I want to add to this by saying, it's terribly difficult to keep yourself motivated in a team with unmotivated people. I left my last job because all the team cared about was money, job security and doing their 9-5.
At my current place, we could fire half the staff and the company wouldn't miss a beat. Sadly, there is no management, leadership or clear direction. We are self managed and so it's very easy to spot the handful of proactive staff because they usually end up picking up all the tasks which eventually causes burnouts and reduced motivation etc...
I've tried to motivate my team mates but how do you motivate someone who's comfortable and secure in their 9-5 and don't really care to achieve any more than mediocre? Nobody gets fired and everyone's on pretty good pay for the job they do.
So I really do agree with this point. Find people who are not satisfied with the status quo. You can't change everyone, in fact, you can't change anyone. All a manager can do is hope to keep these people accountable if they do not hold themselves responsible.
I hope I don't offend you, but it feels a bit selfish to try to change them to be more motivated. For many people, a job is just something they have to get through to survive and there's nothing wrong with that. In a way you are lucky because these people will likely never enjoy their jobs as much as you do.
Don't forget that they may very well have other things besides work that inspire them, but those things might not pay the bills.
That said, this is simple and eloquent, but in practice it's not always this straightforward. The question is, can the 3's expect fair and consistent promotions and recognition, and do they feel that you understand what is needed for the project to succeed? Your superstar 3 may be a single "we know you've done great work here but we just can't get you on that project/we don't have the budget for a promotion/there's no one else available to do this maintenance work right now" from becoming a middling 2 or a no-longer-works-here, and those situations may not always be in your control.
I think the biggest teller of an unmotivated person is a generally negative, problem-focussed attitude. No matter the hour of the day, "We can't do x, because..." will destroy nearby "We can do this, if...." people, eventually.
If you actually need people to work long hours, then ... you aren't doing it right.
It's not an issue as long as your top-tier performance is recognized and rewarded on consistent and equitable basis.
However, we don't live in such perfect world. In a world of stack-ranking and office politics, you will never get top marks year after year, and get compensation that is inline with your contribution.
Slowly, it becomes a mentally toxic environment for high achievers, which is a real shame because I think it's possible for them to co-exist happily.
Chances are though, management itself is also complacent if you have department full of 9/5 ers.
I worked on a team at one point where someone sat on a high-priority bug for a couple weeks without saying anything. Someone finally asked if he was making any progress, and his response was just: "Well someone else wrote that code, so..." He hadn't even tried to look at it. His response after that conversation was to start emailing other people asking if they could fix it, instead of trying to learn that part of the code base. You can spend hours doing that sort of thing, but it's not time well spent.
If you are trying to build a company of any scale at all, yes, everything, if these are the people you hire. For those individuals, there is nothing wrong with this attitude towards work, but over the long run it will most definitely affect their job security and lifetime earnings. If that's the price they are willing to pay, then that's perfectly fine.
i take offense at this sort of attitude, because it implies that the employees are beholden to make _you/the boss_ successful. I imagine that they aren't doing more than what's required because that's what they are paid. I imagine they don't get shares of the company, nor reap the profit if it was successful (and also don't take the risk when it's not).
If a boss tries to make me do more work, but don't offer the equivalent in rewards (which, in my eyes, must be some form of equity and/or profit sharing scheme), then either i won't do it, or will just get by. Unless the company is truly doing something i believe in, or i have something personal, it's not worth it.
This line, which always seems to come from founders, is to my mind pure and utter bullshit. Taking a job with a company that may fail soon is absolutely a big risk, particularly if it's paying below market. Even more so if this person is "passionate" and spends every waking moment thinking about that company's problems, as so many founders love to encourage employees to do. I fail to see how this is any less risky than spending someone else's money (investors) to pursue the creation of a new company. The fact that employees don't share in that reward is just a matter of who was able to get their names on the paperwork, and it has nothing to do with who takes on more risk.
I'm a founder of a bootstrapped start up, and I agree with you 100%. Early employees take on a ton of risk, and high level employees take on a ton of risk as well. Both tend to be compensated additionally with stock options offering additional upside reward in the marketplace compared to other jobs available.
Regarding going above and beyond a given job description, it's not about working insane hours, nor is it about 'passion', whatever you define that as. It's about gaining a level of trust between employer and employee. At scale, top-level employees don't have time to do consider every single aspect of a job and outline it in a job description before hiring someone, and they need to be able to trust their team to step up when the unexpected occurs.
On the other hand, employers need to earn the trust of their employees that they will fairly compensate them when they do go above and beyond what is asked. Sadly, all too often this doesn't happen, or the employee doesn't stick around long enough to see the payoff. The payoff doesn't always come in terms of stock options either. Sometimes it's just a promotion or a bonus.
Either way, my point was that, as a founder, if you want to be able to grow your company, you need to surround yourself with people you can trust, and that trust is earned when dealing with the unexpected. As an employee, if you want to move up to higher levels in a company and earn more money, you need to take risks and prepare for the unexpected. If you don't trust your employer will compensate you for this, then leave and find one who you trust to do so. If you don't want to step up and help out when things go wrong in your company, don't expect the marketplace to reward you with higher pay, a bonus, or stock options.
It's astonishing to me the number of people here that feel entitled to try to abuse their employer. Being motivated doesn't mean working more hours than you are paid for, it means trying to do a good job during the time you do work vs trying to do as little as possible while not being fired for poor performance.
But if you are passionate about making a change in the world, or even just doing an amazing job at one small thing you love, then you are in the right place. Be in the right place. Don't treat others and yourself poorly by being in a job you hate.
It feels a bit selfish to do the minimum you
can at a job because you too afraid to actually
try for something you enjoy.
I greatly respect people that work for less than they might in the case of non-profits.
I like when my clients says the tools I've developped are extremely useful to them, and sometimes it means sticking my neck out and not doing the bare minimum.
Sadly, you're not that important to the success of the company. You can quit tomorrow and they would find a replacement in due time and continue on.
Also, it's highly unlikely that the founder and CEO is going to end up a multimillionaire even if you were a high performing software engineer.
> What's in it for me?
How about not wasting your life? I mean dude, you're spending at least 40 hours a week working. Why not find something you love doing?
How about not wasting your life? I mean dude,
you're spending at least 40 hours a week working.
Why not find something you love doing?
Sure, there's the occasional night or weekend that I'll work; I'm not going to leave my project in jeopardy, or my coworkers in a lurch...But, I don't owe my employer anything more than they owe me.
Theres nothing wrong fullfilling your agreed work hours, with a reasonable expected work amout and spending time with family.
Sure, you could take their money and do the worst possible job you can. Do you think this is a good idea? The owner ends up with a crappy wall and you end up with a bad reputation.
Everyone has things outside of work, like family, that are more important than work. That's not justification for doing the minimum you can do.
For most, a job is about surviving in this world.
Your coworker who is just like you, except she's now two or three or five years into her job at your company. She used to be super motivated, and wanted to do all of the same things that you do, but that's all been beaten out of her as the company and the team ignored her efforts are rewarded other behavior.
Your coworker who is super motivated by something that the company values. Assuming you're a programmer, perhaps you're motivated by building features fast, and not worrying about technical debt, whereas your coworker is motivated by going slower and making sure technical debt is kept to a minimum. The company rewards stable easy to fix code, and doesn't care about moving out features quickly, so your coworker looks like a hero to them.
You coworker who really doesn't care too much about doing more than the minimum required to keep their job. They've got lots of other things in their life that keeps things interesting, and if work is a nice steady routine that's a good thing.
There's a reason that the team is the way it is: The company values what they're providing enough to keep rewarding their current behavior. Don't project your values onto management and assume that they agree that your team's behavior is sub-optimal. If you can't figure out how to either (a) provide the same value that your coworkers do or (b) deliver your value in a way that the company recognizes and appreciates, you should consider changing companies.
Don't believe me? They're comfortable and secure. They're happy with their output. They're apparently paid well.
You were unhappy with your situation - you want things to be different than what they are, and it was grating on you (and may or may not have led to burnout from your description), until eventually you left.
I've been in a very similar scenario:
I joined a "corporate" that had been running an Internet site for a decade. They had not built a new system in years, and had a massive monolithic ancient app with hundreds of hardcoded rules for individual accounts, where every change required tons of effort and they maintained a QA team at least the size of the dev team. Very few of the dev team seemed interested in things like learning new technologies, trying out different development methodologies, finding ways to make the system better as opposed to the task list of feature and bug requests. (I'm not even sure it had revision control.)
Short version - I get annoyed quickly at, for example, rules about arriving at 9:00am (my train schedule meant I tended to arrive at 9:10am, or at 8:30am, and I didn't want to hang out at work...). I'm told that even though I'm being productive, I'm setting a bad example, and they don't want others to start doing that. (I'm thinking: "Why don't you just deal with bad performance, whether the person arrives on time or not?", as well as "Yeah, and I leave the office at 6pm, so I'm at the office longer than them!")
Slightly longer version - I work with my manager to get my team (also not happy with the status quo) together in a room somewhat separated from the dev team, and we pump out code for several months a lot happier, until ultimately we all got better offers.
There's a much longer story, but the point is that _I_ was the one unhappy with the situation, and this affected my motivation to the point of the occasional debilitating day of non-productivity. The original employees were happy with their situation, and many probably still work there doing the same job they were doing nearly a decade ago now.
Holing myself up for a month and working towards a new job paid off and I'm now in a better place as a developer and person.
"It gets better"
Maybe it's an American thing but here in EU most people won't work for free.
I actually did this in my early years and the outcome was never positive for me: I worked nights, weekends, many more hours to help the team, get this great product or project done. In the end? We were let go and upper management got a nice payout and moved onto their next company.
This has happened so many times to my friends in the tech industry, it's crazy. As a result of this behavior, I started my own company and never looked back.
But it is your job to figure out why you got unmotivated people.
* Is your hiring process borked?
* Is there something wrong inside your organisation that's regularly breaking motivated people?
… and so on …
Terrible management and/or micromanagement is one of the key reasons a dev can lose motivation. It also doesn't do anyone's morale/motivation any favors to see colleagues get fired. If a manager has had to fire people, and do so repeatedly, then the fault is not so much with those getting fired than the organization/management/hiring process.
One of the key reasons why I've seen dev lose motivation after joining a company is lack of investment on the part of the manager in the employees future goals. I've been in situations during my entry-level days when my manager always made me draw the short straw - did wonders for my motivation.
Also some management people have completely unrealistic expectations from a hire whose job they hardly understand and with whom they never really talked openly.
In my view, money also is a good fallback motivation, if you can't figure out exactly what it is that someone wants out of his job, or you can't provide it. Truly, I've probably had only one job in my life where I honestly thought "I wouldn't stay here NO MATTER WHAT they pay me!"
But I think what you say would highly motivate me anyway. People like numbers and making numbers bigger. That's why people feel bad if they don't get enough Facebook likes. So if you give people clear numbers and a path to increase the numbers they will be motivated to do it, even if they don't care what the numbers stand for.
I've probably had only one job in my life where I honestly thought "I wouldn't stay here NO MATTER WHAT they pay me!"
As everyone mentions sometimes there is other stuff going on in peoples lives, or they are just not that interested in building the same CRUD app for the umpteenth time that has you terribly exited because it is your first go at it and you want to prove yourself.
That being said, when on the motivated side of the fence, I want to offer you some advice that was given to me by my manager some years ago: You can't keep a good man down. Eventually management will see you put in extra effort, don't drop the ball and is constantly pulling the project out of the fire, and that will result in rewards be that promotions or freedoms or whatever. It might not always be as quick as you want, but you can't keep a good man down...
I hope that helps.
I left 8+ years ago and last I heard, those 2 managers are in the same position.
Entry-level here, and I'd say i'm the 9-5 type, but don't consider myself "don't really care to achieve any more than mediocre" is it possible to be motivated but still work at a reasonable hours? If it's not, then I'm kind of discouraged
The secret is to learn how to say "no." People think it's a dirty word, but as and industry we're terrible at estimation and "no" is your most powerful way of fixing that situation.
> we're terrible at estimation and "no" is your most powerful way of fixing that situation.
This is also my problem half the time, and that's what made me wonder if I keep realizing my estimate was off, and it's taking me more time to complete my original estimated work, does that make me a "9-5, unmotivated worker"
Now, I try to take that attitude wherever I go. When I say 9-5, too many people took it to literally mean 9am-5pm. I do a task until it's done, a 9-5 person would do it until 4:59pm. If I'm done, I'll leave early or late, a 9-5 person would be on Facebook and leave at 4:59pm. It's pretty depressing to be in the middle of some design, be interrupted and turn around to find my colleague gone because it just passed 5pm... happened a few times...
I don't count the hours that I put in anymore. It's either getting a task done, doing something with the family or learning to improve myself or having some down time. I do take work home, wouldn't recommend it to everyone, I also take home to work. Somewhere between 20 and 30, I realised that spending 1/3 of my life just 'having a job' to survive isn't living so I seek out roles that align with my personal mission and go for it!
It used to be about money. Why do you want this job? Because I need the money to start my life, family, etc. But I've since realised that if you're hard working, frugal and sensible, moneys the last of your worries, it is more of what have you accomplished in life.
Sorry, getting a bit heavy here hehe, but having alot of key people die around me made me question what it was that I was doing.
So to bring it all back to your question, don't be discouraged by my views of work. When you're motivated, do whatever it is that interest you, forget about 'reasonable hours', just enjoy what you do.
> I don't count the hours that I put in anymore. It's either getting a task done
how do you define task? if you have a task estimated at 1 day, and by the end of the day you're not finished with it, do you finish it or count it as wrong estimation and finish it later?
I became a senior frontend engineer in about 1 1/2 years.
I am extremely efficient at problem solving - I still have a lot more to learn I find each day though.
I'm less surprised by out of touch management once in a while and more surprised by individuals so confident in their demotivated lifestyle and their ability to maintain it long term with no consequences.
I don't see anything wrong in working agreed work hours, and completing a reasonable expected work amout and that's it. I think that's just recognising you have family and other responsibilities.
A lot of companies think your not motivated if your not doing 80+ hour weeks, for little added gain. Your not a founder, or have little or no equity and so have a limited upside. I don't why companies expect founder level commitment for non founder level upside.
In this case your biggest duty is probably to your loved ones and family. And not sacrificing that over some misplaced sense of duty. I'm sure a lot companies would not do the same if the positions where reversed. They'd probably fire you pretty fast, if you had issues effecting work. Keep that in mind.
It's the classic rhetorical: why not just work consistently, and not have to worry about cramming? Why do people behave that way (in either school or work)? In my personal experience, I've found the only time I cram, is when I'm stuck doing something I really don't care about (happened constantly in school).
One or two demotivated people? Well, okay, they're probably to blame.
But when you have a company full of them it's a toxic company and poor management that caused it.
Some of us are happy with working at a steady pace without many external symptoms of exctitation. I even believe this is better in the long run, people don't burn out and are better-rested.
Perhaps by doing their job to a satisfactory standard and abiding by the conditions of their employment?
If that's not good enough, the contract should make it clear just what the job really entails.
People never look forward to them. You gotta remember everything you did that week so you can report on it (even when told the 1-1 isn't meant for status reports... it kinda always is). You gotta think of some issue to bring up to manager's attention. It interrupts your whole day. Your manager didn't yet help you on your problem from last week -- now they want to listen thoughtfully to problems this week?
From the manager's POV: You've been keeping up with the team members all week, helping out and checking in every day... now you're gonna lose one or two days with back-to-back 1-1s which leave your voice hoarse. They need a few more days to finish out whatever you discussed last week... should you cancel the 1-1 and sync up on the next week (and lose the 1-1 tempo), or have a "no-diff" meeting that you both know you coulda skipped?
I'm sorry, but...speak for yourself. I have nothing but respect for my manager and he respects me as well. It's there so if I have some persistent problem or concern with our project's direction, they can help. And, yes, it does provide the opportunity for you to market yourself and what you've done. Marketing is important.
Since we did have regular 1 on 1 meetings, I knew I had a dedicated block of time coming up to hash things out.
If you instead talked about it in your one on one, they can spend more time on it with you.
First, good managers are busy people. Sometimes they'll be juggling a lot at once. My manager is also a team leader of a team with over thirty people. He has a general idea of how well everyone is doing, but by necessity that's not a lot in the way of details.
Second, marketing is as necessary a thing in the workplace as it is in sales. While I do wish I lived in a utopia where value-providers (whatever that means) naturally rose to the top and technically better products managed to sell themselves to the consumers, that's not the world. In the real world, those things just don't happen. So you have to market your company's products, and you have to market your own value. If I did not, I'm sure I could just go on existing in my current role pretty much forever, but that's not really my style.
A 1:1 isn't a drag or a necessary evil even if I remove the non-marketing aspects from it that I discussed in my post above. It's an opportunity to market yourself, where you have a captive audience for however long it's scheduled for. Captive audiences where you can sell are a pretty rare occurrence, so make the most of the opportunity!
Obviously this wouldn't be useful for everyone, but it's useful for some people. They're usually pretty easy to spot, too.
1-1s are probably your most valuable tool. Often, you will discover problems and info you would have otherwise not known - "our lead developer seems depressed and was talking about quitting", "did you hear about that other project that started? It's in direct conflict with our plans...", "there's a conference coming up, we should present at it", and so forth.
An effective manager should, in my opinion, spend 50% or more of his time with his team. Working on the same topics, talking to them, helping to plan, fixing problems, finding resources, and doing 1-1s. It's no surprise that teams with the most problems often have a manager who is just not around enough.
For new managers, I always suggest the following resources as a great starting point:
- "Team Geek": http://shop.oreilly.com/product/0636920018025.do
- "Managing Humans": http://www.amazon.com/Managing-Humans-Humorous-Software-Engi...
- Manager Tools podcast: https://www.manager-tools.com
And scrum standups should only take 5 minutes. Theory is one thing. Reality is another. It's even worse when you have a team that does scrum, and also schedules regular 1:1s with the boss. I'm expected to give my status every day, and then summarize a week's worth of status at the 1:1 meeting. It's a colossal waste of time, and I don't know how to "take charge" of my 1:1 (or even if I'm supposed to take charge) in order to refocus it onto what I want it to be about.
You should definitely take charge of 1-1s. Maybe try bringing a list of non-status related issues and hand them over. The problems you see, ideas you have, off-topic things. Make it clear to your boss that things aren't working.
If 1-1s take one or two days of back to back meetings, to me that means the team is either too large for you to effectively manage without putting putting in place a team lead or more to delegate to. Or alternatively those meetings are really necessary, or you wouldn't have that much to talk about. If it leaves someones voice hoarse as a manager, it makes me think they're not listening enough.
Not really. It can be tough even at 8-10 reports, 30 minutes each (some may go over): 4-5 hours of meetings. It's hard to schedule them literally back-to-back because of everyone else's schedules, so it winds up taking up two afternoons or whatever (it won't literally take up two full days from morning to evening).
> If it leaves someones voice hoarse as a manager, it makes me think they're not listening enough.
Very cute. Maybe I don't have the stamina for non-stop talking as others do :-P
The threshold might very well differ from person to person, but in my opinion, if you can't afford to schedule 30 minutes per person on a weekly basis (whether or not you actually end up using the full amount of time) without feeling it is too much, then you can't afford to manage that many people directly, no matter how many people we're talking. For some that might mean 10 or even more works, but in my experience as the team size grows the amount of time you need to invest per person grows as well as interpersonal issues and communications gets more complicated.
> Very cute.
Maybe, but it's not meant to be - I'm very serious on that point. When I do 1-on-1's with reports, if I'm the one doing the talking it's a sign we've spent more time than necessary and the meeting is at an end.
That might also be part of the reason why I have a different attitude to them: If a report doesn't have anything to bring up, the meeting is over in 5 minutes. But in my experience at least, there's a big difference in what comes out when you bring someone into a meeting room for 5 minutes (or on a private call), and specifically ask them in a one on one setting if there's anything they'd like to bring up, anything I could help with, what personal development they'd like doing etc..
I'm sure that for some people that's not necessary and they get people to open up without creating that setting all the time, but my experience with my own managers too is that managers in IT (probably applies elsewhere too, but I've only ever worked in tech companies) are notoriously bad at creating good environments for this. And I need to keep a very close eye on myself too, as it's not a part of the job that comes naturally to me.
That is where the ceremony comes it. It's not for the people who are great at getting everyone to talk. It's for everyone else - including a lot of people who think they're great at getting people to talk.
As for hoarseness: ask more questions and talk less.
- These can help: http://jasonevanish.com/2014/05/29/101-questions-to-ask-in-1...
On the other hand, I'll have to say you're definitely wrong to say people don't look forward to them. I have yet to find a company where we have had too many 1:1s, and I usually have them weekly.
It's true that sometimes I don't have anything I really need to communicate, and what ends up happening is that the meeting takes 5 minutes and that's it. That might seem like a waste, but I like it because it makes me feel like my manager actually cares enough to hear the feedback from us underlings. If we didn't have scheduled 1:1s, I would have a really hard time bringing up anything because my manager is very often elsewhere.
I also feel like it should be beneficial from the manager's perspective because assuming people actually are comfortable talking about issues, there are usually problems which arise that the manager doesn't have to deal with and thus know about. Then, we can make sure these things get addressed.
Of course, all this is moot if you don't feel like you can trust your manager, which is unfortunately sometimes the case.
Note the word "your" here. It's honestly your time with your manager, not her time with you. They're just organizing it for you as all good managers should.
I find the rhythm in 1-on-1s something to look forward to, and something I can be mentally prepared for each week.
If you're finding them useless, then do yourself and your manager a favor and make them useful. Plus never be afraid to ask hard questions, or get information about promotions or career advancement at these meetings. They're the perfect time for questions about that.
Obviously, being open to communication is a good thing, so I'm not really critical of 1-on-1s. The fact that there isn't usually anything substance to talk about is a feature, not a bug. Sure, ideally the company culture and the individual relationships with managers would be such that everyone knows that serious discussions can be initiated any time they're necessary, but failing that, regularly-scheduled 1-on-1s are probably the next best thing.
To me it's a sign of an org that can't grow managers properly.
To put this in perspective: if he gave each of his folks just 26 minutes a week, that would be every minute of working time in a 40 hour work week :)
Also known as drive-by management. Why not schedule some time instead?
Come to think of it, "far too many direct reports" is on the same list...
Other orgs set up like that I've found have a lot of unspoken problems that lead to people leaving on a pretty regular basis.
Perfect time to ask questions about things not directly in my day to day domain.
Weekly seems a bit much for anyone but super-new-hires, though.
Manager can probe with questions such as "What's the biggest obstacle you're facing right now?" and "Anything you need from me to help you out?", but there are some weeks where nothing will come up, which would end the session.
The challenges that programmers face are very different to the challenges a mental health nurse faces, but they're still useful concepts. Weekly might be a bit much for programmers.
That being said, in the right hands, 1 on 1s are amazing. They help managers and their team in a variety of ways:
1) Open channel of communication
- Having a standard, private time to talk to your manager or report (depending on your role) is huge. Michael Wolfe has a great post on this http://www.michaelrwolfe.com/2013/10/19/do-i-really-need-to-...
2) Avoid interruptions
- If people are constantly bugging you as a manager you can't get anything done nor give those problems attention. By meeting at a set time each week or two you can dive into the problem and give it your singular focus.
3) Talk about career growth
- Most companies suck at this, but those that actually do talk about skill and career growth have a huge advantage. There is no other time to have this conversation besides 1 on 1s.
4) Catch problems when they're small
- If you have to interrupt your boss to talk to them about something you're probably going to wait til it's a big enough deal to interrupt them, but by then it can be too late. Jason Lemkin writes well about this: http://www.saastr.com/by-the-time-you-give-them-a-raise-they...
5) Supporting the efficacy.
- Is there a study out there? Well, not exactly, but Andy Grove CEO of Intel (High Output Management), and Ben Horowitz A16Z (the Hard Things about Hard Things) swear by them to the point they included them in their books, and recently Deloitte did research on them as a way to replace the hated performance review https://hbr.org/2015/04/reinventing-performance-management
There's a reason Andy Grove said the "90 minutes of your time can improve the effectiveness of your team for 2 weeks or 80+ hours". One on ones done right are that powerful.
I found so many people need this help I decided to make an app to help. If you're interested, I'd be happy to get you early access at GetLighthouse.com, just mention this thread at signup.
100% not true. Explain and apologize.
It _is_ terribly difficult to manage unmotivated people, but most people only end up unmotivated because of poor management. And it's usually cheaper and ultimately better to motivate a proved achiever who has lower motivation than to find a replacement.
A manager should always start by assuming that a motivation problem is something he can address, and work with the employee to figure out what the real reason is and see if they can make the necessary changes. But sometimes, the employee and organization just aren't a good fit anymore, and it's better for both of them if they part ways and find new situations that are a good fit.
I've encountered only five managers who fully exemplify this, but they had an outsize role in keeping good people who others might not have been able to keep, keeping them productive (at least enough of the time to satisfy their work commitments while they dealt with other issues), and attracting more good people (because of word of mouth from the existing good people). It seems the key here was to have the conversations when they were needed. The advice here "Make your job easier and don’t." doesn't correlate with these great managers at all. At least two of them to my knowledge have given reports the advice (and assistance) to find opportunities elsewhere.
In addition, don't just give up. Keep talking and helping out. It could be advice on how to stay motivated or at least not demotivated, carving out space for interesting projects or developing new skills, or even helping that person find a new opportunity outside the company.
Dealing with unmotivated unproductive people you have limited ability to actually manage is beyond my experience.
Motivation is the responsibility of the employee. As a manager, if your performance is faltering and it's because you're not motivated, I will tell you clearly my perspective, and ask if that is the case. However it's on you take corrective action. I will do everything I can to help you, but it's your responsibility, and not fair to the other team members who are motivated if
1. I am focusing my energy dealing with issues caused by your lack of motivation.
2. They're working extra to ensure success when a team member is unmotivated.
In smaller orgs with no HR, it's probably easier, but larger companies have a specific process.
Though to your point, I would not consider myself someones manager unless I had the option to hire, fire, or promote them.
Whether or not that has to do with their motivation is unclear.
In the previous company I created, I had to keep an incompetent and lazy employee to appease my cofounder because he was friend with him. There's nothing worse for team motivation than having an incompetent and lazy untouchable employee... Never ever do that.
Oh and if you ever find yourself with a cofounder who wants to keep an employee because he is his friend regardless of performance, treat that as a huge red flag...
Could a "bad performer" mean someone who just can't output as much as everyone else, even though they are trying as hard as possible? What if they exhibit strong self-motivation to learn, but have a difficult time implementing something that would otherwise be easy for someone else?...
It scares me as a (well, I consider myself, but I've been developing software for 5+ years...) junior software developer that I might be compared to seniors or "prodigy" developers. The only thing I can do is keep pushing my limits and reach those levels, and I'm lucky to be one of those self-motivated people. But the others...it sounds hopeless.
Those are the people everyone says, "wow they're amazing." In reality, they are just hard-workers who don't take lack of knowledge in an area as an excuse.
Even in term of team morale, someone who tries hard and pushes himself to the limit is motivating.
So I wouldn't worry too much about it (plus you might just have imposter syndrome and discount what you really know ;-))
And where is the challenge if everyone is highly motivated and easy to manage? Then you can just leave the programmers alone. They don't need management in this case.
Maybe call them "development facilitator"?
Managers can provide a useful role in setting the scene, reminding what the goals of the organisation, the department, and so forth are, and how this connects with what the team is doing. They are perhaps most useful in working with individuals who aren't working well as part of the team at the moment - giving them feedback, mentorship, building bridges, connecting them with people, training, and so forth.
In my opinion, managers hurt more than not if they override the self-organisation of teams, and this most hurts when you need two teams to work together - and one of the managers has (explicitly, perhaps) made it clear that doing things "off the plan" is not appreciated.
I'd agree at my startup employers. I would not agree about several teams I worked with at Apple, to pick on a corporate example. Teams built from the ashes of an acquired startup at Apple, again, I'd be more inclined to agree. You can't support a broad conclusion like that anecdotally, because I can counterexample it anecdotally, implying there's more to it.
It really depends on the ICs in question. Startups are far more selective about their ICs because one person has a very big impact. With the exception of Google and a couple others, large-cap corporate throws IC quantity at problems and distinguished, autonomous, "rockstar" (sigh) ICs are far more rare. You need the cat herders there.
You can't rely on any random grouping of people to decide well on what's important to do and how to effectively break up the work. But adding a random manager to that group doesn't help specifically. Adding a more experienced IC will generally help more than a less experienced manager.
To me, a complete highly motivated team (a team without any unmotivated person) would certainly feel like they should bring up some kind of organization. They are motivated, after all, and thus they want to get their work done.
A not motivated person, however, needs to be pushed, not in a bad way, but in some way, because he/she is unmotivated (don't feel like wanting to get any job done), and thus the hierarchy comes into play.
Most people fall in this "unmotivated" category. And that is (I think) the actual true reason why management exists in the real world: to push (unmotivated) people, so they get their work done.
Note: by "push" I don't mean "being an idiot". I believe that the presence of the manager is already sufficient for most people to feel like they should work, even though they don't want to.
I didn't get the sense the author was advocating just dumping someone on the grounds they have a lack of motivation, but rather understand that we have the ability to terminate someone and that is sometimes the best course for everyone involved--including the person who is struggling with performance.
As a manager, you should set yourself the goal of making yourself superflous. Just don't ever have the illusion you'll achieve it.
Human beings are way to messy and irrational for that, even the highly motivated and generally easy to manage ones.
Oh, and BTW: highly motivated and talented people tend to be very hard to manage.
Some of the best lessons in life can come from those who haven't been tainted by long stints doing the very thing they're commenting on.
It's not about age, but experience (and honestly representing yourself in the world).
N.B. I'm not saying he shouldn't write, or that he doesn't have valuable insights to offer, just that the author's experience is fair ground for discussion.
For instance I had done very limited management in my past. When a new project came up the company I worked at they had made me lead the project which essentially meant developer + manager. This employer also had the habit of under staffing teams while pushing very aggressive timelines. This lead me to try to manage a team of 6 while also coding around the clock for several months. When it came to review time I was a mess; I hadn't paid enough attention to my team, I was constantly scrambling for tasks, trying to find ways to help where necessary, etc. It was an incredible trial-by-fire.
When it came to my second stint at the same position for a new project I was ready. I gave constant feedback in real-time, I was able to keep on top of tasks, my meetings were more streamlined and I was able to estimate things far better; I did a 180 and became much more effective.
This doesn't mean that every employee will agree with every decision taken from management - but hearing the whys, and understanding the debate that went into taking a decision helps a lot in getting buy in and getting people to go that extra mile.
Per brobdingnagian's comment... everyone has bad days on occasion. A good manager can work around this. But a workplace is about work. Not therapy.
Maybe you're right and work is about work and not therapy, but why not? If anything it seems like it's in the company's best interest to provide therapy if it's needed. They already provide health insurance, and it's well known that people who are happier perform better on the job than people who aren't.
All the things we take for granted... the lights being on, the roads being paved, the bus coming on time... all this happens because people organize, take care of their personal affairs, show up and perform their duties in a proscribed manner, even when they would rather be doing something else.
My belief is to play when it's time to play and work when it's time to work and to keep my personal life separate from work and not to turn personal problems into workplace problems. Managers aren't (generally) personal counselors nor should they be. Their function in that role is to insure something happens in accordance with organizational goals. Not to be someone's mom or life coach. And again... the function of the workplace is to provide a good or a service to someone else. Not a place for working out personal issues. Take that to the appropriate venue lest the buses stop coming on time.
It's certainly the case that people show up to work even when they would rather be doing something else. If anything I suspect that's what the majority of people working are doing, working because they have to, not because they particularly want to.
On the other hand, do you really want someone who's very unhappy driving the bus or flying the plane you're on?
I don't think that work is somehow special, we should care for each other no matter whether we are at work or at a coffee shop.
Of course, everyone is different and I'm glad to have heard your opinion. I just think it's a bit sad because for those who work full time, work is where the majority of their waking life goes. That being the case, I can see a situation where people might only ever interact with other people at work, and so if they need help they have nowhere else to go. But anyway, I can of course also see your point. It's just that it seems with something like depression or suicide, people don't necessarily know what they should do or act rationally even if they do know what they should do.
Just like most of the best practices here haven't been tied to success, it's also true that helping people going through a hard time hasn't been tied to failure.
The right thing to do is really obvious here. Help them.
I test as ENTP at work and INTJ at home just because success at work requires a different mindset. I don't like it, but that's how it is.
Also, ENTP & INTJ all that stuff is proven to be bunk with no statistical evidence that it predicts anything.
I'm also required to represent my company's interest instead of lending a sympathetic ear to a friend. Don't get me wrong: I'm honest and fair, but some avenues are simply closed in an employee / employer relationship.
I just told a guy today that he flunked an interview because he failed to convince the ED he interviewed with that he (the interviewee) would adequately represent his area on a P1 production support bridge.
I could have sugar-coated it and said "Ah, man, yeah that was unfair because I've seen you succeed in exactly that situation" but instead I coached him on how to present himself better and (hopefully) pass the interview next time.
It wasn't pleasant telling him what I had to tell him, but it was necessary.
No arguing with that.
In the long run, we can hopefully select against business practices that have these kinds of human costs.
- If you can’t fire friends, don’t hire them.
- Finally, firing for bad performance is easier than having to fire good people because you’ve run out of money, so fire the bad people before you have to fire the good people too.
- The best way to avoid politics isn’t to ignore politics, but to spend your time on it.
I'm interested in the backstory of the author too.
Personally I think the best way to manage a team is to draw a line between the "team" (including management) and the "objectives".
The seemingly tough part with doing things this way is to be able to draw a line between individuals and the rest of the team if someone isn't holding up their weight.
It sounds tough, but I think it doesn't have to be as tough as it sounds. If people are given enough independence and individual responsibilities, but in a collaborative setting, it will become obvious to the entire team when individuals are not carrying their weight.
Keep in mind that once a person becomes a member of your team you're in it for the long haul. Every once in a while a team needs to rally to achieve objectives, since it's almost impossible to give perfectly equal distribution of work in a project. Every once in a while individuals need to be propped up by the rest of the team if they're having difficulties with their individual responsibilities.
It should only become a problem when the same individuals, over the course of an extended period of time, fail to meet their objectives. And even then if the company is large enough they should be given an opportunity to move laterally within the company to move to another team. If individuals fail regularly within multiple teams at that point it becomes obvious they may need to be let go.
With all that said, different projects / companies have different budgets and so they may need to cut corners. That's why it's important to be careful to select people you are in it for the long haul with, and are willing to put the time and energy into that person as an investment for the betterment of the company.
Sudden turnover is one of the worst things for morale in any company. Avoid it at just about any cost, except in extraordinary circumstances.
This is a great one, I wish more companies/managers did this. It's terrible when your company's advancement policy is "if your manager like you, you get promoted". It's demotivating when your bonus is based on someone's subjective feeling about how good a job you're doing, or some ridiculous self-assessment essay.
Give me clear, measurable goals, and a clear, scheduled (on the calendar) performance review.
Ship Product A or complete features B and C on time and your next raise will be X.
Ship it on time and under budget and your bonus will be Y.
Otherwise, Z% cost of living increase only.
From the point of view of an employee, anything is better than "your compensation depends on the subjective assessment of your manager". Talk about a system that can be gamed!
In my experience, I've found managing a team fairly easy--I just think about all the things my great managers did, and try to emulate them.
Managing up, and managing other teams however, has been a real learning experience.
I really wish if everyone could think like this. What is the point in giving feedback after 6 or 12 months during appraisal. That is also done as part of formality.
When I think back on the things that had really infuriated me about works and managers, they are typically small, avoidable things; not big ones...
PD: Reading some comments on the thread, I understand this as "do not demotivate people" more than "fire unmotivated people"
Different people need different kinds of management. Be adaptable to figure out what drives each person’s best performance."
This juxtaposition is deliberate irony, right?
Does anyone have an example for this?
My boss has been bugging me to get stuff done since there are some crazy deadlines coming up for us. I realized a few days ago that were it not for the craziness at work, I would be very lonely... I have nothing to do. And it's precisely when I have nothing to do that I start having negative or suicidal thoughts. So having a job really is a blessing for me, it gives me something to keep my mind preoccupied, and gives me an easy opportunity to socialize (walking up to someone and starting a conversation with someone is a lot easier.. when... well, you have to, because work requires that you have to :)).
"It’s terribly difficult to manage unmotivated people. Make your job easier and don’t."
It's just a really really mean thing to say, especially coming from someone who is a manager / mentor.
You're not Schindler. Firing people is not a death sentence. If you fear for their mental health, fire them and direct them to services that can help. Hell, companies even do this routinely in a fashion: it's called outplacement.
You just admitted to somethingthat is illegal in many countries.
When someone has a mental illness you keep them at their job; you provide time and space for them to get treatment (for most people this will be an hour a week; for some people it might be more; for a small number of people it will be a hospital stay now and then). The reason you keep them in their job is because you have already invested time and money in them - the recruitment process; training; the knowledge they've gained of your product. It's also better for them - work protects mental health.
Try substituting "cancer" for "mental health". Dos that make you feel differently? "If you think someone has cancer just fire them and direct them to an oncology service".
If you fire someone who is having serious mental health issues you make their life worse. Even if they have access to health care.
Firing someone is a big deal even if they do not have mental health issues. I fired someone once. It still weighs on my mind if I did the right thing or not.
If we're talking about Americans, their health insurance is almost certainly tied to their job. So firing them will force them to choose to either pay out the nose for COBRA or individual health insurance -- which means more stress, on top of the stress of losing their job -- or to give up access to the vast majority of those "services that can help" altogether.
Oops, sorry, I forgot. I'm in Canada.
I guess it is inhumane to fire people in the US, then.
For most people with a mental illness, even one that interferes with their work, the answer is probably no.
You've invested in that person and you lose that if you fire them. You also have the costs of the new hire. You have no guarantee that the new hire isn't going to have a mental illness. (The ageist culture of hiring in SF tech firms selects strongly for people who are at about the right age to have their first episode of psychosis - 14 to 35.)
Firing that one person for their mental illness related performance is very visible. The effect is to make other people with mental illness hide it from you. As a manager which do you prefer - Ann who has a predictable 2 hours for therapy per week over a 14 week period, arranged in advance; or Bob who just takes ad-hoc days off sick?
And, really, the role of a manager is to help workers perform better. This includes people whose performance has dropped as a result of a mental illness. Since work-related strss is very common any manager that doesn't understand mental health is just an unprepared - probably bad - manager.
It's probably not reasonable to expect a manager to correct performance deficits that are a fundamental attribute of a serious mental disorder. There are coherent, reasonable, intelligent people who have disorders that are beyond even the awesome powers of the modern software team manager. Beyond, in fact, even their ability to make assessments.
I think it's a little dangerous to suggest that a manager should be freelancing as a therapist --- which is what you're expecting them to do when you say that a manager should be able to help workers who are impaired by mental illness perform better.
Finally, from a legal perspective, post-ADAAA, it's pretty important for managers to keep a laser focus on actual job performance, and not to casually involve themselves in employee mental health. An overt suggestion that an underperforming team member might have a mood disorder apparently has some liability/obligation implications.
Managers need to understand mental illness so they don't fire people who have mental illness (suggested a few times in this thread and often on HN) or so they can do manager stuff like offer reasonable adjustments (or whatever those are called in the US).
Managers should be especially careful about trying to discern mood disorders in employees who have not informed them of a diagnoses, as, again, doing so can create legal issues.
Employees suffering from mental disorders should work with their therapists to come up with a plan for maintaining work performance, and, if that plan requires accommodation from employers, the employee should request the needed changes. Employers, on the other hand, should be careful about making their own suggestions: for one thing, it can be unlawful for an employer to demand changes from specific employees based on a belief that mental illness requires it. But the better reason is simpler: managers are not mental health professionals.
Mostly, though, the subtext of my comment is that I think people may underestimate severe mental, emotional, and mood disorders. There are high-functioning clinical depression sufferers, and there are people who are authentically crippled by it. No amount of coaching and accommodation from managers recovers the performance of the latter group.
I hope it goes without saying that I don't believe companies should fire employees believed to have mood disorders.
The standard argument for socialism follows from the same reductio: what if everyone was happy? That would be GREAT for business.
Agitation, annoyance, something needing fixed, imperfection, desire for more / self-improvement, etc. is a critical root of invention and creativity.
Ideally not everyone is perfectly happy all at the same time. And it should be noted that is not the same as saying that everyone should never be happy. Rather, that it's incredibly valuable to have dissatisfied people in society - they're often the ones that break with the status quo and push humanity forward.
If a CEO/hiring manager decides employees that become depressed, get sick, are involved in an accident, whatever are to be shown the door rather than offered help or assistance, fine, that is their prerogative. But don't pretend it's not a shitty way to treat a person.
And employers wonder why so many people absolutely despise their jobs. Treating a person like a piece of equipment that can and should be replaced immediately if a part malfunctions or it isn't performing optimally is an excellent way to ensure an oppressive and hostile work environment. But then you get to crack the whip and scare some "motivation" into the workforce, and maybe that's exactly what you wanted to do. Just don't expect a grateful and productive staff.
There are some elements of "contagion" around workplace stress. Obviously there aren't "stress germs" being passed around, but one stressed member of a team can cause stress and poor peformance in other members of the team.
Also, how did you manage to relate this at all to TFA?
"Also, how did you manage to relate this at all to TFA?"
Just what exactly do you think the real world implications of this attitude / policy are more generally?
He is saying: don't try to manage them. Fire them.
You probably have your causal link backwards: mental illness creates homelessness and vulnerably housed situations.
The homelessness and vulnerably housed situations don't help people with a psychotic illness (contributing to medication non-compliance); and there is probably some situational depression there too.
But it's probably wrong to say that homelessness cuses schizophrenia.