Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login

Motivating the Middle [0] by T.J. Sullivan

It's a relatively short book and it's focus is on college fraternities (which is what I was in when I first read it). I bought about 20 copies and handed them out after reading it. While it has nothing to do with software development I have found it's core message to be applicable to working on a team. The core message is you can normally divide your organization up into 3 categories, these will not necessarily be equal in size. These categories are the highly motivated "top" go-getters who will do everything they can to help further the org, the "middle" who with the right motivation can work just as hard and be just as driven as the first group, and the "bottom" who rarely make more than minimum effort if that and are extremely unlikely to go out of their way for the greater good of the org. The book suggests to more or less ignore the bottom and spend your energy on "motivating the middle" to use them to their greatest potential. It says that spending your time on the bottom is a fruitless endeavor and will only result in alienating the middle people who are somewhat on the fence.

Now this applies much more to a community-run (in this case student-run) organization where letting someone go is often off the table (in greek life removing a brother/sister can be a much bigger challenge than one might assume). I do not bring any of this up to debate the pros and cons of greek like of which there are many (you can talk to me privately if you wish to do that), but just to bring some clarity to what I'm trying to say.

Often as an employee not in a managerial role you are in a similar situation and while I'd be a lier if I said I always applied this logic but I do try to always remember that being annoyed/angry with under-performers is, in all honesty, a zero-sum game. It's best to focus on what I can do to make the place I work better and work to bring the "middle" to want the same.

It's probably not the best book to bring up here but it's really the only book I'd ever bought for more than 1 person (and the only one that I didn't by for purely entertainment/enjoyment reasons, I've gifted fiction books on a number of occasions).

[0] https://smile.amazon.com/Motivating-Middle-Fighting-College-...

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact