There are reports produced that developers don't get to see that the manager does to compare developers this way.
Of course, this can be easilly gamed. The most cunning developers will go out of their way to get the tasks that are clearly defined in scope and that they are familiar with, while others always end up getting the short end of the stick.
Guess who is going to look better under that report. Developers are overloaded, and will actually avoid to raise new issues or suggest improvements and new tasks, with fear that they will get more work on top of the workload that they can't already handle.
JIRA is really used by middle management to treat developers as essentially replaceable assembly line workers in a factory context.
I think the more fundamental issue is that most businesses that existed before and after digitization don't really understand or appreciate that they are alive because of that transformation.
Most tech enabled companies do not understand that competent IT execution is important to their ability to have freedom of movement and the ability to respond to change in their markets.
Also Developers think developing is important, but also business thinks business is more important and they got by with paper and phones for a long time before computers turned up.
Both are fair points.
I would say that quality of life at work (in tech) is a function of how much the business thinks that the work you do is important. Is IT a cost center or a capability factory where you work?
In start ups and tech focused companies the core work is technology so it's easy to understand the investment. But places where IT isn't core work, developers are just cogs. They get treated like crap and are made to sprint because who cares, the 'actual' business is important.
Lastly, IT workers talk a big game about Unions but I'd really like to see the day where a strike by IT workers starts with them walking off the job after turning off the network.
I think Atlassian is the Uber of the software development process and devs are the drivers.
Death by metrics isn't the fault of Jira--Jira provides tools to do many things more effectively, and gathering metrics is just one of those. Providing effective tools to ineffective people, unfortunately, does allow those people to shoot themselves (and in management's case, everyone around them also) in the foot more easily.
Exacerbating this, as you mentioned, is that metrics do provide a simple, cheap representation of productivity, even if that representation is not aligned with reality. Middle management can present this to upper management to show that they're doing a "good" job, and upper management will be none the wiser about what's not exposed by the metric until a while down the road when problems created by optimizing for those metrics become more apparent.
We use JIRA and we find it extremely useful, although we never use real-time values for estimates or reporting. Story points, which I believe are recommended by the Agile framework, are used to estimate and draw burn down charts and reports. We can then use these to adjust our estimates for future sprints.
JIRA really is a tool and just because some managers use it poorly, doesn't mean that is why it was created. Those managers would be bad regardless of the tool.