Seriously, how can someone not be thrilled to work as a software developer? Think about this, how many jobs out there give you the ultimate blank canvas where you constantly discover a new and better way to get things done? It's hard for me to consider this just another 9 to 5 job.
On the other hand, I can see how someone lands in an environment when such freedom or room for exploration is not granted, and settles for stability and a decent paycheck in exchange for suppressed dreams and aspirations. People have their families and different priorities than I and I fully sympathize with that compromise. That doesn't stop me from trying to bring them back, though.
It should be no news to you that people work better when they like what they are doing and who they work with. I haven't seen any effective way to make people start to like working with each other, but getting someone to restore the lost interest in the job they once loved: that sounds doable. The key here is that many of our seemingly uninterested fellow programmers one day chose this career and went into it with high hopes. At some point down the line, something caused them to slip into this low energy state where the clock ticks slower and learning something doesn't seem worthwhile.
I think nothing explains the above behavioral pattern better than reading and observing Wally. I bet you have a Wally working with you right now or at least had one in the past, in that previous job that you are glad you left behind. As the Wikipedia article shows, even a nerve-racking co-worker like Wally can have very active and promising past (as twisted as that sounds.)
I'll have to take a break and acknowledge that some people just don't have any interest in changing their attitude and I'll be respectful of that. I won't be that annoying car salesman that keeps coming back to offer the car you don't need.
But back to the question, how can someone like Wally regain his original momentum? I think there isn't one big solution to that. Instead there are lots of small things that accumulate over time and can effect change. Most of these things relate more to ourselves than to the intended peer. It all revolves around attitude.
Positive attitudes are often contagious, the problem is that the incubation period can be long. You have to hang in there. Throughout the entire process you cannot refrain from displaying your enthusiasm with the tasks you complete or with new things you learn. Keep sharing interesting and reusable information. Show that you are always available to help by the simple fact that it is a pleasure for you to engage on a challenging debugging session or after-hours discussions on emerging technologies.
Some people would say it's not a programmer's job to deal with motivational issues of other developers. I think this is a very short sighted view of your role in the team. If one team member is no longer bringing his A-game, the other members will have to pick up the slack, which is not exactly fair.
Wally is a bright guy, it's to our own advantage to rescue him from zombie-land.
03-28-2008 5:23 PM