Why Don't You Trust Your Developers? post

June 18th, 2012

You went through the hard process of finding just the right people to work with you on your awesome idea. You've picked some solid tools that your team understands how to use and you are all excited to start cranking out the Next Big Thing you've opted to work on.

So why don't you trust the developers you've hired to do the job without supervision?

I've seen a trend where more and more people are claiming it is essential for your team to be located in one spot: eating lunch together, creating things together...and staying up until the wee hours of the morning fixing the stupidly broken bullshit application you've released into the world together.

I've been coding for money since 1998. So that makes me a fucking internet senior citizen. Get off my lawn. I have spent roughly half that time either working as the only developer for a company or as a remote developer on a team I have encountered NOTHING in my career that leads me to believe that having all your developers spending all their time together in an office leads to any better results than a team of distributed developers.

One of the alleged benefits of having your team all together in one place is the "creativity and brainstorming" argument. You know, the one where awesome things happen because you can turn to the person next to you and say "you know, I just thought of something..." and BOOM GOES THE DYNAMITE, you have an awesome feature for your application.

For most of my career, the reality has been that developers sit there in an open concept office with music being piped into their ears so that people won't distract them so they can get some fucking work done. Every meeting, every random conversation, every interruption as their boss decides today's the day we start working on his favourite feature is a barrier to getting work done.

So why don't you trust the developers you've hired to do the job without supervision?

Is it the "Puritan work ethic" that accompanied early immigrants to North America that causes this? People have decided you are not allowed to have fun while working? Being remote means I can create an environment for myself that allows me to be the most productive. This means music playing without headphones...and a system that notifies me when my co-workers need to communicate with me. It means a nice comfy lounger with cushions that I can sit in in order to think about a tough task...with my laptop in my, um, lap while doing so. It means that my comfort while working is more important than your desire to have me sitting where you can keep an eye on me.

Could I ever create that environment in a cubicle? Not a chance, Open offices AND cubicles serve as a reminder that someone is always watching, you cannot be free to choose your work environment, and you better stop fucking around and get that work done. To me it all says "we don't trust you."

So why don't you trust developers you've hired to do the job without supervision?

Again, I understand that people working in startups feel that the chaos is a necessary part of the process. I happen to disagree with that sort of philosophy because I feel even an application with minimal features should be executed on with 100% effort. If you think you will "do it right next time" then I don't know if I want to be around next time you try.

A control freak who gives you a nice office, chair, free snacks and a playroom with video games is still a control freak. They believe that you need to be near them at all times during business hours in order to be trusted to do the job they've asked you to do. All those things are an incentive to get you in the office for however long THEY feel you need to be there. How else can you explain it, if you are being rational and honest about it?

So why don't you trust your developers you've hired to do the job without supervision?

I'd love to hash this out more in the comments, so let me know what you think.