Unhappy Developers, I’m Trying

Everyone at one point or another is unhappy at their workplace; it’s a fact of life.

Everyone likes to complain.

The main difference however is that due to the absurdity of how in demand great developers are, an unhappy developer can very quickly find somewhere and someone else who may be able to give them what they want.

Easily. Like… within a day of posting their CV to a job site.

So, as a manager of great developers; what do you do?

When a worker is unsatisfied, it’s usually very easy to tell. They become consistently negative in speaking about the company/team/boss or generally you can see that their day to day attitude and body language has changed to a much less appealing one.

For developers, this isn’t so easily… typically.

Now that is making a huge stereotype of the average developer/coder persona but in most cases IT introverts such as myself may let our feelings and opinions fester away before we say anything about it… I know I have.

Every job I have had before this one… I’ve left because I have became unhappy. So now, as a manager, I see the same signs that I showed to my bosses previously… who typically either didn’t notice or couldn’t come up with anything to make a difference to me.

But I’m different.

I want to make you happy.

So let me try and spell out the things that make team members ‘happier’ and also give some insight around which ones are the easiest to fix.

The #1 Fix

The biggest and most important one for a manager with any team to be honest is transparency. Giving your team information on why things are happening or the reasons behind decisions you are making will change the way your team see you and get behind you.


Kit One of the easiest to move on is what kit the team has at their disposal. If you have the budget for some extra RAM and a SSD here and there then spend it. Have you ever done 10 builds a day on a massive project within Visual Studio? It’s horrible without a little hardware help. Requirements It’s no secret that programmers like to know exactly what they need to do. When I say exactly I mean it. Making sure your team has proper requirements to work on with Acceptance Criteria will make sure work isn’t repeated over and over because it’s not what the Product Owner was wanting. Deadlines As Development Manager, you should be responsible for how your team works (Methodology) and that means you should know based on velocity or other factors when items in the backlog will be completed. Learning PluralSight isn’t expensive… pick up a few licenses. Googles famous 20% time can always be tweaked to give your team a chance to work on whatever they want at some point in the week. The very first thing I introduced as a new manager was Code Fridays Team People are less likely to leave if they think they are working with a strong team who are trying to better the department or the company together. Arrange regular meetings with the team to go through issues and also make sure that the team who works together plays together. A bi-monthly drink never hurts anyone. Not So Easy

Methodology Your team may be tied into a waterfall cycle which is difficult to turn around working software with any great speed. They may also be in a poorly executed Agile environment which doesn’t have retrospectives therefore there is no way to grow. Salary Although easy to prove, trying to get a decent salary for developers is a task that is never easy. Usually the people who decide on these things are not “I.T” people and therefore want to know why you want to pay a Junior Developer the same salary as a Team Leader in another area of the business. Tread carefully. Feedback You may give feedback… but what about the users. Is there any kind of loop to hear anything from the Product Owners? These kinds of things are invaluable for the team to really know if they are doing a good job or not. Flexible Working Similar to salary… this is a hard sell for many business’ around the globe. Even though it is the hardest to get over it will more than likely be one of the biggest if not the biggest draw you have to keep and pull in talent. Variety Like any other creative type of person, developers like a bit of variety. Depending on what team and project they work on this might be a tricky one to get sorted. Extremely Hard

Anything that involves company culture Too corporate? Too chaotic? No vision? All of these are very difficult to overcome as it would mean changing things within the business itself. Dress Code No developer wants to come into work with a suit and tie on. At the end of the day, this is a developers market and being great at your job means that you do have options. What I’m saying is communicate to your best that you’re trying to change things if indeed they need changed.

You can talk to developers… they don’t bite.