You get exactly one chance to threaten me. That was it. I quit.
(Honestly, all this management style does is ensure that the only people you'll be able to keep are the ones who will put up with your shit. Not a very good recipe for building a great company, huh?)
I agree with the rest of what you're saying, but I think you're greatly understating the problem.
When I started managing people I read and thought a lot about what management was about, and who my good and bad managers were. I came to the same conclusion as Ben Horowitz did here: my main job was to make sure that my people were happy and had what they needed to get their jobs done. And that it was impossible to do that that without directly talking with them, one on one, on a regular basis.
Of course, that had absolutely no relation to the skills that got me to the point of managing people, so it's no surprise to me that many managers never figure that out.
I've worked at a company like that before. Management worked hard on whatever problem the CEO noticed last, while doing their best to hide any other problems from him.
As a manager you do much better at aligning everyone's interests so that your staff does what they want to do, which just happens to work towards the outcome you want. It's more about gentle course corrections ahead of time than grabbing the wheel from them.
The executive should have been made aware that this was an issue or fired, not threatened. That was a stupid move. If you have to threaten your employees, you have already failed as a leader.
That is why I didn't see it as a threat, I read it as Ben saying "Managers who work for me have 1:1s with their reports, if you have a manager who doesn't want to manage that way that is fine, they should work somewhere else."
So if you worked for Ben and thought 1:1s were "bullshit" then you ideally would already have had a discussion about that and either understood what he wanted or have already quit.
The bottom line is that Ben needed to be clear when his direction was 'optional' and when it was not. Clearly this was a time when it was not.
At Sun I worked briefly for a guy who was an incredible micro-manager. He would ask me to report on what my folks were doing, and then tell me what they should be doing so that I could meet the goals he had set out for me. I pushed back on that. My push back was that I felt I had a better handle on how to meet the goals than he did, I also recognized that if that wasn't something he could live with it was well within his rights to remove me (as I recall I even offered to proactively move at that point).
I completely agree with Ben's original assessment that part of making a place fun to work at is that you and your reports have a clear idea of what you're being asked to do, and your management supports your effort to get that done.
The part of this story that seems to trigger the most emotion is the notion that Ben brings this guy in, then drops this requirement on him with the consequence that if he doesn't do it in 24hrs he'll be out of a job. That level of clarity in direction is rare in my experience. It also read a bit like Ben was taking no responsibility for not communicating clearly the importance of this requirement. If I were Steve I would want to understand that better. But we don't know what sort of 1:1s that Ben and Steve had prior to this one. Perhaps it came up often and Steve made vague affirmative noises about how he would get around to it soon or something. And only after repeated nudges did Ben come out and make this clear delineation of behavior and consequence.
That's technically possible, but that's pretty much opposite to how Ben himself told it. Here's the condensed version of the backstory:
> one day while I happily went about my job, it came to my attention that one of my managers hadn’t had a 1:1 with any of his employees in over six months... I did not expect this.
> I thought that leading by example would be the sure way to get the company to do what I wanted... why didn’t they pick up my good habits?
> Given the large number of things that we were trying to accomplish, managers couldn’t get to everything and came up with their own priorities. Apparently, this manager didn’t think that meeting with his people was all that important and I hadn’t explained to him why it was so important.
There is no hint at all of the situation you envision. That isn't to say you're definitely wrong, but you're certainly on shakier ground than Ed.
- You've genuinely exhausted all your other ideas and avenues for improving the situation. Obviously this means we aren't going to be seeing eye to eye. That means this job probably isn't worth either of our time anymore, unless one of us can come up with something that will drastically change our relationship for the better.
- This is what you resort to instead of thinking hard about how to fix problems. I don't want to work with you.
It's not about fairness, it's about fear. Fear isn't a good way to run a good company. In my opinion, of course.
Very true, and managers who can only manage with fear don't make for a great place to work.
Rick installed the software (which took most of the 24 hours apparently: remote machine, hard to work with the hosting company, etc) and then quit, effective immediately. He was jobless for a while, but he eventually got a better job.
He really should have had it installed before that, but it wasn't his only job responsibility, and the system was really, really unstable at that point. Emergencies were a daily occurrence.
I stuck it out with the company. I wanted to have a few years experience on my resume before looking for another job, and they hadn't yet done anything like that to me.
The company's HR policies were pretty much exactly what you'd expect, after that occurrence. I managed to avoid most of it, but even simple things like vacation time were really painful.
Meta: I hate that a silly comment like this gets so much attention only because it's the first comment.
(edit: By "first" I meant top of the page.)
The whole exchange stank of condescension and patronization. This is a high-level exec at a company, his basic intelligence doesn't need to be questioned - he did not need the principle of 1:1's to be explained to him as if he were a child.
One of his direct reports is violating a very clear, established policy. "Steve" needs to fix it, pronto, and that's all that needed to be communicated. The whole pointlessly patronizing "lesson" in business and the direct threat to Steve's job was entirely unnecessary. It's unproductive and just plain power-posturing.
It's only necessary if your workforce is consisted entirely of slack-jawed yokels that need to be hand-held through the very job you hired them to do. If that's the case, you should fire yourself for having created an organization full of slack-jawed yokels.
Side note, from the article:
> "it’s personally very important to me that Opsware be a good company. It’s important to me that the people who spend 12 to 16 hours/day here, which is most of their waking life, have a good life"
Protip: if you want to have a good place to work, and your employees to have a good life, don't have 12-16 hour days.
Thus I agree that the whole rant was needless. If Steve was a repeat offender, then he and his underboss should just be fired on the spot and the reason for the termination should be explained to the rest of the company to reinforce the importance of the core values.
If this was one of Steve's within margin of error blunders, he should be explained the rules again and probably made charge of inspecting the status of adherence to this particular rule by the people within company.
This is my take.
So what you are saying is that the CEO was failing to achieve is number 1 priority for 6 months, and the best he can do is expect that his managers resolve the problem in 24 hours or they get fired? This isn't just any old directive, this is his number 1 priority. If he's failed to do the most important thing for 6 months, then he has only himself to blame.
He said: "I thought that leading by example would be the sure way to get the company to do what I wanted."
If it was really that important, it wouldn't have taken 6 months to discover. What's more likely is that the CEO changes his mind, constantly refocusing on new important things.
The CEO of this story is filled with lies, deceit, incompetence, and ignorance. Emulate that? No, I have respect, at the very least, for myself.
Working for Ben then becomes a pretty straight forward process - if Ben's priorities aren't yours, then it's time for another job. In the case of edw519 - if he is unhappy with being terminated because he's unwilling to make Ben's priorities his priorities, then he'll be soon working for a new company. The action/response equations couldn't be more simple.
Ben is also viewed by the vast majority of his employees, particularly the engineers, as one of the best CEOs they've ever worked for.
The executive ranks are full of people who prefer direct "do this or here's the consequence" talk. I personally prefer that. If it's really that important, then let me know with words that can't be misconstrued.
I like my leadership transparent and decisive. Sometimes that may come across as blunt and rude.
An actual conversation would probably have been more instructive but less clear.
If, in the actual conversation, the manager tried to explain his point of view and the author instead made the manager out to be a buffoon in his story, I think it's indicative that he either (1) doesn't listen well (and therefor didn't recall what the manager said) or (2) doesn't respect his managers.
One is the issue of micromanagement versus giving people the initiative to achieve the desired result. Ironically, even the military leans heavily on the side of initiative, if only because that's the only way you can effectively lead a large number of people. You only address the details that are important at your level in the chain of command. This takes dialogue and even a degree of pushback. You don't just say "I want to fly this many sorties per day" and punish people for not living up to that if it's unreasonable. They're expected to tell you it's impossible to maintain the aircraft on that kind of schedule.
There's also the separate issue of whether there's such a thing as non-negotiable orders. It seems clear to me that there has to be such a concept for any organization to work. It's even necessary for that to be the case in order for initiative and delegation to work. There will always be decisions made far above your pay grade, and the people who made those decisions can't delegate the details down the chain unless there's some assurance that the people down the chain won't deliberately sabotage the high-level decisions. That way lies politics and other bullshit.
In the OP's situation, both sides failed. The CEO made the high-level decision that 1:1's were mandatory. The VP's mistake was his failure to enforce the decision down the chain, and the manager's mistake was to silently ignore or disobey the decision. (If the manager disagreed and pushed back in the first place, it wouldn't have become a problem). When the CEO became aware that the manager was not holding the 1:1's, he was immediately forced to attend to details below his level. This wouldn't have happened had it been clear from the outset that the decision was not, at the present time, negotiable. By making that point, the CEO resets expectations and from then forward has regained the ability to delegate.
That's usually how it goes. No sense feeling angst about it.
Conversely, it's every senior employee's job to listen to these arguments in good faith and countermand his own bad decisions once they've been pointed out as such.
What isn't anyone's job, ever, is to receive instructions from above and silently ignore them. Especially in this particular example, a manager who hasn't had a 1:1 with any of his reports in half a year probably isn't some brave conscientious objector trying to hide from the oppression of the CEO, he's more likely a shitty manager and the people working for him would probably be glad to see him summarily fired in the first place.
I wonder if their corporate culture at the time was so dysfunctional that threats were necessary for any response, in which case quitting is a great move anyway. Or maybe he is just trying to appear more badass for dramatic effect in a story.
(It's kind of like every time I had a rifle on a sling in a war zone, I never had to threaten anyone. You only threaten people when you have no power.)
But, let's say it did happen. Something that you feel is fundamentally important to the companies core and culture hasn't occurred in six months, how do you handle it?
It would be a challenge if out of the blue you had to take this position, and generally as a report to the CEO you won't, although I could imagine that to Steve's manager its going to come as a huge surprise when Steve gives him the requirement that he meet with his employees or be fired, because clearly Steve hasn't been passing along this requirement. For that guy, the unnamed manager for Steve, its going to feel very arbitrary and I feel bad for him.
The way Ben had intended to - by explaining things. He ended up pulling authority and threatening to fire everybody involved, for some reason.
There's a massive difference in that specific example, sure. Though not necessarily--lots of knowledge workers are on-call and expected to respond quickly to pages, and repeatedly missing the expected response time would be a firing offense.
But in any business, there are certain non-negotiable requirements that an employee has to meet to keep his job. Showing up on time may or may not be one of them, but the requirements exist. And while it's shitty for any manager to treat his workers as replaceable cogs (even at Wal-Mart--they don't exactly have the best retail employees), it's equally shitty for an individual worker to act like he's irreplaceable and that the rules don't apply to him. As I said, don't be a prima donna.
These are managers we're talking about here, not workers. Middle managers have indirect, damped control over the quality of a company's output, but direct and leveraged influence over a company's culture. A bad middle manager can wreak havoc on morale, can pollute the talent well by hiring Bs and Cs and can drive the As away. Ben has stated clearly that his top priority is that culture; that kind of thing isn't said just once. These managers are both failing at implementing the CEO's wishes and he is right to hold them accountable.
Ben approached this well. He confronted Tim's boss - presumably higher paid, with all the extra trust and responsibility that implies - with a short, sharp shock and a restatement of his expectations. He phrased it in a way that makes his vision absolutely clear, then showed the consequences of failure. That boss should, if he's half decent, then have a very different meeting with Tim in which he asks why he couldn't have his one-on-ones, re-states the importance of them and provides either extra training or some resolution into the root cause of Tim's inability to hold the meetings. Tim's boss shouldn't be just passing Ben's threat of termination on like a hot potato; he should be resolving the situation.
I largely agree with your underlying message that a culture of fear is a bad thing for a company, but in this case Ben is right to wield a dirty great stick in front of his senior manager. He's doing it to protect the workers and the culture he's worked hard to build by holding his most privileged, trusted and influential staff accountable for their failure.
He stated that he trains everyone to do these meetings and the Exec did not do so.
But this is management. You have different responsibilities. If being told to shape up or get fired makes you upset, don't go into management.
“Why did I bother waking up? Why did I bother coming in? If it was about the money, couldn’t I sell the company tomorrow and have more money than I ever wanted? I don’t want to be famous, in fact just the opposite. ”
Well, then why did I come to work.”
And on and on... Please...
My impression would've been, "why is this guy treating me like a 5 year old".
My approach (IMHO) would've been something like:
Me: "Steve, one of your managers isn't following company policy concerning 1 on 1 meets".
I give Steve the managers name, "You'll take care of it?"
Steve: "Of course."
Me: "Thank you."
I give Steve the benefit of the doubt that he'll deal with it. No need for me, the CEO, to micromanage. Now if Steve doesn't deal with it, that's another matter.
I found that, unless I worded things very carefully, my directs tended to take honest questions as statements of decisions made. I had to go to great lengths for them not to take anything I said as both 1) an extremely urgent policy decision and 2) associated with a threat of termination/failure to advance their career.
The only thing that I can imagine is that this person's directs didn't respect him, forcing him to take this action. That's the only scenario I've seen managers need to "lay down the law."
Than, by chance, he notices that one of his employes isn't doing something he asked, for six months. Then he thinks "wow, this guy is ruining my work" and threatens to fire two workers if they don't fix it in 24 hours.
From any perspective, the OP came off looking really bad, and I doubt that people will feel better in such a work place... especially when word spreads that if you make mistakes you can be fired in 24 hours.
Both he didn't put in place any controls and the required task was mostly useless. In such a situation I'd fire the CEO, because he mandates employees to waste company time. Each one hour 1:1 useless meeting wastes two hours!
This time I took off was not discounted from my pay, frowned upon, or taken out of official vacation time. It was just the company telling me that they appreciate all the effort I put in and that they respect my decision making regarding how I spend my time on the company clock, be it working unpaid overtime, or taking a few days to decompress. For me that is the real good company startup culture. The company gives me the freedom to stay late and to leave early, gives me the tools I need to be productive and doesn't force me into preset managerial roles that don't really do anything to increase productivity or facilitate increased code throughput, and gives me the trust that I'm going to achieve what my responsibilities require however I see fit.
Am I a workaholic? Not a chance. I once worked almost 50 hours straight, not because I "want to work", but because I had a challenge I wanted to solve. I solved it and I went home to sleep and took a personal day (once again not unpaid or taken out of any "special time") after that. I'm not the usual geek slash programmer. I enjoy going to the gym and having one too many beers with my friends. I enjoy bar hopping and pickup up girls at clubs. I also enjoy coding, and if I weren't spending 4 to 6 extra hours at work writing code, I'd be doing it at home.
1. To evaluate a team member's contribution fairly, every manager has to really know the person well. In other words, no "fly-by-night" form-filling performance reviews!
2. No negatives surprises during a performance review.
These two together mandate that every manager spend a great deal of time with the people who work for them and bring up any negatives on a timely basis so the team member has an opportunity to correct them rather than being inflicted a negative surprise.
So I agree on the importance of regular 1-on-1's. Having said that, I am not sure I really like the tone of Ben's conversation with his manager. First of all, I find this yes/no style insulting to an intelligent person on the other side, and second, if the managers in question were valuable to the organization (which should be the presumption here), it is odd to think the CEO would threaten to fire them so readily. I would not expect an intelligent and self-respecting person to work under those terms - I know I would not.
Everyone is treated with respect. I personally would've never "talk down" to an employee like this Ben guy did. And frankly, we expect our employees to act them same (and most do - the ones who don't don't last long here).
But presumably you expect the employees to take serious correction. So this really reduces to an unspoken code that management shouldn't be treated this way.
I'm not judging Ben either way here; sometimes a situation requires being a jerk. But the more managing I do, the more I believe that if a manager has to be a jerk it's because they've messed something up elsewhere.
"Diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way."
If you want to learn how to manage people, accept that authority is an illusion. If you realize people do what you'd like not because of your position but because of who you and are and how you act, you'll discover much more effective means of leading.
Clearly we respond to authority for authority's sake. Benevolent dictator and all that. But if your leadership style depends on your subordinate's perception of your power, it says more about you than it does about your subordinate.
I've written a bit about this here, calling it "credibility capital": http://jasonlefkowitz.net/2003/03/where_leaders_f_1/
The entire Fear vs. Love discussion, iirc, makes the argument that fear is preferable as you control if people fear you, whereas individuals decide whom they love. As such Machiavelli proposes fear is superior for means of maintaing control as it is something you can directly create/control. This clearly doesn't apply to modern business as you can't impart massive, fear-inducing bouts of violence on people (which, btw, was what Machiavelli generally prescribed for a prince to keep the underlings in check) and anyone that has any talent at all isn't really in fear of you firing them. Contrast this with the situation during the time Machiavelli lived/wrote where most people were very directly affected by every whim of the ruling powers and there were no good alternatives (i.e. 'just move somewhere else' wasn't really a feasible option for most, and 'find another prince' certainly wasn't either).
It further ignores the fact that while people do choose whom they love/like they don't just change those allegiances arbitrarily, it is generally preceded by actions, such as being a massive douchebag / trying to pull rank or play silly power games to show 'who's in charge'.
Unfortunately in modern society most traditional methods of ‘exerting dominance’ are generally frowned upon/not conducive to civilized co-existence. So people have redirected this basic drive into dominance in business, and then they use writings by ancient strategists to justify what is basically anti-social behavior. I think applying either Machiavelli or Sun-Tzu’s writings today in totality would make you a pretty horrific person by the standards of modern civilization.
Machiavelli/Sun Tzu wrote reasonable treatises on monarchial rule and actual war (business != war, as much as some macho 'business warriors' want to pretend), but the overbroad application/translation into business practices is questionable at best.
The problem is that the people most likely to try and justify actions based on their teachings are the ones that are also least likely to understand the context in which they wrote and the non-applicability of their lessons to business in this day and age.
I don't agree, and I think this is a canard promulgated by those who benefit from it: those who are taught or inclined to believe that domination is a good way to get around in life.
He seems like a massive douche.
First, the post isn't about 1:1s. 1:1s were just our way of doing things at Opsware. Other companies have other ways of doing things. It was about whether or not people who worked at the company received any guidance, context, or feedback.
Second, the point of the conversation was to focus the executive on what the environment was like for employees (as opposed to managers and executives). In general, I believe that is important to optimize for the feelings of the people doing the work rather than the people doing the management. If you optimize for managers, then you get what you get.
Finally, 1:1s were a huge point of emphasis in the company from the initial training through everything that we discussed as a team. Not ever meeting with your people in this context basically meant that you cared nothing about your employees. If you read the entire post, you should get that.
Having said that, for whatever reason I didn't make things clear to every manager in the company (my fault). The point of the conversation was clarity. The firing comment was to emphasize the importance of the employees vs. the executives.
It's fine with me if you hate it, but you should probably try to understand it first. Finally, fwiw, I still talk to Steve every week and he's done extremely well in his career. This did turn out to be clarifying for him and we'd worked together for 7 years at the time of the conversation, so there was quite a bit of context.
Finally, there were 600 people in the company at the time and only one manager that wasn't having regular 1:1s. It's interesting to me that most people on this thread think that it's not a serious matter to let people come to work with zero guidance or feedback. In fact, it's just fine. What's really bad is making clear what's acceptable and unacceptable management. Hmmm.
Insisting that people who already work 12-16 hours daily pile on yet more meetings (and in the name of a healthy work environment!) is not reasonable. Nor is threatening to fire a subordinate on short notice for the behavior of his subordinate unless you are prepared to resign yourself if the problem is not fixed in the same timeline.
For everyone here, the real lesson is that as long as you pay well, you can tread more liberally on other people's pride. The ups-and-downs of startup life make everyone act poorly from time to time, so this is useful to remember. But as a conscious management style? This sort of behavior is venomous in smaller groups motivated by other factors. It will destroy your team.
(also, wow, welcome to hn! love your essays on Rap Genius!)
Unfortunately, your post triggered a HN immune response because the tactics you cited don't work with everyone. Just one of the current limitations of public writing, you can't choose your audience or personalize the context.
But in this story, a manager of managers was getting disciplined and the response is very angry.
From which I would infer that a lot of HN is at a similar level to the guy who was disciplined.
BTW, from the story, the guy who was disciplined handled it extremely professionally and I would not be surprised to hear he was good to work with from both sides.
[F]or whatever reason I didn't make things clear to every manager in the company (my fault)
I think that if you had acknowledged your responsibility for this aspect of the situation at the same time you were making your priorities clear to Steve, the conversation would have had a somewhat different tone without loss of impact.
This post is about respect for employees, and you spend a bunch of it questioning your behavior. You wonder if you're modeling the right behaviors. You ask explicitly, "Had I yelled at them one time too many?"
Then in the dialog you write yourself up as a condescending jerk who is out to scare somebody. The contrast is sharp, and you don't really justify the narrative shift.
Now as both a worker and a manager, I know that an occasional touch of fear can be a good thing. But I also know that it has to be very occasional, and as a manager I work how to figure out how I let a situation slide to the point where fear was necessary. So I know a scene like this can be justified.
However, you don't really justify it here, especially given that much of your actual audience will identify with the employee characters, not your character.
As an employee formerly in this situation for almost a year, it really sucks. It makes you really less productive, and made me start making my own agenda instead of bothering to collaborate.
1:1 meetings are good, but they're just the tip of the iceberg. A far more beneficial way to make a good company is to make sure that when people fail, they are made to understand that failure and its significance in a manner that is both helpful and non-threatening. Long speeches filled with loaded questions and firing threats are the exact opposite of that.
Even the mention of firing someone should be treated like brandishing a gun. Don't bring it out unless you're about to use it.
As a manager 90% of my 1:1's would be 10 minutes of idle chat- because we were constantly aware of what was expected and how we were delivering. Of course I always forced the meetings, just in case employee had something to get off their chest.
This is the only benefit of 1:1's. Status updates and general progress tracking should be baked into your every day processes.
And here's the important part: 1:1's must absolutely be off the record. It is a safe place for an employee to voice his/her grievances and concerns without repercussion. Your workplace should already be open and respectful enough that people can voice almost all problems publicly with the rest of the team - which means by default any problem that will be touched on in a 1:1 is sensitive and needs to be treated as such.
I've seen so many places where this has failed dramatically. If you keep 1:1's on-record and the contents open, you will get blindsided by the things your employees are uncomfortable bringing up in the open.
Of course! But, that doesn't always happen. The 1:1 is an attempt to ensure that, to some degree, the subordinate and superior get at least a little of said discussion regularly.
1:1's offer a consistent opportunity for dialog if there is ever a mishap, broken process or impending event to talk about.
Opportunity is the key word - it doesn't necessarily mean it's crucial information being exchanged every time.
This is a fantastic description of an awful workplace.
Me: Hi Steve, remember how I asked all the managers to me with their direct reports 1-on-1 at least once every six months.
Steve: No, when was that?
Me: Never mind. I heard that Tim didn't do that.
Steve: Do what?
Me: Meet with his direct reports. 1-on-1.
Steve: Oh yeah. Reminds me, great Celtics game last night, huh?
Me: I tivo'd it and caught the last 5 minutes live. Saves a shitload of time wasted on commercials. Cable is gonna die a painful death. What were we talking about? Oh yeah. Please tell Tim to follow up or I will be pissed.
Steve: Sure you don't want to tell him yourself? He never listens to me.
Me: OK, maybe tomorrow. Remind me in 24 hours.
Agree the "why" is key to buy-in and success. But leaders need to coach not command. 1:1s and firing can be necessary, but only after the CEO has done a great job of setting clear objectives that everyone buys into. It's also ideal when people hold themselves accountable versus a leader having to (e.g. report at group meetings).
As a data point, Jeff Bezos, who Ben references, apparently doesn't like 1:1s. He prefers group meetings so everyone gets on the same page and to avoid "the telephone game." [source - Bing Gordon's 2011 talk at the Endeavor Summit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdTaywChuYM]
Having an arbitrary rule like that doesn't engender a great work environment. Different people have different ways of working. Different managers have different managerial styles. It may be that Tim preferred to have honest conversations over a coffee or a beer, and that he met informally with his reports all the time in the hallways and by the whiteboard.
As a programmer, I used to believe I wouldn't be a good manager, but I'm currently making a run at it and it turns out I'm better than I thought I'd be.
And then: fire or not fire the guy - at a small startup you have no time to rehabilitate people. It's just too expensive.
(Personally, I am not a big fan of threats. This isn't something that has come up at work much, though.)
I would never buy from Opsware until Horowitz is gone.
The focus should not be in the way the situation was handled, but in the priorities displayed by the author. Could he have handled the situation better than to voice a harsh requirement which if not met would result in termination? The answer is obviously a huge "YES". Now take into account that the administrative team have been told that one if their main objectives is not to be "classical" bossy managers, but to be the main conduit of incentives and communication between the company and it's employees to ensure the productiveness and happiness of the cogs that move the company forward.
This is not about reprimanding a manager because he did not turn a report on time - which by the way should be handled by asking the reason and though process of the manager's decision to use time for something else he deems more important. This is about a manager not being able to fulfill one of the KEY objectives stablished by the company's head honcho. If you're always trying to nicely get people to do what you say and it doesn't work, sometimes you have to resort to drastic measures.
In this story, both Tim and Steve failed to accomplish a goal that had long been stablished to have a high priority. It's akin to a sales person not selling, or to a programmer not doing his programming quota. There is something wrong with the machine, and one cog not working correctly can bring said machine down to the ground. I think that he should have asked why things aren't getting done first before resorting to drastic monologues, but at the end of the day drastic monologues are sometimes the only way to push, incentive, or realign a rogue "cog". At the very list I'd prefer to hear "You're not doing your job correctly because of A, B, and C. Either you fix it or your out!" than "You're just not working out for the company, and no I wont tell you why... Oh and I'm replacing you so pack your things..."
Being good to your employees involves so many things but listening to them should at the very top of the list. You could easily make the argument the most important aspect of any business is its workforce.
While customers are often regarded as such it's rare that you actually achieve customer acquisition success unless you have a happy workforce willing to help and wanting your company to succeed.
I consider this the "happy wife, happy life" of business
Gawd. Fuck the walk in the park and get to the point. And no, straightforward management should not preclude respect.
Real meetings -- fine. Mandated 1:1's. Propaganda. All the sadder when both parties know this but -- for legal reasons if no other -- have to talk around it.
I'm sure it's different in other workplaces. Some workplaces.
P.S. In my last corporate gig, 1:1's were very much about establishing a formal record for HR purposes. After you'd been through a few, and watched any substantive comments and feedback you made go nowhere, you figured it out.
P.P.S. Reading through it now, the OP post seems very self-contradictory. E.g.
Me: “Well, let me explain. I came to work, because it’s personally very important to me that Opsware be a good company. It’s important to me that the people who spend 12 to 16 hours/day here, which is most of their waking life, have a good life. It’s why I come to work.”
“In a poor organization, on the other hand, people spend much of their time fighting organizational boundaries, infighting and broken processes. They are not even clear on what their jobs are, so there is no way to know if they are getting the job done or not. In the miracle case that they work ridiculous hours and get the job done, they have no idea what it means for the company or their careers. To make it all much worse and rub salt in the wound, when they finally work up the courage to tell management how fucked up their situation is, management denies there is a problem, then defends the status quo, then ignores the problem.”
Explain to me the value of cramming one more meeting into the day of an employee who's already working "12 - 16 hours"?
And, after six months, if "Tim's" department hasn't 'blown up', maybe your first question (to self, to Tim) should be "Why?". Maybe Tim knows something you don't.
When was your last 1:1 with Tim?
What did you discuss in your last 1:1 with Tim's manager.
Per the OP post, Ben has been very successful. ("If it was about the money, couldn’t I sell the company tomorrow and have more money than I ever wanted?")
Well, there are a lot of successful assholes out there.
Well, let me explain. I came to work, because it’s personally very important to me that Opsware be a good company.
Why? And how do you define that, when you are working people 12 - 16 hours per day?
I don't know Ben, and circumstances could differ from the following, but one way to read this post is as being stuffed full of ego.
In terms of whether or not it was right to "clarify" things to Steve that way, I really did not provide enough context in the post to answer that question. However, implicit in the communication was me prioritizing the employees of the company over the managers and executives. Specifically, if you don't hold managers strongly accountable for management, then the employees will suffer which in my opinion is worse than executives getting their feelings hurt.
For whatever it's worth, I never wrote and I never asked anybody to work 12 or 16 hours a day. I never asked anybody to work any specific number of hours. However, many people did and it was important to me that we respect the effort.
The firing line was intended to come across as the very last straw. After training, after many conversations, after performance reviews, if I still couldn't get them to take management seriously then this was to be the last conversation before making a change. If I didn't hold managers accountable to that, then I should be fired as well-- no question about that.
Now your managers are looking for another job (they will quit) because they don't want a jerk for a boss (who wins here).