The Trouble with People

Michael Lopp on the dirty details of managing

Dealing with people, says Michael Lopp, "is messy, messy stuff." Lopp is a senior engineering manager at Apple, creator of the popular technology blog Rands In Repose, and author of Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager. He recently spoke with Staff Writer Amy S. Choi.

What common mistakes do new managers make?

When it hits the fan, people new to managing want to do the work themselves rather than manage employees. You need to trust other people to handle it.

How much should you communicate?

Filter the content that comes across your desk and figure out which piece needs to go to each team. Be consistent. I err on the side of overcommunicating. You never know what somebody can do with a piece of information.

What should you do when employees are bickering?

Figure out whether the conflict is personal, religious, or intellectual, and then address it.You see patterns over time. Some employees just like to fight.

How do you deal with tantrums?

Some people feel that a temper tantrum is productive. Don't participate in whatever freak-out they are having, which can be hard, because it's intoxicating to fight. When it's over, then you can talk.

What motivates employees?

Recognition is really powerful. Money and company stock pale in comparison to the "atta boy" gesture. Reward employees by including them in strategic planning or high-level projects.

Edited by Jeremy Quittner

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