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When Developers Work Late, Should the Manager Stay?

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the stop-watching-me-think dept.

Programming 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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As long as he knows how to ... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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!

Re:As long as he knows how to ... (5, Insightful)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505614)

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.

Re:As long as he knows how to ... (5, Insightful)

nightgeometry (661444) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505734)

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:As long as he knows how to ... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505892)

Gee, go home already! Give your guys a chance to goof off for a few minutes without their boss around!

Re:As long as he knows how to ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505954)

I wish you were my boss. :P

It's called a team (5, Insightful)

furball (2853) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505540)

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?

Re:It's called a team (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505604)

Food? Drinks?

A blow job would be nice, thanks.

Re:It's called a team (5, Funny)

furball (2853) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505692)

A blow job would be nice, thanks.

This is a good time to go over sexual harassment laws. A blow job may not be sexual harassment. Your standard sexual harassment training may have taught you that it is and it may be for your particular business. However, the laws on sexual harassment is a little bit more complex than that.

It all has to do with the context of the action and the nature of the business. For example, if you work in a finance company walking up to someone and asking, "Her breasts look wrong. Can you review it?" That's sexual harassment. If you work in publishing and are dealing with models and your role in the company is related to photography walking up and asking an editor "Her breasts look wrong. Can you review it?" is not sexual harassment.

So in review, I can't tell you if a blow job is sexual harassment or not. Chances are that it is. However, it all depends on the context of your business. I mean if you're working in a brothel and there's 30 dudes wanting blow jobs asking a manager to help out by giving someone a blow job so that the dudes waiting for a blow job can be serviced and get on with their way would not be sexual harassment.

As they say, "And knowing's half the battle."

Re:It's called a team (1)

digitalunity (19107) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505720)

So what you're really saying is if they give programmers a new title of "Bitch" the boss is allowed to bend them over the table and it's legal?

Well that's just F'ed up.

Re:It's called a team (2, Funny)

furball (2853) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505738)

Addendum: If you are working in publishing and you are dealing with models and your role in the company is related to photography, walking up to an editor and saying, "Nice rack!" is still sexual harassment. Just thought I'd clear that up in case anyone was wondering.

Re:It's called a team (3, Insightful)

nahdude812 (88157) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505918)

Unless the editor is reviewing a photo which contains a DC-providing high air flow cable managing server cabinet.

Or the editor works for a tabloid and you're suggesting the words they should use for the headline they're working on.

It's always about context. =)

In the real world though, there are many seemingly innocent things which can be considered harassment if there is a historical reason it might be. For example, if there was an office rumor about someone having had intercourse on a pool table, asking them if they'd like to play a round of billiards with you can still be harassment. Intent is a very big part of the consideration.

Re:It's called a team (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505922)

Unless they are, say, holding a rack of lamb , or a rack and pinion steering gear, or antlers, which the models will pose with...

Re:It's called a team (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505942)

But if you work supplying interrogation equipment to the CIA, and you walk up to somebody in your department and say "nice rack," it's not sexual harrassment.

Likewise, if you're a supervisor of the meat department in the local supermarket, saying "nice breasts" may not be harrassment, either.

It's all about context.

Re:It's called a team (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505748)

You've clearly given this *way* too much thought. I, on the other hand, apparently haven't given it enough. lol

Re:It's called a team (3, Funny)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505850)

It's also not possible to sexually harass your boss.

For instance, if you have a hot boss and you call her "sugar tits" then chances are she might fire you but you would not be violating any laws so that would be the worst of your punishment.

If, on the other hand, your hot boss calls you "sugar tits", chances are that you are just a typical fat slashdotter and she isn't attracted to you anyways, but is merely making fun of you. Aren't laws fun.

Re:It's called a team (2, Informative)

furball (2853) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505986)

It's also not possible to sexually harass your boss.

It is possible sexually harass your boss. When you get fired, this is cause for your termination.

Re:It's called a team (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505952)

If you've got experience, I might hire you. Let's see some pics first.

Re:It's called a team (4, Funny)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30506048)

A blow job would be nice, thanks.

You obviously have a different manager to me. *shudder*

Re:It's called a team (5, Insightful)

DreamsAreOkToo (1414963) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:It's called a team (1)

sdnoob (917382) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505968)

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...

at least until the worker drones see you reading 'c++ programming for dummies'

Re:It's called a team (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505754)

I agree. As a an employee (sysadmin) I liked it when managers stayed with the crew when we had to work late. They wouldn't hover over us. They would do their own work and basically be available in case anything was needed from them. It was kind of nice to know they were being inconvenienced (for lack of a better word) as much as everyone else, and by their own volition.

Now as a manager myself, in a new company, I have a crew (of developers and sysadmins) that is behind on their projects, partly because they haven't been managed very well and have actually been putting in less than 40 hours. I will be staying around with them when they need to work late for the reasons above and to make sure they actually stay when they are supposed to (I don't like having to do so for that last reason but it's one thing I have to do right now to keep the projects going as they need to be).

Hovering over the staff is a bad thing. Managers shouldn't do that. It hurts the situation more than it helps. If you can't trust your people enough to work properly without being babysat (there's a difference between being at the office with the crew and babysitting them), then it's possible you either have some sort of trust issues on your end or you need some different people on your crew.

Re:It's called a team (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505760)

In tech dev't work there's always trade-offs we encounter; like "what users are afffected by xyz if we need to skip it in this release?" Enlightened management (no, that's not an oxymoron) CAN answer questions like that, where the techie's haven't any way of answering. Stay with the troops, man. And if you gotta leave, they need to know they can/shd contact you when needed.

Re:It's called a team (1)

blackcoot (124938) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505794)

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 eastern) screwing up.

Re:It's called a team (4, Insightful)

Ronin Developer (67677) | more than 4 years ago | (#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:It's called a team (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505888)

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 on the team, you may want to be there anyway - if their evening is ruined by having to stay and work late, then knowing that your evening is also suffering the same fate, even if you don't achieve much as a result, can help them as a team, but don't get under their feet.

Leadership is often like dancing tango: the trick is knowing when to do nothing.

Re:It's called a team (1)

IWasNotMe (598895) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505940)

Agreed. If people work overtime, the boss should do everything possible to support the team.

I'd also like to add that in this day and age, there really isn't much need for developers to work over time in the office. If managers want developers to work extra time, they should be OK with them doing it on their own terms. If the developer prefers working in the office, then great. But many developers (particularly the more senior ones) have families. Letting them go home, have dinner with the family then work later in the evening will help productivity.

I suppose there are some situations where working in the office is required in order to be productive, but with all the advances in networking technology it's more rare.

Re:It's called a team (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505980)

Absolutely agreed! When I have to stay late, my boss usually stays and goes out to get us dinner and run errands for us. If I want a smoothy from the place four blocks away? All I have to do is ask him, and he's happy to grab it for me. In his words, he can't do much to help us, so he'll do whatever he can to support us. So as long as you're playing a support role and not a slave-driver role, stay late with your team!

depends (5, Insightful)

unformed (225214) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505590)

I would add it also depends on how close their friendship is with the developers as a weighting factor. If they are buddy-buddy, it should be as easy as a mutual agreement and not really a decision.

Re:depends (4, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 4 years ago | (#30506014)

Well, the obvious solution would be to actually talk about this with the developer, "buddy-buddy" or not.

I'm a bit amazed no one mentioned this before. From TFA:

I said, “You know, I think I got this. You don’t have to stay.”

Sounds like he expressed this to his manager, though not as clearly as he could've been -- "I think it would be easier to do this alone." But what makes this especially annoying is the manager's response:

“Sure I do!” he said with sincere enthusiasm.

Basically discarding what the developer wants or feels might be most useful.

So when it's his turn, he makes no mention of actually discussing it with the developer in question. Instead, he asks the entire fucking Internet for advice, instead of the one person he should have asked.

The same goes for a parent. Trying to decide whether to get chocolate or vanilla ice cream for your kid's birthday? Ask them!

Re:depends (1)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505874)

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:depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505916)

Wouldn't the developers still be resentful of the manager for working 7-3 and taking off while they work 60-80 hours a week? At least the manager isn't slacking! Surely that would add to the comradery, no?

Did he annoy his developers though? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505560)

The author indicates that when he was a developer, his manager would "every hour on the hour, he would pop in and say something he thought was very witty." It is one thing to stay late with your team because you feel that if they are sacrificing, then you should sacrifice too. It is quite another to provide "moral support" that is nothing more than a distraction.

We had our director photocopying, getting pizza (2, Interesting)

billstewart (78916) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505856)

I do remember one time we had our three-levels-up director in on a Saturday when we had a rush project. It was an RFP, not a programming project, it was important to get done and had a short deadline to produce hundreds of pages of accurate interesting responses to inherently dull and boring material. We put him to work photocopying and fetching pizza, and he avoided micromanaging (something he didn't always avoid :-) He probably did add a bit of value to the executive summary part, but I wasn't working on that section. It was a couple of decades ago, and since I still remember it it was probably good for morale...

Does it help? Depends on the situation . . (1)

228e2 (934443) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505562)

Last summer, I worked 80 hour weeks in preparation for a bake-off in the fall. It was pretty important that the developers and managers be there because even though we knew our assignments and set measuring points we wanted to meet everyday, the inevitable things came up that would require a supervisor's ruling basically so the developer's ass wouldnt be on the line if we should of done something different.

although that was a one time, or one summer circumstance, i could think up similar scenarios where managers should stick it out for similar reasons. Dev make products, managers make certain decisions, and sometimes you just cant describe the situation over the phone.

Yes...but (5, Informative)

voss (52565) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505572)

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

Yes (4, Insightful)

davecrusoe (861547) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505574)

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...

Re:Yes (1)

furball (2853) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505630)

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

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505670)

Depends on where you get the pizza. If you order chain pizza, then yes it is being cheap. But if you get your pizza from your local gourmet pizza place, that can set you back a bit. One shop here (Alaska) charges upwards of $30 for most of its large pizzas. And I can tell you from experience, they are worth every penny. WAY better than pizza hut.

Re:Yes (2, Insightful)

poopdeville (841677) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505674)

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.

Re:Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505822)

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.

It usually is something everyone can agree on.

Re:Yes (1)

furball (2853) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505830)

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.

Re:Yes (1)

haruharaharu (443975) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505702)

I haven't bought pizza in 5 years, mostly because I get too much of it at work.

Just make sure everyone knows the situation (3, Insightful)

UnknowingFool (672806) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:Just make sure everyone knows the situation (1)

Dastardly (4204) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505818)

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 it is the devs ass on the line to deliver, and delivering crap that works is safer than not delivering.

Real Time Coding (1)

theArtificial (613980) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505588)

I can relate to evenings like this. Two lines I will never forget:

"Where we at on this?"
"Let's see it!"

I think one of the other lines that really stuck with me/irritated me was "Lets table this". I am glad to have moved on. I'm sure there must be some other lines used by other managers. Lets hear it /. =)

Real time managing (1)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505694)

Our late night installs bring out the best and worst in my colleagues. The best comes from incredible scripts done on the fly...the worst from management, trying to quantify the status.

After midnight, it becomes a steady stream of `hot items` of `major client impact`...from management trying to help out, by providing more management. Fortunately, my brain has tuned management out well before midnight, so things still get done.

Only if the manager asked for extra work (1, Insightful)

bigjuantehfurby (1124307) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505600)

If the manager asked for the developers to do extra work...a shortened timeline, extra workload dumped on the department, whatever. If the manager has asked his team to give up some of their time (with pay, of course), you're damn right the manager should be there too. He probably has work he could do too, but if nothing else, he should be cheerleading (delivering pizza, atta-boys, making jokes to help keep the developers mood light, and so on). It doesn't matter if the manager messed up or not...developers have a schedule, and if you ask your people to work more than what they're scheduled, you'd better have your ass planted in YOUR chair until the last person goes home.

"Making jokes"...? (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30506002)

The absolute last thing I want when I'm coding is a manager sat behind me making 'jokes'...

certain amount (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505608)

I'd say 20% of the time the manager should stay, since about 80% of them are idiots.

Yes, but... (1)

BabaChazz (917957) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505612)

The function of a manager is to manage, not micro-manage.

There will be times that questions arise that need management input. Not often, but sometimes. When those arise, it is extremely irritating to have no manager present. However, that does not mean hovering over the developers' shoulders and adding to the pressure. Arrange pizza, yes. But apart from that, stay resolutely in the background, available to answer questions, but leaving the devs to their own devices.

I'd actually refer back to Robert Heinlein on this one. In Starship Troopers (the novel, not the wretched film) Lt. Rico, just after he gets his pips, is told by his CO that his wandering through the crew quarters is simply putting his men on edge. He should go back to his quarters, and when it was time to act, his sergeant would have his men ready for action.

I'd suggest that you do likewise, even to the extent of perhaps taking on some small, tedious task to take it off the plate of some dev, and keep yourself busy while you wait for the questions.

Re:Yes, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505880)

So, the lieutenant should stay out of the way, but Sarge needs to be there.

Only if... (3, Insightful)

akpoff (683177) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505632)

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.

Re:Only if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30506042)

You didn't give a number to your "developers aren't professionals" caveat. The preponderance of replies to this article are clearly written by developers, not managers. Developers would like managers to "stay out of the way" and "order pizza". With attitudes like that, it's no wonder that so many projects flame out. The relationship between developers and managers is a two way street. Sometimes managers are in over their head - but just as often, developers are prima donnas wih no respect for their managers, or even their peers.

I want my developers to stay focused. If pizza alone would do the trick, that would be wonderful. It just ain't so. Each developer is an individual, and each individual needs different things to keep them focused, working, and on task. Some people accomplish nothing unless you ride them constantly. Some people are self motivated, and can be pretty much left alone. It's nice to think that if you just left a room full of developers alone for a while, that miraculous results would fall out, but it doesn't happen that way. Is it the manager's "fault" for hiring developers who need a lot of attention? Some of my best people need a lot of attention. It's a pain, I wish they would just focus by themselves and get things done, but they don't. Are they bad people? Are they bad developers? No.

As for why are they staying late anyway? If it can be helped, they shouldn't be.. But if staying late makes the difference between getting or keeping work, or not, well, how would you call it?

Generally speaking (1)

Ed Peepers (1051144) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505634)

A good boss provides direction, clarity in job tasks, and the resources to get the job done. If the team starts a LAN party whenever the boss leaves the room or are unable to order pizza on their own, the boss might need to stick around. Otherwise they should get out of the way. Part of being a good leader is letting go.

Kinda depends on how it is handled (1)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505640)

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 that is out of the responsibility of the dev staff, they handle it. Plus things like ordering food can go a long way too. They can't add to the development, but they'll make sure that any non-dev stuff is taken care of.

So it all depends on the personality of the manager and how they relate to the team. It is a case where the manager needs to know themselves and understand what is best. If they are the kind that just can't help but hover in stressful situations, then get out and go home. Your team will be better off. However if you can sit back and let your people handle it, and just be there as a symbol more or less, then yes stay around, it helps.

Depends on the manager. (1)

Jake S Griffin (1704486) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505644)

I've worked in shops where management is pretty much hands-off and let us do our jobs. Currently however I have a clingy boss who is more a hindrance than anything else. Doesn't matter if it's after hours or not. At least the worst of them (yes, multiple supervisors, Office Space-style) is off on Mondays...I used to hate Mondays....

Good management (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505650)

If you expect your workers to work late, you damn well better not be taking off to see your family or hit the links. I say this as a manager.

Sgt Slaughter put it best (3, Funny)

RedK (112790) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505656)

We all go home or nobody goes home.

It depends (1)

istartedi (132515) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505662)

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 check during regular hours.

It's a judgement call, just like anything else. And yes, the manager should definitely buy pizza if he stays. It's just common courtesy. It also builds the team, and aside from that I find that pizza is fantastic energy food for late-night coding.

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. The team that works into the night will win, even if their code has bugs. The 9-5 coders with no bugs will be late to the market, late to the VCs who funded the later-nighters project, etc.

Re:It depends (3, Interesting)

Dastardly (4204) | more than 4 years ago | (#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.

Re:It depends (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30506050)

> The 9-5 coders with no bugs will be late to the market
This is sheer BS, and a common view I have come across in, well what can only be described as average developers, unprofessional devs.

I'm a "9-5 developer" (as you so eloquently put it) and I deliver quality code (although not always without bugs) and ALL functionality requested on time. OTOH, I have worked with devs who have admitted to deliberately taking longer to deliver, so that they can rack up the overtime pay!

In my experience, those devs that are in need of overtime are either subjected to poorly prescribed deadlines or are not up to scratch (or in the wrong line of work).

Get the F out of the way and give them a comp day (1)

sagman (465807) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505666)

No need to add to the anxiety. Give them a comp day (of their choice) and back off. If you've been doing your job correctly they'll want to stay and they'll know that you will make it up to them. Hey, this is part of the world we live in. Keep the faith and you won't have a problem.

Not just in coding... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505668)

I'm not a programmer, but a journalist. My best hovering manager story was 2 years ago, when a shopping mall caught fire in the middle of the night. A photog and I put down our beers and rushed out there. When we got back to the office, the editor was there, and it's a good thing, too. His instructions to me were to "write something quickly, so we can get it in the paper." To the photog, he said, "pick out your two or three best pictures." I shudder to think what we'd have done w/o that guidance. /sarcasm

My opinion and experience (1)

meerling (1487879) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505680)

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 till it's done or I'll fire you, and I'll happily forget how crappy I'm treating you... Or at least that's how the underlings will feel about it.)

Also, the boss can get the pizza, or chinese, or whatever food you order that night. Don't want to mess things up if you're in a groove.

And here's a biggie, management is there in case something goes wrong. If the power goes out, a fire alarm goes off, somebody breaks in, whatever, if it's just the underlings, the shit's gonna hit the fan and guess who gets it in the face. On the other hand, if a manager type is there, those higher up are far more likely to listen to his side than that of the underlings. It's not that a manager can prevent the shitstorm, but he can lessen it and redirect most of it where it needs to go. (Even if where it needs to go is next door where their busted sprinkler system dropped the water pressure and automatically set off your fire alarms because of a water pressure sensor... Yes, I've been in that one.)

Re:My opinion and experience (1)

Vladus2000 (1363929) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505802)

Personally, I prefer it if the boss gets the food then goes away. It is one less distraction. The only exception to this is if my boss can actually help solve the problem or I need someone to bounce ideas off of. Otherwise get the hell out of my way, sitting in an office surfing the web doesn't help anyone solve the problem. I'd rather have my boss get rest so he can fight off the shitstorm better the next day.

Yes. (5, Insightful)

4iedBandit (133211) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505688)

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.

Management pager, baby (4, Interesting)

daemonenwind (178848) | more than 4 years ago | (#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 (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#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 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505726)

I bet you develop crappy games.

Clarity (1)

The_Hooleyman (724719) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505708)

If the manager is a true leader they should be available (there or in contact) to give clarity. The worst overtime experiences I ever had were caused by ambiguity. Are we done now? How about now? What is the measure of success tonight? Managers who ask you to come in for attendance, but not a goal, have no clarity themselves. If you know what the goal is (ie. Clicking SUBMIT 10 times will no longer crash the database/app/game) then you can focus and feel good when you've finished. You don't need anyone around if you have clarity, unless it's to support you with food, drinks, or more clarity.

Decision Making (1)

Hairy1 (180056) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505710)

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 progress). When it got to the point we were considering deleting customer data to resolve the issue we pulled the plug for the day. It was late, we all wanted to leave, and we were on the verge of making decisions that could have had massive knock on effects. In the end I called it a day and we went home. The issue actually took a week to track down and resolve. The actions we considered on that night would not have helped, and would have caused significant secondary issues.

The manager is there as a backstop to make sure that actions are not taken that may make things worse. His job is to stand back and look at the larger picture than simply the technical issue; ask himself - what if it can't be fixed tonight? My primary role was one of communication and buffer. That is I could communicate with the customer and support teams while the development team worked relatively unhindered.

Yes, give them a shot of reality (2, Informative)

Lime Green Bowler (937876) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505724)

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. :)

What is this... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505730)

... "work late" of which you speak?

I used to do that in my old developer job. I don't do it any more.

Salary = 40 hours/wk ... PERIOD

If management wants to negotiate something, that's fine, I'm always ready to deal.
Short of this, I don't work over 40 unless it's a critical production issue and guaranteed comp time.

This may seem cold, but if the situation were reversed:
"Umm yeah, my daughter wants a new $FAD_ITEM to impress her friends. Could you put an extra $100.00 in my paycheck? I'll bring you a $5 frozen pizza to take home to make up for it?"
Let's see how far anybody would get with that.


A good manager... (1)

TrumpetPower! (190615) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505750)

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 see, the two are closely related. If one has a reduced budget to work with, the proper answer is either a reduced project scope or an increased timeline.

“Good. Fast. Cheap. Pick two.”

Punishing workers for failures of management is a sure sign of an unhealthy corporate environment.

A middle manager may be squeezed from both sides, but then either it’s a failure of the middle manager to manage those below, or to manage the expectations of those above, or of those above to manage their end of things.

Of course, an exception can be made in the case of true disasters, such as fire, illness, or other catastrophe. But management’s second responsibility — after running interference during the crisis — should be getting things back to normal.

Otherwise, what on Earth is management being paid for?



Re:A good manager... (1)

Hairy1 (180056) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505842)

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 resort at best.

By your theory (1)

Guil Rarey (306566) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505858)

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.

Re:A good manager... (1)

Dastardly (4204) | more than 4 years ago | (#30506006)

I aprefer.

Cost, Scope, Schedule.

Two can be fixed, one must be flexible. Cost is cost per unit time i.e. fixed number of people.

What is typical is management tries to pretend all three can be fixed. Which causes overtime and since many devs don't get paid for overtime means cost can pretend to be fixed.

Should inmates run the asylum? (4, Funny)

unassimilatible (225662) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505756)

That seems to be the gist of this article.

It depends on whether the manager is at all useful (1)

BlortHorc (305555) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505758)

Having gone through late night deployments where I have been both the deployer/dev and other occasions where I have just been the manager, I have never been in a situation where I personally was not going to be able to take charge of any random role and heave to. That said, if the random role is a minor one that takes small pressure off the fulcrum, hey, crises are no time for egos, I'll do what is needed and try and contain panic in those of my staff not used to fan shit interaction.

That said, I have most definitely been in the position where a deployment has gone to shit, and the time and effort to keep a manager who was utterly unable to provide any useful feedback or even perform minor ancillary tasks in the loop is absolute torture, if I had had a stronger sense of my use at the company at the time I would have said "the most useful thing you can do right now is fuck off and leave me to it", but as my manager was also the Head Cheese, such a comment was not going to go down well at the time.

Anyways, my 2c.

leadership (1)

el_tedward (1612093) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505766)

This is really more of a question about leadership than about management. The two cross over a lot, but leadership pretty much == how you influence others, while management == how you utilize your resources.

I don't see any reason for a supervisor/manager not to want to stay up late when their developers are getting asked to do the same thing. A developer is not going to be as motivated to push themselves and do good work if they see that a higher up is acting like a douche. There ARE times when it is appropriate to micro manage. Proper team building and leadership, however, should lead one away from having to do this. The main thing the manager should be doing when people start having to stay up late is make sure the team is moving overall in the right direction (macro management), and provide support to keep everyone motivated.

Ideally, they should stay. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505768)

Where can I get a job in which I'm considered the most useful when not working, yet still get paid?!

If someone is considered more useful not working, they've immediately lost value. The three correct answers are: Yes, they should stay because they're good. No, but they get paid proportional to their utility. No, because I'm firing them.

Problem here is the manager (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505778)

The problem here is the manager. Their job is not to put pressure on you, their job is to organize and delegate. What is this "looking over your shoulder" shit? If that's what your manager is doing, leave that mickey mouse operation and go somewhere better.

alternatively (1)

Surt (22457) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505790)

He could just learn to be a competent project planner so that you don't wind up having to work late nights and weekends ....

Re:alternatively (1)

haruharaharu (443975) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505896)

I have one that's kind of fun: we're moving a legacy system to a new architecture, and it requires lots of archaeology because a lot of the code hasn't been looked at in a couple years. Before the full extent of this was discovered, my boss pitched the project to his bosses as 'leave us alone and we'll do it in 6 months'. And it's an agile pilot that tracks progress by hours that are expected to match timesheets. Yay.

Do as you ask your employees (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505800)

I will never ask my team to work late or weekends without being there myself. It's not mistrust. It's that I should not ask my people to sacrifice their personal time without doing so myself.

I typically stay in my office and keep busy. My door open to answer any questions or to provide any needed support. I also make sure meals are provided. If it's a situation where we're working extra for a critical customer escalation or a deadline, I will occasionally walk about to get status. Sometimes it's important to understand if it's time to call in another functional team (CM, QA, support, etc) because their entry is soon to be met. Part of our task is to coordinate tasks. If it's a situation where we're doing this for a couple weeks to catch up on a blown schedule (usually VP dictated feature creep), then I leave the engineers be as I would during normal working hours.

manager must stay (1)

SkunkPussy (85271) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505820)

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.

From my experience (1)

tenverras (855530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505824)

Now, this is not my line of work and it never will be, but I don't think whether it be developers or another type of job, it is always beneficial to have someone a rank above you present. It doesn't matter if the manager has no ability for what his workers are doing, if he has a friendly relationship with his workers, understands that positive reinforcement(such as ordering pizza) is better than just making sure people are focused, and allows some extra freedoms since these hours are beyond the norm, then having a manager present will result in better output. I've spent many years as a supervisor and assistant manager at the restaurants I have worked at - yes, I realize these work environments are a little more casual than what is suggested in this article - and these principles have always served me well for when I and others have to work past when we would normally close up and go home.

The manager manages (1)

club (1698284) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505826)

Having the manager who can't help with the job you're doing present when things are going wrong seems to be the norm in every industry. If everything breaks down you call the manager, because they manage things, that's their job.

idk.. (1)

fade (4063) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505828)

I've been in the situation where a manager in a crunch period really slowed the whole thing down because they were demanding explanations of every check-in. I've also had the experience of having a technical manager save the team no end of hassle by running interference and buffering us from the political realities even higher up the chain in crunch periods; in those cases the manager was technical enough to just let us get on with it.

Manager must stay (1)

mhelander (1307061) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505848)

The job of the manager is to help the developers prioritize. In an overtime situation, prioritization is all the more necessary. Only the manager can take the decisions about what to cut to meet both deadline and essential requirements. Only the manager can legitimately revise the definition of "done" to adapt to resource constraints.

Sure, if the directive is clearly "implement all of it, no excuses" then the manager isn't really needed, during the overtime nor at any other time during the project - at least not more than in the capacity of "spy" for higher ups to track implementation velocity and perhaps wielder of a whip.

But to a real manager, the question of whether they could go home during the time they would quite obviously be the most useful to the project should seem a very suspect one to ask.

Both are annoying, from experience. (1)

mr_da3m0n (887821) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505866)

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.

Simple answer, yes! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505884)

If I'm a developer and my manager asks me to work late to hit a deadline (shit happens sometimes), then bolts, I'm not very happy, especially if you *know* the situation was a managerial screw-up (as much as we'd like them to *all* be managerial screw ups, they aren't all).

If I'm a manager, and I ask my developers to work late to hit a deadline (shit happens sometimes), I ask them what they need to be the most productive. Food, beverages, me getting out of their way. One of the roles of manager is to "take one for the team" so your developers don't have to, especially if it is your screw up (admitting it is your fault goes a *long* way to gain credibility).

The stunning thing about this question (and almost every manager/employee situation) is the complete lack of the most basic level of communication. Everyone involved is a person. Treat them as such and things will be pretty much okay.

Yes (3, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505900)

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.

it's simple... (1)

weeeeed (675324) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505904)

if you have to work late, then it's because he failed as a manager (planning to short, failing to extend dev-time in advance, failing to communicate it to superiors, etc...), so of course he should stay too.

Be specific with opinion article author (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30505914)

Why write "a verteran developer" instead of "Eric Spiegel, veteran developer"? I would like to click on links because I have information leading me to click on them, not because I am curious after being baited with lack of information.

Why are they working late? (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505958)

Sure, occasionally it's essential that something has to be delivered the next day. In general, working longer hours doesn't reduce development times. It tires out developers and produces shoddy results.

Work to reach specific goals. You shouldn't need to stay late to show solidarity because there should be no occasions when they're all working late for extended periods.

My manager stays, and I appreciate it. (1)

HarryRanquist (1309659) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505972)

I must have been lucky. My manager stays with developers working late out of loyalty. He tries to keep out of work's way, and when he is most bored or if it gets rediculously late he will even go and get snacks. I appreciated his presence everytime we had to do that, and when I get into his position I hope I will remember to the right thing.

Not at our shop... (1)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 4 years ago | (#30505982)

Generally I'm there until midnight or 1AM ANYWAY, but most of my developers probably get the bulk of new work done between 10PM - 2AM. I think we have more code commits during the 1AM hour than any other. Sometimes they work at home, other times at the office, if the Application and Web Development people are working on something that involves the API. But typically our developers set their own hours. Just so long as the work gets done by the due date and are responsive to SMS if we have an "Oh shit" moment and they need to come in. It happens, but not often.

However, I HAVE to be at the office at 8AM and keep normal business hours for client meetings and if clients call with problems, they expect someone to be there and as it stands right now, the buck stops at my desk. Generally everyone is in the office by 11AM and if have meetings it is usually during lunchtime. Afternoons are usually spent fixing any issues that may have popped up and if the different development teams need to work together.

Then again, we're a small company, with 10 full-time developers plus six interns (4CS, 2ECE) at the moment. We have 4 + 3 Interns on Desktop & Mobile Java Application Development (Java Team), 4+1 intern Web Development Group, and 2 of us who are Database & Systems people with 2 interns working on a R&D project.

I think so, but (1)

xx01dk (191137) | more than 4 years ago | (#30506020)

it depends on how well your team works together. I've had both good teams and bad--the bad ones are where having your boss hovering over your shoulder is a huge encumbrance. But the good times, those were great; your boss can play any number of positive roles, from getting the pizza to running interference between his subordinates and his superiors, to using his position to Get Things Done with parts supply or special access etc. So OP, if you're a good boss and your guys like having you around, then by all means you should stay. But if you sense you might be getting in the way but you still think you should stay, then go hole up in your cube--your guys will appreciate your sacrifice all that much more.
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