Managing Developers...Part 8...Dealing with a Productive Staff that Loves You

"But My Staff is Productive and Loves Me"

I've heard plenty of managers proclaim this publicly. It's then interesting to look around the room and see who is chuckling. It's very possible that your staff does love you and you have no issues. But you really need to scrutinize the situation to make sure that is actually the case.

Remember...just because your staff seeks you out and seems to value your managerial input doesn't mean you are a good manager. If you are only being consulted on small, inconsequential issues then you are being "handled." I've worked on many teams where there is team consensus to merely handle an ineffective manager. The Benevolent Dictator will assign various people to occassionally go and "handle" the manager. The Handler will consult with the manager, ask the manager's opinion, try to give the manager credit for something menial, or divert the manager's attention to something other than the most important issues. In the meantime the team is, at a minimum, doing the important stuff that the manager won't do competently, or at a maximum, trying to make the manager look foolish. The team is usually just trying to protect themselves, and the profitability of the project, from the manager. This is a recurring theme in many Dilbert cartoons.

Managers will sometimes state how productive their teams are, somehow implying that, therefore, there can't be any problems. From the outside this looks to be true. The team is humming along, being productive, showing value. Internally the team may be suffering and has not yet imploded. Or perhaps the Benevolent Dictator has steered the team away from failed management and policies. This will lead to insubordination and potentially to loss of the manager's job. Team productivity does not always come from good management.