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Blindsided by a happy developer

happy worker


When Tim gave his two-week notice to leave the company, I was shocked. He was the first developer I’d hired at my business, Creo. I hired him as an untested, unproven intern his senior year of college. I’d groomed him, invested in him, trained him, and been friends with him.

So when he came in with his letter of resignation and wanted to have “the talk,” it stung. He was quitting to work for Ebay, on their iPhone app team. It stung even more when I realized that I was the one who’d invested years in teaching him how to build mobile apps! I’d been the one who lost $180k on his salary during our first big mobile project. A MASSIVE investment was walking out the door.

When I asked him how long he’d been looking for another job, he quietly said: “For a while, now.” Ugh!
I had no idea he was unhappy. I thought we were all on the same page, and he was fully invested in Creo.

I’d asked for feedback many times. When I asked him “How’s it going today?” he always told me “Fine.” When I asked him how I could be a better boss, he said: “Nothing comes to mind.”

Sitting there, thinking about how I’d deliver the Virgin Mobile App project he was working on, and how in the world I’d ever find another good mobile developer in the remote town I lived in, life seemed very unfair. And Tim appeared to be a big jerk at the time for doing this to me.

My lesson today isn’t “Don’t ever believe that your developers are happy.”
It’s not “Don’t invest in them because they’ll just walk out the door.”
And it’s certainly not “Screw them before they can screw you.”

The lesson is that your primary job is to intentionally build deep, honest, trust work relationships with each of your team members.

Remember: It is your job, not theirs.

Here are three ways you can to start today:
1. Consistently hold meaningful one-on-one meetings
2. Make it safe for them to give you honest feedback
3. Offer them feedback and correction so they can improve

I wish I’d done those things with Tim. I was going through the motions but was too busy to notice the relationship wasn’t as good as I thought it was.

About Marcus Blankenship

Where other technical coaches focus on process or tools, I focus on the human aspects of your Programmer to Manager transition. I help you hire the right people, create the right culture, and setup the right process which achieves your goals. Managing your team isn't something you learned in college. In fact, my clients often tell me "I never prepared for this role, I always focused on doing the work". If you're ready to improve your leadership, process and team, find out how I can help you.

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