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Uneducated IT Managers, and How to Deal? 811

Posted by Cliff
from the patience-makes-the-perfect-tool dept.
R.Mason asks: "I work in an IT department for a small to medium sized family owned business. The job is great, except for our boss. He simply doesn't know nearly as much as he should. Our team finds ourselves teaching him or explaining remedial things far too often. Even when his own computer is acting up, he doesn't know what to do with it and has us fix it while he sits and watches. He spends hours and hours on the most insignificant tasks as if he has nothing better to do. Is it ignorant to believe an IT manager should be a knowledgeable in technology as a whole? A person you respect and frequently learn from? It creates an extremely frustrating work environment, and our team doesn't know how to approach the problem. It's becoming too much to simply "put up with it." What advice do those of you in the IT field have for this issue?"
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Uneducated IT Managers, and How to Deal?

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  • You know (Score:5, Funny)

    by Pope Benedict XVI (881674) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:01PM (#13401828) Journal
    It's just about impossible to find a job working for someone whom you respect. You would not believe some of the stupid things my boss has done!
    • Re:You know (Score:3, Insightful)

      by raider_red (156642)
      I think we need to add a "blasphemous" selection to the moderation menu. I'm not sure whether it should be a +1 or -1 though.
    • by Vicissidude (878310) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:17PM (#13402018)
      My rather verbose boss, head of IT, wanted us to come up with a contingency plan for ethernet. At first we looked at each other trying to figure out what he meant. Evidently, he wanted an alternative to ethernet that still provided networking just in case ethernet failed. We're not talking about a device failing or the network being down, we're talking about failure of the protocol itself. And he wanted us to find a way around that... Did I mention we were just a regular office of about 30 people with a sum total of 3 IT workers?
      • by composer777 (175489) * on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:23PM (#13402069)
        I think that's called sneakernet. When the ethernet goes down, just write a protocol that has employees write the data to floppy/cd/whatever and then transport the data on foot. :) That should work for a small company.
        • by Taladar (717494) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:35PM (#13402174)
          Reminds me of Packet-over-Sheep (RFC 3203) or IP over Avian Carriers (RFC 2549; meaning everything from the Concorde to a pigeon)...

      • by crazyphilman (609923) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:31PM (#13402130) Journal
        Man, you've got no imagination!

        You should have gotten the other IT guys in on your action, and told the boss "Sir, you're absolutely right! We'll need a company credit card and a paid day off to go to CompUSA, BestBuy, and Staples and research alternative solutions!"

        Spend 7 hours drinking at the strip bar and one hour buying some wireless networking gear. Presto! Everybody's happy!

      • This might be a slightly overly geeky response, but what about Tokin Ring??
      • If You Like That One (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tjasond (680156)
        Then you'll like this one too. After many requests for our manager to upgrade our desktop machines from limping 500 Mhz processors (this was 3 years ago, when Ghz was old news), I finally decided to send out an email detailing the loss of productivity in compile time on those machines versus my Athlon 1300+ at home. The numbers came out to over a 5x compile time increase, enough to staff an extra developer for an entire month. I had all the screenshots and graphs and charts to back it up. The response?
        • by Twylite (234238)

          Let me see if I understand this. You want to invest cash into upgrading the developer PCs. No additional money will be made by this investment (because your company business model is to bill by the hour).

          In other words its not an investment so much as an expense.

          The problem here comes from (1) your lack of understanding of "the Jewish principle", and (2) your lack of understanding of productivity.

          The Jewish principle is pretty simple. $1 out, more than $1 in. As long as you're doing this consiste

    • Yeah! Like giving people free will. We see what a fiasco THAT turned into. I tried to warn him, but you know how it all turned out.

      Lucifer
    • Re:You know (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Bloater (12932) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:30PM (#13402127) Homepage Journal
      I respect my immediate manager a great deal. He is knowlegable but recognises that his team members have their own areas of expertise. He doesn't gloat if you make a mistake or don't know something, and he laughs a lot. I say you can't get better than that, and nor would you expect to.
    • Re:You know (Score:5, Insightful)

      by morleron (574428) <morleron@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:46PM (#13402263) Journal
      I have to agree and it's unfortunate that the situation is as it is. We're seeing the result of the management philosophy, taught in a lot of MBA courses, that you don't need to understand the technology in order to "manage" the people who report to you. Adding to the problem is the perception that geeks are not socially adept and therefore are not able to be managers. Given some of the egregious spelling and grammer errors that I see here on /., to say nothing of the flaming and religious wars, we geeks are at least partially responsible for that viewpoint of upper management.

      Based on my experience, with six employers over a nearly twenty year career, it's rare to find a technically savvy manager above the level of team leader. I had one such boss and he was a joy to work for. Not only did he understand the technology, he also knew that he didn't know everything. Furthermore, he was not a micromanager and, after I'd worked for him for a couple of months, he would simply tell me what needed to be done and then trusted me to get the job finished. If you ever get a manager like that you are indeed lucky. A boss like that is easily worth, at least for me, passing up the chance to move to another company for more money, etc. I knew I had a good thing going and knew that my chances of having such a thing happen again was small.

      One thing that I did find worked to a degree was educating the boss. This needs to be done in a non-threatening way. My method was to take magazine articles in to work and just say, "I think you might find this interesting." If the boss is not a true PHB, over time you'll likely see an increase in his/her understanding of the technical end of your job, beware - YMMV.

      Just my $.02,
      Ron
      • Re:You know (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Maestro4k (707634)
        Adding to the problem is the perception that geeks are not socially adept and therefore are not able to be managers. Given some of the egregious spelling and grammer errors that I see here on /., to say nothing of the flaming and religious wars, we geeks are at least partially responsible for that viewpoint of upper management.
        That's some serious non-sequitors you have going there. What grammar a person uses and how they spell when posting on places like /. is not any type of indicator of how they will
        • Re:You know (Score:3, Insightful)

          by FurryFeet (562847)
          You're wrong, and your own post proves it. Even tough you're writing on Slashdot, it is properly punctuated, capitals are used, grammar and spelling are pretty good. Good writing is not something you "put on" or "put off", it's a ingrained. If you write correctly, you'll have a hard time writing badly (a typo here or there I see, but not -1 posts).

      • Re:You know (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Seraphim_72 (622457)

        Based on my experience, with six employers over a nearly twenty year career, it's rare to find a technically savvy manager above the level of team leader. I had one such boss and he was a joy to work for. Not only did he understand the technology, he also knew that he didn't know everything. Furthermore, he was not a micromanager and, after I'd worked for him for a couple of months, he would simply tell me what needed to be done and then trusted me to get the job finished. If you ever get a manager like t

    • Re:You know (Score:5, Funny)

      by Thuktun (221615) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @07:28PM (#13402576) Homepage Journal
      "Pope Benedict XVI" wrote: You would not believe some of the stupid things my boss has done!

      I can't tell, is that blasphemy or not?
  • fire him! (Score:2, Funny)

    by mistermark (646060)
    fire him! ...oh no he's your boss...
    • by team99parody (880782) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:15PM (#13401985) Homepage
      Not quote firing hem, but how about going to his boss and point out that you're more qualified for his job than he is and want to be transfered above him. Mention it in a constructive way and say that you're doing it for the benefit of the company. If the difference between your skils and his is large enough to be noticed it'll probably happen. If not then it's not clear that it should have happened.
  • Get him fired. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by FoolishBluntman (880780) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:03PM (#13401846)
    Have the entire IT staff sit down with the owner of the company and explain why the owner should fire the moron IT manager.
    • Re:Get him fired. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland@@@yahoo...com> on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:13PM (#13401963) Homepage Journal
      except he doesn't touch on whether or not he is a good MANAGER.
      Can he assign resource well? Does he understand how an increase or decrease in FTEs impacts the team? Can he assign priorities? does he tell his boss when the teams work load in too much?

      If this person can do all that, then do not fire him, just relize he is there to MANAGE technical resources, not perform technical duties.

      Contrary to the /. mind think, you do not have to have technical skills to be a good technical manager, you just need to know what your team knows(as in area of expected knowledge) and assign the properly.

      • Indeed (Score:4, Insightful)

        by phorm (591458) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:24PM (#13402073) Journal
        I've had managers in IT that were generally non-technical, but damn good managers. I've also heard of a great many technical managers who tend to spend more time playing with new ideas and toys, or thinking they can do their employees' job than actually managing.

        Semi-unrelated, but I've also noticed that my best managers were women, can anyone else comment on that?
        • Re:Indeed (Score:3, Funny)

          by susano_otter (123650)
          It's my theory that women have a "civilizing" effect on men--mitigating our more barbaric impulses and channeling our animal energies into productive and intelligent activities. That is, that women make better managers (in some contexts) for the same reason they make better mothers and wives. (And just as men make better managers, in some contexts, for the same reason they make better husbands and fathers).

          And now, let the flaming begin.
      • Re:Get him fired. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by hobbesx (259250)
        Agreed.

        He doesn't say directly, but it can be inferred that he has poor managerial skills as well. What's he doing when someone is fixing his computer? Sitting and watching. How is he handling his team? Poorly- the entire team is upset, people are getting desprate, look where they're asking for goodness sake!
      • Re:Get him fired. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by tverbeek (457094) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:35PM (#13402173) Homepage
        I don't expect my boss to understand everything I do or to be someone for me to "learn from". The best boss I ever had was a guy who was a year behind me in college, and whom I coached in real-world tech when he graduated. He went on to become manager of an IT dept and hired me a few years later. I did learn a bit about management and various other things from him, and it's not as if I'd taught him everything he knew about tech. But his job wasn't to teach me; his job was to play the role of "manager" and mine was to play the role of "techie". The important thing was that he understood my role, and generally trusted and respected my judgment, and it was mutual.
      • Re:Get him fired. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I disagree. A tech manager needs to know enough of the tech to know approximately how long tasks will take to complete. Otherwise he's going to overpromise and have very stressed-out unhappy workers and very stressed-out unhappy customers.
      • by q2a (519813) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @07:10PM (#13402452)

        This is so wrong I just have to chime in.

        First, a technical manager without technical experience is worthless.

        Second, managers with no industry knowledge other than first year MBA knowledge, (your quote), are worthless.

        Third, anyone who does NOT understand that handling both people AND systems requires insight into both is not woth your time.
        • First, a technical manager without technical experience is worthless
          A guy with zero technical knowledge, yes, its not worth it. he should have to know what his subordinates are talking about. But its not necessary that he should be an uber hacker. I think Techno-Functional is the right word for it.

          Personally, I have found uber hackers to be clumsy managers as they indulge themselves too much into "getting that piece of code right". Thats not a managers job. And if he really has time for it then either
      • Re:Get him fired. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bloater (12932)
        > except he doesn't touch on whether or not he is a good MANAGER.

        His description suggests he doesn't know anything about IT, so...

        > Can he assign resource well?

        He doesn't know what it takes to perform a task. so no.

        > Can he assign priorities?

        Managers are not required for that. Individual developers/admins/teams can do that far more cost effectively.

        > does he tell his boss when the teams work load in too much?

        The team is more than capable of doing that. What do you need a manager in there for?
  • by fatcatman (800350) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:03PM (#13401858)
    Is it ignorant to believe an IT manager should be a knowledgeable in technology as a whole?

    Yes. Not to be stereotypical, but he is a manager. In a perfect world, he would have tech skills, but he doesn't. So he manages.

    As for how to deal with it? I doubt you really have a choice. Not to be cynical, but what are you really going to do about it? Hopefully he isn't a "know it all" type and will actually listen to what you have to say before making a decision. If so, just do your best to educate him in any given situation so he can make the right decision.

    • by ChipMonk (711367) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:46PM (#13402267) Journal
      In a perfect world, he would have tech skills, but he doesn't. So he manages.

      The Peter Principle [wikipedia.org] in action. You are making excuses for a lack of understanding.

      Without exception, no matter what the work, the best managers I have ever had were the ones who had actually done the work, and understood the personal resources required by the job. Without that understanding, a manager is reduced to being a mouthpiece for his boss. He will be unable to justify investment in his subordinates, because he will not understand why they need $THING.

      When his own incompetence interferes with his job, it also interferes with his subordinates' work, as demonstrated in the top post: Even when his own computer is acting up, he doesn't know what to do with it and has us fix it while he sits and watches.

      do your best to educate him

      Again, from the top post: Our team finds ourselves teaching him or explaining remedial things far too often. They are only spinning their wheels, going nowhere.

      And there is always a choice. Slavery is outlawed in civilized nations.
      • by Dun Malg (230075) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @07:10PM (#13402453) Homepage
        In a perfect world, he would have tech skills, but he doesn't. So he manages.

        The Peter Principle in action. You are making excuses for a lack of understanding.

        This isn't the Peter Principle, but rather the exact opposite. The Peter Principle would have a competent tech promoted to management, and being unable to manage his department because he's only good at being a tech. This is more like the Dilbert Principle, wherein incompetent workers are promoted to management because the competent ones are needed at the bottom to do the actual work.

  • by nb caffeine (448698) <nbcaffeine&gmail,com> on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:04PM (#13401861) Homepage Journal
    in a buisness the same as posted. In a small buisness, everyone usually needs to wear multiple hats. I am the IT Manager, head programmer, etc. Id hate to think how lost my coworkers would be if I didnt know what the hell I am doing. Thats my limited expirence, anyhow.
  • by Bruce Perens (3872) <bruce@perens.com> on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:04PM (#13401870) Homepage Journal
    I was self-employed for two years, and boy was my boss a turkey! :-)

    Bruce

  • Ignorance (Score:3, Insightful)

    by WTBF (893340) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:04PM (#13401872)
    Is it ignorant to believe an IT manager should be a knowledgeable in technology as a whole?

    Short answer: Yes
    Long answer: Hell yes.
    • Re:Ignorance (Score:5, Insightful)

      by John Seminal (698722) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:17PM (#13402007) Journal
      Is it ignorant to believe an IT manager should be a knowledgeable in technology as a whole?
      Short answer: Yes
      Long answer: Hell yes.

      I disagree.

      One of the best things very rich people do is delegate crap to subordinates.

      Henry Ford said that he needs 100% of his brain to think about things that others can not. He assigned everything else to other people. He simply did not have the time to deal with the bullshit. Even if he took 1 hour a day to deal with crap that someone else can do, that is 1 hour less of innovative thought.

      So what if the IT Manager has spyware on his computer and does not know how to get rid of it. And so what if the IT Manager can't use the internet wizard to connect to the internet? That is not his job. His job is to manage.

      If I was him, I would fire my IT staff and find people that don't need to be hand held every step of the way.

      This is like if a Janator asked "Should the office manager know about heavy duty plastic garbage bags? I mean, how many times must these thin bags tear open, and how often must I clean up the mess?". The anwser is shut your mouth and clean the shit up.

      I have worked with so many people in IT who are plain out stupid, except that they know something about computers. And they think that makes them smart in other things. That is not true. How about if tech staff took 4 years to get a buisness degree, then worked 2 or 3 years in a low level management position, then went back for 2 more years to get a MBA? And then after 8 or 9 years of preparing, they get the IT Manager position and have the burden of managing millions of dollars, and making choices that determine the growth of the company. Hopefully the IT Manager will be smart enough to find good IT staff and not have to worry about office politics or people who are "too good" to do work they consider beneath them.

      • Re:Ignorance (Score:5, Insightful)

        by interiot (50685) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:35PM (#13402170) Homepage
        In most geeks experience, that 8 - 9 years of preparation for an MBA degree is somehow completely wasted. Yeah, technical workers have an almost completely different skillset than managers do, but one of the biggest problems with managers is big lack of experience in the field they're managing.

        The attitude that someone can hop out of MBA school, hop into a chemical engineering company, and be fine, is crazy. The idea that they can hop out of that company and over to a software engineering company and have basically the exactly same job is equally crazy.

        There's all sorts of managerial-level decisions that have to be made about quality, risk, deadlines, effort estimates, what mitigation procedures are effective and which aren't, how to make sure the people at the bottom actually know what the heck they're doing and aren't just a bunch of unexperienced unmotivated people just out of college. And these quality/risk/staffing balances can vary greatly from field to field, and important decisions like this do sometimes require field-specific knowledge.

        If you don't know anything about the field you're managing, how are you going to make sure you have people under you who know what they're doing? Yes, it might be remotely possible with a ton of work, but most managers that I'm familiar with have done a very poor job at this.

      • Re:Ignorance (Score:5, Insightful)

        by slavemowgli (585321) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:43PM (#13402235) Homepage
        There's a difference between a high-level executive (like Ford) and a boss who's directly in touch with the actual engineers, though.

        What every boss needs to be able to do is oversee the work of those who report to him and determine whether they did a good job, where there's room for improvement and all that. If you're a manager who has other managers reporting to you, then you don't actually need to have computer skills (or whatever it is that your company does), true; but if you supervise people who directly work on the products, then sorry, but yes, you have to have some insight into what they're actually doing.

        You may not need to know every little detail, like how to best apply this or that design pattern in your code, but if you're not even able to clean spyware of your windows pc (which really requires nothing more than running a program that does the job for you), then you're not suited for this kind of job - you should get promoted as soon as possible before you can do any harm. :)
      • Re:Ignorance (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Taladar (717494)
        Your "has better things to do with his time"-theory is nice if you skipped reading:
        Even when his own computer is acting up, he doesn't know what to do with it and has us fix it while he sits and watches.
        Wouldn't he find something better to do than sitting and watching if he thought he did not need the tech skills?
      • Re:Ignorance (Score:3, Insightful)

        by interiot (50685)
        You and everyone who's modding you up is an idiot.

        If you don't have any technical knowledge, how do you make sure you hire the right people? If you don't have any technical knowledge, how do you promote the right people, ones who push the organization towards more technical skill and greater efficiency? (not efficiency in terms of doing X task in fewer number of minutes, but choosing the right task to begin with) If you don't do either of these, your company flounders at recent-grad skill level, while

    • Seriously: (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:38PM (#13402191) Journal
      Is it ignorant to believe an IT manager should be a knowledgeable in technology as a whole?

      Short answer: Yes
      Long answer: Hell yes.


      Seriously: You misunderstand his job.

      His job is NOT to drive the tech. (If he's knowlegable it's a bonus, but it's not required.)

      His job is:
        - to keep upper management (and himself!) off your back
        - to get you the resources you need to do YOUR job
        - to set policy for the department
        - to evaluate your performance and assist you in improving it
        - to settle disputes and allocate resources and tasks among the department's members

      Many of these are helped somewhat by technical knowlege. Some are actually hindered.

      In particular, if he knows too much or rose from the ranks, he is likely to try to do some of the work himself (and neglect his other, more important functions) or worse yet try to micro-manage YOUR work, making decisions for you and otherwise getting in the way.

      In a VERY small company or a startup he might also "wear the hat" of an individual contributor and spend part (ONLY part) of his time as a member of the team. But this is dangerous for a number of reasons (starting with you judging his managerial competence by his individual-contributor competence). And in even a moderately-sized department it's impossible: If he's doing it, he should be out hiring another hand (or fighting for a req to enable that).

      Don't think of him as a more-expert team member: That's the Tech Lead's job. Don't even think of him as Captain Kirk to your team's Spock, Sulu, Scotty, Uhura, Checkov, and Bones (though that's much closer.)

      Think of him as your stereotypical congressman - out doing political battle and deal-wheeling to bring home some pork and change the laws in your town's favor.

      Meanwhile: His job is not to BE a star: His job is to make it possible for MORE THAN ONE of you to be stars. Your job is to make him, you, and your co-workers look good to those above him, by keeping his promises to them and feeding him good information.
  • could be worse (Score:3, Insightful)

    by SamSeaborn (724276) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:04PM (#13401873)
    Perhaps he's a good team builder, well-organized, good at setting and maintaining the expectations of his superiors, good at insulating you from the day to day high-level business problems and decisions...

    Hopefully your manager has other positive qualities that out-weight his technical deficiencies. It takes people with varying strengths to make a good team.

    Sam

  • Quit. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jerkychew (80913) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:05PM (#13401879) Homepage
    Quit. Seriously.

    I don't know your situation at all, but if the manager has any influence on the rest of management, and they even think that he has a modicum of knowledge, your work life will be hell. He (hopefully) realizes that he's not as skilled as his workers, and will try to steal their (your) thunder every chance he gets.

    I worked for a manager that knew very little about tech, and any time I had a suggestion for an improvement, it somehow ended up becoming his suggestion by the time it made its way up the food chain. I was lucky enough to land a great job elsewhere and I got the hell out before it got too bad.

    My new boss knew less than me technically, but he knew and freely admitted that he knew less, as his job was to be a manager, not a technician. All my successes were mine, and all he took credit for was doing a wonderful job in hiring the right people - which is how it should be, IMHO.
    • Re:Quit. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by PCM2 (4486) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:12PM (#13401952) Homepage
      My new boss knew less than me technically, but he knew and freely admitted that he knew less, as his job was to be a manager, not a technician. All my successes were mine, and all he took credit for was doing a wonderful job in hiring the right people - which is how it should be, IMHO.
      Exactly. I was once hired to lead a team of developers, and it took me exactly one tour of the cubes downstairs to figure out that I would have a helluva learning curve to catch up to what these guys were working on. At first, I was perplexed. Finally, I asked one of them: "Why aren't you doing my job? You know as much about the guts of this project as anyone does."

      His response? No freakin' way. Quite simply, this guy was a little bit introverted, didn't like speaking in front of people, didn't really have the social skills to distinguish himself in business meetings. Plus, what he really wanted to do was code, and if he was doing all the stuff I had to do, he'd never have a chance to do it.

      DING! Well there you go, I thought. From then on I saw my primary responsiblities as being three: 1.) Advise the coders on what decisions made the most sense based on the overall agenda of the project and its team members and come to an understanding of how we planned to move forward; 2.) Go to meetings and speak to that position, gather requirements from the other team members and communicate them back to my staff; and 3.) Keep the guys out of those same meetings as much as humanly possible.

      "All right," I said. "Can do."

      • Re:Quit. (Score:5, Insightful)

        by nine-times (778537) <nine.times@gmail.com> on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:40PM (#13402209) Homepage
        From then on I saw my primary responsiblities as being three: 1.) Advise the coders on what decisions made the most sense based on the overall agenda of the project and its team members and come to an understanding of how we planned to move forward; 2.) Go to meetings and speak to that position, gather requirements from the other team members and communicate them back to my staff; and 3.) Keep the guys out of those same meetings as much as humanly possible.

        I've thought for some time that the best managers are those who see their jobs backwards from the way most managers see their jobs: they act like they work for the people they manage. They help the employees work well together. They organize and make sure their different employees understand what is going on with the other employees. They evaluate the various obstacles that their employees are facing, and they try to remove those obstacles. They deal with executives and customers so you don't have to.

        IMO good manager knows it's not his job to do the job. It's his job to make it easy for his subordinates to do their jobs.

        • Re:Quit. (Score:3, Interesting)

          I've thought for some time that the best managers are those who see their jobs backwards from the way most managers see their jobs: they act like they work for the people they manage. They help the employees work well together. They organize and make sure their different employees understand what is going on with the other employees. They evaluate the various obstacles that their employees are facing, and they try to remove those obstacles. They deal with executives and customers so you don't have to.

          Well s
      • Re:Quit. (Score:3, Insightful)

        by buck_wild (447801)
        Well said.

        As an IT manager, my time (in my current job, your mileage may vary) is best spent working to allow my employees to be as efficient as possible. Employees that don't have to jump through tons of hoops or red to get their stuff done will be happier as a result.

        So let me do that mundane stuff, and you can go be effective at what your role in the organization is.

        As someone in another thread mentioned, I'm a proponant of the thinking that *I* work for the employee. Whatever I can do to make them mor
  • Tradeoff (Score:4, Insightful)

    by trevordactyl (908770) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:05PM (#13401886)
    Not saying it's always 100% factual, but more often than not, the perception is that people who are technically apt are not able to deal with people.

    Someone who shows "too much" technical knowledge might not ever make it to a managerial position. More often than not if someone knows "too much" about what actually goes into something, they can't dissociate their own opinions about the methods used in order to see the picture and get the job done, IMO.
  • That depends... (Score:2, Informative)

    by $1uck (710826)
    You said family owned... is he/she in the family?

    If not you can always go to his/her boss as a group and air your complaints.

    If thats just not politically feasible look for another job or put up with it.

    Lastly if you're feeling ballsy tell him/her how you feel. If you do it en masse maybe he/she will resign or take steps to improve the situation.
  • His Boss (Score:3, Informative)

    by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:06PM (#13401895) Homepage
    If the situation is as described and he is incompetent for his job (that's what the description sounds like, but it's a guess. Obviously a guy who maintians the mainframes doesn't need to know windows inside and out). If that really is a problem (slowing the department down/holding it back) then it may be time to talk to his boss about that to see what could be done (training, or replacement). Obviously having the other employees believing the same thing will help your case as it is much less likely to be precieved as "I don't like my boss, get me a new one." Other people who are his peers (directly under his boss) that could vouch for that would help too.

    But, when you go do this if you do, make sure to be nice and positive about it all. Not "Bob is an idiot" but "I'm concerned that Bob may not have the needed skills for this job." That will go a long way.

  • Which is worse? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by RabidMonkey (30447) <canadaboy&gmail,com> on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:07PM (#13401906) Homepage
    I have a manager thats HIGHLY technical, but his management skills suck. He's a YES man to every other department because he doesn't have any balls. He won't back us up and if you go into a meeting with him, you know you're in trouble. He doesn't do evaluations and unless you're asking him a technical question, won't make a decisive answer.

    I think I'd rather have your boss ... you don't necessarily need to be highly technical to be a good manager, but if you're a shitty manager you're stuck. Technical skills can be learned, but good people skills are hard to come by.

    I dunno ... I guess it's a toss up. My bosses boss is a great manager, but HIGHLY untechnical. Has a hard time shutting down her computer. It's annoying, sure, having to explain things twice, but at least we can trust her to manage stuff and cover our backs and get stuff done.

  • Be Thankful (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NitsujTPU (19263) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:07PM (#13401908)
    You should be thankful.

    This guy may not be as technically skilled as you guys are, but it doesn't sound at all like he is meddling either. You may not be gifted with a wonderful experience, but if the guy isn't actually damaging things, I'd leave well enough alone. You may not be as lucky with the next guy.

    Think about it, a bunch of management types, who will invariably hire another management type. Do you really want that to be a management type who is also convinced that his role indicates a level of proficiency that he doesn't have?

    I feel like that is what you will get next if you push that issue.
    • by ave19 (149657)
      Thanks, I've recovered a memory I thought I had repressed.

      We had a boss that was just as you described. We, the peons, created a "Two Person Integrity" rule, because if any of us were with this guy when he destroyed something, he'd blame us, and there'd be no witnesses to back our side of the story.

      If our boss' boss was less understanding, we'd have had people fired. It was a scary situation.

      He once said: "I can unplug this token ring and plug it back in again before the systems notice." Then did so, an
  • by new death barbie (240326) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:08PM (#13401910)
    Perhaps if you spend more time whining on /. everything will work out for the better.

    This is Slashdot. We're ALL smarter than our bosses. You don't catch us whining about it. Much.
    • It's a stupid boss indeed, in technology, who doesn't realize that the people working for him are "smarter" than he is, on core technology. But most projects don't fail because of core technology, they fail because of BAD management. Don't just judge a manager on nuts-and-bolts technical chops. This is a classic techie error, frankly.

      I've come in to interview for jobs, as an VP-level executive, and been asked really inappropriate (i.e., overly techical) questions by techies. Organizations where that hap
  • by zephc (225327) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:11PM (#13401948)
    A difficult time mastering what other people can do easily? Have you considered the possibility that he's a chimp?
  • Deal with it or quit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Suicyco (88284) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:12PM (#13401956) Homepage
    Seriously. He is your manager, somebody hired him. Do you want both your manager and the person who hired him to be pissed off because you are stomping around trying to embarass them?

    A manager doesn't necessarily have to know more then you, on the contrary. Think of it like a manager of a rock band. He is not the talent. He directs the talent and gets things done. He doesn't have to be highly talented at music (or IT work). He DOES have to know how to best utilize that talent to get things done. I have never had a more talented manager then myself. I have also managed others who knew far more than I did on certain things. However, coordinating things, prioritizing them, knowing all the ins and outs of having various folks on many disparate tasks, etc. etc. is what managing a team is about. NOT knowing all the piddling details of a persons job.

  • by Lord Grey (463613) * on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:17PM (#13402006)
    A person's direct manager can really "manage" a couple of different ways. On one hand, and what you seem to be seeking, is a manager that can actually sit-in for any of the employees. They have the skill set to do the same work. They may (or may not) be better than their employees in that skill set.

    On the other hand, other managers manage the politics. They represent their group in high-level meetings, translate technobabble into marketspeak, etc.. They also shield their group from the political maneuverings.

    Most managers are a blend of both -- and IMO that's the way it should be. Occasionally, however, you run into a manager that leans too far in one direction. They are a pure political animal with (for example) no technical skills, or they're an uber-engineer that pisses off senior management regularly simply due to their social skills.

    If you find yourself with one of these people then probably the best thing to do is find a different person to take the "other half." In your case, find a tech person you can respect and make them a "project manager" and let your current manager become a "people manager." They would have to work together, obviously, to effectively manage a group, and that sometimes poses its own challenges. But if it works, it really works. You get the best of both worlds.

    Last but not least, if any manager is a complete asshat then they should be reorg'd onto their own sheet of paper and put in charge of "special projects." They can do little damage at that point.

  • by TheFlyingGoat (161967) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:19PM (#13402037) Homepage Journal
    I dealt with this a few years back. Thankfully the company's VP used to be a tech guy and realized how little our manager knew... he was let go due to "budgetary" reasons.

    The thing is, managers act as a buffer between tech staff and the rest of the company. In some companies this isn't true, but at ours it was. If one of the other managers had an issue, they weren't supposed to talk to us about it. They were supposed to talk to our manager. That allowed him to do what he was supposed to do (manage) and gave us more time to do our work.

    I would assume that your boss knows that he isn't nearly as gifted as the rest of your team, which is why he doesn't meddle like some managers do. Be thankful for that, and try giving him a point here or there on easier stuff so he can try doing those things better. Since he doesn't sound like a bad guy, just deal with it. The benefits of you not having to do management tasks (budgets, taking heat when something goes wrong, dealing with higher management, managing losers like his workers) are a fair tradeoff.
  • by vertinox (846076) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:21PM (#13402052)
    You: *reading slashdot*
    Uneducated Manager: *stops and peers over your sholder* "What are you doing?!"
    You: "Researching technology..."
    Uneducated Manager: "Oh! I see... Um... Carry on!"
    You: *starts to write comment "In Soviet Russia..."*
  • I'm an IT manager (Score:5, Insightful)

    by erikharrison (633719) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @06:45PM (#13402255)
    I'm an IT manager and head of RnD. Yes, it can be too much to ask

    Get over it. You don't want an IT manager who knows more about technology than you do. You want an IT manager who trusts you to be more knowledgeable, and knows how to manage. Knows how to keep upper management out of your goddamn face so you can get your work done, knows how to motivate you, and is smart enough to make the understand that if he's busy managing he can't keep up with technology.

    I basically had to give up being tops in my field anymore, because I can't recreationally pursue pure technology any more. Just the facts of the job, and I'm a better manager for it.

    However, having an IT manager who can't use his computer is a problem. The question I have is it because he is incapable, or because he is stretched to thin to deal with it any more? My boss has trouble with FrontPage for god's sake, which (having never used the program in my life) I fixed in less than a minute.

    Of course, this was the same guy who built all of the core technology our company is built on from scratch 7 years ago. He's just too busy managing money, manageing resources, and generally being a CEO to focus all his brain power on the problem in front of him
    • Its not too much to ask at all. He's not asking for a manager that knows all the details of everything. But an IT manager should have been a tech at some point, and should have a good deal of IT knowledge.

      For instance, you don't have to know what command is used to reload the firewall ruleset. But you should understand what a firewall does and why, and what a good firewall ruleset would look like.

      Don't get confused and think its ok for an IT manager to be completely clueless and not understand basic, fun
      • Nitpick (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Farmer Tim (530755)
        But you should understand what a firewall does and why, and what a good firewall ruleset would look like.

        I'd say you're half right. A good IT manager should know what firewalls are and why they're important (well enough to justify the expense to upper managment), but understanding a ruleset is clearly a job for a subordinate who can be assigned the time to do it right; its a good example of exactly the kind of knowledge a manager shouldn't have if you want to avoid micromanagement or other interference in d
  • by keepingmyheaddown (767900) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @07:15PM (#13402498)
    ...unless you are part of the family. A comment from the voice of bitter experience.
  • If you had a problem with me you guys could have just come to me and said something.

    Oh and hey my DHCP is DNSing again.
  • by The Lynxpro (657990) <lynxpro@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Thursday August 25, 2005 @07:31PM (#13402603)

    Our office's IT person yanked QuickTime off my desktop computer because according to her, it was a security problem because "QuickTime goes across the net to check the time...you know...that's why they call it Quick Time."

    She also denied me the right to install Mozilla FireFox because according to her, "Mozilla has more security holes in it than IE." If anyone wonders why IE ranks so highly in visits to Slashdot, its probably because so many employers have wankers for IT staff that won't allow any other type of browser installed on the office machines.

    The same IT person tried to claim that our office had to buy a new license for a copy of Microsoft Visio that was installed on a machine that nobody used anymore instead of uninstalling it from that particular machine and reinstall the program on the computer of the employee who requested the program. Management wouldn't listen to my protests on this until I produced an email from Microsoft directly indicating the extra license purchase was unnecessary.

    Yet another case of bonehead government IT staff justifying their knowledge and position with an MCSE certification.

  • Great Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mr.warmth (910296) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @08:03PM (#13402816)
    I have read Slashdot for a while and never felt the need to comment being that my real insight into technology is nonexistant. Yes, I am a boss just like the one you're talking about.

    First thing to realize is that unless your boss is a technical lead who's a developer/tech, he is hired to things which are different from what you're hired to do.

    I have no clue how to fix a computer, I don't even know what version of Windows I am writing this on. But I do know how to keep a few hundred developer from programming our company out of business. We have guys whose job it is to keep my PC running. I can't do what they do, and they sure as hell can't do what I do!

    Second thing: How does your manager measure success? Since I know I can't develop the whole product myself, the only way I know to succeed is to make sure my developers succeed. That's the only thing I can shoot towards which will produce net gain for the company. If your manager measures himself the same way, you're golden. If he realizes he's not a tech and lets techs do their job, what more can you ask for? Would you preffer a tech manager who was convinced (rightly or wrongly) that he could do the job better than his underlings?

    Third: I heard people complain about their bosses this way (I am often the target) Usually its sourgrapes whose root cause has zero to do with management's technical ability. Sometimes the manager's personality clashes with the employees, or the employee is jelous of the status and money. If these are the true causes of your discontent, look within yourself for a resolution.

    Fourth: all other things being equal, a good manager who also posesses an understanding of what his people do is more valuable than a manager lacking that understanding. In other words, if you can learn all the non-technical stuff your boss does and he doesn't learn the tech stuff you do, you will soon become more valuable to the firm than he is. If this is your ambition, go for it.

    Finally, you'll be better off if you learn what it is that your managers are held accountable for by THEIR bosses. You bet your ass your boss isn't measured by how well he can fix the computer, but only by how many computers you as a department fix in the year (or some metric along the same lines).
  • by bastardadmin (660086) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @09:29PM (#13403283) Journal
    Welcome to small and medium business.
    The guy who gets the IT Management gig is the guy who knows what a computer is and possibly how to turn it on.
    Yes, it sucks, it really does. This is why we have Monster.
    The upside is not all places are like this, and sometimes you get a non-technical person running a technical department who will actually value the opinions of the people working under them, which in turn means you may actually get a reasonable budget, or at least a reasonable manager who understands that things just take time sometimes.

    I wouldn't hold my breath though.
  • The Manager's Job (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Spazmania (174582) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @09:30PM (#13403293) Homepage
    Its not the manager's job to know technology. That's what he pays you for. His job is:

    1. Figure out which of his people know what they're doing and which don't.
    2. Find better people to replace the ones that don't.
    3. Make sure that your work is coordinated with your colleagues so that all the needed work gets done.
    4. Focus your efforts so that they serve the company's actual needs.
    5. Keep the cost of your work within the bounds of what the company can afford.
    6. Keep you reasonably content so that you continue to come to work and do a good job.

    If you want to judge your manager, don't judge him on how well he can do your job. Judge him on how well he does his.
  • The Secret to Jobs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Master Eclipse (782488) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @10:14PM (#13403509)
    For starters, let me tell you about my life. I hate my job. I really do. But I live in a town where there is nowhere else to work.

    I have come to learn something in my life...

    Ignore your job. Remember, it is just a means to an end. My manager makes stupid decisions. My co-workers are all stupid and spend hours each day congratulating themselves on a job "well done".

    The secret is to care just enough to keep your job and do it well. Forget about all of the other crap.

    You work to feed your family and your children. Your company will never thank you for all of the hard work you put in. They will never recognize you for your talents.

    Just do your job... and go home to what realy counts....

    Your family.

    And Half-Life 2...

    YEAH, BABY, YEAH!!!!!!!
  • Get used to it (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nightsweat (604367) on Thursday August 25, 2005 @10:50PM (#13403695)
    And get ready for your day in the barrel. After a certain level, it's no longer your boss's job to understand all the technical nuances. He's there to motivate you, sort through the advice he gets from all of his team and chart a course from there.

    It's impossible to keep up with ALL the technologies involved as you move up the food chain, not only because you have other responsibilities, but becasue you manage a wider and wider array of technologies. One person cannot possibly know everything.

    Butch up, get over it, and try supporting your manager rather than tearing them down. If you're seen as a reliable source for info on (your specialty here), he'll take your opinion and worry about those areas where he's not sure of his staff's expertise.
  • by wdmr (884924) on Friday August 26, 2005 @12:29AM (#13404215)

    Technical knowlege != good technical manager.

    Between traditional employment and contracting and consulting I've seen alot of managers in action that run the whole gamut of technical knowhow and I've noticed almost no correlation between technical skills and good management. We all bitch about the clueless boss, but sometimes the clueless boss *knows* he is clueless and sticks to the things that he can do and lets his engineers make the decisions he can't which actually gives us *more* control over our lives since it frees us to implement processes and technologies that actually work instead of those that some hottie saleschick convinced the boss he had to have.

    Most of the things a manager needs to do are not technical or are things he should not be doing without input from his top engineers. He needs to:

    1. Manage people (set schedules, manage vacations, do performance evaluations, distribute bonuses, etc)
    2. Make strategic decisions (choose technologies, distribute budgets)
    3. Fight up the chain for needed resources (people, rasies!!, budget)
    4. Protect his team from outside groups so that they can enforce rigor and process and keep his engineers sane and hopefully not overworked or in perpetual fire-fighting mode.
    5. Stay out of your way so you can get things done (enough with the status reports already!).

    If you have a non-technical manager who can get your team the resources it needs, keep others off your backs, lets you self-prioritize and self-schedule as much as possible and gets you raises and cool toys, then KEEP HIM. Just convince him that he needs to defer technology decisions to the senior engineers. He probably isn't really that comfortable making those decisions anyway and I have found mba-types to often be quite easy to guide to the realizition that making a tech decision is not a managerial task.

    On the other hand, I have had some highly technical managers who couldn't keep their little fingers out of every little situation--often with dated knowledge since they can't stay fresh like a practicing engineer. I once had a manager who had been out of the trenches for a decade but who insisted on logging in and "looking around" during really hot problems. Inevitably he'd walk in every 30 minutes and ask about something we had already seen and discounted or taken care of. Once as a joke we modified his shell so that it just said "Everything is working fine, sir." no matter what he typed.. lol :)

    The problem with lots of MBA-mill managers is that they apply the crap they learned in school to managing developers and engineers and don't understand that what we do IS NOT MANUFACTURING! Most high-tech work is highly creative and hours worked does not always correlate to productivity. Problem solving, coding, etc all require focus and inspiration and do not respond well to traditional management techniques. So that is the main upside to a technical manager is that he at least has been there and has some idea what it is like. Unfortunately many technical managers can be so lacking in management skills that are clumsy for a long time before they learn how to manage engineers. This can be compounded since so many of us have had bad managers--it's like child-abuse, even if they know the a-hole boss method doesn't work on engineers it's the only thing they've experienced and so they revert to it out of desperation because subconsciously that's how they think a boss is supposed to act.

    The ideal manager is one who understands *engineers* since that is what he is managing. If he understands the technology that is a big bonus if he is able to do all the other stuff. But I'd trade a technical boss who can't protect his people or wage corporate war effectively for a "clueless" MBA who can wrap the C-level executives around his little finger any day of the week.

  • by Thumper_SVX (239525) on Friday August 26, 2005 @12:01PM (#13408400) Homepage
    I'll probably get lost amongst the chatter here, but I have to weigh in as I've been both a manager and a technical guy for most of my career. I've had more time as a techie simply because I prefer that line to the management track.

    Basically, a good manager does not have to be good at the job of his employees. In fact, more often than not it's preferable that he's not. The reason for this is that managers (good managers at any rate) need to deal with stuff that technical guys find wearing or even bullshit. Stuff like project planning, resource allocation, and generally playing the "politics game". If you're a technical guy in a management position, there's an almost natural tendency to presume that you're better than your employees. That leads to a presumption that you know the answer when they do not, and thus that you can do their job better than they can. It then irrevocably leads to a manager who micro-manages his employees. This makes him a lousy manager.

    I personally went into the management job and knew this was a risk. As a result I made a conscious effort to seperate myself from the technology even to the point that I requested my rights to the system be taken away (I was granted admin privileges when I started). This forced me to go to my employees and look to them for solutions. As such, when we had a problem I usually sat down with them, explained the problem and asked them to give me a BRIEF overview of their proposed solution. I always told them to avoid technical details as I didn't need them. Then I usually asked for a timeline for a fix and walked away. I could then go back to the manager / business owner / department head who reported the problem and give them my take on the problem and give them a timeline (usually plus a few hours or days depending upon the extent of the problem). I never told them who was working the problem or how it was going to get fixed. That's how a manager works. This way I showed trust in my employees abilities, kept the heat off their back and set the expectations of the reporter that the problem was being diligently worked on and thus would be fixed.

    I'd say 80% of my job was "public-relations" based. To me, my technical knowledge was somewhat of a liability. I ended up looking at solutions to problems and sometimes over-analyzing the solution my employees had come up with. I had my own ideas about solutions more often than not but had to keep them to myself. I couldn't test or implement because I had no access, and if I were to try then I would be showing my employees that I didn't trust their judgement. This undermines the entire department and thus turns you again into a bad manager.

    Eventually I quit. Not because I wasn't wanted in the position (I had great working relationships with my employees that I enjoyed and still stay in touch with some of them), but because I had found my "geek-karma" to be a liability to my direction as a manager. I wasn't comfortable being the "general", I found I much preferred being "in the trenches". Besides, honestly I find that I can be much more flexible with my schedule as a techie than I ever could as a manager. Even though I have the occasional evening and weekend work I need to do, I prefer it over the constant 11 and 12 hour days I needed to get all my stuff done as a manager, the interminable meetings and the absolute hard-and-fast requirement that I be in the office between the hours of 8am and 5pm every day... even if I'd been there until 2am dealing with paperwork.

    And as for those who comment that a manager will take your "thunder" as a "hot-shot", think about this. When you f**k up, a good manager will also take the hit. I can't count the number of times I had a screw up in my ranks that I had to go to my management and say, "A member of my group dropped the ball. They're diligently working on a solution and I will take full responsibility for it." I got on the wrong side of a few upper managers because I refused to state who on my group screwed up. I always told them I would deal with it in

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