Mentoring - Standards Watchdog - Do you help everyone to learn the rules?

Last updated by Tiago Araújo [SSW] 3 months ago.See history

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" goes the saying. Having a strict coding standard is prevention. To create good code you must have good standards, such as commenting standards, naming standards, versioning standards and knowing the value of consistency.

But this can really only happen if you’re going to go the extra mile and stick your neck out and correct someone.

watchdog mean
Figure: Bad example - Receiving corrections is never easy and often received more harshly than the giver intended

watchdog watchdog
Figure: Good example - Go super gentle when people make mistakes. Correct them as though they’re a soft cute puppy 🐶

Every member of a team plays an important role in maintaining standards. Whether it's your work or someone else's, always keep an eye out for things that can be improved.

This rule applies to all company standards. Standards are important because they ensure your experience at work is consistent and enjoyable. For example, if there was no standard to stack the dishes in the dishwasher when you were finished using them, dishes would build up and create a big mess in the kitchen!

Be nice, not harsh

Read Do you know the nice way to correct someone?

Small things = Tiny Tip

When the 'mistake' the person made is not an actual mistake, but something that the company has decided to do in one way for consistency, without a strong argument.

Tiny Tip: I’d use international format on your phone number so people outside Australia can just click to dial as per

Figure: Good example - Nicely informing of a small standard oversight

Important things = Tip

When there is a proven better way to do something different from what the person has done. You should try to include the reasons.

Tip: I noticed your email has a very generic subject: "website". Please resend with a descriptive email subject as per Rules to Better Email. This way it is easier to identify, categorize and find this email later, without having to open it :)

Figure: Good example - Nicely informing of a better way to do something

Crucial things = Critical

When the error the person committed can lead to a misunderstanding or a security breach. You should include a task with action when necessary.

Critical: When sending a proposal never use the word "quote", but use "estimates" instead. As per Rules to Better Project Management we don't work with a fixed price, which is opposite to what the word "quote" implies. This might create different expectation and consequently frustration and legal problems with the client.

  1. Please fix asap

Figure: Good example - Nicely informing of a critical mistake

Coding - For Developers

When you come across a code error, it's always better if you just fix it straight away. Then write an email to the person explaining what has been done wrong and how you fixed it.

In cases where you aren't able to fix yourself, send an email to report the error/bug, which should be become a PBI and then fixed.


What if it's recurring?

When you notice someone doing the wrong thing:

  • First time just send an email with a pointer to the rule
  • The second time, have a very quick chat with them
  • Third time call them in and give them a formal talk about it

Focus on the meat first

When you receive a great 'done' email or document, make sure you mention how great it is before correcting any potential error.

Timing is everything - Don't bottle it up

It can be tempting to offer your feedback as soon as you think of it, but it's better to hold off until the recipient is in a place where they can hear it. If a person is busy, distracted, or in a poor emotional state, chances are your feedback won’t hit the mark. Wait until the person is calm and relaxed before asking them if now is a good time to offer your feedback.

For more, check out Do you know to create a safe space instead of jumping into feedback?

watchdog ghost
Figure: Bad example - Seeing a mistake and not pointing it out doesn't improve a person. Allow them to benefit from your experience!

Going Anonymous

If a critique is personal, it can be hard to correct someone – especially if you don’t have a close relationship with that person. In a case like this, you should discretely ask your manager how to proceed.

Taking Feedback

watchdog thankyou
Figure: Good example - Say 'thank you' to a person's corrections to show you don't have thin skin and encourage further positive and negative feedback. It all helps you to improve

In Summary

It's important to ensure others are doing their best to maintain and follow the standards. Remember, it can be just as important for someone's professional development to give feedback as it is to receive it. Being able to communicate feedback in an effective and professional manner can benefit you in any career.

Figure: Good example - Nicely informing of a standards violation

Using ChatGPT to correct someone nicely

Using ChatGPT can be an effective way to correct someone nicely. It allows you to provide feedback in a friendly and creative manner, reducing the risk of making the recipient feel defensive or upset. Use ChatGPT to create a personalized and entertaining message that communicates your feedback.

Example prompt:

"Act as a rules watchdog and ask Bob to:

  1. Send a v2 email using the "To Myself" format per SSW Rules
  2. Instruct Sophie to send an invoice after the trip, and
  3. Mention other attendees

Number each point. Make it friendly and funny by acting as a dog character. Be concise.”

Correct someone nicely
Figure: The example prompt generates a fun email

Providing feedback in a light-hearted and friendly manner can encourage colleagues to be more receptive to suggestions. Click “Regenerate response” if you don't like the output!

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