Several months ago, I came across a post on UXmatters, entitled Power or Collaboration — What’s Most Valuable to a UX Leader by Jim Nieters. I made a note to myself to write about my thoughts on this post, and have just recently dedicated the time to do so. When I first read the post, I thought I would write something about UX Leadership, however, after rereading I have determined that a much more important topic is raised here… that is we, as UX, need to stop the madness within our own profession. That madness? Taking any scraps we can get from the organizational dinner table. Obviously, I’ll need to explain this further.
Let’s start with what we, as the UX profession, have got going on currently. We are, per usual, trying to do a lot of things to further ourselves as individuals as well as a profession. In order to do this, we take every step we can to evangelize and promote the awesomeness that is UX. We do this as leaders and employees within the organizations and agencies that we have committed ourselves to helping make better. In these roles, we work our butts off in order to gain more respect and ultimately power for ourselves, so that we can see our design solutions released out into production for our beloved users to use. Doing these things is all well and good as long as they are getting us the results we need in some capacity. However, I believe that we have reached a point where taking any little bit of respect and power, even respect and power that doesn’t help us progress in our roles, may no longer be good enough. Maybe we are working our butts off too much in some cases, going down too many useless rabbit holes and trying to serve too many different masters… has UX progressed beyond this?
First, let’s focus on the main problem with taking any little bit of recognition and respect that some of our organizations, executives and non-UX colleagues might give us. The main problem is, despite these little bits of acknowledgment, our hard work might not be able to get us very far inside of our organization, the effort does not equal the reward. Think about it this way, what if our organization at its highest level, will never support UX as the huge value add that it is? Is the fight even worth it? And does our hard work really pay off…. most importantly what if you are working in an organization where UX will never be valued? Even after all of your hard work and evangilizing what if your value will never really be seen? I think we have all been in a situation where no matter how hard we try, our words and actions are not getting through. You’ve followed all the rules, all the articles, blogs, video how-tos on promoting UX and gaining concensus, respect, power, and all of these things “should” have worked… and in some places they do work, however in your case nothing is working. Thus, all your hardwork has been for not. This is a problem because it then makes you either feel completely devalued and thus give up the fight, or it makes you so mad that your job at this organization is not longer about great UX, but about being bitter and angry and just getting through the week. Nobody wants this for themselves. So, how then, do we get through to these non-UX loving organizations and get UX the executive support it needs for all of us to be successful?
One solution: you leave. Yes, that’s right, you quit your job and find a new one. One in which the executive level either already understands and supports the value that UX brings or even one in which the idea of providing that support is welcomed. Not only do you leave, but be sure you tell them why you are leaving. Let them know that they are losing your value because they refuse to support it. I believe, that UX has reached a level where we no longer need to take however little we get when it comes to respect and power. I believe that we have proven our value over and over again so much that it is time we start using that value to our advantage. There are companies and organizations out there that would kill to have the type of thought leadership and skillset that we as UXers provide… we need to start rewarding them with our value, instead of rewarding the organizations that don’t see our value. Of course, this is easier for some of us than others of us. I realize that being someone who lives in a large city, I have many more job options than some others. However, given the nature of your work, how valuable you are to organizations, and how much you give for so little, I think that any of us could do this. So, yes I’m proposing a UX strike! It’s time to punish those organizations that only see us as non-thinking, interface puppets who are supposed to make things “look good”. Why do we work for these people anyway? They don’t deserve us! We don’t need their stinking table scraps anymore… there is a full course meal that we can get somewhere else.
From our Strike, there are many possible outcomes. The most obvious to me is that these old school, non-UX valuing organizations’ products and services begin to die out. Because they don’t have great, or even good experiences, they will begin to lag behind their competition and the market will punish them for not valuing us. Thus, perhaps through peaceful resistance, we can begin to change the system. On an individual level, the benefits of internalizing your own value, and only providing that value to those organizations that deserve it, will enable you to work for an organization that not only sees and appreciates your value, but in an one that will allow you to grow professionally into an even better UX employee. Making you feel satisfied in your work, as well as enabling you to improve the work you do which increases both your confidence and your knowledge. All of this obviously also enables us to help the people that we serve even more, our users. So let’s do it UX… let’s go on Strike against all of these companies that don’t value us… let’s fight the power!