RE: Is this just the way things are?

Subject: RE: Is this just the way things are?
From: "Sleat, Chris" <CSleat -at- outreachtech -dot- com>
To: "'TECHWR-L '" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 26 Nov 1999 13:59:00 -0500

>>Catherine asked: Is bad management just the price one pays for working in
this industry?

To steal from David Knopf: It depends.

Management in the IT industry is no different from other industries…some
managers are effective and some put more effort into appearing effective
than actually being effective. I’m an independent consultant, so I see the
spectrum across my clients. The trick is not to watch things happen but
shake them up…act, even if you feel you have no power (because in reality,
if you are good at what you do you have more power than any manager).

Some people are natural managers, some can be trained to be managers, and
some are schmucks. It’s actually up to the staff to fix the latter two (you
have the power). You can’t wait for the natural managers to arrive, for the
untrained to be educated, or for the schmucks to die. You gotta do

If you have a good effective natural manager who is swimming in a sea of the
other two types, nurture her; make her shine and support her decisions in
the faces of the ineffective. When you add to her success, the payoff is
that she gets more responsibility and the other dolts have to emulate her
style or shrivel.

If you have an uneducated manager (who is not a schmuck), educate him. Act.
If your manager or a manager that can potentially affect you seems to be on
the verge of a bad decision, or if he’s already made one, let him know. Be
professional, and ask him why he wants to do the specific silly thing he is
about to do. You’ve seen the bumper sticker, “Question Authority.” Don’t let
him out of the conversation until you are satisfied. It will make him think.
It will get uncomfortable, but will help to educate your potentially good,
yet currently uneducated manager. Do this every time you don’t understand a
decision, and he’ll begin to see that good decisions aren’t questioned, yet
bad ones require a painful explanation to some strangely empowered tech

If you have a schmuck, well, you can’t kill her, so you need to be as
professional as possible and make her life uncomfortable. Question her like
you would the uneducated manager. She’ll do things her own way anyway (one
of the sure schmuck signs), but you will annoy her and draw attention to her
ineffectiveness. Actively disagree with her bad decisions (not behind the
scenes but publicly). If she doesn’t go or change and is really making your
life unbearable, then find another job (believe me, if you are good, it
won’t be hard).

You don’t need to live with bad management: you can act or leave. Acting,
being the dragon employee, actually means that you care, and good companies
respect that. Being a well-though-out squeaky wheel (not a whiner) will make
you and your organization strong.

But if it seems like too much effort, leave. There are companies out there
right now with educated, natural managers, and in this job market, they’re
hiring strong, professional tech writers every day. Just make sure you grill
the management before you take a new job, or you’ll find yourself in the
same position you are in right now.

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