The social circuit breaker

The same way I have applied ideas from agile development to other random situations like moving from one country to another I have come to realize that there is a pattern that I should apply. I call it the social circuit breaker.

In today's work environment it is more and more common that most communication happens over email. And sometimes nuances or important points are missed since emails tend to be short and easily can be misunderstood. Same thing goes for code reviews if you don't do them face to face.

Here is where the social circuit breaker comes into play. For example when it comes to code reviews; a code review that contains more than 5-10 issues become overwhelming to respond to and when you add that same comment for the 25th time it is easy to come across as snarky. However with the social circuit breaker enabled as soon as you reach the 10th comment you stop. Let the requestor know that you will not look further until the findings so far are fixed or even better walk over and do the whole review face to face.

Now back to email. Ever been part of an email thread where you feel like you are trying to explain your point over and over again just by using different words each time? Well with the social circuit breaker in play the second or third time (depending on your threshold) you find your self trying to explain the same thing again, don't Just don't do it. Instead solve it face to face or at least over the phone.

You should also use the social circuit breaker even if you are not repeating yourself. Any conversation that goes on in writing for too long should be protected by the circuit breaker so that Godwin's law does not come into play.

By applying the social circuit breaker you are less likely to cause friction in your team and hence you will have a happier team. What situations would you use the social circuit breaker?

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