Vakkotaur (vakkotaur) wrote,

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"The unspoken truth about managing geeks"

Actually, I think that should be the "Unrealized Truth About Managing People." About a week ago an article in ComputerWorld made the rounds, The unspoken truth about managing geeks, and got a lot of positive reaction. While it talks about IT Professionals, it applies to anyone with enough brains to not swallow every bit of nonsense some idiot salesman says. I've extracted a few key bits, but the entire article is worth a read. It should probably be required reading for anyone even contemplating a management job. I doubt that will ever actually happen, after all Dilbert is a documentary disguised as a comic strip.

On perceived ego: "It's not about being right for the sake of being right but being right for the sake of saving a lot of time, effort, money and credibility."

Mentality: "When things don't add up, they are prone to express their opinions on the matter, and the level of response will be proportional to the absurdity of the event. The more things that occur that make no sense, the more cynical [they] become. [...] Presuming this is a trait that must be disciplined out of them is a huge management mistake."


"If you are dismissive of complaints, fail to recognize an illogical event or behave in deceptive ways, [they] will likely stop complaining to you. You might mistake this as a behavioral improvement, when it's actually a show of disrespect. It means you are no longer worth talking to..." [Emphasis mine.] This is so very true. It's a off-net version of dealing with damage by routing around it.

Insubordination: "[They] are not anti-bureaucracy, as many observers think. They are anti-stupidity."

"Arbitrary or micro-management, illogical decisions, inconsistent policies, the creation of unnecessary work and exclusionary practices will elicit a quiet, subversive, almost vicious attitude..."

"They may work on big projects or steer the group entirely from the shadows while diverting the attention of supervisors to lesser topics. They believe they are protecting the organization, as well as their own credibility -- and they are often correct." [Emphasis mine.]

Credit whoring: "[They] would prefer to make a good decision than to get credit for it. What will make them seek credit is the danger that a member of the group or management who is dangerous to the process might receive the credit for the work instead. That is insulting. If you've got a lot of credit whores in your group, there are bigger problems causing it." I don't like saying "I did that" just too much when it is or should be a team effort, but if a slacker is getting equal credit because the rest of us are working our asses off to compensate for his lazy butt, well, don't be surprised if you hear a bit more detail than you think you need to hear.

Antisocial behavior: "Like anyone else, [they] tend to socialize with people who respect them. They'll stop going to the company picnic if it becomes an occasion for everyone to list all the [...] problems they never bothered to mention before."

And this really goes for everyone, at least everyone with any work ethic at all: "[They] work their butts off for people they respect, so you need to give them every reason to afford you some. Also true is, "Standard managerial processes are nearly useless." Earlier the article mentions that professional courtesy is not the same as respect and while that professional courtesy may be an automatic thing, respect is still an earned commodity. I once told the expediter (dock supervisor) at the Post Office that I stayed later than scheduled because I was helping him and NOT because of the regular supervisor who was a micromanaging buffoon. Had it just been for that fellow, I'd have clocked out exactly as scheduled and not felt the slightest remorse about it.

And this is also true: "...the fight in most [..] groups is in how to get things done, not how to avoid work. [They] will self-organize, disrupt and subvert in the name of accomplishing work. An over-structured, micro-managing, technically deficient runt, no matter how polished, who's thrown into the mix for the sake of management will get a response from the [..] group that's similar to anyone's response to a five-year-old tugging his pants leg." That's not just IT folks, that pretty much describes every place I've ever worked. Things get done in spite of micromanagement, but never because of it. This was (and is) as true at the Post Office as it was (and is) for programming.

In fact, when that micromanager at the Post Office wasn't there, his substitute tended to be rather scarce and barely appeared to do much at all. One of the things he realized was that everybody knew what had to be done and how to do it. So he simply got out of their way and let them do the job. He was only needed when things really didn't go right or something unexpected happened. The result was a much smoother operation and a much happier crew. And this wasn't IT or programming or engineering but was largely grunt-work.

Farker vossiewulf summed it up in three rules:

1. Don't bullshit [them] and keep all marketing weasel speak out of your vocabulary.
2. Don't tell them how to fix a problem, define the desired behavior and let them determine the best solution.
3. Give them the tools they need to get done what you ask of them.

If you don't want to believe that, consider this bit of information from Farker sseye "That was actually a decent article. I've seen a few companies that would still be worth something, or still in business, if their management took that advice."

Marketing weasel words and similar nonsense merely trips very sensitive bullshit detectors - and once those go off, everything is dismissed as the drivel of an idiot and/or liar. The person spouting such garbage gets all the respect of the proverbial shady used car salesman - because that's all he deserves.

Tags: management, managing, people, work
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