Saturday, January 14, 2006

If you can't who will, and why should they?

In the context of the previous post:

The truth is, for the most part, no-one will do anything unless there is something in it for them. In the business world there's always a cost associated with everything, no matter how small. Because everything has a cost, no-one will do anything unless there's some form of profit. If you have paid upfront, then great, but most people don't work that way in the business place. The only people who will do without being paid upfront, are those that either think that you're worth listening to, or those who have nothing better to do. I've come across some different people while working in the games industry, here's my take on some.

The inferior subordinate: not meant to be insulting in any way, I just refer to the fact that the subordinate in this case believes that you (currently) have a better idea of what you're doing than they do. To get this type of person working on the right thing, you can literally tell them to. They'll go and do it, probably get a bit stuck somewhere, probably make a few mistakes, but that's part of the learning associated with this job. If, on the other hand, you take them in hand, tell them what you want done, tell them why, give them a gist of how to do it, and then come back to them every so often (but not so often that you are interrupting them), you will save them from making mistakes, and at the same time the mentor-student bond builds (great thing for both parties in my opinion). So if you are nice about it, and you really do mentor your subordinates, you not only get better work, but you build a mutually beneficial bond, and your subordinates also learn faster, and therefore become more productive at a greater pace than the subordinate that was "told to do it".

The superior subordinate: this is a particularly difficult situation to fix. The problem is that even though you are in a position of power, you are not normally in a position of respect. This is normally a mentor-student relationship that went bad, and can normally only be fixed by putting the subordinate under a completely different lead. The new lead needs to be careful to not repeat the same mistakes the previous, but this isn't always possible. The best way to re-train the subordinate is to give them a clean slate, and assume good things until proven otherwise.
You can usually expect good things of these people, but you have to be on your toes in case things get out of step.

The inferior boss: this is actually quite a good relationship, as long as you aren't intent on making it obvious that you know more about XYZ than your boss. Sometimes it's a fine line, but most of the time private messages, or just a glance at the right time, can get enough of a message across that you have a differing opinion, and that can lead to the conversation about whatever it was. Although this situation doesn't arrive often, it can lead to a deeper friendship than even the mentor-student friendship, as you generally perceive each other as equals.

The superior boss: This is one of the worst relationships in the world. When your boss thinks that your opinion counts for nothing, or when your boss doesn't give you anything to do because they don't think they've got anything easy enough for you to do, that's when you just can't get anything done. You haven't got any respect, so you can't change anything, and you aren't trusted, so you will get blamed when the workload is killing your boss, because you did so little. It's a hateful situation, get out of it as quick as possible. I can't tell you how, it's never easy.

So, in my opinion, appear to be an inferior boss, and an inferior subordinate, and you'll probably get the most out of everyone you meet. I can't do it myself (I'm too bolshy) and it's caused me grief. 've mellowed with age; I think I'm more humble now, and that's a trait I consider to be an absolutely necessary in a coder.
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