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A Measure of Your Team's Health: How You Treat Your "Idiot" 255

Posted by samzenpus
from the bottom-of-the-barrel dept.
Esther Schindler (16185) writes "Every team has someone who at the bottom of its bell curve: an individual who has a hard time keeping up with other team members. How your team members treat that person is a significant indicator of your organization's health. That's especially true for open source projects, where you can't really reject someone's help. All you can do is encourage participation... including by the team "dummy.""
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A Measure of Your Team's Health: How You Treat Your "Idiot"

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  • Really? (Score:5, Funny)

    by sethradio (2603921) on Monday June 02, 2014 @12:40PM (#47147827) Homepage Journal
    I can't rejects someones help on my open source projects? Linus Torvalds is really mean then.
    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Funny)

      by sethradio (2603921) on Monday June 02, 2014 @12:41PM (#47147843) Homepage Journal
      Considering my grammar, I must be the idiot in this case.
    • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Penguinisto (415985) on Monday June 02, 2014 @01:13PM (#47148063) Journal

      Depends on the project.

      Something as popular and heavily-supported as the Linux Kernel? Fuggit - Torvalds has his pick of talented people to choose from, and uses his rather entertaining personality to insure that the slackers and dullards behave themselves. Note that his commit refusals are usually well spelled-out (if it even gets to his level - usually one the the 2nd or 3rd-level maintainers will reject it for some reason or other, so if Torvalds gets involved, it's usually based on some architectural or philosophical reason, and that in turn is usually very well explained.)

      Now for Joe Sixpack's Uber-l33t CMS Mod for Drupal? Umm, okay... you take what you can get and you'll like it, but honestly, the same method can apply. If someone pulls a boner and tries to commit it, you explain in precise and objective terms *why* the thing was rejected. If the reason is philosophical, you explain it in a neutral manner, promoting the philosophy in question, and explaining why the rejected change doesn't meet it.

      Note that none of this applies to a professional environment, where the team members are being *paid* for their skills. Also note that there's a lot of reasons why the guy is the low-man on the team totem pole - few of them having to do with coding ability.

      I mean it this way: if you have a team full of rockstars, the 'idiot' may well be a planet-crushing badass by developer standards, but isn't as good as the other guys on the team - sort of like a top-notch AAA athlete finding himself playing on a pro MLB team. Or, it may be that the 'idiot' is a coding rockstar in a team full of ordinary devs, but he's a bit anti-social, hates or cannot fully grok the team's particular interpretation of Agile/Waterfall/Whatever-your-team-is-using, or for some similar reason isn't the guy who looks as good in the scrum master's eyes.

      Long story short - the concept would need a friggin' book to explain in full, and requires more than just light managerial skills.

      • Re:Really? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by JoeMerchant (803320) on Monday June 02, 2014 @02:07PM (#47148545)

        Too lazy to RTFA, I take the meaning of the summary this way:

        Like a society can be judged by how it treats its elderly, infirm, and more fragile members, a coding project (open source or privately funded) can be judged by how it treats its least well regarded developer.

        Are you Nazi Germany, do you show people the door based on the color of their eyes/hair, how tall they are, their GRE scores, or how they perform on some arbitrary admission test before you give a 15 minute in-person interview?

        Are you Genghis Khan's Mongolia, do you abuse and then fire anyone who isn't running at the front of the pack? Rank and yank does not generally improve morale.

        Are you the European Middle Ages, do you just ignore your weaker team members and let them be consumed by plague rats / drown in their own stinking code while you isolate the shipping product in the ivory tower?

        Are you a more modern quasi-socialist society where you educate your weaker team members as best you can and enable them to contribute as they are capable?

        There are cases to be made for the advantages and efficiencies of all approaches, but, generally, you need to be a strong development team to carry and build up the weaker team members - if everybody is too focused on product and producing to care about helping their fellow team members to improve, your team is overtaxed (too weak for the job at hand) and probably not able to perform well (provide a reliable living wage for the developers while producing and maintaining the product) in the long term.

        • Re:Really? (Score:4, Interesting)

          by mindriot (96208) on Monday June 02, 2014 @04:52PM (#47150065)

          There are cases to be made for the advantages and efficiencies of all approaches, but, generally, you need to be a strong development team to carry and build up the weaker team members - if everybody is too focused on product and producing to care about helping their fellow team members to improve, your team is overtaxed (too weak for the job at hand) and probably not able to perform well (provide a reliable living wage for the developers while producing and maintaining the product) in the long term.

          Yeah, I think that is the important -- and only -- message here. From the summary:

          How your team members treat that person is a significant indicator of your organization's health

          This, and only this. If your organization is doing well on the market, and very successful, it can afford to treat their "idiots" well. If times are rough, and everybody is struggling hard to get things done and achieve success, this will stop. In other words, if you're treating your "idiots" badly, it's probably because you're already in deep shit.

          However, the converse is not necessarily true: it does not follow that just because you're nice to your "idiots", your team will be successful. Sadly, as much as I'd like to interpret such a feel-good message into TFA, I'm afraid it probably doesn't work that way.

          My personal experience seems to indicate that yes, you do want to treat your "idiots" well simply because everybody likes a good work climate, and nobody likes assholes. And personally I'd rather not do as well but at least know that I'm not acting like an asshole trying to beat the team into performing better. But in the end, what motivation and performance you can instil in your "idiots" is unlikely to match what you could achieve by replacing them with individuals that are more capable of doing the required work.

          • Re:Really? (Score:4, Insightful)

            by Lotana (842533) on Tuesday June 03, 2014 @05:23AM (#47153327)

            But in the end, what motivation and performance you can instil in your "idiots" is unlikely to match what you could achieve by replacing them with individuals that are more capable of doing the required work.

            The summary is very careful to describe the lowest performing workers as: Every team has someone who at the bottom of its bell curve: an individual who has a hard time keeping up with other team members. Based on this definition, as you replace one, you will still have the lowest performer. Just your measure criteria will be higher. Thus unless you have a team that are all clones of each other, work politics will still find the "idiot" to hold.

            Thus, the measure still stands: How do you treat your lowest performers is a good judgement of the company health. Your preference of "Not worth the time/effort. Replace them with someone better." is quite destructive. By following your solution, the team will be forever stuck with overhead of training up the new guy and loss of knowledge of the rapid turnover.

            • by mindriot (96208)

              The summary is very careful to describe the lowest performing workers as: Every team has someone who at the bottom of its bell curve: an individual who has a hard time keeping up with other team members. Based on this definition, as you replace one, you will still have the lowest performer. Just your measure criteria will be higher. Thus unless you have a team that are all clones of each other, work politics will still find the "idiot" to hold.

              Yes, obviously someone else will take over the bottom spot. But

      • Re:Really? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by gmack (197796) <gmackNO@SPAMinnerfire.net> on Monday June 02, 2014 @03:54PM (#47149565) Homepage Journal

        Agreed. I have seem some devs treated badly who turned out to be pretty good developers once people stopped treating them like crap. I also had one kid fresh out of university who needed some hand-holding for his first few months while he gained some experience and gained some self esteem who turned out to be a one of the best programmers I've ever worked with.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Really? And here I thought programmers, especially the ones companies are afraid to let go, were the paragons of human empowerment, dispellers of unjust prejudice and generally seekers of higher communion with their fellow peers, lifting everyone to unprecedented levels of infinitely-looped feedback loops of learning and earning of epic proportions.

          Companies are afraid to lose these, so as to miss out on all the value-add, right? Right??

          OTOH, maybe if companies actually treated their devs with respect, more

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Rejecting in this case I think means not accepting their work because they're too slow in producing it. In the corporate world, too slow often means not good enough to be useful (ie, we lost the customer by delivering late). You sort of have to accept that in open source that code will not be fast, because the volunteers are working on this in their free time only. In open source the dummy is one that submits buggy or inappropriate code.

      For Linus' rejections those are often for code that is not necessari

  • The manager. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Monday June 02, 2014 @12:43PM (#47147851)

    >> Every team has someone who at the bottom of its bell curve: an individual who has a hard time keeping up with other team members

    The manager. Badoom-cha!

    >> That's especially true for open source projects, where you can't really reject someone's help

    New to open source, are we?

  • Depends (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ravaldy (2621787) on Monday June 02, 2014 @12:46PM (#47147869)

    Some organizations are large enough and organized enough to help employees grow in their current and future roles but some are too small and cannot afford the down time as they require expertise right away.

    That said, in my experience individuals who struggle to get to the level of competence required are more loyal employees hence a reduced cost of employment long term. They are also more accepting of a slower career path.

    My 2 cents.

    • Re:Depends (Score:4, Insightful)

      by smooth wombat (796938) on Monday June 02, 2014 @12:56PM (#47147943) Homepage Journal
      are more loyal employees hence a reduced cost of employment long term.

      Are you factoring in the costs associated with the other people on the team having to do/redo this person's work or go over with them how to do something for the tenth time?

      If after a sufficiently long period of time someone can't get up to speed, the folks at the top might want to suggest to them to find another career. Being loyal and friendly is fine, but if others have to constantly check and recheck their work, that is just wasted time and increased costs.
      • Re:Depends (Score:4, Insightful)

        by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Monday June 02, 2014 @01:07PM (#47148009) Homepage Journal

        And this is the problem and why the question is stupid.
        No definition of idiot.
        There will always be someone on a group that isn't as smart as everyone else.

        So there is the person who can't not learn, and then there is a person who so a little slow. Widely different response to that issue.

        • Re:Depends (Score:5, Insightful)

          by lgw (121541) on Monday June 02, 2014 @02:23PM (#47148693) Journal

          "Idiot" or "dummy" misses the point, I think. Never confuse activity with productivity, or "who cares how fast you go if you're going the wrong way".

          I love programmers who may work slower, but are diligent and make sure they're doing the right thing. Follow coding standards, ask questions when they're not sure how to proceed, etc. I barely care if they contribute less than others, as long as it's predictable, as you'll size projects to the available staff anyhow.

          I hate programmers who do work someone else has to fix. Ignore important coding standards, don't test, or simply solve the wrong problem. You pretty much have to count them as zero or negative in terms of team contribution, no matter how much code they may spew out.

          • by geekoid (135745)

            The numbers I have run indicate that the person you describe, slow but does follow procedures is more productive for the company over the long run.

            Granted, that's anecdotal and only involved a few hundred people, but I would be surprised if it don't hold up in a larger more controlled study.
            OR maybe not, maybe everyone just shoving coed out willy-nilly is more productive.

            • by sjames (1099)

              OR maybe not, maybe everyone just shoving coed out willy-nilly is more productive.

              Not sure exactly what that is, but I think you can get fired for it. :-)

          • Re:Depends (Score:5, Insightful)

            by pla (258480) on Monday June 02, 2014 @04:10PM (#47149715) Journal
            "Idiot" or "dummy" misses the point, I think. Never confuse activity with productivity, or "who cares how fast you go if you're going the wrong way".

            You describe two entirely different problems.

            Yes, you have fast programmers who half-ass everything. And yes, you have slow programmers who carefully and methodically solve the problem correctly the first time.

            Those fall on two orthogonal axes, however. You also have fast programmers who get it right the first time, and slow programmers who couldn't code their way out of a paper bag.

            Obviously, falling on the "get it right" half of the plane counts as the better option. But TFA doesn't ask that. TFA asks how you deal with someone consistently slow and wrong. Rephrasing the question to something more PC ("Dumb kids don't exist!") doesn't address the real issue.

            Personally, I've found that village idiots come in two flavors - Those who know it, and those who don't. The ones who know it, you can give them nice safe tedious shitwork like data entry, and they can handle it and everyone goes away happy (though depending on pay structures at your company, you might somewhat resent making the same as the guy doing nothing more than copying numbers from paper to Excel). The ones that don't know it, however... There be dragons! At best, you can try to give them seemingly important but secretly completely inconsequential projects to work on, and hope they don't annoy too many people asking for help along the way. And at worst, you write a custom check-in script that alerts their babysitter about everything they did so it can be personally validated and (more often than not) rolled back ASAP.

            Yes, Virginia, dumb kids exist. And some of them manage to fumble their way into working as dumb programmers (though thank Zeus, they tend to consider that "hard" and usually prefer PolySci).
            • by lgw (121541)

              Slow and wrong is uninteresting though, you fire them and move on. This field is not for everyone. I've seen a big problem at large companies with favoring fast and wrong over slow and right, because distant management can measure "fast" easier than "right".

      • by Trepidity (597)

        Really depends on the company and type of work. In some companies, there are very large startup costs getting someone up to speed doing anything, so whether someone is likely to leave is a big consideration. A mediocre employee who sticks around in that case might be better than a superstar who has a 50% chance of leaving within less than 5 years.

        Less often the case with pure programming jobs, especially on common platforms like web-tech and such, where good people tend to come in already knowing a bunch of

      • by Ravaldy (2621787)

        As far as I can read, they aren't talking about complete incompetency. Just someone needing more help to get to the same point.

  • by Virtucon (127420) on Monday June 02, 2014 @12:50PM (#47147907)

    Sorry, calling or dealing with somebody as a dummy or an idiot is not constructive. If other team members look down on an individual because their skills aren't the same then that's the teams problem and it's basically representative of an obnoxious mentality. While we all might laud our own abilities, in someone's eyes they're less than competent because it's all a matter of perspective.

    Sure, there's people with deficient skills and that's a training issue. There's also my old favorite from WWII: "First you instruct, then you advise and if that doesn't work, you hospitalize."

    • by preaction (1526109) on Monday June 02, 2014 @01:05PM (#47147997)

      Disclaimer: I did not RTFA.

      You seem to believe that everyone is capable, and indeed wants to push themselves to do above-average things. I've got at least one co-worker whose skills were born of the COBOL days and though the language he writes in has changed, he feels obsolete and has little desire to compete at the level of, say, me (and I don't blame him, he has a family and his free time is a lot more valuable than the time I spend reading technical manuals and doing programming for fun). He gets his work done, though he may not do it up to my own personal standards, I am not his boss and will not dictate how he does things.

      That said, he is reliable, he converses with clients well, he understands the code that the more-advanced developers create and can fix bugs in it just fine. He's great at small solutions to relatively small problems, but I wouldn't trust him to start a major new project requiring a stable, flexible API that has lots of interlocking/interchangeable parts.

      Yes, calling them an idiot or a dummy or indeed any disparaging adjective is not constructive (and is probably outright false), but if the boss has a large, complicated project that cannot go wrong (must deliver on-time and under-budget), the boss will not pick the person who can't deliver. Yes, the title of this article says more about the author than it does the people the author is describing, but we're not all "rockstar developers", and we can't all be treated as such.

    • It's much better to come up with a euphemism that idiots can't understand, that way we still have a way to refer to the problem ("Elliot's special needs", etc), without hurting his feelings.

      By actually calling Elliot an idiot and a dummy, the author carelessly describes the "challenged" person in question with the most concise words in the English language for this condition. Because of this the reader immediately understands what the author is talking about, without needing to decode the meaning between t

    • by Opportunist (166417) on Monday June 02, 2014 @01:23PM (#47148127)

      Pretty much this.

      I don't have an "idiot" on my team. I have a handful of people, all with various advantages and disadvantages. My best analyst is horrible at writing reports. But I have someone who is a rather mediocre analyst but can write reports in such a way that it fits like a glove to the intended audience (as you may expect, you write differently for techs and management).

      The trick is to put the right person to the right job. Yes, that means you have a bit of overhead where they have to interface, but the end result is PERFECT rather than mediocre.

      • by onepoint (301486)

        This is so amazingly true, well at least about myself. I find that I am the most likely the bottom of the pile when it comes to planning, but flow charting the idea out completely, I got everyone beat. It works like this and I am laughing while writing this:

        Someone had the idea
        I R&D the idea
        I flow out all the steps to the idea in insane detail
        I hand it over to more people to gather even more details
        Get it back and re-flow the entire idea
        I hand in back to some-else to put a time frame
        Get's back into my h

    • by Junta (36770)

      Sure, there's people with deficient skills and that's a training issue.

      There are also people who do not have relevant talent for whom no amount of training will address.

      Sure, maybe it's impolite to use words like 'dummy' or 'idiot', but sometimes you have people who are not and can not be useful for tasks that you need. Really good leaders recognize the difference between a talent and skills gap and figures out who can do what even if it requires some investment, but the road is not always a rosy one. Even getting rid of someone is usually ok, because a person with mismatche

    • It depends.

      There is a time to enable -- that is, be patient -- with others, and there is a time to NOT put up with disruptive behavior. Sometimes tough love involves calling a spade a spade.

      Often it is better to help nurture the person and help them grow to overcome their weaknesses. Sometimes the fundamental problem can be "resolved" with communication -- put them on probation and see if they are willing to improve.

      Other times the problem comes down to productivity. When the "idiot's" lack of quality st

    • You wouldn't have read the article if I had called it, A Measure of Your Team’s Health: How You Treat Your Less-Productive-But-Still-Well-Meaning Members. Also, we all do say, or at least mutter, "Elliot is such an idiot!" particularly in headdesk moments.
      • by geekoid (135745)

        A Measure of Your Team’s Health: The treatment of low producing members.

        BTW, I would have still read it with the overly long and unimaginative name you used.
        OTOH, I also read the History of Mathematics, and medical studies for fun. I may not be the best measure.

  • by Collective 0-0009 (1294662) on Monday June 02, 2014 @12:50PM (#47147911)
    As soon as I read this paragraph, I stopped listening to anything she had to say:

    I’ve been very lucky. Over the past several decades, in different industries and roles, I’ve worked on quite a few teams that seemingly had a perfect balance of skills and personalities. That’s not to say that every project was successful – outside influences sometimes made them fail – but the experience always was deeply rewarding.

    You catch that? The only time one of her projects has failed in decades, it was due to external reasons. Nope, not her fault, or the team, but "them".

    I am willing to bet she has that same attitude about the people on her team. Nope, not her fault, but the "idiot" on the team. She was probably the idiot a few times, but was unable to recognize her own odor.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      and this:

      "He never quite realized it when he handed in substandard work (such as newsletter articles I always had to rewrite; since the published articles said what he meant, he didn’t realize they’d been rewritten)."

      Or he knew this person was a completely full of themself asshole but lacked the balls to confront them for fear of losing their job or beating the crap out of them

    • by niado (1650369)

      Nope, not her fault, but the "idiot" on the team. She was probably the idiot a few times, but was unable to recognize her own odor.

      It's like the poker adage - if you can't spot this fish at the table...

    • by conner_bw (120497)

      > She was probably the idiot a few times, but was unable to recognize her own odor.

      See:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D... [wikipedia.org]

    • And she also attributed her high success rate to luck (the luck of being on teams with other really talented people).... Not traditionally a way to claim credit you don't deserve.
    • > As soon as I read this paragraph, I stopped listening to anything she had to say ...

      Not to detract from your other point ... so you toss the baby out with the bath water ?

      Maybe the writer is an idiot, but just because they failed to understand one point doesn't make the rest of their conclusions automatically invalid.

      (Note: She doesn't understand open source. Developers ARE perfectly willing to reject outside help. i.e. submitted code doesn't meat the code standards, is incomplete, doesn't account for

    • Um, no.

      I have had lots of projects fail. Some were my fault. Some were management. Some were external. Plenty of reasons.

      My point is that the existence of the team being ever-so-awesome does not necessarily have a correlation with its success. Just as actors can tell you about working on a movie with other actors where everyone felt creative and warm-and-fuzzy towards each other, and it has no influence on whether the movie is a commercial success.

    • You aren't reading that correctly. The author considered herself lucky to work on many teams that were well balanced and capable. Even in that situation, with a good team, failure sometimes happened. There's nothing in there that suggests evading fault.
  • Sure, there is someone at the bottom of the curve. But, in a healthy organization, that person is NOT an idiot. Even classically defined morons are capable of stuffing envelopes though, just don't make them project managers.

    The way you handle persistent net negative producers, is to drive them away with pitchforks and torches. Preferably while they are still on probation.

    How do you handle someone, who keeps coming to you with bugs he can't handle, when examples of these bugs include string concatenatio

  • by Dzimas (547818) on Monday June 02, 2014 @12:59PM (#47147951)
    I've had the delightful experience of being treated as the team idiot simply for declaring that the emperor had no clothes. It was one of those death march instances where a company decided to write a "version 2.0" of their extremely good program from the ground up. They brought in extremely skilled and expensive technical leads who developed a complicated new back end that was designed to be as "infinitely versatile" and then deployed a front end to match. The result was that they took a very good user experience and turned it into an arcane and slow -- but insanely flexible -- system. Client users absolutely hated the preview releases because they simply didn't let them do their work. I was the unlucky sap who had to provide feedback to the dev team. I decided not to pull punches and deliver a factual summary. The end result? The project lead declared that, "The consulting team simply doesn't understand how the system works" and proceeded to try to ice me out of the company. The organization ultimately failed because the project was such a mess. Unpleasant, but I'm glad I stood my ground and called a spade a spade. It took a while to regain my confidence after that, but my subsequent projects have all been successful and even award winning.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 02, 2014 @01:53PM (#47148379)

      In some ways you were the 'team idiot'. Not a technical idiot, but a political one.

      Being in a team is not just about the product. It is also about managing your teammates.

      If it had been me I would have couched it something like "here is our feedback from our end users it is not pretty" "we have created a system that the end users no longer understand and we will end up with large amounts of wasted time and support issues that may not have anything to do with technical problems" "we have lots of work to meet our customer expectations if we do not meet those they will toss us out on our ear" "training is usually code word for I am ignoring my customers (you know the people paying the bill) and know better than them" Sometimes you do. But in this case it sounds like a technical boondongle.

      You had bad feedback and then took on the bad feedback onto yourself. This made you a target. The target should be the software. You tried to make it the team. They shed you as fast as they could.

      Some people consider this 'mamby pamby' but someones feelings are hurt and they have instantly become an unproductive person. In some cases they will lash out and do whatever damage they can to deflect blame from themselves.

      Its not 'right' but it is the way many people work. Know the system you have been put into. It is a process that can be hacked just like a program. But it takes more than 2 seconds to change a line of code. It takes months of beers, humor, and time. Sometimes the best practice is to be very quiet and listen, then speak.

      • In some ways you were the 'team idiot'. Not a technical idiot, but a political one.

        Give the AC a mod point, he nailed that. The manager isn't there to code, which he probably sucks at, he is there to remove the hurdles that will take a project down. The GP was in a similar situation. You can also become a version of the many types of "idiot" one can be by not being able to stroke other's ego, not playing politics, or by just being a jerk.

      • by Dzimas (547818)
        Yes, of course I presented the user feedback as you suggest. I also provided solid use cases to illustrate how things didn't match the way their business works and what could be done to dramatically improve it. The problem was simply that the project manager had chosen to build a technical house of cards and didn't have the budget or time to change course. When faced with clear evidence that the system simply didn't work for clients, the easiest response was to discredit and kill the messenger. That only pr
  • Different skillsets (Score:5, Interesting)

    by msobkow (48369) on Monday June 02, 2014 @01:00PM (#47147961) Homepage Journal

    I've worked on teams with a variety of skillsets over the years ranging from fresh-out-of-college new grads to seasoned "dinosaurs" with 50 years experience. Everyone had something they were good at and could contribute to the project, though many times what they could contribute wasn't technically the role they were hired for.

    There was only one exception: a fellow way back in the early '90s who got a job on the project I was on because he'd supposedly done programming for AT&T after graduating from Bowling Green.

    The first time we reviewed his code, we realized it was bullshit. Before every single stdio function call, there was a "#include <stdio.h&gt" statement. Every single call!

    Further investigation proved that his degree was a fraud -- Bowling Green had no record of any student by his name.

    Despite that, he was stuffed in a corner and allowed to "work" the remainder of his six month contract by "reviewing" documentation and marking spelling and grammar corrections with a red pen.

    He couldn't even do that -- his English sucked.

    But firing him would have put the company at risk of a lawsuit, so they had him make the documentation binders.

    So even the worst team idiot can do something "useful" if you've got no choice but to keep them busy with something. :P

    • by geekoid (135745)

      There is no way there wold e a successful lawsuit if he committed fraud.

  • Anecdotal evidence from one woman's opinion. Why again is Slashdot becoming a place to crosspost blog posts as fact?

    Just for reference, I read this post in the same way this video sounds: http://news.slashdot.org/story... [slashdot.org]

    and that's not a good thing.

  • Really. Hey, they even call me "boss".

  • There's a meta-problem here if you call the slow guy in your team "an idiot". Anyway, just assign a bit leaner workload on him, problem solved.
  • Any team members that views themselves as somehow intellectually superior and views others as idiots should be shown the door.

    • /sarcasm Yeah, let's ignore the context for why they would think that! I mean they could never be right !

      Sometimes the designers are idiots.
      Sometimes the architects are idiots.
      Sometimes the programmers are idiots.
      Sometimes the marketing people are idiots.
      Sometimes the managers are idiots.

      You see, stupidity isn't limited to just one class. /sarcasm How dare anyone hold everyone to a productive standard. I mean it is not like quality of code matters, shipping something on time, etc. Oh wait, sometimes busine

      • by l0ungeb0y (442022)

        My point was that arrogant and abusive assholes are the real problem. If you find you actually have a bonafide MORON who is lacking in overall intelligence, then why were they hired to begin with?

        From the summary, it seems anyone who was at the wrong end of a bell curve should be the target of derision and abuse.
        So, a perfectly capable person who comes up short in any category is now an "idiot" and should be treated as trash.

        Frankly, that's a load of shit and any organization that employs people who see tha

        • > My point was that arrogant and abusive assholes are the real problem.

          Uhm no. Lack of communication, and lack of accountability is the problem. How the message gets delivered isn't going to "magically" change someone who doesn't grok it.

          > If you find you actually have a bonafide MORON who is lacking in overall intelligence, then why were they hired to begin with?

          You've never done any hiring have you? News flash! Not every resume is honest, sadly.

          I've worked with people who while had excellent knowl

    • by iggymanz (596061)

      nonsense, too much quality software is produced by teams led and with core people of that kind. How about throwing out the dead weight?

  • In all situations, as a team leader, one has to find a use for the "village idiot" that as the article already states, that doesn't do more harm to the team. A sign of how "good" the team is, is how the individual members treat the well meaning, but incompetent, team member without guidance from the lead.

    In a volunteer organization, it's imperative to keep all well meaning contributors on board, but in a company, that person has to eventually be moved out of the team since they're a drag on the group and
    • "both have other official "significant others"

      Blackmail is such an ugly word. But it could work in this situation.
  • If you designate someone the 'team idiot', that does not make for a climate pf productivity. The receiving end becomes bitter and the team members wind-up with a scapegoat for his/her own shortcomings. Rookies might start off as the idiot, but they can surpass established members. You have to think, what is the mentality behind 'team idiot'? Is the 'idiot' getting all the resources they need? Are they kept up to speed on the project? Are they part of meetings and social outings? Sometimes business is discu
  • ...if they are really an "idiot" relative to the rest of the team.

    In my experience, great teams have people with diverse skills. Some may be excellent diagnosticians and just decent coders, some may be great at writing tests that provide relevant coverage but poor at documentation, some may be very good at coming up with very efficient algorithms but not so good at debugging problems that cross many subsystems, and so on. At some point, almost every one of these people is occasionally thought, at least for

  • ...but how you treat each other. All it takes is a little respect, empathy and intellectual/emotional flexibility. Using the word idiot and dummy is pretty condescending and shows a lack of all of those things.
  • So very true!! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Evtim (1022085) on Monday June 02, 2014 @01:24PM (#47148141)

    I played the role of the village idiot in my team for almost 2 years. It was due to an unique and very unpleasant set of circumstances [outside work, mostly family and health stuff] that totally destroyed my motivation, concentration and even my will to live. Now this might be somewhat different than what the fine article is talking about, as the condition was temporary and everyone knew I could perform above expectation even bordering on excellent.

    Nevertheless, only my direct supervisor was aware of all the facts of my case and he never shared them with the MT [because I asked him not to]. Thus for the MT I was a case of lost motivation, reasons unknown. Despite that, considerable effort was executed both on team level as well on MT level to help me out.

    More or less the action was as follows:

    - Instead of doing long-term project with uncertain result they put me on important but short-term project so I could see the positive effect of my work immediately and boost my self-confidence.
    - Every time I did something good, an MT member would drop by the office to congratulate me in front of everyone
    - I never heard a single nasty word about me; no-one spoke about my performance and very importantly they all avoided in making me feel patronized. In line of this I did get negative evaluation for one of those years and was punished financially. I wanted this as I was afraid that if I get a "hand-out" I might loose some of the motivation to get better again.
    - They send me working part-time to 4 different teams and also contractors outside the company - meeting and working with many new people on very diverse projects really helped getting back on my feet.
    - When they saw the recovery progressing really nicely they threw me on the most urgent project in the whole company where I contributed substantially, gained more "fame" than ever before and was rewarded financially offsetting the previous punishment and then adding some to my career growth.

    I count all this experience as a resounding success and I have told them many times how grateful I am.
    This is Europe and more importantly the Netherlands. As I have stated here before, there is a bunch of neocon-like politicians in NL [alas, they have the power ATM] that are just itching to destroy the management system of the country, more commonly known as the "the polder model".

    They claim the model is not profitable but what they mean is that it is not profitable for their corporate friends. Society as whole wins BIG TIME by using that model and it is CHEAPER (again, if you look at the whole country, not a single company or industry). What would be the profit for society if they kicked me out and I spiraled in misery and depression? Would I ever recover? Would I ever get another job? Could it be that I'd turn into complete burden for society, incapable of supporting myself. In such desperation people turn to drugs and suicide becomes a viable way out.

      Ohh yhea, I just noticed that I imply in the beginning of the last paragraph that the polder model might not be so profitable if you look at specific business. That is false - the company also wins since if I had not recovered they'd have to spend tens of thousands finding and educating a replacement for me [I did the math, our solution was cheaper indeed than hiring another person]. So, apparently the polder model is not profitable for a very small group of people within companies who probably get their bonuses based on very short-term performance so that the long-term negative effects of fucking your employees is not visible at the moment.

    • by Krishnoid (984597)

      This is Europe and more importantly the Netherlands.

      Ahh, that clears it up. I was starting to get a 'magical fairyland' vibe from this.

  • Then you won't have to 'treat' them any more.

  • That is: I will respond to the article as if it's actually asking what it says it is.

    If there is an idiot on the team, said idiot should be removed from the team. There are a number of ethical reasons for this. Unless you're implementing the Game of LIfe for the umpteenth time, the project does not have a trivial goal. Anyone else working on the project is perforce pulling said idiot's weight, which means they are being rewarded less than they should be, the project is being completed at a lesser rate

  • 1. Lazy Dummies: Who, while they may be dummies, will never exert enough effort to really accomplish anything. You don't have to worry about them, just give them some trivial and unimportant set of tasks and let them go off on their own since the will never endanger the project.

    2. Competent Dummies: They may be dummies relative to everyone else but they have a skill set that is capable of accomplishing some tasks. Assign them tasks commensurate with their skills and keep an eye on them.

    3. Enthusiastic Dummi

    • by geekoid (135745)

      1. Should be trained or dismissed.

      3. Management should be able to catch this really quickly and train them in time management. A good manager will also look for a trend, and deal with it base do a trend. Like is usually take him 20% longer then he says it will.

  • by frovingslosh (582462) on Monday June 02, 2014 @01:40PM (#47148263)

    "Every team has someone who at the bottom of its bell curve...." . Even teams of moderators and editors, right samzenpus?

  • Every team has someone who at the bottom of its bell curve: an individual who has a hard time keeping up with other team members.

    This is simply not true. Some teams are composed of members who are very closely matched.

    (Yes, for any skill, there may necessarily always be someone who's least competent, but that can be by an insignificant margin. In fact, it can be by a margin so small that nobody can figure it out.)

  • Now I know why I always get asked to collect the folding chairs.

    *sigh*

    Plan B is a Chinchilla Ranch. Anyone want a cool chinchilla-fur mouse pad?

  • by ADRA (37398) on Monday June 02, 2014 @01:57PM (#47148443)

    I've been with many people over the years, and generally hovering a little above the mean, I've met a fair number of dev's that have struggled for various reasons (I've been many of these from time to time as well):

    1. The boat anchor -- They have no idea what they're doing and they waste everyone else's time by having correct their lousy work, answering questions (usually the same ones over and over and over), and just generally fristrating to teach anything new to.

    2. The lifer -- Not interested in learning anything new and rarely bother unless it makes their carreer on shaky ground -- These people work at a stable though generally slack pace and learn to develop the same way and will never both to investigate new ways of doing things. They are generally a stabilizing force on the team which is often torn between jumping from one paradigm to the next and those that refuse to change anything. Training them to use new tech can be a drag on the team depending on how stubborn they are

    3. The free radical -- Generally younger and more naive though not always, the free radical will always try to escape from whatever constraints you attempt ot place them into, and will fight vocally and loudly to get what they want. They will often quote material from a blog or big name in the industry without caring at all how it affects the job or workspace they actually occupy.

    4. The well wisher -- Those developers that really really want to do a good job and work hard day in and day out do better themselves, but due to lack of understanding, natural talent, or whatever have a hard time grasping concepts and new areas. You want to help them so badly, and they generally do get better with training, but will never free think themselves out of a problem and will almost always need some level of supervision (and generally they like that).

    5. The paycheck -- They check into work to get paid, and although amazingly brilliant or a complete dullard, will never aspire to anything because they're just there to warm the seat and to get paid. Don't get comfortable with them though because they will almost certainly be the first to jump to the next company.

    I'm sure there are many more I could add to the list, but I have a meeting to jump off to. Hope this rings some truth.

  • How does your country treat it's idiots, mentally ill, homeless, disenfranchised?
  • His policy at GE was to lay off 10% of the workforce every year, then back fill with new hires.

    We called the bottom of the bell curve the canaries [wikipedia.org]. As long as they were around everyone else was safe

  • What do you do when the idiot thinks that he is on par with the higher performing team members and rejects the menial jobs?

    (I have this problem!)

  • The manner in which the team members and project leader treat its weakest member is a symptom of the team culture, and a mark of its health. If you treat people well, they respond – and that always shows in the results you produce.

    So let's pen an article referring to said weakest members as "idiots" and "dummies".

  • ...then your hiring practices suck.

    Normal distributions are expected when doing random sampling. If your interview and hiring process ends up with a random sample, you're doing it wrong.

    Bell-curve performance management systems are predicated on this odd idea, that hiring ends up with a random sample.

    http://www.linkedin.com/today/... [linkedin.com]

    • by bidule (173941)

      If your interview and hiring process ends up with a random sample, you're doing it wrong.

      Higher mean, lower deviation. It could still be a bell curve if it wasn't for the low sampling.

  • by Karl Cocknozzle (514413) <kcocknozzle.hotmail@com> on Monday June 02, 2014 @02:58PM (#47149055) Homepage

    ...We promoted him to Director and now he sits in his office being distracted by shiny things, allowing the rest of us to accomplish the actual business of operating our department.

    Try it sometime! The only way it can backfire is if the person has actual-authority over something important--then the company might go out of business. But other than that I'm drawing a blank on negatives.

  • Am I not supposed to just give them a computer and a Slashdot account?

The reason that every major university maintains a department of mathematics is that it's cheaper than institutionalizing all those people.

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