20 small ways to keep your programmer / sysadmin happy

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Everyone smart enough knows not to mess with the IT department. They fix your computer, listen to your whining (and then just press Caps Lock and walk away), manage the systems that get you paid and have access to your webbrowsing history (yes, they do know about THAT activity too). Given that, it’s easy to understand why keeping your programmer/sysadmin happy is at the upmost importance.

Below are a few simple tips to achieve just that… and if you can’t follow these then there’s always the option to be tolerant and avoiding. Most of the suggestions / tips are directed at managers (and upwards), some of them based on my own experience as a programmer and a general IT guy. This article is by no means a "10 foolproof steps to happiness" type of thing nor should it be taken as the absolute truth, but rather a (slightly mocking) humorous rambling.

20 Simple Tips To Keep Your Sysadmin and / or Programmer Happy

  • Don’t seek direct conflict with your sysadmin. You might win the battle but lose the war (and your job with it).
  • If you have the authority, make a suggestion to get a professional yet easy to use coffee machine to replace the 3 year old crap the IT department is currently using.
  • Make using the coffee machine free and every employees right.
  • If you have to comment the programmers job that didn’t come out quite as was expected, ask yourself this first: was the failure REALLY his / her fault or was it a combination of bad luck, miscommunication, corporate policy and maybe, just maybe, your own slip up(s)?
  • Compliment him / her on a job well done and when everything works like it’s supposed to; don’t wait until something fails and needs fixing to do that.
  • Let the guys (and girl) in the IT department have free reign over their looks (as long as it’s not in a direct conflict with human dignity), don’t enforce company dress code and never, EVER make them wear a tie.
  • Realize that "from nine to five" can be translated as "from 21-05". Don’t be an ass about the timetable - you probably hired them with a more flexible schedule anyway - as long as the work gets done and communication with him / her works.
  • When your programmer needs newer hardware, your programmer needs newer hardware. If your programmer needs a license to use paid software, your programmer needs a license to use paid software. It doesn’t matter that everyone else can still type text documents with Wordpad. You wouldn’t want your doctor to use five years old medicine on you, would you?
  • Do NOT have a corporate policy "We use Windows X. Period.", "We use MS Word X. Period." or similar. A guideline is good. An order is not.
  • DO have social events where the IT department is invited and wants to be invited.
  • Given a large enough IT department, enable them to visit lectures / events of their profession on their own choosing at least twice a year, all expenses covered.
  • Make the procedure of dealing with smaller (inhouse) hardware / software problems clear. If at one day the programmer appears at work wearing a T-shirt with a slogan "NO, I WILL NOT FIX YOUR COMPUTER!", you know things have gone too far.
  • Do make it clear that your employee is a valuable asset to your company and that any concerns / problems are always up for discussion. They don’t call IT the best field to be working in for no reason - there’s always competitors who are more than happy to offer a job to Your ex professional.
  • When you need a program, do make it clear to yourself first what it is EXACTLY you need it to do, is it really necessary and for the love of god, does the head of the IT department think if viable?
  • Write specs to your programmer like an architect sketching an intricate building - roughly, but with great care and foresight.
  • Make the international sysadmin day a corporate holiday.
  • Arrange mandatory Computer 101 seminars so that everyone in your company could distinguish The Internet from LAN, the browser from the OS and most importantly, the programmer from the sysadmin.
  • Given to difficult decision to fire a female IT worker or cut back on everyone else’s paycheck in the IT department, ask the guys first - that’s being considerate.
  • Don’t hire people who can’t memorize 6 digit passwords (randomly generated, changing monthly) in one week (or write them down), can’t identify an online (phishing) scam after receiving appropriate education, use Internet Explorer 6 or ask where the Start button went.
  • Be reasonable, in control of your temper and benevolent towards your co-workers.

What are your thoughts about this article? Could you add more suggestions to the list?