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When Developers Work Late, Should the Manager Stay? 426

jammag writes "A veteran developer looks back — in irritation — at those times he had to work late and his unskilled manager stayed too, just to look over his shoulder and add worry and fret to the process. Now, that same developer is a manager himself — and recently stayed late to ride herd over late-working developers. 'And guess what? Yep, I hadn't coded in years and never in the language he had to work with.' Yet now he understood: his own butt was on the line, so he was staying put. Still, does it really help developers to have management hovering on a late evening, even if the boss handles pizza delivery?"
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When Developers Work Late, Should the Manager Stay?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 20, 2009 @02:46PM (#30505538)

    ... STFU, keeps the hell out of the way, and does nothing other than bring pizza (and a few beers later on towards the end of the shift), that's ok.

    Anything else is NOT HELPING!

    • by Hognoxious ( 631665 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @02:54PM (#30505614) Homepage Journal

      Many years ago a colleague told me a tale (with misty eyes) of a former boss who'd done exactly that - when everyone had to work through a weekend he came in first, left last and appointed himself as chief coffee maker and senior takeout waiter.

      • by nightgeometry ( 661444 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @03:10PM (#30505734) Journal
        Pretty much what I do. I try to be last to leave (and often first to arrive). Not some macho shit, just that if I expect my team to be in, I'll be in, I won't ask them to work hours I'm not willing to work. And if there isn't anything for me to do, yeah, I'm the tea boy. Weekends, I always go get lunch if we're in.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward
          Gee, go home already! Give your guys a chance to goof off for a few minutes without their boss around!
        • by kklein ( 900361 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @07:07PM (#30507426)

          Me too. I don't see it as "macho" at all, though. I am responsible for the output of this team to those above me, and at the same time, I see it as very much part of my job to make my team look great--for all of us. Part of my job is clearing the BS that I have to deal with from my directs' path so that they can do their best work. I feel equal loyalty to those above as to those below. We are a team and we all have roles--mine is to steer and keep the thing running smoothly.

          What the OP might have had when he was a developer was just a crappy manager. A lot of the job of managing people is just sussing out what kind of manager they want/need. Some people want or need constant intervention--they get lonely or they aren't, um, quite competent. Some people lose heart if you don't come by and cheer them up a little with some encouragement. Most people, though, really just want you out of their hair, especially with the kind of work and the kind of personalities that end up in software development (or in my case test development). That's when knowing what everyone's Starbucks order is comes in handy.

          I've had great bosses and I've had terrible bosses. I try to copy the great ones--being positive without being fake, being both familiar and worthy of respect (by being accountable), and staying out of the way when unnecessary and/or unwanted. Bosses that have hovered over me have gotten an earful at some point. I'm happy to say I never have.

          Seriously, I think the key to being a good manager/teacher/whatever is to think of the bad ones you've had, figure out what made them bad, and never do those things, while thinking of the good ones you've had, what made them good, and trying to do those things all the time.

          • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) * on Sunday December 20, 2009 @09:11PM (#30508010) Journal
            "Part of my job is clearing the BS that I have to deal with from my directs' path so that they can do their best work"

            Indeed, that is the most important part of the job.

            I've been a boss and found it wasn't worth the aggravation. The best boss I ever worked with (as opposed to for) had been in the business for 40yrs yet he could make you feel like you were telling him something new when you answered his "silly" questions. He was a cockney and tough as nails but only brought out that side when his considerable charm and patience didn't work. He's dead now and they just don't make gentlemen like that anymore.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by mjwx ( 966435 )

          Pretty much what I do. I try to be last to leave (and often first to arrive). Not some macho shit, just that if I expect my team to be in, I'll be in, I won't ask them to work hours I'm not willing to work. And if there isn't anything for me to do, yeah, I'm the tea boy. Weekends, I always go get lunch if we're in.

          If every manager were like this, there'd be no animosity towards them.

          In my experience only about 30% of managers are useful like this, 50% are the "puppeteer" type that range between those w

          • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Monday December 21, 2009 @05:51AM (#30510268)

            The smaller the business the more weight every person has to pull. And in turn, an oxygen thief gets exposed very, very quickly.

            I've had my share of big and small companies, and my personal theory is that the only reason small companies can compete with big ones is that smaller businesses run more efficiently. Not on the large scale, because the often praised synergy effects work only for huge companies who have comparably little overhead (the accounting department of a huge company is comparably small to one of a small company, when you compare the percentage of total cost), but on the small scale. You have a lot less dead weight and a lot fewer utterly useless people. They don't survive for long. They get exposed quickly because those in power have a vested interest to get them removed fast, simply because pulling one dead body along is hard to do if you have a team of 50 people compared to a team of 5000.

            It's also a matter of caring, I think. When I worked for a large corporation, I didn't mind so much if someone was sitting around all day goofing off. Hell, I was anything but running at 100% efficiency simply because ... well, why should I if nobody else does? It's a totally different mindset when you pretty much know everyone else in the company.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 20, 2009 @04:43PM (#30506434)

        Many years ago a colleague told me a tale (with misty eyes) of a former boss who'd done exactly that - when everyone had to work through a weekend he came in first, left last and appointed himself as chief coffee maker and senior takeout waiter.

        That kind of stuff breeds loyalty in employees. You'd think more managers would realize this. Especially if the manager's attitude is a humble one about clearing away problems and taking responsibility for issues and decisions. If you put that together in a positive work environment I'll stick around. Heck, I stuck around far too many years at one job that was a clear dead-end for me because I loved working with the team and my boss was a real mensch. Hard to find nice environments like that.

        Sadly, they took that boss out in a political coup. It seems he was too focused on doing a good job managing and building a great team to spend the necessary time on politics, back-stabbing, and subterfuge. The details involved having his IT department's budget gutted to buy a penthouse for the CFO.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by clong83 ( 1468431 )
        Wow! There's all these stories of very noble bosses ordering pizza and helping in supportive roles. I've never had a boss like that. Where do you get one??

        My last job, after I had been there less than a month, I was asked to work all weekend over Memorial Day weekend. He called me on Monday while he was at home barbecuing with his family to ask how all the work was going. I was in the office by myself, wishing I could strangle him through the phone. When he did come by late at night or a weekend,
  • It's called a team (Score:5, Insightful)

    by furball ( 2853 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @02:47PM (#30505540) Journal

    If I'm in the shit, I want you in the shit with me. Though, being a manager and staying late with your developers, your first priority shouldn't be riding them but play a support role. What do they need to get the job done? What can you do to remove obstacles from their way? Food? Drinks? Problems come up. What can you as a manager do to resolve that problem?

    • by DreamsAreOkToo ( 1414963 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @03:11PM (#30505744)

      Let me second this. Managers should add to the efficiency of a team. Make it clear that you're staying to support them, not harass them. Stay out of sight, but make it clear that they can call on you for communication with the rest of the team, as well as keeping people refreshed. Something that may be effective is for them to reason through a problem with you. You may not be able to code in their language, but often times, if they talk through the problem with you, they themselves will have an epiphany. If they're staying late, they're obviously already dedicated to seeing the task through to completion, there's no need to ride them.

      And while you're sitting there, unable to help, I'd pick up a book on the programming language they're using to code. Even if you never put your fingers to the keyboard, it will gain you credibility, which will make you, as a manager, a thousand times more effective.

      • by HiVizDiver ( 640486 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @03:48PM (#30506056)
        In the Army, we had a saying that the officers/senior staff's job, in addition to things like battle planning during exercises/times of conflict, was to be "in charge of the beans and the bullets". Meaning, keep the resources flowing that the team needs to keep working as efficiently as possible.

        It's no different with management - as a manager of a staff of 11, my job is to keep them working as best they can but STAY OUT OF THEIR WAY. I don't have to know the absolute minute details of how/why their doing something, as long as the project stays on track. If it means making sure a delivery of materials is ready so they can start the project on time, it means that. If it means making sure we have proper drawings/documentation before we start the project, it means that. If it means running out to a vendor to resupply something when the shit hits the fan, it means that. If it means buying pizza because we had to work late, it means that. Keep them working and focused on the task, not the support needs. But it does NOT mean I get in their way and hover over them, constantly checking their work. Most managers that I've met who know every specific detail about how to do the job their employees are doing aren't actually good "people" managers - they're micromanagers who usually suffer from a variety of social disorders, shall we say, and couldn't "manage" their way out of a paper bag.

        Good management is as much about knowing what NOT to do as knowing what TO do.

        Obviously, if your team actually ARE a bunch of idiots, you have to change your tactics a bit, but in this economy, why do you have idiots working for you? ;-)
        • by iocat ( 572367 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @04:04PM (#30506168) Homepage Journal
          Agree completely. When I was managing developers, I felt I had to be first in and last out. Not hovering (although, I confess, that happened occaisionally -- maybe six times in a brutal 8 month crunch, when we were getting close to a breathrough), but making sure everyone had everything they needed, whether it was food, laundry, software, dev support services, live rats for their pet snakes, or just someone to bitch to. No one likes putting in long hours when the "boss" is off golfing. If you're interfering with the team you're slowing them down, but you have to be there, even if you're just in your office miserably surfing the web (or sleeping -- I've had "first in, last out" schedules that kept me in the office from 8am to 4am for weeks, so sleeping under the desk was the only way to cope).

          There's always something you can do, whether it's streamlining HR administrivia for people, hunting down the latest versions of SDKs and stuff, or whatever. When there was nothing I could do on the project (not testing or feedback or whatever), I just focused on quality of life issues. My big tip: buy a barbeque grill and cook for your team. Not only is it cheaper than any pre-cooked alternative, it tastes better and people seem to really like the fact that the producer is personally cooking for them. You can buy steaks and potatoes for less than the cost of pizza, and burgers and stuff trend towards less than $3 a person (versus ~$8 for pizza or ~$20 for Indian). A 10pm or 11pm run for ice cream, slim jims, fresh coffee, and cigarettes is also usually appreciated!

          Bottom line, if you can't change the schedule so people can live normal lives, my feeling is you have a firm responsibility to share the pain and enable people to get the task at hand done as easily as possible. But, don't get in the way, don't micromanage, and DO NOT CHAT. If there are two producers there, bored, chewing the fat while they are "there with the team" they may as well go home. Everyone else is concentrating. Pretend you are too! And don't chat with the people doing the heavy lifting unless they are clearly in break mode! You cannot be a tool of procrastination!

        • by michael_cain ( 66650 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @05:39PM (#30506796) Journal
          I recall a question used (many years ago) on some OCS exams. A detailed list of available materials was supplied, along with a sketch of the terrain surrounding a portion of a stream. The question was "How would you build a bridge capable of carrying jeeps across this stream?" The correct answer was "Sergeant, take these men and this pile of stuff and build a bridge across this stream. I'll be back in three hours." Some incorrect answers did get people into various specialist training programs.
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by furball ( 2853 )

            That's a leader, not a manager.

            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by Opportunist ( 166417 )

              The same problem applies: Too many managers are far too concerned with involving themselves in a process that they cannot do their actual job: Supervision, streamlining and organsation.

              It's not your job as an officer to stand in the mud and hold an anchor for the bridge. It's your job to make sure your people can do that. It's your job to tackle the logistics to get the materials here (rather, it's your job to give someone the authority to get them here). It's your job to get someone who knows a bit of stat

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by Maxo-Texas ( 864189 )

            When I got my current job, there were a series of questions like that.

            Fortunately, I'd been clued in that all the questions required that I think in terms of using a team.

            My years of EQ guild leadership helped a great deal then and later on the job in terms of delegation.

            I'd learned you can't do it all, you have to trust people, and they prefer you set the goal and let them work out the details.

    • exactly, although i suspect that the right answer depends on the kind of person you are.

      for me, very few things piss me off more quickly than getting a request to stay late to finish something for a deadline without even a hint of an offer of help from my management. this usually means i turn into the bad guy asking my team to work extra hours to deal with the most recent crisis caused by one of the other teams on our project (conveniently located elsewhere in the country and impossible to contact after 4pm

    • by Ronin Developer ( 67677 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @03:28PM (#30505878)

      This is what I was taught as a naval officer. If I asked my men to stay late because the regular duty section couldn't get it the work done, I stayed. And, if it were left to the duty section and I wasn't on duty, my men always knew how to get in touch with me.

      It isn't about helping them do the work (we're not necessarily the technical experts-although at times I was)- it's not about moral support - it's about making sure they have what they need to get the job done - and, when the work's done, it's about making sure they, not I, get the credit for a job well done.

      As a manager today, I still think this is the way it should be done.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        Yeah this was my reaction as well and I was really suprised by the actual question. I thought the question was going to be. "Will my employees think I'm a jerk for making them work late and then punching out at 6pm even if I'm not technically qualified to work on the project myself?"

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Fjan11 ( 649654 )
        I agree, but I would add another important point I picked up when training for naval officer: You have to keep some distance to give the men some room to goof off / bitch about the captain / etc. Specifically, we were told not to enter their quarters to have dinner with unless invited, and if invited for a drink/dinner to keep it brief. In a work situation it often may not be appropriate to go off and have lunch on your own somewhere, but I still think it's a good idea to make sure you are not always around
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheRaven64 ( 641858 )

      Totally agree. The manager's job is to make the team productive. Part of this job is sitting between the programmers and senior management and making sure that both parties get what they need from the other, and solving any communication problems. Part of it is making sure that members of the team are communicating with each other effectively, and making sure that they can work together. And part of it is staying out of the way when your presence won't help. By all means stay and order food. Depending

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by sfranklin ( 95470 )

      ... being a manager and staying late with your developers, your first priority shouldn't be riding them but play a support role.

      Absolutely. There's the very basic support, like ordering the food and making sure the cleaning people don't turn off all the lights, which is very useful. But more importantly, being available when something comes up that the developer needs help with. Question about requirements comes up? The manager can call the functional guy and ask. Problem with access? The manager can call up the sysadmins and get the ball moving. It's pretty rare that something is so completely cut-and-dried that the developer can w

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nine-times ( 778537 )

      Though, being a manager and staying late with your developers, your first priority shouldn't be riding them but play a support role. What do they need to get the job done? What can you do to remove obstacles from their way?

      That sounds to me like what a manager should be doing anyway, even if no one is staying late. At least, if you assume for the sake of argument that you have a good team made of people who understand their jobs, then riding them to make sure they do their job shouldn't be something you have to do too much of. A manager's job should generally be more about removing obstacles that aren't part of the workers' jobs so that the workers can focus on doing their jobs.

      But to the question at hand, I say yes, stay

  • depends (Score:5, Insightful)

    by unformed ( 225214 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @02:47PM (#30505546)

    If the developers are staying late because the manager messed up, it doesn't hurt to stay late (but stay out of the way and order them food)

    If the developers are staying late because they come in late or they messed up, no, the manager doesn't need to stay.

    • Surely it's the managers fault by definition... Under what scenario does a project slide to the panic point without it being the managers fault?

      If a developer is fucking up, or the schedule is sliding for whatever reason, then it's the managers job to notice it and do something about it before the project becomes late as a result.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by CDS ( 143158 )
        Not to defend inept management... but there ARE scenarios that necessitate late nights (or early mornings -- I've gotten several 3AM wakeup calls!) without having a schedule slide or a developer not pulling his weight.

        The most common example at my work is a sudden critical-situation customer issue. Hardware fails or your product crashes (or is misconfigured, or a user error causes something vital to get deleted, or... there are a million ways things can go bad quickly). The customer is losing money every
    • Re:depends (Score:4, Insightful)

      by elnyka ( 803306 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @04:43PM (#30506430) Homepage

      If the developers are staying late because the manager messed up, it doesn't hurt to stay late (but stay out of the way and order them food)

      If the developers are staying late because they come in late or they messed up, no, the manager doesn't need to stay.

      The reasons developers *must* stay late vary widely, depending on context, scheduling, external pressures (.ie. new requirements due to a merge that must be implemented immediately to avoid bleeding tens of $Ks/hour.) That is, they don't fit *at all* in that *he screwed up/they screwed up* dichotomy (which isn't even mutually exclusive to begin with.)

      It is obvious that you do not have management/team lead experience. This is because, if I'm a manager and my guys screwed up and must stay late to fix it, I might need to stay with them to make sure they get it done. After all, the sign of a good manager is that he takes responsibility for the performance of the professionals under his watch, in particular if the thing to get done is critical, independently of who screws up.

      Which leads to the following: the sign of a professional is that he does what needs to be done to get the job done and to conduct his job for the benefit of the business. BTW, if anyone has a problem with that statement, they should quit their jobs. It is dishonest to accept a check for a job function that is not being completed under that premise.

      I might not be responsible for the screw up of someone else, but if called to step in, I would (if it is feasible for me to do so.) Within reason, professionals step up to the plate. Prima Donas and sensitive bitches with vaginal silicosis (who are a dime a dozen in the software world) do not, opting instead for trying to explain every single scheduling or work problem in terms of "who else other than me fucked up."

      • Re:depends (Score:4, Insightful)

        by williamhb ( 758070 ) on Monday December 21, 2009 @01:11AM (#30509242) Journal

        It is obvious that you do not have management/team lead experience. This is because, if I'm a manager and my guys screwed up and must stay late to fix it, I might need to stay with them to make sure they get it done. After all, the sign of a good manager is that he takes responsibility for the performance of the professionals under his watch, in particular if the thing to get done is critical, independently of who screws up. Which leads to the following: the sign of a professional is that he does what needs to be done to get the job done and to conduct his job for the benefit of the business. BTW, if anyone has a problem with that statement, they should quit their jobs. It is dishonest to accept a check for a job function that is not being completed under that premise.

        I might regret saying this but the "which leads to the following" isn't entirely true. As a manager of staff, I do have responsibility and visibility across the whole project. But my staff don't. They don't have the time to each know every last detail about what everybody else is doing and how they are performing; that's my job -- they are trusting me to manage the project to a successful result. If Fred drops the ball, then sure enough I need to find a way to get it picked up. But your last line isn't a very helpful way of approaching that. If you insist to Joe-down-the-corridor that "he should quit" / "is being dishonest" if he isn't happy about missing his son's birthday to pick up Fred's mess at the last minute "because that's what's needed to get the job done" -- that sounds like passing the buck on your responsibility for the project, and unless you are in a very high-paying environment (money covers many sins), it isn't helpful. The way you've phrased it really does sound like you are saying "As manager I have a special responsibility for the whole project; but you work for me so that means YOU have a special responsibility for the whole project, SUCKER!" No, if I need Joe to pick up Fred's mess, and don't want him to hand his notice in the next day, I need to show him the respect of recognising that what I'm asking him to do really is a great effort and will be appreciated -- not "it's just part of your job, what are you complaining about, jump to it". Especially as, let's face it, you usually go to a staff-member you trust to pick up the ball at the last minute -- a person you definitely don't want quitting because they feel they've been ill-treated by their manager.

  • Yes...but (Score:5, Informative)

    by voss ( 52565 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @02:49PM (#30505572)

    Dont be a micromanager. Just be there for the employees and let them know that its okay to ask for help.

  • Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

    by davecrusoe ( 861547 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @02:50PM (#30505574) Homepage

    Yes -- and pizza is all the better. It's great to know that the challenge is being shared, IF it's a healthy, collaborative effort.

    OTOH, if it's an over-the-shoulder kind of assistance, that's rather frustrating. Not so generative, and it's simple enough to know the difference...

    • by furball ( 2853 )

      Nothing says "I'm cheaping out on the food" than pizza.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by poopdeville ( 841677 )

        It's sad how expensive bad pizza is, too. For only a dollar or two more, you can get a "local" pizza. Managers seem to love Pizza Hut and Domino's for some reason. At least in my experience.

        • by furball ( 2853 )

          I'm generally against pizza. It isn't the healthiest thing in the world to eat. I'd rather get people something healthier if possible. But hey, sometimes the team really wants pizza. Nothing you can do at that point.

      • I haven't bought pizza in 5 years, mostly because I get too much of it at work.
    • Re:Yes (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Hurricane78 ( 562437 ) <deleted.slashdot@org> on Sunday December 20, 2009 @04:05PM (#30506178)

      Fuck pizza! There is little worse than pizza if you need to work hard. It makes you tired and sweaty, you suddenly wonder why you have to read things twice, slowly, before you understand them, and your cardiovascular system is basically “sparks and explosions”.

      The best thing to make your brain work? Sleep, air, sleep, water, healthy food and sleep!
      Taking pride in lack of sleep is like taking pride in hitting yourself with a hammer.
      Taking pride in living on coffee, mountain dew and pizza, is like taking pride in drinking a shot glass of poison once a day.
      It is not cool, it is not “manly”, it is not hackerish, is is not geeky.
      It”s Joe-Lower-Class-level retard-“coolness”.

      Real hackers know that the body is the most impressive machine known to man. And that the only thing cooler than having a well set-up, impressive, high-performance computer do what you want, is having a well set-up, impressive, high-performance body/brain do what you want.

      Healthy food is part of a healthy, collaborative effort.

      P.S.: And I don’t mean hippie food that tastes like crap, either. :) I mean a large perfectly slow-oven-cooked steak, some good salad, tasty potatoes with some spring onions and parsley. That’s healthy *and* incredibly tasty. :)

      • Re:Yes (Score:4, Funny)

        by Rewind ( 138843 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @05:57PM (#30506916)
        I mean this in the nicest way possible, but if I had to work late and I found out that you got our pizza, mountain dew, and coffee replaced with a salad... well... bad things might happen :P
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Hurricane78 ( 562437 )

          Boy, you haven’t eaten my salad yet. It’s got a huge steak, potatoes and stuff right next to it. :D

          But I agree with you on the “no compromises” policy.
          There is no reason, why pizza can’t be healthy without making compromises.
          Take finely milled whole wheat flour (looks and tastes like normal flour, but is very healthy, because of the B-vitamins), add normal tomato sauce, (nothing wrong with that), some toppings and cheese. Then eat a small salad as appetizer to balance the chees

      • Re:Yes (Score:4, Funny)

        by tool462 ( 677306 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @06:11PM (#30507046)

        Taking pride in lack of sleep is like taking pride in hitting yourself with a hammer.
        Taking pride in living on coffee, mountain dew and pizza, is like taking pride in drinking a shot glass of poison once a day.
        It is not cool, it is not “manly”, it is not hackerish, is is not geeky.
        It”s Joe-Lower-Class-level retard-“coolness”.

        Speaking as a coffee drinking, beer swilling, pizza eating, 4-hour-a-night sleeping Joe-Lower-Class-level retard, I agree completely. I can take a hammer better than anybody. They don't call me Mjolnir's Bane for nothing.

        Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to my hooker & blackjack party.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Idiomatick ( 976696 )
        http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn9968-top-10-steps-to-a-better-brain.html?full=true#faq2 [newscientist.com]

        Above article is extremely relevant. I'm sure most nerds would find the whole thing interesting. The one section however is specifically about how foods effect your brain function and which ones are good.
  • by UnknowingFool ( 672806 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @02:50PM (#30505580)
    If deadlines are coming and you need to stay late with your employees make sure the situation: Everybody's butt is on the line including yours. That being said, also make the distinction between shepherding the process as opposed to micro-managing the process. Sometimes, a management decision might need to be made late. If you're there that helps ease the stress of an already stressful period. You're also there so be helpful so that they code focus on coding. Documentation needs screenshots before product goes out: You can handle that. QA needs someone to tweak the test plan? You can handle that.
    • by Dastardly ( 4204 )

      One decision the manager should be making is if there is something wrong that is out of your control, perhaps the responsibility of some other development team that thinks they are done, so left on time. The manager should be there to decide whether it should be worked around, call in the manager of the other dev team to get their butt in, or call it a night and return in the morning.

      Leave the devs alone and the most likely choice would probably be a work around that I expect is usually non-optimal because

  • Only if... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by akpoff ( 683177 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @02:55PM (#30505632) Homepage

    Only if the manager stays late to 1) eliminate external distractions, 2) order meals, 3) test, or 4) write macros, scripts or other shippable elements, if the product supports such features.

    Hanging around just to make sure developers stays put or focused implies the developers aren't professionals or the manager isn't doing his job (item 1 above). If true, then it's the manager's fault for hiring or keeping the developer around and no amount of babysitting is going to deliver quality code. If not true, then an insulting hindrance and is quite likely to hinder or prevent delivery of quality code.

    Lastly, there's always the question "Why are developers staying late anyway?" and whose fault is it. If it's the manager's fault, and it always is unless we're talking about developers who work night shifts, then hanging around to make sure developers get work done the manager caused or should have prevented is likely to cause resentment. Tread lightly and focus on items 1 - 4 above.

    • If it's the manager's fault, and it always is unless we're talking about developers who work night shifts

      You can delude yourself into thinking a middle manager has the power to dictate deadlines if you like but in a lot of organisations that simply isn't true. The deadline is decided by those higher up based on external pressures and the desires and will of upper management. The middle manager has to try to make it work. Often it is expected by upper management that developers will stay back late to do it.

  • If the manager is staying so they can micromanage, then no it isn't useful. If they are continually hovering over the shoulders of their people and yelling at them for not working faster, then it'll be a detriment.

    However, it can be useful. In part it shows solidarity. The manager is saying "I'm not better than you, I don't get to go home just because of who I am. We ALL stay here until it is finished." Also if they do a good job of staying hands off, but being there to solve problems. Anything comes up tha

  • by RedK ( 112790 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @02:59PM (#30505656)
    We all go home or nobody goes home.
  • It depends on the urgency of the situation, the relationship with the employees, and the style of the developer.

    When there is some code that needs to be demo'd the next day, and you may have to omit some features or make some things less functional the boss MUST STAY until it's fit for demo. His input will be needed to decide what's OK to leave out, what must be finished.

    If it's less urgent, and the deadline is spread out over days and the developers work better without interference, then the boss can just

    • Re:It depends (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Dastardly ( 4204 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @03:32PM (#30505924)

      Oh, and ideally the manager should have figured out how not to have it come down to late-night; but we don't live in an ideal world.

      This is highly unlikely in typical development, the reason is that schedules are based on a web of falsehoods. Not lies, just things that everyone should know are false but pretend are true.

      Project scope usually ends up being a falsehood, the scope changes and everyone pretends it has not and the schedule for the previous scope can still be hit. Which leads to late nights and these are typically not the fault of direct management but hte whole management structure.

      Time to complete the project is usually a falsehood because estimates are made which by definition are wrong, and the schedule is set as if those estimates are fact. Is this the fault of the direct manager or the whole organization.

      All of which lead to attempts to over-estimate which are bad because most of the time the project fills the time available, which means they cost more than they should.

      I am sure a lot of us can think of many other things in project management that are treated as fact when in reality they are false.

  • If the boss is the type that wants to micromanage stuff they don't even understand, get them as far away as possible, they only cause problems.

    On the other hand, if they let the experts do what they are payed for and stay out of the way, it's a great thing.
    Here's some reasons why:

    Since the boss has to stay late, they aren't as likely to tell the underlings to stay late unless there's at least a half decent reason.
    (The ones that don't stay, tend to get an attitude of fire & forget, ie you stay at work ti
  • Yes. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 4iedBandit ( 133211 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @03:04PM (#30505688) Homepage

    I don't develop. I sysadmin. Recently I was asked to build out 15 new servers. At 5:30pm. It was an emergency and had to be done ASAP, oddly enough because the coders wrote a crappy code release that required a threefold increase in horsepower just to handle the normal load and the companies QA process never picked up on this highly important fact and the code was pushed to production where it ground things to a standstill. I know the company isn't going to do squat for me. I don't get overtime. I won't get a bonus. I won't get comp time.

    For my managers manager to stay the night was a show of solidarity. He doesn't know how to build the systems, but at least he was there. Now the important thing is that he wasn't watching over my shoulder every step of the way. He'd ask for updates every couple of hours and he went out and brought me dinner so I could stay working, but otherwise stayed out of the way and let me do the work.

    Psychologically it helped to know that he also missed playing with his kids and putting them to bed that night. Sometimes inspiring your employees is as simple as demonstrating that you share their pain, even if you can't share the workload.

    Now if this behavior becomes the norm, it doesn't matter what management does. People will soon be burnt out and will leave.

    • Re:Yes. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by __aasqbs9791 ( 1402899 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @03:48PM (#30506058)

      You hit it on the head. The management style matters, but also the willingness to share the pain but stay out of the way. Don't distract, but don't be completely invisible, either. Management makes a difference. Sometimes good, sometimes bad. For me, the definition of a good employee is one who knows when to get in the way of things (because they are being done poorly and it needs to change) and when to get out of the way (because they would only be a hindrance), and that is regardless of position, experience, or type of work being performed. So far I haven't worked anywhere that had more than half of the positions filled by good employees, but my happiness was directly proportional to the percentage of good employees.

  • by daemonenwind ( 178848 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @03:05PM (#30505700)

    My boss has the perfect answer for this:
    Get everyone set up with dinner/beverages. Then, go home, sign in from there, walk away from the computer and keep the pager close.

    We page him if we need anything, or when we get finished.

    Out of our hair, but still handy if needed. Perfect.

  • No (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 20, 2009 @03:05PM (#30505704)

    How about nobody works late and stick toghether as human beings ?

    I've worked 4 years in the game industry and this is just making me sick. The company makes millions and millions and makes programmers work late without any compensation. They even break the law doing so (at least were I used to work) and don't care about it at all.

    • Re:No (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Dutch Gun ( 899105 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @08:21PM (#30507794)

      The videogame industry is pretty notorious for this, and with fairly good reason. Unfortunately, with unemployment rising and the economy faltering, companies feel a bit more free to demand mandatory overtime from game devs. There is also much less resistance to overtime from young, single programmers with no real family commitments. Most people in the game industry love what they do, so for some, it's not a horrible hardship to work longer hours.

      Honestly, I'd start planning an exit strategy. It's always a bit scary to switch jobs, but an employer's attitude toward mandatory overtime is a pretty huge issue for me. On the plus side, you're reaching a threshold of experience which will make it much easier to switch jobs if needed. Believe it or not, there are a few companies out there who don't believe your weekends and evenings automatically belong to the company. It takes a while to ferret them out, though.

  • If you are working late because there is a crisis it might be that although a manager cannot do the technical work they can evaluate the situation and determine what to do next.

    A few years ago I was in this situation; we had two developers working late to resolve a customer problem that was critical. My team was very committed and were technically excellent. I knew that I was just getting in the way in many respects. I kept away as far as possible, just keeping an eye on progress (or rather the lack of prog

  • Yes, make the manager stay and see what us devs have to go though to make deadlines. Deadlines that are usually set by clueless managers. Especially if the manager is salaried and the workers are paid hourly. Get SOMETHING useful out of what the company is paying them. :)
  • A good manager would not put his employees into such a situation in the first place.

    Overtime in general, and unplanned overtime in particular, can only be attributed to one (or both) of two causes:

    1. management failed to create a realistic schedule with sufficient “Murphy” factor and / or failed to ensure the work remained on schedule (avoid dead ends or prevent goldbricking); or
    2. insufficient resources (financial, personnel, materiel, or otherwise) were provided for the job at hand.

    As you can s

    • by Hairy1 ( 180056 )

      A third possibility is that there is an external crisis, such as a customer with a system down, and it has escalated through support to the development team. There are rare occasions that a few developers might be asked to stay late, however I generally agree that regular overtime to meet unrealistic deadlines is counter productive. It burns out developers, leaves no room for anything unforeseen, will encourage youor better developers to leave while the worse ones will stay. Overtime is a short term last re

    • A good manager has godlike omnipotent powers to handle all externalities and all incidents and occurences of Murphy's Law etc.....

      Unplanned overtime happens because sometimes, sh*t happens, even in the best run organization. The best manager is still not responsible or able to control what sales promised the customer nor what legal said were restrictions on the code, nor the schedule changes the customer asked for.

  • by unassimilatible ( 225662 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @03:11PM (#30505756) Journal
    That seems to be the gist of this article.
  • He could just learn to be a competent project planner so that you don't wind up having to work late nights and weekends ....

  • If the manager demands that I fuck up my evening/sleep then that's fair enough but he also must stay. agreed he shouldn't interfere, but there's no way im staying that late if he's not also prepared to sacrifice his evening.

  • It is annoying when the CIO inquires every five minutes about how things are going, and if we are nearing resolution, offering different ways of patching the problem, each diverting from the problem at hand every single time.

    Then again, it is terribly annoying when the CIO asks for something very last minute, demands that it be ready for tommorow, and then takes off, leaving everyone to work on it until 10pm.

    Not sure which is more annoying. I wish there was a middle ground somewhere.

  • Yes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sjames ( 1099 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @03:29PM (#30505900) Homepage Journal

    Yes, the manager should be staying late as well to handle everything that is not development. Make coffee, order pizza, shoo the cleaning staff away, even call people for the developers if desired.

    If they're looking over shoulders, making people nervous pacing and repeatedly asking "are we there yet" like a 5 year old on a trip, they really should NEVER be there, that is, they shouldn't BE the manager.

    A helpful manager after hours builds team cohesion and inspires the team to follow them. They prove themselves worthy of being followed.Since nobody wants to stay late because they have to, the manager who stays proves that he's not just giving the shirt off of other people's backs.

    A manager who could be helpful but instead goes home sends the entirely the wrong message. He proves that he thinks himself better and that he expects to simply crack the whip from on high and have the peons grovel in response. He will easily over-promise to the team's detriment since he won't himself ever suffer for it.

    All of this presumes it's really an all hands on crunch. OTOH, some developers just like to stay late for some focused work when everything is quiet. Where there is flexibility, they may do that for a few days then take a day off or they may work late and come in late where permitted during normal times. There is no need for the manager to stay in those cases. A good manager will know when that's the case.

  • by dmomo ( 256005 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @04:08PM (#30506208)

    A lot of posts here simplify the situation. People are staying late because of the Manager, or people staying late because of crappy code.

    In my experience, people always seem to stay late when there's a deadline. It's just the way it works. Because no matter how reasonable the deadline or how awesome the code, there's always more that can be squeezed in or improved at the 11th hour.

    In practice, deadlines are always unreasonable and code is often crappy (or can be improved). If we waited until things were perfect, nothing would ever go out.

    So as far as the Management issue goes, do whatever it takes to make your team happy and productive. Stay late for whatever reason so long as that reason is helpful to your team. Be ready to advocate that developers be compensated for putting in extra effort.

    All in all, reading through these responses, it's clear who the biggest beneficiary is. Pizza companies.

  • by magnusrex1280 ( 1075361 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @06:21PM (#30507124)
    I've been working in IT since I was a teenager, and I'm currently in the second term of my return to college. I have a BS in comp. sci. and I'm undecided at the moment as to what my end goal is this time around. I've been considering aiming for management in my field, and this thread has truly given me some direction, and some real things to hold true to if I ever achieve the status of "manager." Thanks to all for the great discussion.
  • by Channing ( 514228 ) <channingwalton@@@mac...com> on Sunday December 20, 2009 @06:36PM (#30507226) Homepage

    Apart from agreeing with other replies about supporting the team and staying our of their way, the manager should also be pondering how they got to this mess in the first place. Having to work late is a screw-up, somewhere. Sometimes its because of things outside of the team's control but most of the time it isn't. If it happens regularly then there is definitely a systemic problem with the process that needs to be sorted out.

  • 40 hours (Score:5, Insightful)

    by QuoteMstr ( 55051 ) <dan.colascione@gmail.com> on Sunday December 20, 2009 @07:14PM (#30507466)

    In this country, our work-week is 40 hours. Our ancestors fought hard and made great sacrifices to win this right and pass it down to us, and I'll be damned if I'll see it steadily erode. Routine unpaid overtime is harmful not only to ourselves individually, but to the entire social contract we've managed to hammer out between capital and labor.

    Respect yourself. Do not work more than 40 hours without getting the same time and a half premium someone in any other field would earn. If a project is late, that's not your fault. It's management's, and management ought to pay for the mistake.

  • Support Networks (Score:4, Interesting)

    by stimpleton ( 732392 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @07:37PM (#30507588)
    For several years at performance reviews, I have tacked on the request "it would be great if the employer really worked on improving staff support networks, which would in turn leave people like me free to do what we are paid to do, and do it in a more timely manner.

    I may as well of said nothing.

    A couple months back a person resigned from another biz and she was talented but also an absolute stunner(drop dead gorgeous) and my manager wanted her in our organisation.

    Her reply was a short but polite "No thanks, I really am looking for a place with strong support networks.". It was a real blow to him, and a wake up call. Now our managers "support", not "oversee". It has worked well, and we seldom pull late shifts now, as the jobs done.
  • by eulernet ( 1132389 ) on Sunday December 20, 2009 @07:49PM (#30507650)

    In my opinion, the manager must tell the developers to return to their home, and take a good night sleep.

    A few years ago (when I worked as a game programmer), it was common to do some all-nighters, since everybody was doing it.
    There were some problems, though:
      - the code tends to be crappier, since we are tired
      - jetlag: if you are alone, this is not a problem, but it's difficult to live as a couple
      - burnout: you'll pay your night of work
      - you can be very productive the first night, but not for an extended period

    Also, when the project finishes, all the tensions disappears, and everybody is completely demotivated, resulting in their resignation in 30% of the cases.

    It's not reasonable to work like a crazy when you approach the deadline.

    Now, I much prefer the agile approach:
      instead of trying to put all you want in the product, just try to put what can fit within the given amount of time.

    There are some interesting techniques that you may apply:
      - YAGNI: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/You_ain't_gonna_need_it [wikipedia.org] instead of implementing a ton of things, implement the simplest set of what is needed
      - BDD: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Behavior_Driven_Development [wikipedia.org] instead of coding without a goal (except to finish the product), ask your manager to write executable specifications. This includes also to concentrate on finishing the features one after another (and not keeping them half-finished, due to lack of time).

    And the most important thing:
        if you cannot add a feature in your program, because you lack of time, DON'T ADD IT !

  • by adamkennedy ( 121032 ) <adamk@c[ ].org ['pan' in gap]> on Monday December 21, 2009 @01:25AM (#30509292) Homepage

    Apart from the tea lady role, the other good thing about having management around is that when the shit is hitting the fan, at some point you are often going to need to do some rather unconventional and similarly scary things to fix it.

    Having the manager a "Hey boss" yell away means you can at least get "approval" for whatever it is straight away. Now the plebs can't be scapegoated or blamed for solving it by doing something against policy. Granted, it would be nice if that wasn't needed, but the fact you CAN get approval for crazy things quickly means the people fixing the problem are less likely to hesitate due to fear for their own skin.

  • by ReadParse ( 38517 ) <john@fun[ ]ow.com ['nyc' in gap]> on Monday December 21, 2009 @10:27AM (#30511758) Homepage

    I manage developers and they can count on me to be here if they're here (and when they're not). But I'm also *not* a useless lackey. I'm a developer myself and I'm here because I add something to the process. In addition to going to get the food (which I always do), I can actually participate in the process of making decisions and solving problems.

    In my opinion, if you can't do that, you shouldn't be in the position. And you certainly shouldn't be looking over anybody's shoulder if you're not needed. Give them the space. Surely you have some of your own work you can do while you wait.

    But yes, be there -- unless you can't be there without getting in the way, in which case you should leave.

Houston, Tranquillity Base here. The Eagle has landed. -- Neil Armstrong