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As a programmer what do you think that is the thing that your manager does that mostly decreases your motivation?

My manager insists in blocking web content (this week was msdn content and Microsoft domain sites) This is so stupid, make me think I am not a reliable professional or that I am stealing his internet. And not, it is not a small business. It is a huge enterprise where such dinossaurs should not exist anymore.

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I've had similar feelings recently, our company's policy to block certain websites has done nothing but decreased my productivity. –  Tatu Ulmanen Oct 19 '10 at 11:59
    
Confront your manager with "do you think I'm not reliable?", that's a good point imo. You could also argue that you can watch whatever you want on your smartphone, but I wouldn't recommend this; might backfire :-) –  Thomas Stock Oct 19 '10 at 12:32
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My manager calls me 5 times a day 'just to check in' on me. –  Steve Evers Oct 19 '10 at 16:00
    
As someone said in another discussion: "Secretaries waste time on the Phone, Programmers in the Web. But take the Phone or the web away, and see how productive they are now" –  keppla May 2 '12 at 14:36
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9 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

You need to find a new job.

What do base such a harsh conclusion on? I just think about some things you need from your work environment:

  1. it lets you do your job.
  2. it lets you grow professionally.
  3. surround yourself with smart people - who may be leaving or have left already.
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+1. However it doesn't answer the question at all. –  back2dos Oct 19 '10 at 12:36
    
@back2dos. I agree. I think ducking the question may be the answer sometimes –  azheglov Oct 19 '10 at 12:48
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And no, it is not a small business. It is a huge enterprise where such dinossaurs should not exist anymore.

This statement baffles me. My experience with managers is the exact opposite. Only big enterprises can afford mismanagement.

My enterprise is really small and my boss is actually a programmer, even a decent one, but still a cowboy. Which is why I have to clean up a lot of mess, that in a lot of cases really wouldn't have needed to be there in the first place.

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+1: big enterprises can afford such mismanagement –  azheglov Oct 19 '10 at 12:22
    
Maybe its because a small enterprise manager is closer to programmers problems, or maybe it is the programmer that founded it. But this guy, some day, will hire a manager like the one I am talking about. And that makes me sad. –  Marcelo de Aguiar Oct 19 '10 at 12:28
    
@PapaiSmurf: Maybe, yes. My point was, you don't have this kind of crap in small enterprises. Because small enterprises cannot afford it. –  back2dos Oct 19 '10 at 12:34
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@back2dos, there are more micromanaging control-freaks in small enterprises, particularly since they can't control everything in a large one. –  Huperniketes Oct 19 '10 at 12:58
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Big companies are controlled by processes not by people, and you don´t need smart people to execute processes. –  Pagotti Oct 19 '10 at 13:33
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I think the most demotivating thing of all (and I do not have this issue in my current company) is being expected to work overtime for no pay to meet some arbitrary deadline and then watching him get rewarded financially for the successful project completion but not me. Remind me again why I should give up my personal time so you can get a big bonus?

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+1. Actually this is a big one for me at the moment. It is more general than what you're describing though. We don't really get asked to put in overtime (though I still work somewhat more than standard hours out of habit/routine) - it's just that the product I'm working on is a huge cash cow for the company. And when new clients are signed on due to new stuff that I've implemented, I don't see any extra bonus or anything. To quote Peter Gibbons from Office Space: "That'll only make someone work just hard enough not to get fired.". Which is more or less where I'm at. :) –  Bobby Tables Oct 20 '10 at 2:10
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Lack of recognition and reward for effort...

This is a common issue in software development (and in salaried knowledge work in general), but it is particularly pronounced in my current role - where the product I'm working on is a massive, 7-figure per month cash cow for the company.

It's very demotivating to think of the huge packages, options, and big fat bonuses the higher-ups get (often in a year when a feature I implemented sells a large number of extra licenses) - while I get the same salary no matter how much, or how little, effort I put in. It tends to put me in the burned out, unmotivated, "working just hard enough not to get fired" mentality of Peter Gibbons from Office Space.

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It would be understandable to block pr0n or time-sapping sites (Facebook, MySpace, etc), but not professional resources such as these.

I strongly recommend that you book a 1-to-1 meeting with your manager and explain your case for requiring access to MSDN, Microsoft, *.se.com, etc and see what their response is. If, in a 1-to-1 meeting (i.e. private meeting room), they come out with 'I banned them to increase your productivity', you can:

  1. Ask how they are measuring productivity - by bug count, LOC written, or the number of times they spot MSDN open on your monitor?
  2. Point out that blocking these resources reduces productivity because you don't have reference materials, etc.
  3. Also point out that a move such as this has damaged yours/teams morale considerably and that the decision should be reversed.

Whatever you do, don't quit or go job-hunting without trying to work things out first. Describing your company/manager as a 'dinosaur' tells us that you may have some prejudices to address first and/or some gentle education of your management of modern software development techniques.

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Hogwash. Don't bother trying to manage your manager, that's not waht you get paid for. There are plently of jobs that don't suck, don't waste your stomach acid trying to change companies that are so far removed from getting it. –  Mike Mooney Oct 19 '10 at 17:35
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People skills are an important aspect of professional software engineering. –  JBRWilkinson Oct 19 '10 at 21:37
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+1 for trying to convince, even if the chances of such a manager being convinced are low from what the OP describes. If nothing else, it will improve the OP's communication skills. –  talonx Oct 20 '10 at 3:28
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I have a few questions about this problem:

  • Have you brought your concern to management?
  • Is one person abusing privileges to where others are having to pay their consequences?

According to a recent Gallup Poll, the question was asked "what followers want from leadership". They found 4 common themes:

  1. Trust
  2. Compassion
  3. Stability
  4. Hope

I find it interesting that none of these include empowerment. Self-Determination Theory claims that there are 3 key elements to foster intrinsic motivation, one being autonomy. Similar to McGregor's X Y Theory on management styles, empowering employees is key to productive and creative solutions. If trust is present in leadership (both ways) then empowerment should flow naturally.

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I guess to some extent, "the thing that your manager does that mostly decreases your motivation" depends on what motivates you personally :p

If you agree with Daniel Pink's take on motivation, that we are driven by three key needs:

  • autonomy
  • mastery
  • purpose

...then I'd say that management can kill your motivation by encouraging or demonstrating behaviour that runs counter to that:

  • taking away autonomy, e.g. not trusting that you can determine how best to do your job
  • encouraging mediocrity
  • taking away the meaning in your work. For example, by chasing goals or exhibiting values that aren't meaningful to you

Ultimately, I for me, I had to be clear on what I was all about before I could really put my finger on why "management" wasn't motivating me.

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These 2 tie for my top one:

  • Turn my work into a nasty hydra. This where for anything I do finish, 3 new tasks appear as something to do ASAP. Repeat this enough and suddenly I have a 101 things on my to-do list and I know that some of those will never get done. The lack of getting something done is rather annoying here. I call it a hydra as this was the mythical beast that any head it lost was replaced by two new ones.

  • Constantly reorganizing my work as I'm trying to do it. So something that would take 3 days gets a day in and then it is "Drop everything and get THIS done NOW!" though I have seen worse. Imagine only getting 20 minutes to get into something before getting a, "Hold everything, this will make us millions!" or a "Boo-ya, this will make billions!" and so nothing is getting done as even basic work like what is to be done hasn't been flushed out really.

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I once had to directly ask my manager not to be negative about our situation as a company when he talks to me, because while I'm aware that we have our ups and downs, I tend to be depressed and unmotivated when he tells me we're not doing well.

I also asked him to provide me with more positive feedback, because people tend to come to me with all the complaints about bugs etc., and when stuff works they just go about their day.

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