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Ask HN: Why do managers get paid more than individual contributors?
74 points by rishirishi on June 24, 2018 | hide | past | web | favorite | 78 comments
A manager in this context is one that has direct reports and does not directly contribute to the work.

It is not to say that what managers do is not important. But, I am not yet convinced that as a manager you should get paid more because you have direct reports and have people management responsibilities.

In good companies there are two career paths:

- a management track

- an IC (individual contributor) track

There are different levels on the different tracks, and each is paid for that level. A super experienced IC will be paid more than a junior manager, and vice versa. So it doesn't have to be true that a manager earns more than an IC, and for example many ICs at Google are paid millions of $$, much much more than the average manager (or average IC, of course).

But when managers are paid more, why is that? Sometimes, the experience needed to be a manager is higher. For example, an engineering manager that wasn't previously an engineer may struggle to manage their team. As such, an engineering manager might have 10 years of engineering behind them before making the leap over to other track, and we don't just start them at the bottom given their relevant experience.

Another reason is that managers are multipliers. A good manager can take a team of good ICs and turn them into amazing ICs working together as a team. A bad manager might multiply the team by 0.5, or 0.1, but no-one hires a manager expecting them to suck, so you pay them as if their multiplier is 2x (and hopefully fire them if they suck).

Of course, managers and ICs are different roles in the employment market. ICs often don't like management (which is a challenging, and often very different job from ICing). So they different have supply/demand curves.

If the above doesn't apply to your workplace, then the obvious thing is true: they pay managers more because they value managers more. Whether that is the right thing to do is clearly in the eye of the beholder.

Great post. From my experience, becoming an IC that is "paid millions of $$" is akin to being Kobe Bryant [EG you prototyped google earth or wrote swift]. Most will never become Kobe Bryant - I don't care how many basketballs you toss in the air. But, IMHO becoming a highly paid manager just takes experience, a smile and luck (placed on the right team).

>But, IMHO becoming a highly paid manager just takes experience, a smile and luck (placed on the right team).

like happening to be the manager of that guy who wrote swift.

I was interviewed by the manager of that guy who wrote Swift. In my limited interaction with him, he seemed like an incredibly competent manager. He managed a high-functioning team for around a decade, and somehow also wrote the original Clang static analyzer. Here's what Chris Lattner had to say about him: https://daringfireball.net/linked/2017/01/13/lattner-kremene...

Good perspective, pbiggar.

Question for clarification: Do those ICs making "a lot" report to managers that make more, less or equal (generally speaking of course)?

Everything is highly situational. I couldn't tell you whether it's better to have your most valuable ICs managed by the best managers, or whether the most valuable ICs need only limited management and you should have your best managers focusing on improving more junior engineers.

(This assumes that the "managers" are strictly people managers. Often, managers might do some or all of managing teams, products, releases, people, or technical leadership. It certainly wouldn't be unheard of to have a manager's team include an engineer far senior to the manager.)

I’ve managed people who were paid an order of magnitude more than I was making. I currently make more than most managers whose compensation I know at my current employer. (I technically make a LOT more than my manager, but special circumstances there.)

So it’s not unheard of. It is fairly uncommon however, the average manager is probably making somewhat more than the average engineer they manage at the large tech companies.

At my company, the most senior ICs (Principal Engineer, Chief Architect) report into the CTO, so the "manager" in this scenario they don't make more than their direct "manager," but likely more than every other manager in the org.

I think this is a pretty common structure for companies that actually have an IC track that goes being senior engineer.

>>Another reason is that managers are multipliers.

There is no any such reason.

Current day managerial jobs descend directly from days of feudalism and aristocracy. Where the master had to be richer than the slaves to enforce his rule over the serfs.

All the best having a underpaid manager exercising control over overpaid ICs, it doesn't start, let alone work well. In short this is social sanction.

The reality is any set up which require a pyramid to exist, there will be pay grades, people down the pyramids will be paid no matter what miracles they will pull off. And people at the top will maintain political control to further their interests.

That is all there is to it. If we evaluated these 'managers' on merit. Then even being called a supervisor would be a lot for these glorified email routers and table fillers.

Your answer is contradictory: managers are not in any way multipliers, but they must be paid more because pyramid?

Also, your cynical view completely breaks down for knowledge work; you can't simply stand over a room of programmers cracking a whip and expect anything to improve. Maybe you've experienced that, but that's not what skilled managers in productive tech companies are paid to do.

Please, human beings are the same regardless where and when they they have been working.

It was the same in the court of Julius Caesar its the same in Google.

You are probably not aware but in Google and many other companies it is very normal and in fact common to have a manager earning less than an employee reporting to the manager. I have not experienced any kind of friction due to this. Why should it? It's only fair that someone who brings more value to the company should earn more.

Having said that, Google is not your typical company. I know managers in Google who push thousands of lines of code per week and are often more productive and more hand-on than the engineers that report to them. In such cases, it is only fair that they earn more than the engineers.

I agree with dasil003 that your cynical view breaks down in productive technology companies. Maybe that's what you have experiened but the places I have worked at had no resemblance with the court of Julius Caesar and the managers were definitely not mere email routers.

This doesn't always happen but when it does, assuming economic efficiency and perfect information, there are some good reasons:

* Managers' actions take effect across the entire team, and therefore having a 1x manager vs a 1.1x manager on a 10 person team is like if any individual (assuming evenness in the team) goes from 1x to 2x.

* It is harder to find someone who can effectively manage human beings than someone who can effectively solve technical problems. Mildly supportive evidence is the percentage of people who complain about their managers vs. the percentage of people who complain about how hard the problems they have to solve are. Your maximum attainable compensation is the minimum of the value you provide and the cost to replace you, and good managers are rare.

* In practice, few people are pure managers - they also solve technical problems. Often, they will participate in architecture questions, but not implementation. If they do so, their technical contributions are also on a lever.

However, there are secondary factors too:

* Managers tend to have more experience. More experience, until a point, leads to higher compensation because successful experienced people are rarer

* The depth to which humans perceive contribution to success is limited. A CEO will see whether his engineering division is effectively delivering value and reward or punish its organizational leader. Likewise all the way down the chain. This is leverage in terms of responsibility and risk.

But the short form of my theory is that where it's true, it's often because they deliver comparatively higher value to the organization.

If it's true, a consequence would be that the organizations that have a culture of self-organization and alignment will have managers that command smaller multipliers solely on their management skills while those whose members require substantial management (for mediation, communication, or prioritization) will place a premium on managers.

For the sake of conversation, let's loosely define a manager as someone who is responsible for enabling teams to succeed and assessing performance of their directs. Could you pay that manager equal or less than their direct individual contributors? How would the market respond?

Honestly, I don't know if it's not commonly the case. I have one direct report who is paid 10% more than I am and I had an IC candidate reject us in favour of Google last week who I offered both more stock and both more salary.

I don't honestly think this is very rare. Certainly word on the street is that Netflix comp is fairly close on Senior ICs and Senior Engineering Managers, if not slightly tilted towards the former, but I don't know for sure.

most managers are bad but get paid well.

Well let's start by noting that there are exceptions to this rule. A principal engineer in a couple companies I've worked for was in a higher bracket than almost all the managerial levels.

Next let's explore the ideal case. An engineer is very good at using tools to accomplish work. A good manager should be very good at using/making/helping humans accomplish work. Totally different skill set, but not easy, and potentially very profitable for the company. I think that there is a belief that if you assume responsibility for a team that you are now the primary locus of work getting done or not and thus your risk/reward levels are increased.

The reality is more along the lines of, "persuasive people end up in control of capital and then pay people like themselves more." Really effective leaders, through myriad strategies both good and bad, manage to take the potential work output of a group of individuals and focus it on their goals preferentially. This is super powerful. They see this as their particular talent and power and, noting how powerful it is, want to compensate others who are doing something similar. This is an admittedly jaded and machiavellian take on management.

I would go even further. Why would you NOT expect the asymmetric power relationship to logically lead to increased compensation?

This. The top people in an organization are, almost by definition, managers. It's not surprising that they compensate managers more in general. In addition, managers are more involved with discussions about compensation and, partly for this reason, tend to be better negotiators.

Your machiavellian take holds water, in my opinion.

If managers were paid less than (or just as much as) their directs, what would change?

If one company did it they'd lose all their good managers. If all companies did it then all the engineering managers with IC experience would stay in IC roles, and the managers you'd end up with would be much much worse.

Probably more IC's that stick to what they're doing. The point of a manager receiving higher pay is that they (generally) have the same experience as most IC's, but can be a productivity multiplier thanks to people skills.

Cause handling people and their issues is about 5000 times harder than handling code. Your code doesn't get cancer, run away with a coworker, go bankrupt, have opinions, lie, steal, needs to be told how to use a restroom, needs protection when it's layoff season etc etc etc

> needs to be told how to use a restroom

If I can go a whole quarter without seeing some unspeakable mess in the bathroom of a fortune 50 company, that would be amazing. 7+ years in, so far no luck.

> Cause handling people and their issues is about 5000 times harder than handling code

I'm of the opinion that any job is super hard if you apply yourself.

You seem to have a problem hiring the right people ;-)

How many people have you hired and managed?

They often don't.

But when they do, it's because of leveraged impact. If I'm a 10x engineer, then that's a huge individual contribution. However, if I'm a 2x manager with 12 reports, then my impact is greater than a 10x engineer. That is to say, if I can make my 12 reports twice as productive, then that's a huge benefit to the org. If I'm a 2x director with 4 managers reporting to me, then that 2x compounds through each level of the org.

Now, a 2x manager might seem far fetched, but so is a 10x engineer if we're being honest. Think about your productivity under your best boss vs your worst boss.

What is a bit of nonsense is bad managers. But that's a whole different issue, with tomes of academic research (see The Peter Principle) trying to figure out why incompetence is so pervasive in management.

It's hard to imagine a manager making people do 2x as much. But it's not so hard to imagine a manager making people work on something 2x as important.

Making your reports 2x as productive is far more expansive (and less visible) than just ensuring they're working on stuff 2x as important or doing 2x as much work.

Think of software for a moment. Has there every been a library, language, framework, etc that you absolutely love to use? The API is just right, the framework is the perfect level of opinionated vs. not opinionated, it just gets out of your way and lets you accomplish what you want, it's consistently reliable, it has fantastic backwards compatibility, it's error handling semantics are clear and the right level of verboseness, the internals are so well architected that it's also incredibly performant, etc.

It's just such a pleasure to work with. It's always just what you need, right when you need it, exactly how you needed it.

A company is a system, just like software. And a team is a submodule within that system. A 2x manager is the person that is able to make (and maintains) their team into the type of beloved system I mentioned above. How they do that is dependent on their expertise at comprehending, navigating, and influencing the larger system, and shaping their team to be precisely what that larger environment needs.

As hard as it is to do the above, it's really, really easy for a 0.1x manager to destroy that type of system/team. A few breaking API changes ("my team no longer handles those types of request you've been giving my team for years" vs "I've spoken with team x and it turns out they're more appropriately staffed to complete that work. Don't worry though, I've got a change management process in place and will ensure the handoff is seamless for you", refactoring some internal code that kills performance (i.e. losing important ICs without any risk mitigation/change management in place), etc can all tank the goodwill and community adoption of that once beloved system.

I switch between being an IC, a purely people manager, a functional manager (i.e. a team lead with people management and hiring/firing authority), and a "manager" (that's effectively an IC with a manager title so I have the organizational authority to execute the type of work I was doing). If you've never been a manager before, let me tell you: doing that shit right is exhausting. The biggest difference between being an IC and being a manager is that, as an IC, I'm able to ignore 90% of the bullshit around me and focus on my work. As a manager (whether doing IC work or purely people-managing), I can't ever tune out that organizational noise/bullshit/dysfunction/needs, because the more in tune I am with that the more likely that I can position my team to support the company, and in doing so ensure the peace of my team.

It's hard to image what a 2x manager is, because there's no single way to define one. But as an IC, having (or losing) a 2x manager will have a noticeable impact on you and your team's productivity over time, in any of a dozen or so different ways.

Yeah, you nailed it.

I think of managing as keeping a bunch of freight trains from smashing into one another. The manager can't claim to be making things move twice as fast, and it's hard to recognize the absence of disaster as a contribution. But if the managing were going poorly, everyone would be far worse off.

Pretty much. A good manager is easy to spot by the how predictably their freight trains crash (if its not above company norms or team standards prior to their tenure). A bad manager is easy to spot, because you can see the disaster around them. But a 2x manager is like a blackhole - there's nothing to observe directly, and you can only spot one if you're carefully observing everything around it. But if a really good manager disappears and is replaced by just a good manager, you'll slowly see that blackhole-like influence disappear and their team metrics revert to company norms.

A 2x manager can help by shielding the team from corporate bullshit, and clearing obstacles that make it difficult for them to do their job.

That's not wrong, but it's roughly equivalent to saying a 10x engineer can help by unblocking other engineers on their team.

The devil is in the details. Does the 10x engineer accomplish that by pairing, code reviews, architectural leadership, refactoring, mentorship, improving team tooling and build processes, or just doing all the work themselves? The answe is any and potentially all of the above, as whatever the situation dictates. The 10x engineer is seen as 10x because they have a good sense of situational awareness and capacity to adapt both strategically and tactically as needed, which compounds itself to become an incredible source of productivity.

The same is true for a 2x manager shielding the team from corporate bullshit and clearing obstacles. Those are end goals, but there are countless paths to take to get to those goals, not all of which will lead you there. A 2x manager is able to suss out the fine line required to balance team needs against organizational forces in such a way that they'll have the policital capital[1] required to be a good steward/advocate of their team while also having their team seen as a productive asset of the company in order to accrue that political capital. Something which is ridiculously more difficult than it needs to be, if you're attempting to do so in a way that's sustainable continuously and not just a short term play that'll rebound later on.

We are agreeing, I just didn't have as much free time to type an answer as you.

the work of a manager isn't to 2x its team. The work of the manager is to maintain the structure and order. I.e. to fill the role of glue/bone/wood and may be pipes with some direction-based filtration of content.

>why incompetence is so pervasive in management.

Technical incompetence seems to help in being a successful order maintainer. That way you don't get easily swayed by technical reasons away from the "right way" that the higher-ups lead you on. Natural selection in management doesn't behave kindly toward managers questioning technical merits of the decisions flushed down ... err ... communicated from the higher levels.

To answer this question accurately you have to look at it from the perspective of the person who has the authority to make the hires (e.g., C-level, VP, people with financial control).

Aside from the multiplier effect of a good manager which is mentioned in a few other comments, a manager is someone to whom the employer can delegate responsibility. This is usually the most valued skill set an employee can possess -- if as the owner/CEO/VP/General Manager you can just take a certain area of the business, give it to that person, and sleep easy at night knowing that it's taken care of, that peace of mind is worth any price because you're now able to focus your energy on other areas of the business.

The same cannot generally be said about any IC (even though in come cases great ICs can have a remarkable impact on the business).

As you go deeper down a corporate hierarchy motivations may become distorted, but fundamentally this is how it works at the top.

yup i agree, find it weird that "delegate authority" is so far down the conversation here.

Like others, I'll start by questioning the assumption behind the question. I know I've made more than some of my managers, starting at least ten years ago. Many people get this idea very early in their careers, when it's true because they're just starting out and (obviously) their managers are not, but after only a few years of big raises and easy level advancements it needs to be re-evaluated.

When it is true that managers make more, there's no single reason. On the good side, the effect of a good manager compared to a bad one can be bigger than for an IC. On the bad side, managers get to whisper more in the ears of those who control the money. In between, and most often, let me ask you one simple question.

* Would you want to be a manager?

For me the answer is HELL NO. I got close to it once, and didn't care for it. Many other ICs feel the same way. You'd have to pay us extra to give up what we do now for management work ... and so that's exactly what often happens. Supply and demand, pure and simple.

This is true, over my career as my companies have grown I've naturally taken a tech lead and then manager role because it was the most effective way to help the team and it turns out I'm very good at it. But if it wasn't compensated better then I'd simply stay in my lane as an IC, and the companies would suffer due to having to bring in inferior management lacking technical skills.

Most engineering managers I've worked with were engineers with strong technical background who have good people or project management skills. I had managers who wrote or knew every line in the code base. When someone left they could take over on a pinch and cleanup the mess. These days I think it is more common in startups to promote engineers to management too early before they develop these skills.

I left a company where I was the Dev Team lead for a company where I am “just” a Senior Developer. I happen to be getting paid slightly more:

My experience is that I was much more effective as a team lead than an individual contributor. I was able to do and guide research, do proof of concepts that other people productized and had far more accomplishments guiding a team of junior to mid level developers.

Now, trying to implement the same kind of changes as an individual contributor is taking far longer. I have more say so over the architectural direction of my team now just based on my expertise and relationships and no red tape (here I’m an AWS admin, at my prior company I had to go through multiple approvals to get anything done), but since I actually have to do the work instead of directing a team, my accomplishments are a lot slower.

I can see first hand the effectiveness of my manager and his ability to be a force multiplier over my ability to get things done as an individual contributor.

I’m not complaining, when I had a choice when I was looking for a job I could have been hired as an architect/Dev lead making slightly more than I make now using technology I was intimately familiar with but I wouldn’t be able to grow my technical skills and I like development.

But the truth is, I could accomplish a lot more with a team of people reporting to me but I purposefully stay in my lane even though my manager and his manager are both pushing me to take a leadership position. I took this job to learn and improve technically, not to manage.

First, this is not strictly true; many senior ICs get paid more than managers, and the comparison between manager-track job levels and IC-track job levels varies at different companies.

Part of it is that good managers act as an umbrella for their reports and keep unnecessarily distracting or stressful issues from taking up their time. But that means the manager is dealing with that stress instead.

Part of it is that managers often have a broader scope of responsibility. Senior managers and higher often have multiple projects under their belt and are held responsible for their continued success.

Part of it is that the success state of a manager's work depends on the success of other employees, which makes it more difficult for them to control whether they do well by their own effort. A really good manager could be paired up with a really bad employee who eventually has to be fired; did that manager do a bad job since their report got fired, or did they do a good job identifying that they needed to be fired? It's situational, and that ambiguity increases the risk of being fairly rewarded. Higher risk demands higher compensation.

Part of it is that demand for good managers is high enough that the market prices their salaries higher. Anecdotally, I can say that a bad manager hire has a much worse impact than a bad IC hire, so the stakes are higher, which raises prices.

> First, this is not strictly true; many senior ICs get paid more than managers, and the comparison between manager-track job levels and IC-track job levels varies at different companies.

Are those ICs getting paid more than their immediate manager?

Tradition mostly, I think. The old idea that a boss should be paid more than the people they manage, because they won't be respected if they earn less.

From experience, most managers suck, period. There are amazing managers but it’s pretty rare. I won’t get into too much details here as the OP asked for a specific question. But it comes from the fact that a 1st line manager’s job is very close to babysitting, which is not the most rewarding job.

With that being said, why do managers get paid more? Think of it as parents versus kids. Who has the most responsibilities? Parents... who has collected the most data? Parents... who gets blammed when things go wrong? Parents... who pay the price when things go wrong? Parents.

That is why manager have a higher salary braket in general. Plus, they usually come from an IC path with a big hands-on experience. They’ve already nailed the IC salary range.

Supply and demand. They spend all day in meetings gathering requirements, fighting to fund their staff, keeping their staff from being dragged off onto other projects. Few can do it well.

I'd also add while they may not be doing the work the direct manager should have general knowledge of what his people are doing and if they need assistance or guidance should be able to either supply it themselves or be able to summon the resources to make it happen. They may not be doing the work directly, but the indirect influence they have to ensure they are building their employees and having an effective team is what they are getting paid for.

This is the answer. The reason anyone gets paid what they get paid in the free market is supply and demand, whether it be for their labor, for a product they're selling, or for a security they own. It's not about what they deserve— see the oft-quoted idea that teachers do work that's both difficult and important but are not generally well-compensated. What you make is not a function of what you abstractly deserve or how difficult your job is. It's a function of how many people are able and willing to do it, at what price, and how many people are able and willing to pay to have it done, and at what price. This applies to both IC's and managers.

As others have noted in this thread, it's not always true that managers are paid more, but you're right to note that it's normal. There are some dynamics at play to make it happen. Two that spring to mind are (a) managers are often promoted from the ranks of successful IC's. They've probably been around for a few annual raises / promotions as an IC, plus they get a raise for the management promotion. It adds up. (b) A bad manager has more destructive potential than a bad IC. They can make more expensive mistakes, and devote teams of IC's to making those mistakes with them. Their negative attitudes or incompetence can tank morale across lots of people, rather than just their immediate teammates. Their inefficiency can lower the productivity of lots of IC's, rather than just themselves. All the same applies in the positive direction, but the negative is key, because loss-avoidance psychology is a strong force. So if I'm deciding peoples' compensation and I have a good manager, I'm going to pay them enough to keep them. If I don't, and I need to replace them, then I run the risk of making a bad hire, which would make a lot of people miserable and may lead to more attrition, especially among their direct reports, whose work is also valuable to me. If you've been lucky enough to have bad coworkers fired quickly, you know that their (ex) teammates breathe a sigh of relief and thank management for dealing with it. On the flipside, if an IC gets a new manager every few months, (especially a new _bad_ manager) they quickly decide this is a chaotic workplace and take their skills elsewhere.

Lets break it down a bit.

# Ideally you don't want managers to write code since that would set them on a path where they can get preoccupied with stuff which is not the big picture.

# Managers tend to see the big picture and direct the team on its course with good people management skills. This is one of the most significant role in the organization.

# Measuring the importance of an individual to an organization based on his/her pay package is not the right median.

# Most software engineers are pampered a lot unlike other profession so they tend to have an inflated ego to assume they are worth more than almost everyone. Just having an ability to hard labor a building construction never meant the person is the most significant!. Not an ideal comparison but hope it drives home the point.

In most cases people envisioning bigger picture can get paid more but that is in no way an unfair thing.

Because it is the only incentive to make a IC want to change into a manager role. Most of my engineering friends that went from doing interesting things to being manager always reference the need for more money. Specially if they were getting gray hairs or getting their kids ready for college.

I would expect anyone in a professional position to be receiving whatever the going market rate is.. which will likely not correlate to a chain of progressively higher pay as you go up the local hierarchy.

This, at least has been the case for each of the SMBs that I've worked in which managers are purely non-technical and hired for their ability to manage people and projects (can't afford to not have Engineers doing engineering).

At one place, my direct sup was expected to wear both the manager and Engineer hat (being technical). The next two layers up were middle managers who only managed. Neither layer made more than anyone in engineering.

It depends greatly on which part of a company you’re at.

At Microsoft, senior ICs (IC4 and above) make more than managers (typically M3s) in engineering teams but often the tables are reversed in services and sales teams, because managers in customer-facing teams have business targets with direct bearing on their unit/sub revenue.

I’ve been in both kinds of teams, and there is zero correlation between actual management skills and where HR rates them at, so YMMV.

>does not directly contribute to the work.

This is, in my experience, generally not the case.

Setting aside all the implicit indirect contributions (support, development, coaching, personality management, etcetera), managers generally shape work by deciding what work is going to be done, how to mobilize resources, communicating the results outside the team's domain, and being accountable for it. Those are direct, tangible contributions.

I've never heard of the term 'individual contributor.'

Can anyone clarify?

As I understand teams are built from managerial roles and "worker" or technical or engineering roles. If it has to be a three tier system instead of two, it (typically) consists of a manager, then one or more tech/team lead(s), then engineer(s). I'm not sure which one of these are individual contributors. (or aren't they all?)

As per your description, engineers would be individual contributors.

The following is simplified.

Managers are people who enjoy being around groups of people more than they enjoy being around “things”.

ICs tend to reserve more time thinking and working alone and enjoy talks with individuals more than navigating group-dynamics.

Enjoyment in groups leads to experience in group dynamics. Experience in group dynamics and having many relationships gets you more chances to climb up the salary ladder.

That's not always true.

I work for a company where the CEO admitted to earning LESS than the top earner. The CEO is still worth more because of other assets, but the VP of Sales earns the most annual take-home in the company.

That's pretty typical for enterprise software. Sales people get zero equity--their comp is purely a percentage of sales on top of a relatively low base.

This seems economically rational. You want your sales people focused on selling.

You have to look out for this one, because sometimes (eg. if the CEO is also the owner of the company) it can be very misleading. I worked at an ISP back in university where everyone, including the managing director, was paid roughly minimum wage. Any time anyone asked for a raise, the answer was "Bob the MD only gets paid $X per hour, are you asking for more than Bob?" ignoring the fact that every dollar on the company's value was a dollar in Bob's pocket.

In Europe, it's often not the case. Here, ICs are often hired as contractors and thus exempt from the pay grades introduced by HR (while managers are almost often employees). Plus, in many countries contractors pay less taxes than employees, so their take-home pay is higher.

Here's a simple rule for you to know. As you rise in your career and the ladder, you get paid (more) for results, not actions or efforts.

Managers and leaders get paid more for that singular reason. Shepherding a team to achieve a desired result is harder than it seems.

Of course there are bad managers...

Responsibility, managers are expected to keep the project on track and held accountable it its not

Yes - as with all things, higher reward is for higher risk.

Take a good developer, someone who is motivated and enjoys their job and who has charisma and inter-personal skills.

Now tell them that they will not be able to code anymore and, intead, that they will have to deal with other developers' problems.

You need to offer a good raise for that.

In terms of skillset I agree they shouldn't be paid, but what you are paying them for is risk and responsibilities on their head. They are the first to go if something goes wrong as they made the decisions so you paid them for that risk.

Manager jobs are significantly more stressful and harder to train for than individual contributors. And my personal opinion is that good managers are much rarer than individual contributors.

It really depends on how much the manager throws themselves into their work. I’ve had a few really good ones that I felt were actually helpful and the vast majority that just go to meetings and completely fail to isolate their team from chaos.

Yes absolutely. Managing a manager is hard. Objectives and accountability are easy to get muddled because their tasks are all people based. I am still looking for a practical and resource-efficient way to manage.


It's also much more difficult to get better at managing people than getting better at engineering. Although I suppose if you're a really good manager that may not be true.

Not in every case, but if a manager previously did the work their direct reports now do, and this is a needed role, higher pay is how you incentivize someone to make that move.

Why do waiters make more than cooks? There's your answer

Two reasons:

1) they know how much everybody gets paid 2) they can keep secrets

One of the great secrets that should not be:

Top-notch technicians (programmers) often get paid more than their managers.

True story.


Except that many managers are hired externally.

In that case, I would guess either still nepotism or just incompetence.

A lot of people will hire people from their college networks or whatever it may be. If they're hiring managers blindly based on some alleged track record, then they're just downright incompetent or taking a risk that has low odds of working well for the team :)

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