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  #51  
Old 05-04-2012, 08:43 AM
Living Well Is Best Revenge Living Well Is Best Revenge is online now
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Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
I think you're right, that's how this happened. It's not necessarily choosing one or the other, but upper management may want to see some balance in this situation.



I'm constantly shocked that Doper's personalities may not match their real ones. Am I the only one who's the same in real life as I am on-line? Anyway, I suspect his posts reveal something about his nature, but probably not exactly the way he sounds. For instance, I suspect he is somewhat intimidated by these 'nursery school kids'.
I wouldn't say "intimidated." I'd say "perplexed" is a more apt word. When you are used to professional acting and dressed employees it would be a bit jolting to come to an environment where the staff is one step away from playing dungeons and dragons in wizard robes.

Last edited by Living Well Is Best Revenge; 05-04-2012 at 08:44 AM..
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  #52  
Old 05-04-2012, 08:55 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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Originally Posted by Living Well Is Best Revenge View Post
I wouldn't say "intimidated." I'd say "perplexed" is a more apt word. When you are used to professional acting and dressed employees it would be a bit jolting to come to an environment where the staff is one step away from playing dungeons and dragons in wizard robes.
He might be perplexed as well. I can't tell based on the minimal information here. But it's not an uncommon circumstance. There's an intimidation factor in many management positions. In the olden days you could be a manager of a steno pool or the mailroom. In the 21st century, managers are often in charge of people more productive than they can ever be.
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  #53  
Old 05-04-2012, 08:59 AM
RickJay RickJay is offline
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
Crazy pill one: having such contempt for your subordinates. Figure out a way past that.
I read no contempt in the OP. Look, it's fair to say the culture as described is juvenile. Adults do not play games when they're supposed to be working, and they dress and act like adults. Having fun at work is great, but that's not the same as going to work and not working.

As to the problem employee, I'd agree that's what needed here may be an empathetic approach. If someone is struggling with performance and reacting poorly to review sof their performance, take a step past that and talk about expectations, and ask what they need to achieve them.
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  #54  
Old 05-04-2012, 09:17 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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I read no contempt in the OP. Look, it's fair to say the culture as described is juvenile. Adults do not play games when they're supposed to be working, and they dress and act like adults. Having fun at work is great, but that's not the same as going to work and not working.
The OP has shown contempt for his co-workers in other threads. And most adults are playing a game at work, they just don't admit it. And just how is an adult supposed to dress?

Last edited by TriPolar; 05-04-2012 at 09:17 AM..
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  #55  
Old 05-04-2012, 09:23 AM
Living Well Is Best Revenge Living Well Is Best Revenge is online now
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The OP has shown contempt for his co-workers in other threads. And most adults are playing a game at work, they just don't admit it. And just how is an adult supposed to dress?
Well they shouldn't dress as they would for role-playing games or a comic book convention...

Last edited by Living Well Is Best Revenge; 05-04-2012 at 09:24 AM..
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  #56  
Old 05-04-2012, 09:28 AM
Omar Little Omar Little is online now
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And just how is an adult supposed to dress?
In accordance with the corporate dress code. These are common place among employers. However, some locales like California and in tech companies, a relaxed dress code is common place to attract the talent they need. YMMV.
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  #57  
Old 05-04-2012, 09:29 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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Well they shouldn't dress as they would for role-playing games or a comic book convention...
Why not? They're not operating machinery, so there's no safety issue.
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  #58  
Old 05-04-2012, 09:37 AM
Living Well Is Best Revenge Living Well Is Best Revenge is online now
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Why not? They're not operating machinery, so there's no safety issue.
It's not just about safety. It's about creating a professional work environment. I'm not saying they should wear suits. But there is a middle ground between suits and Star Trek uniforms.
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  #59  
Old 05-04-2012, 09:42 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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Originally Posted by Living Well Is Best Revenge View Post
It's not just about safety. It's about creating a professional work environment. I'm not saying they should wear suits. But there is a middle ground between suits and Star Trek uniforms.
Star Trek uniforms are professional attire (at least on Star Ships). And the significant feature of a professional environment is productivity, not clothes, except in the fashion industry and other similar fields. Clothing standards have nothing to do with the job these people are doing.
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  #60  
Old 05-04-2012, 09:43 AM
Living Well Is Best Revenge Living Well Is Best Revenge is online now
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Star Trek uniforms are professional attire (at least on Star Ships). And the significant feature of a professional environment is productivity, not clothes, except in the fashion industry and other similar fields. Clothing standards have nothing to do with the job these people are doing.
Well I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.
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  #61  
Old 05-04-2012, 09:52 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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Well I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree.
That isn't possible.
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  #62  
Old 05-04-2012, 12:05 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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It's not just about safety. It's about creating a professional work environment.
If it is, it shouldn't be. Instead, it should be about creating a work environment that gets the employees what they need while also getting the employers what they need.

If a "professional work environment" is something that one group needs, keen. But if the owners are more concerned about getting an excellent product, and the employees are more concerned about enjoying their workplace, and if the current arrangement is suiting both parties, what on earth is wrong with it?

Yes, employees shouldn't be playing games on the clock; they also shouldn't be gossiping on the clock or checking personal email on the clock or anything except work on the clock. But that's not how most workplaces work; most folks have some built-in goof-off time in their workday, and most employers tolerate that as long as a good amount of work gets done. I don't see why the particular nature of the goof-off time is relevant.

And some highly creative work environments actually encourage play as a way to increase the creativity of their creatives. I don't know if msmith's office falls into that category, of course; I suspect it doesn't (or else he would've mentioned it).
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  #63  
Old 05-04-2012, 01:06 PM
raspberry hunter raspberry hunter is offline
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Adults do not play games when they're supposed to be working, and they dress and act like adults. Having fun at work is great, but that's not the same as going to work and not working.
In many of the tech cultures I'm familiar with, work can be where you spend all your time. You may be there from noon to 3am and just go home to sleep. In that atmosphere, when is "when they're supposed to be working"? What if they get way more done between the hours of 7pm and 1am than they do between 9am and noon? Why not play games then, and work after midnight, if that makes them twice as productive than if they were working 8am-5pm?

Of course, there are answers to that. If customers are coming to visit, if you're interacting with the outside world, if you need to be present from 8am-5pm to talk to corporate people who actually abide by corporate hours, if you're restricted in work hours because you have a family who actually wants you home in the evenings... those are all good reasons why you maybe shouldn't spend 16 hours a day at work and do most of your productive work after midnight, or play games at work, and why maybe you should have a less relaxed dress code, but just because you think "adults" should do things one way and not another isn't one of them.

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  #64  
Old 05-04-2012, 01:12 PM
msmith537 msmith537 is online now
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I wouldn't say "intimidated." I'd say "perplexed" is a more apt word. When you are used to professional acting and dressed employees it would be a bit jolting to come to an environment where the staff is one step away from playing dungeons and dragons in wizard robes.
I wouldn't say either. From a job perspective, I can do or at least understand most aspects of what they do.

And quite honestly I don't really care what they do or how they dress or even letting them come and go as they please, so long as the company is ok with it and they get their work done. The problem is what do I do when one of them fails to delever what they are supposed to? I want to correct them without having them revert to flashbacks of some high school bully picking on them or something.

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  #65  
Old 05-04-2012, 02:08 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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And quite honestly I don't really care what they do or how they dress or even letting them come and go as they please, so long as the company is ok with it and they get their work done. The problem is what do I do when one of them fails to delever what they are supposed to? I want to correct them without having them revert to flashbacks of some high school bully picking on them or something.
This might enable me to say what I mean more clearly.

There are two reasons why they might have such a flashback:

1) You're having a flashback of being a jock bullying a nerd in high school and giving off serious jock-bullying-nerd vibes. The language you use to describe these guys sounds more like the language I'd expect from a high-schooler than from an adult manager. Again, you want to tone down the "I manage dweeby children" attitude, and be very careful not to let that attitude show when you're among your workers.

2) Although you're managing them in a professional fashion, they're so traumatized by high school, or otherwise neurotic, that they have a totally irrational and unprofessional response to your professional management strategies. If that's the case, then the problem isn't you, it's an employee who lacks the crucial professional skill of knowing how to take constructive criticism, and you'll need to decide how to handle this deficit in an employee.

As I said before, I'm getting the impression that you view these guys as stereotypes from your high school days, dudes you hated then. You haven't really said anything that makes them sound immature to me, however. I may be totally off-base, but I'd encourage you to ask yourself whether you're letting your own attitudes get in the way of professional behavior. You say you don't care about how they dress, etc., but if that were really true I doubt you'd have spent so much time talking about it.
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  #66  
Old 05-04-2012, 02:43 PM
TruCelt TruCelt is offline
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msmith: Are these employees subject to great swings in workload? I used to manage a group of programmers who had to work 90 hour weeks several times during the year. In between, the atmosphere was much like what you describe. They were salaried employees, and didn't get overtime during the craziness. But once another team finished developing the needs requirements, my team had to swing into gear and accomplish the work within a ridiculously short window.

They had a pool table in the kitchen, and free sodas, crazy wardrobes, etc. My rpedecessor had laid in a supply of blazers in various sizes, and many were the times that we all sat around the video-conferencing table with them wearing blazers above board and cut-offs below.

But when the crunch hit, they were beyond compare. Truly an honor to work with.

If a new manager came along during the "off" time, I could see them having much the same reaction you are. The guys were not very good at the day-to-day stuff like filling out a $&*!# time sheet. LOL!

Last edited by TruCelt; 05-04-2012 at 02:44 PM..
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  #67  
Old 05-04-2012, 03:09 PM
Voyager Voyager is offline
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I wouldn't say either. From a job perspective, I can do or at least understand most aspects of what they do.

And quite honestly I don't really care what they do or how they dress or even letting them come and go as they please, so long as the company is ok with it and they get their work done. The problem is what do I do when one of them fails to delever what they are supposed to? I want to correct them without having them revert to flashbacks of some high school bully picking on them or something.
My kudos to you for focusing on the real problem. The first thing to do is to understand the root cause.
Barry Boehm showed that there can be a ten-fold variation in programmer productivity. If this person is on the bottom of that scale, there isn't that much you can do, especially if he is in a group at the top of that scale. If, however, he can do it and there is something blocking him, that is another matter.
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  #68  
Old 05-04-2012, 03:12 PM
Voyager Voyager is offline
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It's not just about safety. It's about creating a professional work environment. I'm not saying they should wear suits. But there is a middle ground between suits and Star Trek uniforms.
Would you rather have a group which produces 100 lines of perfect code a day in Star Trek uniforms or a group which produces 20 lines of buggy code a day in "professional" attire?
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  #69  
Old 05-04-2012, 03:25 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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Would you rather have a group which produces 100 lines of perfect code a day in Star Trek uniforms or a group which produces 20 lines of buggy code a day in "professional" attire?
I'd settle for 20 lines of perfect code. Maybe less. I can get buggy code from people wearing anything.
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  #70  
Old 05-05-2012, 09:43 AM
msmith537 msmith537 is online now
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
This might enable me to say what I mean more clearly.

There are two reasons why they might have such a flashback:

1) You're having a flashback of being a jock bullying a nerd in high school and giving off serious jock-bullying-nerd vibes. The language you use to describe these guys sounds more like the language I'd expect from a high-schooler than from an adult manager. Again, you want to tone down the "I manage dweeby children" attitude, and be very careful not to let that attitude show when you're among your workers.

2) Although you're managing them in a professional fashion, they're so traumatized by high school, or otherwise neurotic, that they have a totally irrational and unprofessional response to your professional management strategies. If that's the case, then the problem isn't you, it's an employee who lacks the crucial professional skill of knowing how to take constructive criticism, and you'll need to decide how to handle this deficit in an employee.

As I said before, I'm getting the impression that you view these guys as stereotypes from your high school days, dudes you hated then. You haven't really said anything that makes them sound immature to me, however. I may be totally off-base, but I'd encourage you to ask yourself whether you're letting your own attitudes get in the way of professional behavior. You say you don't care about how they dress, etc., but if that were really true I doubt you'd have spent so much time talking about it.

I think you're projecting a lot of your own shit onto me. I played sports and was in a fraternity but I wasn't a "jock" in the John Hughes film 80s stereotype sense of the word. And I don't "hate nerds". But the fact is, much of the people I work with self-identify as "nerds". And they have a lot of interests and habits that I just don't relate to.
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  #71  
Old 05-05-2012, 02:16 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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I think you're projecting a lot of your own shit onto me. I played sports and was in a fraternity but I wasn't a "jock" in the John Hughes film 80s stereotype sense of the word. And I don't "hate nerds". But the fact is, much of the people I work with self-identify as "nerds". And they have a lot of interests and habits that I just don't relate to.
Possibly I'm wrong, but it's not my shit, it's my impression of yours, based on your posts over the years; it's not really a distinction I care about, and while tons of my co-workers have interests I don't care about, I don't really spend much time thinking about those disparate interests. But like I said, I could well be wrong; if you've carefully considered your attitude toward your co-workers and concluded there's nothing there that's problematic, then that's that.
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  #72  
Old 05-05-2012, 03:18 PM
msmith537 msmith537 is online now
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Possibly I'm wrong, but it's not my shit, it's my impression of yours, based on your posts over the years; it's not really a distinction I care about, and while tons of my co-workers have interests I don't care about, I don't really spend much time thinking about those disparate interests. But like I said, I could well be wrong; if you've carefully considered your attitude toward your co-workers and concluded there's nothing there that's problematic, then that's that.

As I said, I don't care about their interests. What I care about is how does one manage employees in an environment where making employees feel happy about themselves is more important than having them actually get stuff done one time?

My suggestion is if employees don't want to be thought of as kids right out of school and thus stereotyped with school labels, they act like adults. Adults don't play "dress up" at work. They don't play board games or RPGs or frat house/dorm games during work hours. I know it's common in tech companies, but a fooseball table sends a strong message of "we don't consider you to be grown ups. We consider you to be children who happen to write software code."


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Originally Posted by raspberry hunter
In many of the tech cultures I'm familiar with, work can be where you spend all your time. You may be there from noon to 3am and just go home to sleep. In that atmosphere, when is "when they're supposed to be working"? What if they get way more done between the hours of 7pm and 1am than they do between 9am and noon? Why not play games then, and work after midnight, if that makes them twice as productive than if they were working 8am-5pm?

Of course, there are answers to that. If customers are coming to visit, if you're interacting with the outside world, if you need to be present from 8am-5pm to talk to corporate people who actually abide by corporate hours, if you're restricted in work hours because you have a family who actually wants you home in the evenings... those are all good reasons why you maybe shouldn't spend 16 hours a day at work and do most of your productive work after midnight, or play games at work, and why maybe you should have a less relaxed dress code, but just because you think "adults" should do things one way and not another isn't one of them.
A job where you are forced to spend all your time (either explicitly or implicitly) is, by most definitions, a "shit job".

What makes tech people so different from the rest of the working world? Accountants and hospital surgeons aren't able to decide to just show up to work whenever it suits them.

And most normal people actually want to be home to see their families in the evening. Or at least they want to be somewhere other than work.

Last edited by msmith537; 05-05-2012 at 03:20 PM..
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  #73  
Old 05-05-2012, 03:49 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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My suggestion is if employees don't want to be thought of as kids right out of school and thus stereotyped with school labels, they act like adults. Adults don't play "dress up" at work. They don't play board games or RPGs or frat house/dorm games during work hours. I know it's common in tech companies, but a fooseball table sends a strong message of "we don't consider you to be grown ups. We consider you to be children who happen to write software code."
Ah. See, no it doesn't. It sends no such message. Rather, your prejudices require you to see the office in such a light. Unless you can reach the bleedin' obvious realization that adults can play games and dress however they like and still be adults, you're a bad fit for this office.
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  #74  
Old 05-05-2012, 04:11 PM
araminty araminty is offline
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A job where you are forced to spend all your time (either explicitly or implicitly) is, by most definitions, a "shit job".
Lots of companies rely on this mentality. I met the head of the training department at Lucasfilm, or maybe Lucasarts, one of them, and she said that the main reason that they pay for their employees to take yoga or drawing lessons, or whatever, is because they are encouraging just this ideal - that work is a place you should spend all your waking hours. I don't agree with it, but I see the benefit, especially for a company populated with single young men, who don't necessarily have a family to get home to in the evenings. Or a cat.
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  #75  
Old 05-05-2012, 06:54 PM
msmith537 msmith537 is online now
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Lots of companies rely on this mentality. I met the head of the training department at Lucasfilm, or maybe Lucasarts, one of them, and she said that the main reason that they pay for their employees to take yoga or drawing lessons, or whatever, is because they are encouraging just this ideal - that work is a place you should spend all your waking hours. I don't agree with it, but I see the benefit, especially for a company populated with single young men, who don't necessarily have a family to get home to in the evenings. Or a cat.
Yeah, that's a fairly common mentality with certain types of companies. But 20-something single men don't stay 20-something single men forever.



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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
Ah. See, no it doesn't. It sends no such message. Rather, your prejudices require you to see the office in such a light. Unless you can reach the bleedin' obvious realization that adults can play games and dress however they like and still be adults, you're a bad fit for this office.
See I always thought management set the tone of the office, not the other way arround.

I get how that's the way a lot of companies work. Years ago my firm sent us out to the Accenture training compound in St Charles, IL. It was basically like a college fraternity row.

Last edited by msmith537; 05-05-2012 at 06:58 PM..
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  #76  
Old 05-06-2012, 12:00 AM
raspberry hunter raspberry hunter is offline
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A job where you are forced to spend all your time (either explicitly or implicitly) is, by most definitions, a "shit job".
No one's forcing them (well, maybe on occasion when something is due). Just like no one's forcing the doctors I know to spend all their time at work, or the professors I know who sneak into their office/lab to do science (there are even jokes about this), or the people who are putting together startups, or my husband who solves math problems in his spare time. Though it's true that I consider medical residency a shit job even so.

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What makes tech people so different from the rest of the working world? Accountants and hospital surgeons aren't able to decide to just show up to work whenever it suits them.
Umm... you're managing these people and have to ask this question? Seems unfortunate. But okay. Hospital surgeons are required to, you know, interact with other people, that being the people they are operating on. So yeah, they have to show up when the person they're operating on is scheduled. (Which is not, of course, necessarily during normal working hours, depending on what kind of surgeon you are.)

I don't know a huge amount about accountants, but the ones in our company, at least, need to be around during most working hours primarily because they have to be available to regularly interact with the outside world (customers' contract people, etc.), and also so that there are known conventional times when the managers, who also have to interact with the outside world and thus have much less flexibility with regard to their working hours, can reach them when they need information. (Even so, there is one at our company I can think of who is on a slightly later schedule, though is there during most working hours.) Same with the administrative assistants at our company.

Tech people often don't have to interact with anyone personally on an extremely regular basis (I don't know if my job is typical, but when I do tech work I often could go a week without having to talk to anyone other than through email or web interfaces), they can often work in a vacuum, and when they do interact, it's often with... other tech people, so it doesn't really matter so much when they're working as long as the work gets done.

Now, a tech person can be in technical management, say, where one has to regularly report to managers and/or customers and/or collaborators, and then it is rather more important to be on at least a semi-conventional schedule.

Last edited by raspberry hunter; 05-06-2012 at 12:01 AM..
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  #77  
Old 05-06-2012, 05:48 AM
TokyoBayer TokyoBayer is offline
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Your HR director is full of shit. Companies live and die by the reliability of their products, and it's good work practice to have quality checks.

Sorry Charlie, but I do think it would make it easier if you don't attempt to place Fortunate 500, white color standards to a bunch of nerd programmers. They're motivated by completely different things. Corporate Warriors expect to fit in a white collar culture, expect they will have suffer abusive assholes for bosses because they are self-motivated to perform.

So babysit the problem child. Smile while you frame the discussion as one that invites his input as to solve the issues, and make it all about problems to be solved. "The weekly goal is XX, and the performance is P<XX (note "the" and not "your"), where performance is whatever is being measured, output or quality. Why is that and what can we do to correct it?

Really, nothing different than what you would do in Corporate America, except that because people aren't great at personal relationships and aren't that motivated into looking for advancement, then you can't be [del]an asshole[/del} as direct.

Then if he continues to fail the targets, despite working with him, document it all and have him fired.
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  #78  
Old 05-06-2012, 06:09 AM
TokyoBayer TokyoBayer is offline
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Sorry Charlie, but I do think it would make it easier if you don't attempt to place Fortunate 500, white color standards to a bunch of nerd programmers. They're motivated by completely different things. Corporate Warriors expect to fit in a white collar culture, expect they will have suffer abusive assholes for bosses because they are self-motivated to perform.
Damn, I hate it I post something and then immediately disagree with myself.

I may be off in left field, but were you brought in to help change the culture, which is getting out of hand? Why else would they have a Fortune 500 type as a manager of nerds?

I see this a lot in Japan, where they bring in someone from an outside culture to shake things up, because management is too chickenshit to do it themselves, and if it works great, then all if well. If the natives rebel, then they sack the outsider.

If that's the case, then decide how long it should take to make changes, triple the time and go slow. That is, if you were being brought in to reign in the crowd.

But in any case I still think you need to realize the people are motivated differently.
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  #79  
Old 05-06-2012, 06:12 AM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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I may be off in left field, but were you brought in to help change the culture, which is getting out of hand? Why else would they have a Fortune 500 type as a manager of nerds?
To be clear, I don't see any problem with changing the culture, if that's what you're brought in to do; if the games and the dress and so on are in any way not what management wants, then you've got the right to get that changed (at which point the employees, of course, have every right to start job-hunting, if that kind of job culture is important to them).

But if you try to change it while you've still got your unpleasant prejudices about what normal people do and what adults do, you're going to see a lot more of them job-hunting.

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  #80  
Old 05-06-2012, 08:25 AM
TokyoBayer TokyoBayer is offline
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Originally Posted by Left Hand of Dorkness View Post
But if you try to change it while you've still got your unpleasant prejudices about what normal people do and what adults do, you're going to see a lot more of them job-hunting.
Well, to be fair to the OP, I don't think I could handle a group of people who dressed up in costumes to come to work. But having spent a career in Japan, I find myself judging people on what adults are supposed to or not supposed to do and just worry about the results.
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  #81  
Old 05-06-2012, 09:16 AM
msmith537 msmith537 is online now
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I may be off in left field, but were you brought in to help change the culture, which is getting out of hand? Why else would they have a Fortune 500 type as a manager of nerds?
Sort of. The company is moving in a new direction where basically they are trying to automate and standardize everything. So we've implemented a whole bunch more process and management layers. I'm now one of those layers. The problem, IMHO is that niether our product, our culture nor the size of the company justifies that yet. But our current model isn't profitable so this is what they are trying.

And yes, our HR director is full of shit. We now have this rigid org chart but she doesn't want it circulated because she "doesn't want to give the impression of a hierarchy". Well it IS a hierarchy now. So what's the point of pretending it isn't?
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  #82  
Old 05-06-2012, 09:44 AM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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Originally Posted by msmith537 View Post
And yes, our HR director is full of shit. We now have this rigid org chart but she doesn't want it circulated because she "doesn't want to give the impression of a hierarchy". Well it IS a hierarchy now. So what's the point of pretending it isn't?
There's a lot revealed in the first part of your post, but I'll just address this part.

China, unions, tax code, civil lawsuits, drugs, education, NAFTA, war, oil, and terrorism, among many other things have been blamed for problems in American economic growth. But none of them, or even all of them combined, have been as harmful to the US economy as HR departments.
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  #83  
Old 05-06-2012, 12:03 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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And yes, our HR director is full of shit. We now have this rigid org chart but she doesn't want it circulated because she "doesn't want to give the impression of a hierarchy". Well it IS a hierarchy now. So what's the point of pretending it isn't?
Yeah, that's pretty ridiculous. You can have a friendly dictatorship, but unless there's a strong union, or unless it's a worker-owned collective, the workplace is a dictatorship, and let's not pretend otherwise. The dictatorship doesn't need to be extra-oppressive, though. You can tell people straight up: "Yes, I'm your boss, and ultimately your employment here rests on convincing me you're a good employee. Here's how to convince me of that. If you do that, then I'll do my damnedest to make this workplace a place you're happy to come to. If you don't, but I think you're trying, then I'll do my damnedest to work with you to improve your efforts. And if I don't think you're trying, then I'll tell you my impression and give you a very short period of time to convince me that you are trying; if I don't change my mind, then I'll release you from your contract."
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  #84  
Old 05-06-2012, 12:34 PM
RaftPeople RaftPeople is offline
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My suggestion is if employees don't want to be thought of as kids right out of school and thus stereotyped with school labels, they act like adults. Adults don't play "dress up" at work. They don't play board games or RPGs or frat house/dorm games during work hours. I know it's common in tech companies, but a fooseball table sends a strong message of "we don't consider you to be grown ups. We consider you to be children who happen to write software code."
You seem to think that a work culture "should" be some particular way. But in reality, each company can allow that culture to be whatever they want. It's an optimization problem and you don't even seem to be aware of that fact.

When I worked at a small software company, we had a beer machine, we played games, we screwed around - and we kicked ass. The owner was the biggest "child" in the group and one of the smartest people I've met. We were successful, we had fun and retained smart productive developers better than our competitors.


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What makes tech people so different from the rest of the working world? Accountants and hospital surgeons aren't able to decide to just show up to work whenever it suits them.
The nature of their job (as described by a previous poster) as well as the limited supply of people that excel at this work (supply and demand).


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And most normal people actually want to be home to see their families in the evening. Or at least they want to be somewhere other than work.
Every person is different, you do realize that, right?

When I'm working on something big, complex and fun, I would rather work for very long hours for a decent stretch of time and then take a complete break instead of working 8 to 5. Working 8 to 5 is such a short amount of time that it's tough to keep starting and stopping all of the mental processes related to the project.
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  #85  
Old 05-06-2012, 07:53 PM
bengangmo bengangmo is offline
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Star Trek uniforms are professional attire (at least on Star Ships). And the significant feature of a professional environment is productivity, not clothes, except in the fashion industry and other similar fields. Clothing standards have nothing to do with the job these people are doing.
I want to be able to take my colleagues seriously.

I can't take someone coming to work in a star trek uniform seriously.

How much effort does it take to wear a pair of chinos and a polo? Is that so uncomfortable?
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  #86  
Old 05-06-2012, 08:14 PM
Chimera Chimera is offline
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I've now been promoted to the position of manager of this group. The fact of the matter is I know and care nothing about their nerd culture. And HR seems content to let them act this way, so I am inclined to just allow it, even though it flys in the face of everything I know about working for a company.
Had to be sure this was coming from you (several times). You've always been total Mr. Corporate Line in all things in the past, so I'm confused by the entire post.

HR may be content to leave them alone, but they're not culpable for what happens on the team. You are. They may well not be too worried about YOUR problem here (or they're just incompetent), but I expect you know well enough that you're the guy paid to deal with and worry about their performance and actions. One complaint (or a series in rapid succession) about "inappropriate" activities and it's your head on the block not theirs.

You've got a team headed in one direction, you need them to go in another. You're the guy paid to steer. Of course people will complain when you make them change direction. It's Human Nature.

Dude, you fucking turned me on a dime a couple of months ago. You can do this.

Just don't be too much of a humorless dick about it, right?
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  #87  
Old 05-06-2012, 08:21 PM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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I can't take someone coming to work in a star trek uniform seriously.
That's awesome. You probably ought not work there.
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  #88  
Old 05-06-2012, 10:13 PM
TokyoBayer TokyoBayer is offline
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Sort of. The company is moving in a new direction where basically they are trying to automate and standardize everything. So we've implemented a whole bunch more process and management layers. I'm now one of those layers. The problem, IMHO is that niether our product, our culture nor the size of the company justifies that yet. But our current model isn't profitable so this is what they are trying.

And yes, our HR director is full of shit. We now have this rigid org chart but she doesn't want it circulated because she "doesn't want to give the impression of a hierarchy". Well it IS a hierarchy now. So what's the point of pretending it isn't?
Yup. That's what I thought. The president / upper management team had a great idea, and thought that they if they recreated the worst ideas of the dotcom bubble, then it would work this time.

They now sort of understand they've got to make changes, but they are sure exactly what needs to be changes and so they're hoping you can do it, but they're not supporting you or owning up to the employees that things need to be done differently.

Been there, done that.

Do your best, softly but firmly, and keep your resume up to day. Don't forget to keep networking and hope it works out better for you than it did for me.
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  #89  
Old 05-07-2012, 03:07 AM
Obsidian Obsidian is offline
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Originally Posted by RaftPeople View Post
When I worked at a small software company, we had a beer machine, we played games, we screwed around - and we kicked ass.
I work for a large tech company. We do just about every "bad" thing complained about in this thread. We are somehow capable of taking each other and our work as seriously as a heart attack. And we kick ass at what we do like nobody's business.

I used to work for a small company that was awesome, and then we got bought. The new owners decided to replace our nursery culture with a more formal one. All of the talent quickly fled, and they were left with the dregs. You absolutely can treat tech people like accountants, as long as you're happy having only people who aren't good enough to get a job somewhere that no one cares what pants you're wearing (or, well, if you're even wearing them).
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  #90  
Old 05-07-2012, 07:36 AM
Dangerosa Dangerosa is online now
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Originally Posted by Obsidian View Post
I work for a large tech company. We do just about every "bad" thing complained about in this thread. We are somehow capable of taking each other and our work as seriously as a heart attack. And we kick ass at what we do like nobody's business.

I used to work for a small company that was awesome, and then we got bought. The new owners decided to replace our nursery culture with a more formal one. All of the talent quickly fled, and they were left with the dregs. You absolutely can treat tech people like accountants, as long as you're happy having only people who aren't good enough to get a job somewhere that no one cares what pants you're wearing (or, well, if you're even wearing them).
But, msmith's company is not kicking ass. They aren't profitable. Drinking beer and playing games at work while wearing a Star Trek uniform while the company makes money hand over fist - no one sensible cares and people will point to the casual culture and say "look how much this improves our creativity and productivity." Do it while the company isn't profitable, and management will decide the same behavior is a distraction.

Given an unprofitable company, it isn't unlikely that eventually the firm will be laying people off. Now, I hope and believe that msmith is sensible enough to lay off the lower producers first, but he may have to decide between good people. But what impression do you want your boss to have about your work day in a less than profitable company - "when I'm bored I play Magic the Gathering" or "when I'm bored I read books on database design and information architecture?" And when you go to a new company which may have a more formal culture - because this one goes under regardless of its culture (which isn't unlikely), do you want to have the habits of a casual culture or those of a formalized one? Or you may be so talented as a coder that it won't make any difference if the timing of the demise of this one hits with another spike in unemployment because you have recruiters pounding on your door and you can easily get a job while interviewing while not wearing pants and asking if the group you are joining has a WoW guild and if the firewall is open for raiding.

And if you are, godspeed...and maybe the company msmith's company appears to be turning into, with its standardization and processes, isn't going to be a place you want to be much longer anyway. For that matter, if it isn't profitable, it really isn't a place anyone wants to be much longer.
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  #91  
Old 05-07-2012, 08:09 AM
black rabbit black rabbit is offline
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I think you're projecting a lot of your own shit onto me. I played sports and was in a fraternity but I wasn't a "jock" in the John Hughes film 80s stereotype sense of the word. And I don't "hate nerds". But the fact is, much of the people I work with self-identify as "nerds". And they have a lot of interests and habits that I just don't relate to.
There's your problem right there - you need to hire of a couple of art fags to bridge the gap to the nerds for you.

But seriously - have you tried just leveling with them yet? Meaning, explaining the business reasons behind the change in management tone?

Early on, I made the mistake of trying to insulate my staff from the whims of upper management, and it spoiled the hell out of them. They couldn't understand why I insisted we buy (say) IBM instead of letting them build out servers from whitebox parts while hand compiling drivers on their own, or why I'd occasionally bring in vendor consultants for initial basic training on new stuff instead of letting them learn on their own through trial and error.

They'd bitch and moan incessantly about how I was wasting money, or not respecting their intelligence or creativity or whatever, when in reality, I was just doing my best to translate all of the hot-air business bullshit (and non-bullshit) by which my own performance was judged into purely technical performance requirements for my staff.

I had to become less of a translator, and more of a couples counselor. If you get my drift.
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  #92  
Old 05-07-2012, 08:15 AM
Acid Lamp Acid Lamp is offline
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The company culture stuff is all a bullshit distraction. All that matters is that the product is correct, and on time. That is why creative types are usually salaried or commission rather than hourly. Smart management uses a very light touch with that talent because they are usually self motivated to do the work excellently without the whip. Smart management also separates them from the consumer if there is a massive cultural divided between the two groups. They do this with an intermediary, a manager or spokesman. HR in this case knows where it's bread is buttered and doesn't want a massive exodus of talent. Msmith, just go ask the problem guy what could be done to help alleviate his workload. Give him a day or two to reply if he needs it and then see if what he comes back with is feasible. Tell him you are there to help him out, focus on the person not the product. They all know the product has to go out and be right.
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  #93  
Old 05-07-2012, 08:41 AM
Dangerosa Dangerosa is online now
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Originally Posted by Acid Lamp View Post
The company culture stuff is all a bullshit distraction. All that matters is that the product is correct, and on time. That is why creative types are usually salaried or commission rather than hourly. Smart management uses a very light touch with that talent because they are usually self motivated to do the work excellently without the whip. Smart management also separates them from the consumer if there is a massive cultural divided between the two groups. They do this with an intermediary, a manager or spokesman. HR in this case knows where it's bread is buttered and doesn't want a massive exodus of talent. Msmith, just go ask the problem guy what could be done to help alleviate his workload. Give him a day or two to reply if he needs it and then see if what he comes back with is feasible. Tell him you are there to help him out, focus on the person not the product. They all know the product has to go out and be right.
There is a third component...cost. If the company isn't profitable, but they are paying people to play Dominion at work, they will see their labor costs as too high. Now, we may realize that those people are at work for fifteen hours, only four of which are spent not working, and that forcing them to work while at work may mean shorter days, but that becomes a more manageable labor cost and scheduling situation. You might be able to get some of those guys to take one for the team and pull fifteen hour days of working, cutting your labor costs by a third. And we may realize that the talent is the first to leave, but the company isnt profitable, the talent should be looking for other opportunities already regardless.
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  #94  
Old 05-07-2012, 09:11 AM
Acid Lamp Acid Lamp is offline
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Originally Posted by Dangerosa View Post
There is a third component...cost. If the company isn't profitable, but they are paying people to play Dominion at work, they will see their labor costs as too high. Now, we may realize that those people are at work for fifteen hours, only four of which are spent not working, and that forcing them to work while at work may mean shorter days, but that becomes a more manageable labor cost and scheduling situation. You might be able to get some of those guys to take one for the team and pull fifteen hour days of working, cutting your labor costs by a third. And we may realize that the talent is the first to leave, but the company isnt profitable, the talent should be looking for other opportunities already regardless.
There is your disconnect. Talent doesn't give a shit about profitability, labor costs, or other pointy-headed boss stuff. Talent does ideas, concepts, creativity, and high demand/ extremely low supply work. Talent cares about free mountain dew and access to expensive equipment it needs to make cool things. The fact that this is done for a company for profit is really second fiddle if it is even on the radar at all. Talent would do that work for free anyway because it enjoys doing that particular activity. Money is a sort of evil and annoying necessity that is required to keep talent doing what it wants to do.

This is a common problem in businesses that start as creative powerhouses and grow large enough to necessitate a corporate style structure to adequately serve it's market. The talent sees the management as necessary, but boring, stuffy, foolish, conformist, anal micromanagers who really need to loosen up a little and the management views the talent as juvenile, spoiled, arrogant, slackers who don't understand the realities of the world. In a way, they are both right, and dead wrong. The very things that make a person a good organizer handicap them from the fluidity that creative talent needs to be effective. Likewise, that same fluidity and lack of infrastructure that fosters creative development handicaps a person from being effective in day to day interactions with suppliers and clients.

You really can't apply a cost benefit assessment to creative types though because the creativity is not a quantifiable property. That is why smart management deals with that dept by setting goal oriented, contract or salary based structures and keeping hands off as much as possible.
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  #95  
Old 05-07-2012, 10:47 AM
Dangerosa Dangerosa is online now
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Originally Posted by Acid Lamp View Post
There is your disconnect. Talent doesn't give a shit about profitability, labor costs, or other pointy-headed boss stuff. Talent does ideas, concepts, creativity, and high demand/ extremely low supply work. Talent cares about free mountain dew and access to expensive equipment it needs to make cool things. The fact that this is done for a company for profit is really second fiddle if it is even on the radar at all. Talent would do that work for free anyway because it enjoys doing that particular activity. Money is a sort of evil and annoying necessity that is required to keep talent doing what it wants to do.

This is a common problem in businesses that start as creative powerhouses and grow large enough to necessitate a corporate style structure to adequately serve it's market. The talent sees the management as necessary, but boring, stuffy, foolish, conformist, anal micromanagers who really need to loosen up a little and the management views the talent as juvenile, spoiled, arrogant, slackers who don't understand the realities of the world. In a way, they are both right, and dead wrong. The very things that make a person a good organizer handicap them from the fluidity that creative talent needs to be effective. Likewise, that same fluidity and lack of infrastructure that fosters creative development handicaps a person from being effective in day to day interactions with suppliers and clients.

You really can't apply a cost benefit assessment to creative types though because the creativity is not a quantifiable property. That is why smart management deals with that dept by setting goal oriented, contract or salary based structures and keeping hands off as much as possible.
Yet if you don't apply a cost benefit analysis to it, you can't pay them, or wont be able to for long Your paycheck comes from somewhere, money does not fall from the sky for most companies. Those pointed haired bosses have to think of labor as an expense, or their project doesn't get funded and those software developers don't have jobs. A good boss of the non pointed hair type protects you from it as much as they can, but it IS there, and a good staff will recognize it and not put their boss in a non supportable position.

I used to work in advertising. In that business you have very creative people...and they bill hourly. And it works. Granted, someone who only wishes to write poetry or produce art makes a lousy copywriter or graphic designer, but there are plenty of people willing to sell their souls and bill eight hour days. Now, granted, treat your talent badly and they discover that they can profitably freelance...but then they become responsible for their billable hours.

Last edited by Dangerosa; 05-07-2012 at 10:50 AM..
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Old 05-07-2012, 10:59 AM
msmith537 msmith537 is online now
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There is your disconnect. Talent doesn't give a shit about profitability, labor costs, or other pointy-headed boss stuff. Talent does ideas, concepts, creativity, and high demand/ extremely low supply work. Talent cares about free mountain dew and access to expensive equipment it needs to make cool things. The fact that this is done for a company for profit is really second fiddle if it is even on the radar at all. Talent would do that work for free anyway because it enjoys doing that particular activity. Money is a sort of evil and annoying necessity that is required to keep talent doing what it wants to do.
"Talent"? The guys on my staff are getting paid to build data feeds using SQL. They aren't Academy Award nominated actors. We have people who I'd describe as "talent" but they are disconnected from customer interactions. They are the product developers and mathematicians who design our software and it's algorithms.

In fact, the general direction of my company is apply some Henry Ford style automation and that would require less "talent" from these guys. Although that actually begs the question of a much larger, long-term career development issue.
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Old 05-07-2012, 11:06 AM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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"Talent"? The guys on my staff are getting paid to build data feeds using SQL.
Here are, IMO, the relevant questions, and I don't know that you've answered them (if you have, my apologies).

1) Do they put in a solid day's work?
2) Are they producing a satisfactory quantity of code?
3) Is anyone besides you bothered by their antics?
4) If you required them to wear less casual clothing, would that increase the quantity of the work done in your office?
5) If you ended the off-task activities they're currently engaged in, would that increase the quantity of work done in your office?

The ideal answers, of course, are
1) yes
2) yes
3) no
4) no
5) no

If the questions aren't answered that way, then figure out how to fix it. And when you fix it, tie your solution directly to the problem ("I believe that folks are getting too involved in the card games, so we're going to limit those games from now on such that they should only be played during your breaks"), so that it doesn't come across as a byproduct of your disdain and contempt for their subculture.
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Old 05-07-2012, 11:22 AM
Dangerosa Dangerosa is online now
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And even Academy Award winning actors have to be able to perform on cue when the camera and lights and sound are ready. You don't get to say "I'm really not in the mood today" if you want to stay in the business.

What makes geeks so much different than writers or actors that they feel they don't need to be held to a professional standard?

I have a friend who is a published novelist. He works for no one but himself. But he is disciplined. He does not hang on the Internet or go grocery shopping or hang with friends until he gets his daily word quota in. Some days the words flow and he is done by noon. And some days he is still struggling at six pm. Granted, he can write wearing no pants, but he gets dressed every day, it's part of the discipline. Wearing no pants encourages him not to view his work as a job....and then he doesn't do it. Now, why is writing SQL queries different?
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Old 05-07-2012, 11:45 AM
Left Hand of Dorkness Left Hand of Dorkness is online now
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I have a friend who is a published novelist. He works for no one but himself. But he is disciplined. He does not hang on the Internet or go grocery shopping or hang with friends until he gets his daily word quota in. Some days the words flow and he is done by noon. And some days he is still struggling at six pm. Granted, he can write wearing no pants, but he gets dressed every day, it's part of the discipline. Wearing no pants encourages him not to view his work as a job....and then he doesn't do it. Now, why is writing SQL queries different?
The question isn't why writing SQL queries is different from writing fiction, the question is WHETHER these SQL writers are different from your novelist friend. He needs that structure in order to produce a sufficient quantity of work. Do these SQL authors?

If they do, then by all means their manager should supply it. If they don't, then barring some other reason for supplying it, he shouldn't.

The other difference, of course, is that your friend places these limits on himself. They're not going to lower his morale or alienate him from his work, causing him to seek a different boss. They're limits he knows he needs. He presumably doesn't place unnecessary limits on himself (e.g., he doesn't require himself to work in a cubicle, if he knows that's not what he needs). A manager imposing limits on employees runs the danger of placing unnecessary limits on the employees and thereby lowering their morale or encouraging them to go work for someone else.
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  #100  
Old 05-07-2012, 12:12 PM
Voyager Voyager is offline
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Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
I'd settle for 20 lines of perfect code. Maybe less. I can get buggy code from people wearing anything.
I think you got my example reversed. I assume you'd rather have 100 lines of perfect code than 20. (Of course those 100 lines are not doing something that could be done equally well in 10!)
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