how applicable this is at work. I would still consider it a "love cup" at work (because you love your job right?) but it probably sounds better as a "trust" or "satisfaction"cup.

Satisfaction Cup


I know that when I start with a new employer, the sheer excitement of starting somewhere new fills my cup most of the way. New people, new environment, new challenges and new code bases always seem to do it for me and most developers I know.

Once the honeymoon period of a new job is over, things start taking drops from the cup:

  • Management issues
  • Nasty legacy code
  • Team issues
  • Interoffice team issues
  • Not enough to do/boredom

It's funny, the things that add to the cup are the exact opposites of what takes from the cup. I've seen good managers turn teams around. I've also seen strong teams wade happily through some of the nastiest legacy code simply because they enjoy hanging out together. As long as the cup is being filled faster than it's being emptied, a job can be satisfying.

But what happens when the cup goes into the negative? That's usually when one starts becoming toxic and although it may be possible to turn things around, I've found it's usually a sign that it's time to start looking for other employment.

Know Your Cup


If you find your cup draining faster than it's being filled, let someone that can fix the problem know. It's sad when someone is struggling and those that can fix the problem don't know about it. Actively look for ways to stop the hurting and if your cup fall into the negative and you notice yourself becoming toxic, take the time to decide if it's best to leave before burning too many bridges.

It's an interesting theory and I'm curious as to what others think of it. Does it resonate with you? Am I way off? What fills your cup? What empties it? Let me know in the comments.

Image © Parrus | Dreamstime Stock Photos & Stock Free Images

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