Be Nice to your Manager

Because if you have a good one you won’t realise how good they are until you get a complete doozy. A while ago i had the luck to work for a very insightful manager, lets call him Mike (his parents did). It took him about an hour to figure me out and from then on he played me masterfully, always the right amount of trust to ensure i was confident about my work but with enough challenge to both make me think about what i was doing and push me into giving more than the pay rate warranted. At the time i never even considered myself managed, thats how good he was.

I only made a single mistake while working at that job, i ran an ls over a deeper directory, answered a question and then without rechecking my location on the system ran a recursive permission change. I went white and made a little choking sound that can’t really be described as cute. I’d nuked the permissions on our backup HPUX server.

I expected to be shouted at or dragged off in to a dressing down, instead i got a pleasant surprise (although it wasn’t until later i understood it was the best possible thing for a manager to do). “Can you fix whatever you just did?” “Yes, it’ll take about half-an-hour.” “I’m going for a coffee, we’ll talk when i get back.” I spent the next half an hour working with our QA guy as my spotter and put the settings back based upon the live box. Forty five minutes later my boss came back and asked if all was well. I sheepishly nodded yes and the only mention of the fact I’d screwed up was: “You know what you did. Learn and see it doesn’t happen again.” That was pretty much three years ago and i’ve never failed to double check my location again.

A big mistake or failure needs to be acknowledged, looked at and learned from. The important part is how the issue is dealt with, if you spend an hour having the same thing gone over and over all that the employee brings away from the meeting is a destroyed morale, diminished confidence in both their own ability and the managers trust in them. Be a smart manager, know what needs to be said and what doesn’t; if the worker is a professional he’ll be beating himself up about it.

As for me, next time i get an understanding manager like Eric Sink or Mike I’ll be a little nicer, a lot more appreciative and a bit slower running chmod.