Posted On: Saturday, 13 March 2010 by Rajiv Popat

Jack in engaged in a deep conversation with his manager. The topic of the conversation is hugely stereotypical. Here is the story so far: his manager wants to know how much time a module will take to build, Jack has given an estimate, his manager is a little surprised and has asked him why it would take that much time. Jack is giving explanations and his manager is giving counter arguments on the but-we-already-have-that-code-in-a-different-module line.

The scene should have resembled exactly the kind of haggling that you would need to do in an Asian or Indian fruit market.

But sadly enough, it just resembles something I have seen so often, that I don't even find it remotely funny.

Every other day I see countless young and budding developers cribbing about how their manager does not understand their problems and does not give them enough time to get things done. Then I see the same developers struggling day and night till they emerge victorious as undefeated heroes who saved the day for the organization. 

As a developer, if you have ever allowed your manager to get into a haggle mode with timelines you have made three classical mistakes which will just make things worse moving forward.

Firstly, you have told your manager that you are not sure of your own velocity and that its OK to haggle.

Secondly, if you have compromised or changed your schedule (even by just a couple of days) you have actually told your manager that haggling helps. You have told your manager that you are typically the kind where it requires 'pushing you harder' to get things done.

Thirdly, if you have managed to complete everything you were supposed to in the newly haggled time frame, you have reconfirmed your managers belief that he was right in pushing you a 'little harder'.

Next time, before you see a negotiation meeting coming, think hard on the estimates you have given. If you have unrealistic estimates behave with integrity, fix them before you attend that meeting and send them over to your manager. If however, you believe that you have realistic estimates and that you are doing all you can to get a quality job done, have the spine to say 'no' to haggling. 

Realistically, finding yourself in a situation where the sky is falling, once or twice is unavoidable. Having said that, if you find regularly yourself working in a fire fighting mode and the reason is haggled deadlines, chances are that you are not acting responsibly and you do not have the spine to say no.

When you allow haggling over timelines, you reconfirm was your managers belief that if he gets you to a meeting-room and uses all the arrows in the management quicker, he can get you to perform magical acts which you otherwise do not perform.

Next time you find yourself haggling over timelines, do some soul searching and ask yourself if you are doing all you can to get the release out without impacting quality.

Are you behaving with integrity and already putting in all you can?

If the answer is yes, don't be bullied or intimidated and have the spine to say no to haggling.

I wish you good luck.

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