Happy people are more fun to work with. Many people have no idea how to make geeks happy, however. I have a few “rules” that I follow that have historically kept my geeks upbeat:
- NEVER treat them like idiots. They’re often the smartest people in the room and might have a clearer picture of your management challenges than you do.
- Let them be creative. Never demand that they do a project according to strict rules, because doing so likely produces weaker product. (Note: strict REQUIREMENTS or specs are necessary, but those aren’t “how-to” rules.)
- Encourage laughter. If your company will tolerate it, encourage practical joking. My staff once toilet-papered my office when I made mention that they might do it in a column I once wrote.
- Institute non-mandatory “monotony breaks.” I often sent my staff fun (and work-appropriate) online quizzes, “questions of the day,” or Dilbert cartoons in order to allow them to blow off steam. Anyone very busy could ignore them, but they appreciated the change in routing and the chance to blow off steam.
- Let them bond. Take them out to lunch in appropriate groups. Encourage post-work gatherings. Let them chat at work. As I mentioned in my post, On Geek Socialization, this bonding will help them relate and keep their tempers during emergencies.
Overall, I treat geeks as I want to be treated. Helping them build morale leads to happier geeks, a stronger team, and better work product.