Hawaiʻi's Technology Community

My impression is that TechHui members are passionate about their profession just by virtue of the fact that they are members here. So this seems like a good forum for my question:

How do you deal with team members who just 'work here'? I work with about a dozen other developers, most of which do what they do only because they are paid to. About half of them are on their first job out of college and the other half used to be Access VB developers that now somehow manage to write C# code that is very much like Access VB.

I watch the source code that is checked into our system and when I see less than optimal or downright dangerous code, I usually take a note of it and send an email out to the team about how to handle a similar situation without pointing any fingers at the origin (usually my boss). So far this is not working. I rarely get a response to the email and I usually see the same sort of code from the same people going into the source control system.

Short of quitting your job, which I think about frequently, how would you deal with the developer that 'just works here'. And how would you deal with it if one of them was the owner of the small company that you work for?

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If you aren't the owner or the manager I think your only option is to find a new job with motivated people. I think its always best to find a place where everyone is senior to you if possible.
I agree with the idea of working with those senior to me. When I was 27 I took a job where I was the junior member. I was working at The Houston Chronicle on their relatively new web site. The other guys that I worked with had majored in aerospace engineering, cognitive linguistics, finance, etc. I was horribly intimidated at first because I went in thinking that I was a good programmer but found that I knew nothing next to these guys. I used to frequently stay up all night studying and practicing so that I could get to a point where I could feel adequate. It was the most uncomfortable situation that I had ever been in but it was also a very good foundation for me.

Leaving this job would probably not be the best financial move for me right now. When it is an option then I suspect that I will exercise it with very little hesitation or regret.
Small company owners tend to set/dominate the culture. Plus, small company owners tend to put a premium on having it their way (it's one of the main reasons they choose to run a small company). As such, it's usually almost impossible to overcome. Sure, you can fight hard and change things for some time, but he will probably never value you anywhere close to the value you deliver to the business. As such, I don't think you will really be able to improve the situation. Best bet is to either just accept it as is or leave.

Of course, I do not know all the details of your particular situation. However, I have been in a similar situation twice and this is what I found.
I was in a similar situation, where my boss (the company owner) seemed to lose his passion for the work we were doing. There were a lot of missed opportunities for our little company, and it made me question why I was there working for someone who didn't want to be there. Eventually, it effected my work, and my attitude became so bad that we parted ways.

I'm a freelancer now, and it's the best thing I've done in a long time. There are still ups and downs when working with clients, but I think it's worth it not having to worry about people who aren't passionate about what they do bringing you down.

I sooo totally feel your pain. Been there, done that.

Truth be told, "passionate coders" can rarely survive in established software houses, and often find more satisfaction and success as independent freelancers, or working in startups with like-minded colleagues.

There is no easy way to change the Inertia of an aging Corporate Culture. Period.

Sure, you can progressively add pressure to motivate your colleagues... but unless you're willing to see it through to the end (get the deadwood to shape up or ship out), I'd say don't start down that path. As your pressure tactics increase, you will be called every nasty curse word in the book, and everyone will see you as a troublemaker.

Sometimes, it's better to agree to disagree, and just walk away. This could very well be one of those times.

And yes, it is very unfortunate to be in a place where "caring too much" is a liability, rather than an asset.
Been there. The only solution is to find a new job ASAP.
Hey there, Stephen, how're things in Honolulu?

... although from your thread, I suspect that job-wise, perhaps you aren't getting much satisfaction.

I agree with Cameron: the job of motivating and maintaining motivation is upper management. If this isn't happening, then if you have any political currency to use, this would be a good time to use it. Do you think you could bring up this issue with your management?

You could try to start a grassroots movement, like continous integration or build automation with testing baked in. But if you're the only one who can see the worth of such an effort, then perhaps taking a "bottom up" approach wouldn't work.

I would suggest starting with your management team. They may need some help in getting a good grasp of this situation you describe.
I appreciate everyone's feedback. Unfortunately the problem IS the management. My employer accuses me of being overly academic and pedantic when I argue with my peers for the slightest thing related to good programming practices. I recently took a look at an application that he wrote where the same connection string to a database was repeated 48 times (58 if you count the times it was commented out). I recommended "The Pragmatic Programmer" but so far I think I'm still the only one on this team with a copy :)

I consider TechHui to be a fertile ground for solutions so I don't want to poison it with my gripes any further. I appreciate all of your feedback! I've been at this job for 7 years as of this month and unfortunately I'm a slave to my income. THAT is the first problem that I need to solve. On the bright side, I do get to work from home 4,000 miles from the office in what is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful places on the planet!
I had to go back and re-read what I posted after reading your reply. I guess I sounded like a code snob -- definitely not my position. Hopefully none of my peers see me in that light but even so, the primary concern is the success of the project and encouraging my peers, most of whom were not born when I began studying in my field, to do the best job that they can do.

I suppose that if I really consider why I posted this in the first place was to get some validation. I hadn't expected to get a reply from the point of view of one of the people that I was complaining about. It was a bit like mental ice water over the shower door. I appreciate it :)
I don't find this scenario to be unique to programming. I have seen this happen in sales, marketing, operations, etc. It's not about being 'proud', it's about being better.

The general pattern I see is that when employees are more passionate and smarter than their bosses (or owners), conflict almost always arises. This scenario is a prime driver for startups and the launch of new small businesses.

Stephen, I do not think you are being snobby at all. It will likely be your company's loss if you leave.
Thanks John! I guess the key of the entire thread is the part about passion. I don't know that I would consider myself to be smarter than my boss -- just much more passionate about my chosen direction. He has a degree in chemical engineering from Purdue while I have a high-school education and 2,000 lbs of computer programming books. If he had chosen to pursue a career in his field then I'd be infinitely unqualified to work for him in my current level of education. For him, this is about getting the job done as quickly as possible to meet our unusually demanding release schedule and I don't fault him for that. But from the point of view of someone who has sacrificed a ton of time reading the Shakespeares of software development in order to always try to be a current technical resource, it can be monumentally frustrating to work for someone who's philosophy is "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!". Having a place like this to communicate with people that I can identify with is one of the things that keeps me sane! :)

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