Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Managers get fired too

What is the deal with this bizaare view of the impervious manager.  Many posts seem to indicate that manager can continously do stupid things for extended periods of time and are not ever held accountable.  I've seen many many managers get fired for a whole slew of reasons.  Particularly in a failing project they're the ones that get moved/replaced/demoted/fired at alarming rates (to the point where they often arn't given ample time to prove themselves).  I've seen it happen to managers far more often the to technical staff.  In many cases it happens far later than it should, and sure there are times where it is ongoing, but I've seen the same with shitty developers as well.

Is my experience that different from everyone elses?

Oren Miller
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

It's different from my experience.  Not once in 9 years of developing software have I seen a manager get laid off or fired, even when there were widespread layoffs.  Usually when a project fails it's because "the developers didn't stick to the project plan", and if anyone's head rolls, that head belongs to a developer.

Norrick
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

The reason I came up with the handle "Better Than Being Unemployed" was because at the time I discovered JOS for myself (though several people had sent me the articles via email sometime previously) that's how I felt about my job. Not great, but optomistic.

One of my main gripes that was a pain to deal with was a totally demotivated middle manager.  He didn't need to be there, he was always getting in my way, always being negative about things, always saying "you can't do that" and encouraging his team to leave and get jobs elsewhere.

He was fired.

Better Than Being Unemployed...
Wednesday, August 20, 2003


I've mainly worked in large companies.  I have never seen a manager get fired due to their incompentence, or a general inability to meet any goal or objective.

They just get recycled.  Especially in projects dealing with large "integration" firms.  Every newbie manager that comes onto the project is featured as "the god" for that particular area.  They eventually turn out and demonstrate themselves as "the dog" instead. 

A dyslexia perspective I figure.

Joe AA
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

I have seen similar situations. The ones making the layoff decisions are managers - so they obviously protect their own and lay off the programmers. I have noticed that if the layoffs are happening in waves, managers only are affected in the 3+ wave of attrition.

Ironic cause usually the real problems are with middle management - not knowing what's going on and different groups' managers bickering on political issues. If you could elimiate most of the "red tape" and the insane politics and the inefficient policies they come up with - the world would be a better place.

I agree with Anon that there should be major reform in the way companies do business and they should give technical lead positions more business power.

It's not fair if a dim witted middle manager can make a decision to lay off a technical lead programmer - especially if the programmer was with the company longer, knows the business better too and created from scratch the application the manager is in charge of.

GenX'er
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Managers do get fired, but I believe my articulate friend here have a point.

- Managers protect their own.  Not that as developer's we would do differently, but we are not in the power to protect anyone, including ourselves.  As they protect their own, poor managers often stay at the expense of good workers. (This is not IT specific)

- Managers tend to move around if they fail.  You fail on project XYZ, you are moved to ABC, the DEF, etc.  until such time that you are an utter failure and then you are moved to "Special Projects."  To "workers" we get fired.  Mangers on "speical projects" get to spend six months or more looking for a job, on the company dime.

- Management style is slowing returning to the pyramid shaped, command and control approach used in the 70s.  The idea of workgroups and the like are being replaced by people "in charge."  Unfortunately, being in charge and capable are not the same thing.    As one of my peers mentioned recently: "Technicians are promoted by proven competence, managers by a job opening."    A little harsh, but we can point to more poor managers than good ones, so that would seem to hold true.

- Acts of random violence.  This is the approach seen over the past few years with letting workers go.  Your project ended early or you were available or any host of reasons not related to your performance, get you laid off.  All while an incompetent person remains, merely because they were billable or it was "too much trouble" to swap you in.  It is random, because poor managers and even good ones, bother to explain why Sally got the boot while Joe, who amazes people by even finding his cubicle in the morning, remains.

We may not run the world any differently if in charge, but I think we would.  One of the ideas of being a "worker bee" is you recognize that laying off workers is counter productive as they generate revenue.

BigRoy
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

"One of the ideas of being a "worker bee" is you recognize that laying off workers is counter productive as they generate revenue. "

Huh?

No, not always. Besides, generating revenue isn't the goal. Generating *profit* is. If Employee A generates $100 in revenue and cost $110 then Employee A gets the boot. Sorry, that's just reality.

Mark Hoffman
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

In our business generating revenue is *still* the goal. It's just that except for a handful of companies the goal of generating EBITDA profit is still unreachable.

Also, once again I have put up the fact that there's a thing called "D&O insurance" - Director's and Officers insurance. Plus 6+ digit severance packages. Due to this many managers are immune to effects like "recession" etc.

Furthermore - ever heard of the term "friends and family"?

Johnny Bravo
Wednesday, August 20, 2003


Increasing revenue is generally the stated goal.  Maybe it is industry specific.  I know for example, that electric utilities are generally concerned about revenue and pay little attention to overall "profit".

Joe AA
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Johnny Bravo asks:
>> "Furthermore - ever heard of the term 'friends and family'? "

I haven't.  Would you elaborate?  Thx.

bob
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Managers protect their own, while developers don't?

This is actually correct.

In fact, programmers actually destroy their profession and harm other programmers by writting open source software. :-(

John K.
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Good boys. Mafia-style.

Johnny Bravo
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Joe,

Considering that many electric utilities and co-ops are by legal definition non-profit, it comes as no great surprise they don't focus on profit.

Long term, any for-profit company is concerned about a lot more than just revenue. It's after profit.

Mark Hoffman
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

It's better we destroy it on our own, than wait for the Chinese to crush it. And purchase Microsoft's monopoly. To extinct Java. And infringe on Linux.

Johnny Bravo
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

JohnK, open source is only your enemy if you believe that there are a finite set of problems that software can solve, and it's best to reimlpement those solutions over and over again.

Otherwise, o/s has the same long-term effect on software that neighborhood cookbooks have on great chefs. It gets the mundane out of the way, and lets you do the truly interesting stuff.

jason

JasonB
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

For a clear illustration on how things are different with managers and executives, keep a close eye on CEO hires.  There are lots of CEOs that run multiple companies into the ground and still manage to find work at new companies.

I believe the primary reason why managers/executives are a lot more bulletproof is simply that they are far better at people-networking than developers are.  The fact that a high level manager or CEO has screwed up royally in the past is small potatoes compared to the fact that he plays golf with 3 members of the board of his next victim, er, company every Sunday.

Mister Fancypants
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

After a few rounds of layoff I've seen non-technical managers left managing 2 people.

And for the revenue guy - which would you rather have, someone who cost $110 and brought in $100, or someone who cost $350 and brought in $0 ?

dude
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

> Besides, generating revenue isn't the goal. Generating *profit* is. If Employee A generates $100 in revenue and cost $110 then Employee A gets the boot. Sorry, that's just reality.

No, that's not the true picture either. It's about meeting whatever short-term quota has been specified for the performance of the departmental manager, divisional VP or CEO. Those metrics usually have little long term component in them, and the managers, by definition, do not care.

Modern corporate managers are, almost uniformly, ambitious people who have chosen to embrace short term, personally rewarding strategies at the expense of the wider good. They are people who, faced with a choice between sacking people or causing other social violence, and not acting, will readily cause the social violence and then climb into their executive cars at the end of the day.

analyst
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

> Besides, generating revenue isn't the goal. Generating *profit* is. If Employee A generates $100 in revenue and cost $110 then Employee A gets the boot. Sorry, that's just reality.

Employee A generates $240 in revenue if Manager spends another $5 to put Employee A in a quiet, productive office. Do the math.

Read Peopleware
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

"Employee A generates $240 in revenue if Manager spends another $5 to put Employee A in a quiet, productive office. Do the math."


Hey, no argument here.....

Mark Hoffman
Thursday, August 21, 2003

Manager spends another $5 to put Employee A in a quiet, productive office.

Employee A falls asleep.

Joe AA
Friday, August 22, 2003

I've seen both both developers and managers get fired-even execs.  But the true deciding factor is not following the pyramid ways.  We have a few incompetent managers who keep getting either demoted or put on special projects.  The ONLY reason that I can figure why they are still there is: a- they have a friend in a high level mgmt position, b-tenure (been there a long time), or c- blackmail.

Some are really idiots.  All of the subordinates know if their mangers is incompetent or not, but lack the ways and means to do anything about it. 

How might a subordinate blow the whistle on something as vague as incompetency?

joel
Saturday, August 14, 2004

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home