Bad Idea Rejection Tokens™

Something I really appreciate1 when I see it manifested in an engineering lead is the habit of letting subordinates’ arguments frequently win the day during run-of-the-mill code reviews, even when the lead remains skeptical or — especially — is in sharp disagreement with the proposed changes. Disagreeing but permitting isn’t a sign of weakness. In the context of a healthy team dynamic, it’s a sign of good leadership.

There are a finite number of Bad Idea Rejection Tokens™ that a lead can cash in before their teammates conclude that the team lead has a closed mind and a bad attitude. “I wouldn’t have done it that way” is not something an engineering lead should find themselves saying often during code review. Making a habit of rejecting your teammates’ work is toxic for morale and productivity. If instead the lead only occasionally exercises their veto powers, then the teammates can trust that when the lead rejects their work it isn’t motivated by stubbornness but by a good-faith effort to practice good judgment. Finding the right balance between permissiveness and restraint is key.

  1. Yep, it’s a good habit I’m seeing demonstrated at work these days, and I’m stoked about it. ↩︎

|  7 Aug 2018