Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Top 10 Ways To Demotivate Your Programming Team

If you're in charge of an overly motivated programming team that meets all deadlines and produces high quality code you may recognize that they don't really need you. Here are 10 tips how to regain control.

  1. Set up impossible deadlines!
    Repeated failure demotivates even the most undeviating member of your team. If you don't meet deadlines and are not trying to do something about it (like improving your software process) every new deadline will be a farce. You can be sure that in this case your team members will see every time estimation as a torture, randomly guessing some numbers, hoping that this time everything will work out. But of course they'll know that it can't work (you set an impossible deadline, remember), so they will be demotivated enough to get a nice vicious circle started.

  2. Let them work overtime!
    I wrote let them instead of make them intentionally. Often software developers actually like to program. To make sure that they will introduce a lot of errors, which will eventually demotivate them, you just have to let them work. And work. And work. After some hours they will get tired (but will not recognize this state themselves) and will just check in some messed up code. Time works for you on this issue. If they don't work overtimes for fun, just make them (see 2 for a more humane way to achieve this).

  3. Don't allow breaks!
    This is tightly coupled to 9. If your employee works overtime but makes a lot of breaks you gain nothing. The geeky brain has surprisingly quick regeneration capabilities (especially if a lot of caffeine is involved). So you basically have to combine 8 and 9 to get the pack tired enough. This way you maximize the error rate which will eventually yield the demotivation you aimed for.

  4. Place a ban on laughing!
    You can use this tip not only for programming teams. If you want creative workers to produce nothing useful, don't allow them to laugh or even better: don't allow them to talk. When they're quiet and unhappy you can be sure that you will not be able to write code.

  5. Break the coffee machine!
    Programmer (n): An organism that can turn caffeine into code.

  6. Don't shield them from the dirty daily business
    Even the brains of programmers have limited capabilities. So one easy way to demotivate your software developer is to challenge him with tasks he hates. Tasks that have nothing to do with software development work best here. Make the developer lie to the customer about schedules, or make your team hold the customers hand when they don't want to learn the basics to integrate your product into a complex environment. Often you get a nice demotivation by forwarding angry mails from other company's CEOs to your development team or let them handle wobbly feature requests.

  7. Don't challenge them!
    Most developers are motivated when they can work on a real challenge. So don't let them. Of course with software development being a challenge per se, this will inevitably lead to 5. But if you try to implement tip number 5, you have to remember not to give them tasks that challenge too much.

  8. Underpay them!
    While paying more than your programmer is worth will usually not gain any additional productivity, you can easily get a good demotivation by paying less. The important thing is that the developer knows that he's underpayed - this maximizes the negative impact on his overall performance. You can easily drop the productivity by a factor of two or three depending on the basic motivation level of your employee.

  9. Bribe them!
    And do so generously! Promise them a lot of money if they meet some utterly impossible deadlines (see 10). You can be sure that this will motivate your programmer - to mess up. She will work overtimes (see 9), sitting in front of her computer without a break (see 8), not accepting any interruptions by coworkers that want to cheer her up (see 7) or take her to the coffee machine (see 6). She will be concerned about the figures all the time to make sure that everything is all right (see 5).

  10. Infiltrate a team member who is demotivated anyway!
    If you don't want to use 1 to 9 for ethical reasons, you can always find those people who are demotivated anyway. These are mostly people that don't really want to develop software and just do it for the money. Since it's mostly easy to make everything look bad, this is usually what they're really good at. And since they don't want to work, they'll pull everybody around them down into their little black hole of demotivation.

127 comments:

  1. 0. Choose the worst team member and appoint him as leader.

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  2. Oh, god. my office met all the point u mentioned. no wonder i'm so depressed...

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  3. Love number 6 - what a great definition of a programmer!

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  4. Let your programmers work on a new feature, when they are almost done with it, tell them it is not needed.

    Constantly working on things that will never see the light of the day is a great way to demotivate.

    Even better, create a design but don’t show it to your programmers, let them suffer and come up with a there own design, approve it and let them continue to coding and then when they think they are almost done tell them it is all wrong and show your design.

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  5. ...And I was wondering if anyone from my old job was reading this...

    Devender, you must have gotten my old job. Eventually I figured out that I had to lie about how much progress I had made, because whenever I was almost done, the feature got dropped. So I'd say I was about 60% done when I was within hours of checking in a winner.

    Still never saw the light of day, but at least I got to finish something!

    And the "create a design but don’t show it to your programmers ... and then when they think they are almost done tell them it is all wrong and show your design" part -- well, that's the real reason I left the job.

    Tell the girls across the hall that michael said 'hi' ;-)

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  6. bankrupt your company

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  7. If you want to demotivate your staff allow them to put up one of these posters.

    www.demotivate.org

    Pete

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  8. My company is doing everyone of these. F***ing great!

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  9. Call in your overstressed team that is already working overtime against impossible deadlines and tell them that you have good new and bad news. The bad news is, the 3 new positions we were going to open have been dropped by budgets. The good news is, we're getting in 3 new massive projects!

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  11. Very useful information :) I see there are realy good tips. I am going to use some of them

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  12. Good thread, i like these tips, its looks that i knew just small part.

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    Even better, create a design but don’t show it to your programmers, let them suffer and come up with a there own design, approve it and let them continue to coding and then when they think they are almost done tell them it is all wrong and show your design.

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