Have some self respect!

One of the things I see a lot on the StackOverflow family sites are questions about how to minutely monitor employees. The latest one was a question on how the person could start up a continuous video capture of a remote employee’s screen from the moment the person started work to the moment they stopped, and have it stored in real time on the central office servers.

My advice on every one of these ones I see is “learn to trust your employees. If they are producing enough good quality code as to be worth the money they’re paying, it shouldn’t matter how many hours of solitaire, StackOverflow or porn they’re looking at while they produce it.” (Obviously not porn in an office environment, but you get the idea.) And if they aren’t producing good quality code, then deal with the problem. In other words, act like a manager not a slave overseer.

Ok, I can see why bosses might be so misguided as to have no clue as to the creative process and so think this is something they need to do, but why the hell would programmers be so whipped and beaten that they’d agree to such a travesty? Don’t they have any insight into how their own minds work? Do they think this is normal to be treated like cattle?

The latest one, the boss offered the excuse that he was doing it so he could check the guy’s code quality. How does watching him type it in give you a better idea of his quality than looking at the code after it’s checked in. Insist on daily checkins if you wish, but don’t sit there analyzing his every key stroke. He also compared it to an open plan office. Yeah, if a boss wants to walk around an open plan office once in a while, that’s fine. If he wants to set up a video camera watching over my shoulder, and says that video is going into my employee record, or even worse, doesn’t tell me what he’s going to do with that video, I’m walking. And I’d suggest anybody with a shred of self-respect should do the same.

6 thoughts on “Have some self respect!”

  1. IT folks will agree to the damnedest stuff. In one of my previous jobs, management decided that all of the IT people would have to sign a non-compete agreement that would effectively bar you from working in any IT position for years. IIRC, this was before similar contracts had been voided in court.

    Out of around 30 people, I was the *only one* who said, “I’m not signing. If you don’t like it, I’m leaving now.” And even after I showed that management would blink… people still signed it.


  2. The boss also wanted to “keep the investors happy”. It’s his freakin’ JOB to keep the investors off the developers’ backs!

  3. I’ve seen some designers/developers saying that continuous screenshot utilities are great, because they can show movies to their employers and clients demonstrating what they are getting for their money. It is truly sad.

    I spend most of my time at work reading and thinking. These other people seem to want to bill/pay by the keystroke or mouse click. I could certainly do a lot more typing and clicking, if that’s what was being measured.

  4. Well, if that’s what the investors want, that’s what they can get. If I was an investor, I’d want a product that works and developers who care about quality, but that’s just me.

  5. So, what are the options here when a person looks for work? The US has 10+ percent unemployment.
    Selling your home (if you’re not a renter) and living of that money isn’t exactly a good idea right now, except maybe you inhertited it or got it a a really resaonable price.
    The stock market isn’t doing very well either, so what are the options?

    I’m not saying everything is milk and honey here, but at least periods of notice are longer. I do not remember signing a contract with less than six weeks to the quarter, actually its 3 months to the quarter and unemployment benefit hasn’t been shorter than 12 months at any given time during the last 25 years. If you’re older it has been up to three full years.

  6. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20091108/ap_on_bi_ge/us_jobless_then_and_now says
    “Jobless: 10 percent is tougher than it used to be”
    – Potential employers aren’t interested “if you are not a perfect fit,”
    – … the poverty rate for children will rise to 27 percent in 2011, from 18 percent in 2007.
    – And savings, as a percentage of after-tax income, was only 2.7 percent last year, down from 10.9 percent in 1982… That helps explain why the foreclosure rate runs about seven times higher today.
    – Layoffs have forced some older workers into retirement, yet fewer of them can fall back on traditional pensions that pay a steady monthly sum. Only 11 percent of active workers have a traditional pension, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute. That’s down from 50 percent in 1982.

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