Ned Batchelder sent me a link to his post, Engineers are People.

I really like the way he compares emotions and hunger.

Emotions are like hunger

Imagine workers weren’t allowed to eat lunch or snack during the day, and hunger was considered a weakness that should be suppressed. Hunger would become a huge issue. Tensions would grow, and tempers would flare. Workers would constantly be struggling with their shameful hunger. The workplace would be a mess.

Now put “emotions” in place of “hunger”, and you understand the modern workplace.

Both hunger and emotions are natural parts of being human; we wouldn’t think of asking people to check their hunger at the door. (We wouldn’t, would we?)

I wrote about this a while ago and in an article on First Things First.

Ned goes on to offer some advice for managers:

Here’s some quick advice for managers on treating engineers like people.

What to do with a bad employee

If an employee is doing a bad job, do these things until the situation gets better:

Ask him to improve.

Ask him if he needs help.

Ask him if everything is alright.

Repeat these last steps a few times.

Let other people in the company know that the situation is getting bad.

Get someone else to repeat these steps a few times.

Tell him he’s going to be fired if things don’t get better.

Do it all again a few times.

I’d add a refinement:

When you ask the engineer to improve, tell him what success will look like.

Give him specific examples of the work or behavior that isn’t acceptable.

Provide specific examples of what is acceptable.

Agree on how you’ll measure success.

More on Managing a Struggling Employee here.

More on providing effective feedback here, and in the current issue of my newsletter (send me an email w/ surface address, and I’ll send you a copy.)

Chris Morris comments via email:

I like to think of emotions as ‘nerves to the soul’. The nerves in my

skin give me feedback on interactions with my body; emotions give me

feedback on interactions with my beliefs.

Yes, indeed. Our emotions are an internal feedback system.