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How to work with me - a no BS approach (nullisnull.blogspot.com)
181 points by beagledude on July 29, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 125 comments

I don't care how good you are, how good you think you are, or how lucky you think I am to be working with you, the tone of this "list of rules" comes across as rude, and being rude to your underlings just isn't a good way to get them to work effectively (at least not in most cases).

The actual suggestions are pretty reasonable, though. As a fun exercise, you could rewrite this list so it sounds helpful and polite rather than rude and egotistical.

I've been around academia for long enough to have met a lot of really first-rate minds who are polite and humble, and a lot of second-rate minds who are rude and arrogant. And maybe I've met some first-rate minds who are rude and arrogant as well, but I haven't noticed because I've mentally sorted them into the "overcompensating second-rater" category.

tl;dr: Don't be a cunt.

> tl;dr: Don't be a cunt.

This is interesting. Because my initial though was; "who is this guy, and how the fuck do I go work for him?".

I liked this; simple and clear rules that attempt to force "underlings" (who are obviously historically supposed to ass-kiss) to think critically, force time with the boss, advocate their experience, stand their ground - and so on.

Perhaps this was couched in a fairly direct tone; but then I suppose that is what I like :) Others I can understand wanting it presented in a different way.

But this is definitely the attitude to give your employees.

I love my job, and my boss is awesome. And I can advocate my ideas sometimes. But I often feel bad speaking up - for example his advertising prose is not very good at all, and I have been trying to tell him that politely for the last year (still not got the hint, and this is why having a boss as a friend is a bad move!). But I can't change it when he gives it to me to put on the site... (edit; and, uh, the point I am making here is that as awesome a boss he is, he doesn't give me the feeling I can go to that level of criticism)

I'd love to think that when I become a "boss" I'd be able to have this sort of attitude - the sort that says "yes I make decisions, but if you think I am being an idiot, and can express why then sodding well tell me :)". But I suspect many bosses think like that, and most don't manage it. Fingers crossed huh?

I'd love to work for someone like this if ... they lived up to their side of the implicit bargain.

I have had bosses who made demands of this sort but were stunningly, despicably unworthy of them.

I wonder what exactly is the breakdown between "demand exactness but doesn't provide it" and "demand exactness and does..."?

Yes.. that's the thing of course. And I suspect that the majority of people that say the things in the email the OP posted are... basically assholes.

However some aren't - and for me they are the people I want to work for and learn from.

As I said; Ideally I'd love to be that sort of person. Unfortunately I have this horrible suspicion that most people feel that way - and in reality are not at all like that.

I keep myself going on the hope that because I have figured out this irony I might not fall into it.. (and, yes, I appreciate the extra irony there).

I just hope that when my first underling tells me I am a dick I don't laugh at him.

Perhaps this was couched in a fairly direct tone; but then I suppose that is what I like

I like directness too. But this is also the oldest excuse in the book to cover up being an asshole. "Don't like how I call you a fucking moron? I'm just being direct. Quit being so sensitive!"

If I'm being a fucking moron (it happens to us all) I'd rather hear it like that than couched in a half-hour of newspeak.

If I'm honest from the sounds of it this guy just gave out the standard sheet to anyone her interacted with - which is a bit of a douche move.

This attitude is the right one. But it must be pitched to the employee in the right way. This format synced with what I like, but I see others don't feel the same way.

If this isn't an ego-driven thing it rocks. If it is then it is more "meh". I guess context is everything.

This attitude is the right one.

No, it's not. You have to learn to read between the lines. The things he's saying aren't necessarily wrong. It's the attitude he's saying them with. It's very much a "Here's the way things are going to be. Don't like it? Tough." attitude.

Ok, so maybe you agree 100% with everything on here. What do you think is going to happen when you don't agree with something, and for valid reasons?

That's what I mean by context - if he is giving me this sheet after recognising the type of person I am, awesome. If he is handing them to everyone indiscriminately, uh oh.

An asshole who gets things done is infinitely better than a friendly person who is utterly worthless.

That's a bit like saying a car with a flat tire is better than a car with a dead engine. Sure, one might get you a little bit further than the other, but neither one will get you very far regardless.

Know what's better? A person who is respectful (albeit not always popular) and gets things done.

I've seen far more projects pushed to a successful completion by assholes than "nice" people, so either assholes are statistically much more productive (making your "better" person basically irrelevant) or we have a vastly differing definition of "asshole".

I might agree about the better person being basically irrelevant, but I've seen a lot of projects run into the ground by assholes - I guess my basic point is that being an asshole is only weakly positively correlated with being a competent manager.

I disagree. Assholes can potentially do a lot more damage than someone who's merely worthless.

An asshole who gets things done has to work on their own.

That's interesting, my initial thought was; "who is this guy, and how the fuck do I get to the position (s)he's in?".

For the rest of it, my reaction was the same as yours. Simple rules simply rules.

agreed! Being direct = generally efficient

Different people are different. Its not particularly profound. What is useful about this list, is that it establishes some boundaries in a working relationship. Establishing those boundaries are essential.

If you are an employee it is less stressful to know very clearly what your supervisor expects, and even if they are an asshole, knowing the kind of asshole is a good thing vs trying to discover it by bumping into various traps.

Larry Bossidy's book on execution [1] has some good discussion about how clear roles, and clear communication structures, are critical to getting things done in a timely way. When you are struggling to keep three or four different potential solutions to your current problem straight, if your peers are doing the same, its impractical to think your manager will be jugging the n x m set of potentials. Rather they are balancing the relationship of what everyone in their group is working on against things being delivered and things needed in peer groups.

This 17 rule missive in the blog posting reads like someone externalizing their tools for maximizing the important signals out of all the possible signals they are getting input on. I don't think it sounds 'rude' I think it sounds 'blunt.' The difference for me being that rude implies negative judgment and blunt implies negative tact.

[1] http://www.amazon.com/dp/0609610570/

I don't interpret these as rude and I quite like the tone. You know exactly where you stand and how to act - leaving the little time you have to do the job well. No messing around and no feeling your way into a relationship. I'm printing this out for my wall.

The world of academia is not under the same pressures as the business world where there are a completely different set of forces at work. I'm not sure thats a great comparison.

> [I personally think that] the tone of this "list of rules" comes across as rude

> I've been around academia for long enough

I wonder if these two things are linked. I'd love to receive a list like this from someone I'm meant to be interacting with - it shows me they're serious about the work rather than serious about egos.

+1 Couldn't have said it better.

I get the point of being focused but if anyone handed me this before a bigwig meeting I'd lose all respect and think they were arseholes straight off.

"7. Stand during micro-meetings."

Fuck off!

Number 7 is a great enforcement of 6. Standing for less than 5 minutes shouldn't be a problem for anyone without a medical issue, which would surely not fall under this "rule"

Standing during meetings is hugely helpful for keeping things moving. This is a common, but not common enough strategy.

I also like these rules, a lot. I've had bosses who used similar rules; they seemed to work pretty well.

The tone doesn't bother me. I've been a boss, too, and sometimes you really do have to get people's attention with a 2x4---especially when dealing with young whippersnapper subordinates who have a high opinion of their own capabilities [I should know; I used to be one of those].

How would you go about setting one of those young whippersnappers in their place?

I honestly think I am beginning to become one at my current job and need a reality check. I am also curious to hear wisdom from someone who has been through it. :)

@loungin, it occurs to me I might not have responded to what you were really asking. Some suggestions:

1. No matter how mistaken you think your boss is, once he (or she) has made a decision, your job is to support him as best you can, subject always to the fundamental constraints of ethics and integrity.

2. Loyalty up, loyalty down, and loyalty sideways, subject again to the fundamental constraints. Among other things, that means constant patience, courtesy, and respect for everyone else on the team, at all times (no backbiting).

3. If you don't know how to be humble and modest in your dealings with others, fake it. (It helps to remind yourself that, whatever Supreme Being might or might not exist, the odds are it's not you.)

4. It's no sin not to know what to do. When in doubt, take your best shot at formulating both a Plan A and a Plan B, and then ask your boss for guidance; he might tweak one of your plans, and/or might point out something you hadn't thought of.

But use your judgment---while your boss might want you to go through the learning experience of figuring things out for yourself, he might also not want you to spend a lot of time doing so before asking for help. You could ask him that, perhaps.

Consulting with peers sometimes helps, which is one reason it's good to be on good terms with them.

5. Don't take it personally if someone criticizes you, even harshly. While you might well have screwed up, that doesn't mean you're a failure as a human being; it means you played the hand you were dealt as best you knew how at that time, and now you have a welcome opportunity to learn from the experience; be glad of it.

6. A serviceable rule of thumb: Seek the best for others as you do for yourself.

EDIT: I posted an edited version of this on my own blog at http://www.ontechnologylaw.com/seven-ways-to-be-a-stand-up-g....

> How would you go about setting one of those young whippersnappers in their place?

I've found it's best not to try.

First off, as to any given issue, the Young Whippersnapper might well be right.

Second, I seem to get best results by treating the YW with patience and respect---regardless whether I think he (or she) is right---and by trying to help him fill in whatever gaps I think he has in his knowledge, so he do a better job next time.

(In a given case, the knowledge might relate to how the YW can be a better team player.)

By no means should a boss tolerate poor performance forever, but pretty much everyone needs training.

> As a fun exercise, you could rewrite this list so it sounds helpful and polite rather than rude and egotistical.



Hi! I bet you're super nervous about meeting me, but please don't be -- I'm just a big dork. And don't take it personally if I'm terse or appear impatient with you. 99% of my time is spent in meetings, so it's extremely helpful if we both skip straight to the point .. or "cut the bullshit", as my grandmother used to say. Here are some other tips:

If you have bad news, please just come right out and tell me immediately. I promise I won't blame the messenger, and I might even know a quick fix. If we have a regularly-scheduled meeting, don't wait for it; interrupt me with time-critical issues. Also, don't be afraid to ask questions or disagree with me; I promise I won't get upset. If, post-meeting, you find yourself regretting not having spoken up or asked a question, come right back and correct that problem. I'm a big follower of the philosophy that there are no stupid questions.

I've found note-taking to be extremely fruitful. Please bring a pen and paper anytime you meet with me; it impresses the heck out of me when someone catches everything the first time and I don't have to repeat myself.

If you have an appointment with me, and I'm in another meeting, go right ahead and interrupt it. Your time is important, too. But be prepared for someone to do this if our meeting runs late.

Often, there's only about five minutes of real content in a meeting. If so, there's no need to stretch it out. I appreciate such micro-meetings. You can foster them by identifying in advance what decision needs to be made and sending it around in advance. And don't be surprised if I make everyone stand.

I don't really like long emails. Instead, consider a micro-meeting, and set an agenda if it's a complicated issue. Then stick to that agenda!

Micro-update emails are great, though. I've found them to be effective for confirming commitments and mutual understanding. This is especially true after a meeting: It's super-helpful to get a (brief!) list of your agreed-upon commitment echoed back to me. I don't always respond to such messages, but I read every one. Oh, and to save time, please skip the greetings, "thank you"s, etc. (You'd be surprised how much time this saves on my phone's "message preview" screen.)

Finally, a few quickies:

* Instead of "It's being worked on", tell me when you expect it will be done. That's what I really want to know.

* List all the options, and tell me which you recommend. This is especially important if you come to me with a problem -- but if you don't have a solution yet, skip this step rather than delaying the news.

* Economic analyses are the best supporting arguments. (I insist on them when money is involved.)

* Don't worry about making reports for me, but if you do, check out the spreadsheets I've made and try to copy their design.

* Don't send me long documents. (Yes, I realize the irony.)


You might think all the "please"s and other friendly words make my version too fluffy, but it's actually about 500 words shorter than the original.

Do we really need to soften everything? Are our egos so fragile that we can't take a little bluntness - as long as it's genuine and well-intentioned?

I find your version to be much, much weaker than the original. In many parts, the motivation of the writer is so obfuscated as to make the list little more than a vague and friendly pep talk.

Note taking - friendly productivity tip, or career-defining moment?

Interrupting a meeting the boss is in - does he really want me to do that, or was he just trying to sound friendly and approachable?

I think the biggest difference is that the original expects excellence, and implies penalties for not living up to it - while your rewritten version expects mediocrity, and implies rewards for rising above.

To each his own - I prefer the original, I find your version to be more patronizing, and somewhat hypocritical in claiming to "cut the bullshit". Many others will prefer your version. I guess the real trick is coming up with a version that will make everyone happy, while keeping the impact of the original.

My goal in writing that was to illustrate the opposite of the original. The correct approach is probably somewhere in the middle.

> Do we really need to soften everything?

It sounds like you're trying to create a strawman. No, we needn't soften everything. But we should probably soften some things. One could just as well ask, do we really need to be brusque 100% of the time?

> Are our egos so fragile that we can't take a little bluntness

Again, I'm not talking about "a little" -- reading between the lines, I can't help but wonder if the boss is like this all the time, if his reign is so brittle that he can't suffer a dash of kindness even in the memo that provides his first impression to new employees.

One of the hardest parts of leadership is knowing when to be harsh and when to let up.

No, we don't need to soften everything. We don't need to be rude about everything, either. What, specifically, so "much, much weaker than the original?

Note taking - friendly productivity tip, or career-defining moment?

Implying you'll be unimpressed if they make you repeat yourself is plenty forceful.

Interrupting a meeting the boss is in - does he really want me to do that, or was he just trying to sound friendly and approachable?

There's nothing more forceful about the way that was phrased in the original list, the only reason it doesn't sound friendly and approachable there is because the rest of the list is the opposite of friendly and approachable. (In fact, I have no problem with the way that was phrased in the original and might well have kept that.)

The original does not expect excellence, the original sounds like it's raising all these penalties because it's expecting you to be full of all the listed bullshit. I agree that the rewritten version expects mediocrity, but I would argue that that makes it sound reasonable, and that the author would be duly impressed by excellence.

I don't believe it sounds patronizing, it merely sounds reasonable.

How is it hypocritical in claiming to "cut the bullshit"? Keep in mind it's shorter than the original.

The impact of the original is to make a significant portion of readers not want to work with him.

In my humble opinion, he should take heed of his own #12: "...Check your ego at the door: I'm only interested in reaching the best, most elegant solution — I don't care if it's your idea or mine." The best solution for increasing productivity and effectiveness by cutting bullshit is to make reasonable requests to cut bullshit in a friendly way that people will listen to, not make people want to avoid working with you and decrease bullshit as a side-effect.

Your version is nice. You missed a point. The original sets the tone. The tone is blunt and to the point. The boss wants everyone to speak like that.

Conditional clauses are harder to parse. Sentence fragments are easy. Write like a Neandathal, people will read every word.

Instructions are simple. Anyone can guess the context. Explaining context forces readers to visualize, detracting from the message.

Your one is nicer. People won't every word. That's the point.

Now, I would never advise doing this if you didn't have the authority to do so. And it would pay to be extra-super-nice when you weren't in a "decision making" meeting, so people didn't think you were an evil robot. But the rule list does drive in some important points in a very effective way.

I like to read things written by people with mental disorders. Schizophrenic writing is particularly fun. This style reminds me of quite a few disorders. That isn't really a good thing.

If you talk to people like they're morons who can't process more complex sentences, I don't think that really sets a good tone - the original list to me sounds very much like "here is a list of shit that I expect you to pull, which I'm committing to paper so I can yell at you the first time you do any of it". Note that I hold this belief to be true regardless of whether or not they are actually morons who can't process more complex sentences.

> Now, I would never advise doing this if you didn't have the authority to do so.

If a communication style is only acceptable if you have the "authority to do so" then I think that is a good indicator that it is rude.

Short fragments are fine (if brusque) for instructions, but can be maddening to read if it's trying to put forward a complex argument. It's a bunch of disconnected arguments, all being barked out at once; which is fine if you can easily follow the thread (in the case of simple instructions). But otherwise you have to wonder if and how they are connected in the speaker's head.

As for being rude, telling people what to do and how to do it is something I find rude. But that's something that a boss can get away with.

I like the original more than the polite version, though. It gets the point across loud and clear. I guess that's not really important if everyone is already on the same page, but if they aren't then it's essential in a workplace.

Did you say "People won't every word" on purpose just to make a point that didn't work on me? :/

This is actually much better. More appealing on practically every level.

I think it comes off as weak. I don't want suggestions if they are really orders.

An order is merely a suggestion backed up by a penalty for failing to comply. You always have the "option" of disobeying orders. The difference between phrasing things as suggestions instead of orders is you sound like someone people want to work with instead of someone who needs to "check your ego at the door".

I disagree. If someone says they would prefer I take notes, I will say "no thanks, it gets in the way of my listening." If they say "you must take notes - it's part of the job". I will do it, and suffer the extra brain-load (possibly while looking for a new job).

If someone means "you must" and says "you might think about", then it's just weak. It frustrates everyone.

I agree that it changes the meaning, but I think it changes it for the better. I mean, if you can honestly do your job and never ask this guy the same question twice without taking notes, then it really is a suggestion. If he's trying to solve the problem of people asking him things twice, then there's no obvious problem with you not taking notes if you still meet that requirement.

"You might think about" is weak. "I'll be impressed" is pretty clear. Impressing your boss is part of your job.

What's ambiguous about "please bring a pen and paper any time you meet with me"?

It's softened by "I've found note taking to be fruitful." Perhaps that's true for the author. I have found it to be a distraction.

If you're going to give me arbitrary orders, do it. Don't try to soften it with some meaningless explanation.

Nice job. I like the rewrite 100 times better. I could actually see myself using something like this, but wouldn't consider the original.

Truly excellent. Well done.

This is great!

is it so necessary to be so polite and nice - considering its not a kindergarden we are running here,

Most of these rules should go without saying and were instilled in me through jobs growing up and strengthened through college. I think the author wrote this for people who did not learn this yet in life, not because the author thinks they are the only one with these workplace values.

you could rewrite this list so it sounds helpful and polite rather than rude and egotistical

That's contradictory to what the article is emphasizing. When you're dealing with your own team, openness is essential, and efficiency should not be traded for politeness.

As an employee, I would hope my boss wants results more than my thank-yous. As a boss, I would hope my employees care more about results than thanking me. If you spend all your time making something politically correct, you spend no time getting things done. To me, this article isn't rude: it's to the point, and if my boss gave me this list, I'd smile and jump in excitement.


Um, point 15 has 'Don't tell me there's a problem without offering a solution. '


It made sense in the context of the now-deleted comment to which it's a reply.

I posted before the parent was deleted.

Like many things, it depends on the delivery. If I received this as an email, a handout, or a lecture, my reaction would definitely be, "WTF?" But many terrific people I've worked with prefer to work this way and they're pleasant to be around. These are things you might have to learn as you work with them.

>And maybe I've met some first-rate minds who are rude and arrogant as well, but I haven't noticed because I've mentally sorted them into the "overcompensating second-rater" category.

Dijkstra seemed to fall into the category of very smart pricks, although he may be the exception that proves the rule.

Aside: while you highlight the ego/arrogance of this individual, the last line of your comment - in an orthogonal sense - highlights subtle sexism in language (and hence [cough] thought...?).

cf: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cunt

According to the article, you must be a "weakling" since you don't like his tone.

Funny, this list is about putting ego's aside and organizing work in an efficient way. Yet, your make it about your perception of it and start categorizing people. You don't get the purpose. It does not seem like you have a lot of working experience. It is really not about YOU. I would not want to work with you.

Putting egos aside and putting perceptions aside are two very different things.

Do you agree that working with a person who is competent and nice is better than working with someone who is competent and rude? Which do you want to be seen as?

If a boss of mine gave me a set of rules like this, I would quit immediately. It sounds like something a narcissist would write.

The rules themselves aren't necessarily bad. I agree with the majority of them. Nor is this list necessarily rude. In fact, if you pay attention to it, the wording is actually pretty polite.

The giant, waving red flag here is the underlying sense of entitlement. Notice that each rule is of the form "Don't do this, I like that." Of course, the thing that's being left out of all of this is how the person who's reading it works. I don't care if you're the boss. You can't expect efficient teamwork without taking the team's desires into account.

I suspect the boss in this situation consider you quitting a net positive if your style of interaction is so dissimilar to his/hers.

"Style of interaction"? I bet Jeffrey Skilling had a "dissimilar style of interaction" with Enron's accountants. Hitler seemed to have had a "dissimilar style of interaction" with the Jews.

Believe it or not, sometimes people in authority are irredeemable assholes and you have no option but to escape. If it makes their lives easier too, so much the better.

There are two items on that list that would raise hackles with me: email, and repeating.

I'd also hold the boss to their claims of openness and consistency. There are a number of promises made in that document which had damned well better be held to, or this is a recipe for disaster.

Email is very effective. If used effectively. There are reasons large collaborative online projects communicate primarily through email. It's good for surfacing issues, and particularly for keeping a record of what was said (in some businesses, this can be a liability, and there's a lot of aversion to it).

The problems arise when: - Nobody owns a conclusion. Discussions can be interminable. If a conclusion is reached, it needs to be noted. If not you end up with the online interminable debate -- there's no judge on Usenet/Slashdot/HN to end the debate.

- Conventional enterprise email tools hinder discussion. There's a reason "geek style" quoting, trimming, and threaded mail agents are used. GMail gets close. MS Outlook, Lotus Notes, and the like, are horrendous.

- I've had more than one boss who was convinced of their own brilliance, but who was in fact very vague and very inconsistent. Nailing down requirements/expectations, or communicating bad news was at best problematic. In the context of an expectations list such as this, that won't work.

On repeating things.

Every boss I've had, from Mom on down, has had to repeat things, and often hasn't liked it.

Deal with it.

Management means managing. If you're repeating yourself (often and for most of your subordinates), there's a problem with your communication style, your expectations, change control, task/project tracking, or some mix of the above.

People work on a basis of repeated social encounters. There are messages which are so repetitive that we paste them on labels, placards, loop them in rail/airport/bus system announcements, etc. And that's the simple stuff. If you're a manager, you'd best get used to that too, and find ways of dealing with this that 1) minimize the requirement and 2) allow you to be repetitive without driving yourself nuts or dulling the message.

Brevity. It works for simple use cases. Complex ideas require a more nuanced exposition.

Otherwise -- yes, there are a few good points in there.

Yes — about repeating, I am extemely scrupulous about making sure notes are taken. Actually, I often go far beyond notes, when appropriate. I may not have an eidetic memory, but I+computer does.

But people who say they hate repeating themselves annoy me greatly. They often repeat mistakes, which is a far worse problem. As you point out, they scapegoat others for constantly needing to repeat themselves.

Oh, thank you. I was wondering about the email thing myself. I generally prefer to have complex discussions over email, because I find the medium much more concise and with the added benefit of a written account of what was/was not agreed upon.

Face-to-face meetings are good for brain storming and being creative, but for decision making, I prefer email.

Email can be a hazard when you're in the fast-and-furious discussion phase.

Then it's useful to have a F2F meeting (or conference, or whatever), with someone designated to take notes and post a summary. If there are conclusions drawn in the meeting -- and the meeting should be specifically scoped to do:

1. Reach a conclusion, or 2. Identify what additional information is required to accomplish 1, or 3. Determine that the problem is intractable

.. then those conclusions must be nailed down in writing immediately after. Bury your hatchets and grudges and get stuff done.

There are a number of promises made in that document which had damned well better be held to, or this is a recipe for disaster.

Yes, but spelling out the promises clearly is at least a step towards making sure they are followed.

I find the polarised reaction to this list almost more interesting than the list itself. As for me, I was in complete agreement with basically all of it. I didn't find it rude, in fact rather the opposite - I appreciate the consideration for our shared time and the pledges to fairness and efficiency.

I wonder about the work experience of some of the most vocal offendees. Maybe as you get older, and hear that clock ticking louder and louder, you come to appreciate brutal efficiency a little more. Yeah, the guy's blunt, but at least he's not going to waste your time. Would that I could say the same for every leader I've had to work with.

And for those obsessing over the "copy my document style" etc - that's a rule you can break if you know how to break it, ie you know you can do better. If you've seen, however, some of the shocking creations inexperienced people can come up with using excel - well, that rule's for them, not you.

And the reason he says he "likes" things is because he doesn't want to argue about it. That's his preference, do it. When you go to a restaurant and order a steak, do you bring out the chef and tell him "give it to me well done, because that's the best way of cooking it"? Cue huge debate? No. You say, this steak please, well done, because I like it like that. Gets what you want, no argument, no book length discussions on The Effectiveness Of Communication Methods.

Anyway, nice post.

If I can offer my own reaction as a guide, I'd find the list less rude if I could trust it was written by someone with an actual record of successful management. I've known a few people who talk this way, and had a past record of turning projects into Hell Marches.

That said, I'd be interested in what you think of raldi's take on this list - he's rewritten it to be both concise and, (lacking a better word) classy. It is far less likely to raise hackles and makes an interesting comparison to the original. And well, knowing his record, I'd much rather work with Mike than with whoever wrote the original :)

> Hi! I bet you're super nervous about meeting me, but please don't be -- I'm just a big dork.

Frankly I prefer the original. Same meaning, less couched in happy-happy bullshit. At least with the original I feel like I'm being addressed as an adult. The re-write reads like something a school principal gives to his students. The original - well, with a few tweaks maybe it's something I could imagine sending out myself. The rewrite, with its fake chatty "we're all such good buddies" schtick? never.

"I'm just a big dork", bloody hell, someone please shoot me the day I start saying things like that. It's a sliding scale between sounding like an asshole, and sounded like a goofy douchebag pretending he's everyone's bestest bestest buddy. The original might have been slightly biased to the former; the rewrite is way too far in the other direction.

I have clients that are blunt, to the point, and value time extremely highly, and yet are extremely polite. In fact, a common factor across the clients I would consider to be rude is that they tend to use up disproportionate amounts of my time! It's perfectly possible to be brief, concise, and still make room for manners, and I appreciate anyone that does so.

The clients I love most are the ones are considerate, and I think the rest of their behaviour comes from that: Communicating clearly and concisely, yet remaining polite, and valuing my time as well as theirs, are all things I think follow from being considerate.

I think it's hard to argue that demanding everyone do things your way is considerate. To use your analogy, no, I don't expect the chef to argue with my choice. But if I order a particular cut one way, and the waiter comes back saying "Sir, the Chef highly recommends you instead have that particular cut with the such-and-such sauce" for example, then I might take that on board. And I might not. But to sit down at the table and state up-front that I want to hear no talking back from the chef before I place my order would certainly be rude, and possibly result in me having a lower quality meal due to my poor choice of sauce (and perhaps having another "sauce" added due to my loose tongue).

Edit: There is some validity to using one-size-fits-all approaches particularly in some management situations I suppose (not so experienced in that area), but personally if I could decrease effeciency a little in order to remain polite, I would do so. I suspect a lot of the polarisation on the topic is due to this, as there's no real "right answer" there.

I have been to restaurnts which refuse to cook steak well done actually.

Pretentious. The points that particularly irk me are:

#1 - Duh, everyone does.

#3 - Why do you assume I need pen and paper to keep track of what is going on.

#5 - Why am I responsible for your lack of time management skills.

#8 - The async nature of email threads works well for a lot of complex topics.

#17 - The definition of irony.

Edit: My HN posts like this one usually get a quick down one negative vote and then climb out of the hole from there. It all started after I posted this comment http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1331769. Could whoever has me on their bozo filter lighten up. Thanks.

> #1 - Duh, everyone does.

IME this isn't even remotely close to true. This applies to at best 10% of people in an average corporate environment (which is the context I assumed for the document).

Pretentious is the word. +1.

I really like the gist of the "rules" presented here.

I don't think the tone is useful. You can be efficient, strict and no-bullshit without being an asshole (think: Spock).

For example, rule #3: Bring pen and paper to every meeting with me. Pay attention to what I say; I'll try to speak with care. If I frequently must repeat instructions, or remind you of something I've already told you, you will not work with me again.

...could easily be rewritten to be as effective and less authoritarian.

I'm not so sure. It sounds like this person is articulating a deal breaker. It's not unfair or unreasonable to have deal breakers in relationships. Better to know in advance, right?

Again, it's all in how you phrase 'em.

Example: I wouldn't date a girl who was vegetarian, who smoked, or who didn't shave her armpits. And that's fine. But if I gave my girlfriend a printed list which says:


1. Do not smoke

2. Eat meat at least three times a week

3. Keep your armpits free of hair


then she would rightly think that I was a complete asshole.

it depends on who is the boss. Lets suppose that your GF gave your a printed list which says:


1. Do not smoke

2. Eat meat at least three times a week

3. Keep your armpits free of hair


would you think that she is an asshole? Nope. Instead, you'd most definitely think that she is a queen.

Thinking back to the original blog and rules - well if your boss is an asshole who thinks about himself like queen - well, in that case such rules seems to be expected and there is no other way around except to change the job.

it depends on who is the boss. Lets suppose that your GF gave your a printed list which says:


would you think that she is an asshole? Nope. Instead, you'd most definitely think that she is a queen.

lolwut? Dude, if that's how the power differential in your relationship works then you definitely need a new girlfriend. Or maybe she needs a new boyfriend. One or the other.

well, man, i'm happily married for a more than a decade, and enjoy my meat and non-smoking (did quit long time ago :).

Why is someone else being a vegetarian a deal breaker for you? Why do you care what anyone else eats as long as they are healthy?

Better to know in advance, sure, but he's saying if someone forgets to bring a paper or pen to a meeting that he might be unwilling to work with that person in the future. Knowing these terms in advance, I think I'd decline to work with him.

"...or remind you of something I've already told you, you will not work with me again"

He says "frequently". People who frequently don't pay attention or fail to absorb information are a nightmare to work with.

I agree with most of these points, disagree strongly with others, and think this list could shrink by half with no loss of meaning, but above all I'd still rather see something like this documented rather than assumed. Too often a community has a set of unwritten rules which they will expect new members to follow, and short of lurking for a long time you can't learn those rules; even then you won't learn them all, and you'll (hopefully) get informed when you screw them up. I'd rather see documentation.

(I also think that the authoritarian tone people attribute to this document comes from the context; if you read it as a list of rules for sane interaction with any professional rather than with a particular individual, it seems quite reasonable. Granted, it didn't start out that way, but that seems like the spirit intended by reposting it.)

if you read it as a list of rules for sane interaction with any professional rather than with a particular individual, it seems quite reasonable

But there's some stuff here that's specific to this individual. He doesn't like email. Some folks do.

Honestly, I really do think it's a good idea to give your underlings some kind of guide to how you prefer to work. It's just also important to do it without being rude.

Yeah, I had the bit about email in mind when saying "disagree strongly with others".

In every case where I have worked with someone who enumerates a list of rules like this, I have observed:

1) that the author believes he is being highly original; 2) the rules are enforced unilaterally, and adhered to by the author at best grudgingly if at all; and, 3) whenever a superior tells you, "I'm an X person," for whatever X you like (people, no-nonsense, pure as the driven snow, bullshit-free-zone) you can rest assured that the opposite is the case.

Maybe this is not being received well because of the startup audience here. Coming from the corporate environment, I see some excellent points.

In a big company there are simply far too many people scrambling to be heard, and a middle manager really doesn't have time to hear all of them. Getting tied up in unnecessary meetings is a huge drain on everyone. Most meetings consist of 2-3 people who just like arguing and 10 others having their time wasted.

So, sure, the list is not perfect, but I wish everyone at my company had a copy of it.

Exactly, and the information that the manager is asking for is what will save your ass when the company is deciding which project is going to get the axe. If you play by these rules and properly prepare for the meetings you can be confident that the manager you are working for has all of the data he needs to defend the project, which is much more than I can say for places I have worked.

"Don't tell me there's a problem without offering a solution." I disagree. While I try to think about solutions before bringing up the problem, sometimes I cannot find the solution on my own. It can be a good idea to talk about the problem to other people. Collectively, we might find a solutions.

Whorver wrote this sounds like an asshole. Working for him/her sounds like a chore. Handing out shit like this is an insult to your "minions". Calling people for whom you you are supposed to be a leader "minions" is also an insult. I don't care if you are a Balmer or Jobs; this is a dick move.

I scanned and noticed some common newbie mistakes... I wish the life is so simple :(

  I don't like email, particularly for discussing 
  complex topics
Dijkstra is rolling in the grave... If you cannot write down your thoughts about some complex topic, waving hands in the meeting will not make it more clear. I guarantee.

  Don't tell me there's a problem without offering a solution.
Good luck with that. The result will be: look we have no problems. Sometimes (actually more often than you think) problems don't have solution at all and the best way is to cut the loses.

  Don't send me long documents. I like precision and
  concision. Say it on one page (or less).
Simplification: if you are a knowledge worker sometimes very long elaborated documents are very much required.

  Bring pen and paper to every meeting with me. 
  Pay attention to  what I say; I'll try to speak with care. 
  If I frequently must repeat instructions, or 
  remind you o something I've already told you, you 
  will not work with me again.
Effective managers say things twice using multiple communication channels: http://hbr.org/2011/05/defend-your-research-effective-manage...

  If you have a meeting with me at an assigned time, and
  I am in another meeting with my door closed, interrupt me.
You know, you should get some kind of calendar or watch... That is how people rise to the top ....

  If you disagree with me, voice your differences.
That is fine but don't push that responsibility to your reports. I was lucky to be once on a meeting with our CEO (big corporation - CEO is very very rich guy). And he would go around table and ask everybody (including me) what they think and to voice disagreement.

That seems like a risky flow of rules - but mostly in that they look difficult to consistently adhere to. Someone who could consistently play by those rules would be interesting to work with.

The list also, though, makes an underlying claim of "I am good enough at what I do that I can play by these rules, which are atypical of American workplace culture." If that claim is not a valid one, this list would probably indicate someone deeply problematic to work with.

Given that the list was presented here "with a lot of respect and admiration for the author" I get the impression that this is simply someone who is indeed interesting to work with and validly good enough to play by those rules.

I had a boss's boss that was like a mini version of this at a menial job quite some time ago - I didn't enjoy working with him, but we got shit done quickly and efficiently, and the meetings were at least painlessly short. I vastly prefer this to working with incompetent people, and because my boss's boss was the way he was there were very few incompetent people around me in positions of any authority.

I've worked with this guy. He's actually one of the most tolerant and respectful people I've met. The fact that he's incited a flamewar is actually pretty funny.

You should spend some time reading his code. You will learn something.

Well, if he really is a nice guy and seems like an asshole in the list, then that's an even bigger reason to think that the list is bad.

You should send him this thread. Oh wait, he doesn't like email. You should have a micro-meeting with him in which you tell him the URL to this thread. Be sure to remain standing.

u mad bro?

It says the poster is not the author of the list. Are you talking of @darkgoyle or the original author?

moo, not sure this is about who you think it is, brito was just blogging about an old boss he had. He told me about this letter and I asked him to type it up so we could read it.

If you can bear to get to the bottom of this list, there is a gem waiting for you:

"Don't sent me long documents. I like precision and concision. Say it on one page (or less)."

I agree with some, disagree with others, but for me this is critical, I see a lot of documents, many of which are bloated with irrelevant material to try and deliberately make them seem weightier than they are...

For example a technical design document that reasonably contained less than a page of technical information plus a couple of useful diagrams padded out to 10 pages with user requirements that had been cut and paste from the original requirements document.

The design may or may not have been good, but teasing it out from within vaguely familiar material wasn't worth the effort for most readers, so it gets ignored, the dev thinking they have consensus starts implementing and is suprised by the ensuing shit-storm.

An email or post-it with a single paragraph or bulleted list of "here's what I'm going to do" would have been more effective

You missed the joke. He's spending 17 points to say that you should be concise. That's ironic.

To be completely honest, I like this quite a lot. I would much rather deal with someone I know is firm, fair and decisive than a dithering worry-wort who tries to tiptoe around everyone's various emotional states.

It's words on a piece of paper. This guy is very clearly laying out a list of guidelines for subordinates in a way that leaves absolutely no room for second-guessing. You guys getting insulted by this, I'm not sure what to say.

Meh. My wager is that anyone that gives lists like these to their employees is less brilliant and more of an asshole then they realize.

I hate this list. It takes too long to get its point across(17 points), all the micromanagement will slow everything down, and point 2 and 15 are contradictory.

I worked under someone like this as an intern, and though I never "got in trouble", that's probably because I was scared and needed the money. I left as soon as I could and so did most of the team.

Point 3 is poorly thought out. Speaking carefully includes emphasising important points. Think of communication the same way Don Norman thinks about design.

15 is iffy. I'd prefer to know about a problem even if someone has no idea how to fix it, whether through lack of experience or creativity. If he's meaning to say "people who work with me must be this talented", just come out and say it.

The rest are by and large sensible and to the point. I particularly like avoiding e-mails, because it's not intuitive, but it can work well: e-mail seems like it has an importance hump and 'stupid questions' might not be raised, and simultaneously it's harder to tell how people feel about things. Might work differently for you, though.

The rules would seem less harsh if posed as recommendations, nevertheless there is lots of good advice in there.

> Don't sent me long documents. I like precision

I'm certain that the irony of this finale and typo will not escape this readership.

Well I guess as long as he always spells it that way he is being precise, just not that accurate:)

I am reminded of the "egoless programming" movement of, oh, I can't even remember how long ago. What I have always wondered is why there is no such thing as "egoless management". I see by the attitude expressed here that the author would not subscribe to this plan either.

I have been a manager in other lifetimes and have had some serious A players on the team. This tone and the expectations listed here might work for B players or C players, but no A player I know would sit still for this for a moment.

I love it when our overlords refer to us as minions. Plus, it's a double-treat when concern for the feelings of others is perceived as being a weakling.

I'm actually kind of glad that the world of software development is filled with people who pride themselves on ignoring the soft skills of working in a team. That makes it sooooo much easier for me to get a job, since all I have to do is show a teeny, tiny bit of humanity and congeniality in a job interview and I'm way above the other candidates.

This person sounds like a real pleasure to work with. Efficient? Sure. Human? I doubt it. No wonder people like this seek more solace in computers than people. I have just one rule: don't work with assholes. I guess that rules out this "expert".

These are very good.

borkt: > Most of these rules should go without saying and were instilled in me through jobs growing up and strengthened through college.

I agree strongly with borkt - these are common-sense professional behaviors, usually picked up over time. Fresh grads will do well to consider incorporating these behaviors on entering the workforce.

Whether it makes you a jerk for handing it out to subordinates (IMO it does) seems beside the point. The list itself is valuable as reinforcement for efficient behavior in the office.

How to work with me:

- Don't boss me around.

Thank you very much.

I would LOVE to work for someone like this. This is how I communicate, and it is how I like to be communicated to.

Side note: I've spent a bit of time looking at personality profiles (Meyers-Briggs (sp?)), you will see this as the favored communication style for many introverts (I'm an INTP). Others would see this as very stand arrogant. Personally, I always hate talking with HR because of all the bullshit thrown around and refusing to get to the point.

"If you must prepare reports for me, review spreadsheets I've created. Copy the style and format."

This is so incredibly important. Not only is it great to have a unified reporting look on a team, this promotes comprehension. If you present me a spreadsheet that looks like how I make a spreadsheet, I'll understand it very quickly. Likewise, if you start making spreadsheets that look like mine, you'll understand mine better.

The style reminds me a little of http://www.lettersofnote.com/2010/08/tiger-oil-memos.html

Although, as many others have already said, the rules themselves are fairly sensible, but the way in which they're presented is a little heavy-handed (even for a 'No BS Approach!')

If this resonates with you, you may enjoy reading http://randsinrepose.com/ and http://www.amazon.com/Managing-Humans-Humorous-Software-Engi... .

This person is a jerk.

2 and 15 seem to contradict each other.

Good point. #15 is also implying subordinates manage (make decisions). While it's helpful to give/get recommendations, the subordinate may not have the full context of a problem. Which has shades again (see my remarks above on repeating) of a manager who doesn't want to manage.

If you have a meeting with me at an assigned time, and I am in another meeting with my door closed, interrupt me. I stack meetings, and each meeting leads into the next.

How is this anything but rude to the parties involved?

Show us your accomplishments (your code) first.. ^_^

Sounds like a prenup, and a bitter, angry, lonely person.

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