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If your managers don't know it, odds are you're probably not as irreplaceable as you think. Basically, it should be a very simple story to communicate: "I leave, this system goes down because XYZ. That costs you some highly uncertain or unbounded amount and could bring down the business." If they care about their business, they're paying attention. (Not to say you should be this blunt, but it should be the subtext.)

I think that the "caring about their business" is the grandparent's point: There are a lot of bad low level and middle managers whose whole reason for being bad is either not caring or having no ability to measure employee contributions.

I think of a job I quit a while ago: I was getting all the credit in the world, as I had been hired by the rare competent manager. The department had a non-public document rating each employee and contractor, and their idea of how likely they were to leave. I got to take a peek at it, and any technical employee could use it to easily identify the bad managers, if just because their team's scores were all wrong: Terrible, toxic employees being rated as great and at risk of fleeing because they behaved like Linus. Good people that were actively looking for other jobs seen as under average but with no risk of leaving... completely wrong.

In the last 15 years I have seen plenty of good and bad developers, but, for the most part, there is little disagreements among the technical staff about each other's competence. If kept in a purely technical role, a bad employee can produce nothing. Bad managers, however, are often seen as successes by their own managers, and end up killing teams and companies.

I'm not sure it's that simple, especially on large systems. I've seen several cases where an employee was responsible for only a small section of a huge system but was actually the only one who knew how the whole thing fit together.

We (his co-workers) all knew it, we were asking him questions all day. Our manager had a vague idea he was good, but that was it.

The system doesn't always reward the best performers...it doesn't even know who they are (that's why performance management is a multi-billion dollar industry).

> The system doesn't always reward the best performer

Reading your comment, it brought back to mind: employee value isn't a linear scale, from "bad" to "good". What they contribute is complex.

Amen. If that isn't the truth, i don't know what is.

To me, that complexity is what makes it difficult for the system to find and reward the right people. That's what make it easy for employee value to get lost in the numbers, in exhaustion, in time crunches and stack rankings.

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