Underneath the “machine” of an engineering company is ultimately emotions. I’ve selected a few vignettes I think most engineers could relate to that highlight common themes of misunderstanding in software engineering.
- Thinking to motivate people, an executive names a select employee for an award. One employee gets motivated, the rest get demotivated
- Eager to prove his place a product owner fantasizes about his project that will prove him great like his idol, Steve Jobs. When talking to his team about his product he patiently listens through their objections before ignoring their opinions and making proceeding with his initial plan. The rest of the team no longer feels like this project is a good outlet for personal creativity (since their input gets ignored) and withdraws.
[This exact same behavior is done just as much by engineers who are equally prone to wanting to take full control of a project]
- A manager picks an employee who’s already been labeled as a “problem,” and decides to prove they can turn the situation around. The manager gets increasingly involved with day-to-day decisions of the engineer suspecting it will force the engineer to work harder. The engineer, who’s just as likely to be as good as any other engineer, then comes to resent the manager at a personal level, to see treatment as inhumane, and refuses on principal to participate with the tactics. One of the two, and not too unusually both, get fired.
- Seeking to engage with engineers a manager tries to have a conversation about a project. Bringing up, “firing on all cylinders,” “endzone,” “deliverables,” and “grand slams.” Having no interest in cars, football, or baseball (nor analogies for that matter) engineer gets a sense the person he’s talking to couldn’t ever understand him.
- Manager wants to present an air of knowing, so pretends to understand things he does not, and honestly could not. His direct reports immediately pick up on this and lose respect for him. Nonetheless they are patient and respectful to his face.
- Blindly mimicking the culture of management, a manager refers to Sally as a “resource.” With this analogy material resource manager encourages his tendency to think of engineers as fungible. Also, Sally now hates this manager guy who keeps objectifying her!
- Seeking to create an objective way to numerically rank candidates and assign bonuses, a 360 review process is put into place. Immediately friends give each other great scores.
All unfortunate situations.
Disclaimer: none of these are inspired by employers past nor present.