The Impact of Bad Engineer and Bad Management in Tech Company

As an industry that is currently developing, tech companies cannot be separated from two factors that build it; competent resources from its engineers and good managerial skills from its manager. Engineering is one of the jobs that must balance various skills, including academics, critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork, and communication. Meanwhile, a manager must also ensure that its engineers can work well. If not managed properly, both can have a bad impact on a company.
July 29, 2022

A technology company is a company that provides products and services around information technology for customers. In its system, a technology company cannot separate the company from two factors that build it; human resources and management governance that play a role in managing it. As a technology company that develops or produces an information technology product/service, it will not be separated from the resources owned, namely software engineers. Engineers combine abilities from specialized knowledge, design, skills, and empiricism to build a product or service. Because engineering projects are often complex, they require a good number of engineers and structured engineering management.

As a company that providing information technology products or services, the tech company has 3 major areas of concern, which include governance of the company's technological systems, maintenance of the information technology infrastructure, and functionality of the systems overall. Besides that, good management plays a much more important role than a technology company can perceive in some business environments. It consists of the organizational and leadership structures and procedures that guarantee the contribution of the company's technology to the accomplishment of business strategy and objectives.

In line with work progress, things may not go as we want. Engineers want to be as effective as possible, but some aren't hitting the mark. Many engineers develop some bad habits over their period of work. There are several impacts on the company due to poor engineer performance, for example, negative organizational reputations, low level of employee morale, declining productivity, unhappy shareholders, daily interruptions, and so on. Meanwhile, if we talk about the impact of bad management, it leads to low engagement. Low engagement leads to decreased productivity and higher turnover in our business. In detail, we will discuss this topic with Timotius Nugroho Chandra, a senior principal software engineer from GLAIR.AI.

Good Engineer vs Bad Engineer, What Makes it Different?

As an engineer, their qualities and abilities will show how they are viewed. Someone who is said to be good or bad depends on the judgment of others and how other people view the quality of their work. This also needs to be handled according to the type of case. In the field of information technology, for example, a good software engineer is not only good at programming, but they also need to understand the business side of the development they are doing. Ability, quality of work, and the work results must complement each other to be said to be good or bad.

This is in line with the opinion of Timotius; different people will have different expectations of what it takes to be a great engineer. Moreover, according to him, if we drill it down to the smallest details, we could have hundreds – if not thousands – of parameters for a great software engineer. However, he only picks just three traits to be able to categorize good and bad engineers. Among them are:

  1. A great engineer communicates well. Most problems in tech companies (or any companies for that matter) boil down to communication problems. An engineer who communicates well will greatly reduce and even prevent unnecessary problems.
  2. A great engineer has an understanding of business knowledge. At the end of the day, engineers are problem solvers. Your customers don't care what technology you're using as long as it gives value or solves their problems. Great engineers possess some business strategic and financial acumen to move the company forward.
  3. A great engineer continuously learns. There are new technologies almost every day. New JavaScript frameworks. New machine learning algorithms. New programming languages. Great engineers know that they must learn continuously and keep up to date with new things. Moreover, they know the trade-offs and how to use the right tools for the right jobs.

If both (good vs. bad engineers) can be likened to co-workers, according to Timotius, working with someone who can be called a "good engineer" will not be mentally or physically tired because there is no need to be "spoon-fed" as often as possible such as conducting briefings, explaining tasks, or others because they can handle initiatives for themselves. Meanwhile, engineers said to be "bad engineers" often require "spoon-fed" every time their work is done because of a lack of initiative.

Communication is the most important parameter to pay attention to because the more you have good communication skills, it indicates that you tend to have more experiences. Engineering communication abilities are crucial to the engineering design process and are required for communicating thoughts and designs. Engineers who can express themselves clearly can deliver their ideas to decision-makers in reports, meetings, and presentations.

How Important a Good Engineer to a Company? How Do They Give Impact?

In general, running a company is not easy. Not only the quality of the engineer, but a company must consider several things, including the company's managerial capabilities, regulations and procedures, and service certification. Resources are the foundation pillars for companies to determine the extent to which companies will gain a reputation related to the quality of services or products they develop for their customers.

From Timotius' point of view, that may be seen as counterintuitive, a technology company's greatest asset is not its machines or software. Not even the source code that they have. The biggest asset a tech company can have is the people. Therefore, hiring the right people is paramount for the success of a tech company. Suppose we don't know where to look for a passionate, qualified, and driven employee. A company must successfully manage the recruitment process from beginning to end and take all necessary quality control procedures.

"Graduates from certain colleges with good quality and educational outcomes can set as a standard how well that person can do the work they will do in the future. But all that does not guarantee that they master the skills required by the company. Certification also can not be a benchmark. People who want to learn continuously are the type needed by the company." Timotius added.

When talking about the impact that a tech engineer can give to a company, everything is very large, not only depending on a good or bad one. As one quote from Timotius, "One bad apple can spoil the bunch." If there are bad engineers and management doesn't take the necessary actions, then great engineers will start questioning things. Great engineers will start doubting if it is worth staying in the company and eventually going elsewhere. This will leave the company with only bad engineers. Having a great engineer also does not guarantee whether the company can run well, especially if it has a bad engineer. As the saying goes, small things can ruin big things - “one small indigo ruins a drum of milk”. The tendency will be in the negative direction.

How to Deal With Bad Engineers, and How a Good Manager Handles It?

In dealing with a bad engineer, it should be noted that the way to handle it is based on what kind of case, depending on the existing conditions. Bad engineers can have a wide range of effects on an organization and the bottom line, like increases in turnover costs, legal fees, and decreases in productivity, performance, employee dedication, and corporate reputation. Bad engineers also can spread diseases. One disruptive employee may initially be the cause of the issue. Still, over time, other employees may start to act differently and believe that the organization has a high tolerance for their bad behavior.

In terms of overcoming a bad engineer, according to Timotius, several things can be dealt with, including:

  1. Hire the right people. Actually this is the most common things, but it's easier said than done. To hire the right people, tech companies need to be crystal clear about what kind of people they require. They also need to give proper compensation and benefits. Then they must invest in an objective and unbiased interview process.
  2. Invest in a good onboarding process. A good onboarding process will prepare your new hires to be navigated in the workplace. A good onboarding process sets the correct expectations, so new hires are crystal clear about what's expected of them.
  3. Invest in good mentorship. Pair your new hires with senior ones. Not only will it give them a buddy for discussion, but good mentorship will also eventually enable the mentees to become mentors. Thus allowing you to scale your engineering team.

The decision to fire or keep a bad engineer depends on the case. Basically, managing a company does not only depend on engineers but also requires a manager who is competent in managing the team. Managers and engineers are often reluctant to step in or voice their concerns about bad coworkers. Managers may be hesitant to discuss with engineers and often do not have sufficient skills to address behavior in a way that can lead to useful improvement. In addition, managers are sometimes reluctant to act against bad employees, resulting in the loss of good engineers. Many workers are promoted to management positions with little debriefing and training, which makes them unprepared to deal with disruptive behavior or bad habits from employees when they arise. It is possible that managers were never taught the social skills necessary to communicate effectively and function as effective team members.

Good managers will begin to pay close attention to what is happening when inappropriate behaviors occur and not turn away from issues they'd rather ignore. Make a note of particular actions that need to be addressed, along with the time and complication where they occurred. Spend some time gathering data and getting a complete understanding of the problem. Always ask the difficult engineer for their perspective; by doing so, managers frequently discover something impeding their progress, stressing them out, and maybe addressing and rectifying. Before bad behaviors spiral out of hand, the simple act of being heard can help de-escalate them. Timotius also added common traits of great engineering managers in tech companies, there are

  1. Delegate. Managers accomplish their work through their direct reports. Therefore great managers are good at delegating tasks.
  2. Criticize privately, praise publicly. Good managers understand that public criticism often leads to a defensive reaction and that public praise allows employees to feel appreciated and recognized. On the other hand, private criticism might reduce accountability. Great managers know when to make exceptions to this rule.
  3. Assign the right person for the right job. Great managers know the strengths and weaknesses of their direct reports. They don't assume that everyone has the same characteristics.
  4. Trust but verify. Great managers understand that the biggest enemy for great engineers is managers who micromanage. Great managers trust their team to do their job and know when and how to verify.
  5. Teacher, mentor, listener, unblocker. Great managers don't just tell you what to do. They teach you how to do it. They mentor you along the way. They listen to you. They help unblock your issues.

The traits above are inspired by Peter Drucker – widely considered the father of modern management. According to him, what managers can do are: Set objectives, organize, motivate and communicate, measure performance, and develop people. A manager is not the same thing as a leader. A leader prioritizes the development and well-being of your team members, while a manager may be responsible for work delegation and timecards. The best managers are adept at performing both tasks and can effectively leverage each engineer's abilities to create a successful company. To do this, effective managers employ soft skills and emotional intelligence.

What Problems Often Arise in the Management of An Organization? How Does It Arise?

Project coordination, engineer supervision, and routine problem-solving are all components of managing a team. Managers must be adaptable and focused on doing so because they frequently supervise a project or business through staff changes and policy modifications.

Organizations with poor management make it harder for engineers to succeed. Poor management abilities can harm the entire organization and have long-lasting impacts. In comparison, poor management skills are always a liability because they provide a work atmosphere that is simply unproductive and stunts the development of the company and its employees. Timotius said that throughout his career in tech industries, most problems essentially boil down to communication problems. Among them are:

  1. He-said vs. she-said situation. There is a saying that “if it's not written, then it doesn't exist”. Many problems of he-said vs. she-said can be avoided by writing down any decisions taken.
  2. Unclear and ambiguous requirements. Too many people rush to discuss solutions when they must define the problem first. This leads to vague problems that eventually turn into changing – thus unclear and ambiguous – requirements.
  3. Lack of strategic alignment between teams. When company executives fail to define the correct goals for everyone to pursue, every team tends to invent metrics that might not align and even cancel each other out.
  4. No set expectations. When the expectations are not set, people don't have clear guidelines of what they're supposed to do.

Due to the covid pandemic, communication obstacles have worsened for many organizations as their workforces moved to remote work. These obstacles won't disappear, as more than half of engineers indicate they want to continue working remotely after the pandemic. However, leading companies are tackling these issues head-on to ensure that engineers can interact effectively wherever they are.

Every successful organization is built on effective communication. A company's internal and external communications directly reflect the company as a whole, including its reputation. Even with effective communication, issues still arise. Additionally, communicating at all levels of an organization's communication structure increases engineers' commitment to the business and their sense of morale. In turn, this raises job satisfaction and lowers staff turnover. Suppose we have a clear line of communication systems in business and projects. In that case, our engineers will know who to turn to for all the information and direction they need to complete their responsibilities. 

Poor management, especially in terms of communication, will have a bad impact, according to Timotius, including Late projects, unachieved targets/goals, and high employee turnover. Obstacles in good management or communication will hinder projects or other work with no alignment of thinking between teams. Late and delayed projects will have an impact by not achieving the goals or targets set by the team and ending with complications in the form of high employee turnover as a result of the performance of an organization with low credibility and reputation.

How to Overcome or Eradicate Bad Management?

In an organization, a good management system will certainly advance the company. Increase competitiveness, expand cooperation, and increase client or customer satisfaction. Sometimes many companies feel that their system is lacking or ineffective in running the business cycle. Challenges in management in a company need to be addressed to keep the system in the company in good condition. One of the solutions, according to Timutius, is to choose the right people to be engineering managers. Everyone cannot master this skill; at least several criteria and abilities must be mastered first.

Timotius also added that we should make it clear to our team that they don't have to be managers to advance their careers. One way to do this is to provide a dual career track. Some companies call this Individual Contributor (IC) track and Engineering Manager (EM) track. If the employees think that they can only advance their career by becoming managers, it's more likely that the company will lose good engineers and get bad managers. Some methods that can be used to answer this problem are to apply the following steps.

1. Creating a "crystal clear specification" in the talent acquisition process according to the company's needs. Currently, many companies are not transparent in explaining their needs regarding prospective applicants, including requirements, job contributions, a clear selection process, skills that must be mastered, to several specific criteria for certain roles. This will encourage a less clear set of expectations between applicants and recruiters from the company, including the inequality in calculating the contribution they can make to the company. 

2. Level Path: Give benefits that balance their work, including a clear career framework/career path. As we know, one of the company's rewards is benefits and salaries for their employees. With the many demands organizations place on engineers, sometimes organizations forget to provide a balanced return for their hard work. For this reason, ensure that our organization can facilitate the benefits that employees can obtain following their contributions to increase enthusiasm for work. Also, define a clear career framework/career path for employees by their contributions. This will clarify the opportunities for "promotion" in terms of performance and contribution they can provide to the company.

3. Expectation: Set expectations using KPI/OKR/or a similar framework. KPI (Key Performance Indicator) is often used as a measuring tool that companies widely use to measure the extent to which an organization's or employee's performance in meeting their strategic and operational goals. While OKR (Objectives and Key Results) can be used as a tool to measure the extent to which what is being done is by the company's targets. OKR helps the team in the company to evaluate efforts to achieve targets. 

4. Training and mentorship. Training and mentorship are all activities to provide, obtain, improve, and develop work competencies, productivity, discipline, attitudes, and work ethic at certain skill and expertise levels according to the level and qualifications of the position or job. Generally, job training or training in a company is always closely related to the performance results of engineers in the company. By conducting training, employees can have the knowledge, abilities, and skills in accordance with their work.

How can collaboration between engineers and good management support the tech company? This is a question that the answer is already in the previous discussion. In the end, the pillars of a technology company are indeed found in two components of human resources, a manager who is competent in managing their engineering team and engineers who have good skills in executing their project. These two components must have good communication in order to be able to collaborate and work together in building a tech company. Communication is a very important thing to master because it is the main thing in synchronizing thoughts so that it will guide the completion of work effectively and efficiently.

GLAIR.AI is one of the tech companies providing service in AI, Cloud, and other tech services currently trying to develop good engineers and management within the company. At least there is a basic foundation that builds GLAIR in the allocation of human resources properly. As one of the companies whose "unique" GLAIR is part of a large institution above it, such as GDP Labs, GDP Venture, and Djarum Group, the basis is "synergy" in competent and structured company management. A structured employee recruitment process, a clear and balanced allocation of benefit sharing with employee contributions, a clear level path careers, the empowerment of its engineers, as well as mentoring and training for quality development of the workers in it are the pillars that build GLAIR.AI in managing management within the organization.

Conclusion

Today, technology companies are one of the most powerful drivers shaping the global economy. Technology companies are heavily involved in researching, developing, and manufacturing technology-based goods and services. Engineering and managers are two important components needed in building a good tech company. Engineering teams are undoubtedly seeking methods to increase value and boost productivity. Unfortunately, it is frequently simpler to say than to do. Having strong managers with the ability to optimize production pipelines and enhance throughput without exhausting talented engineers is the first step in optimizing and enhancing a team of engineers.

Based on Timotius's opinion, engineers are not expected to tick all the traits of great engineers in their early careers. Great vs. bad engineer is not a binary. It's more of a spectrum. Your technical skill matters more in your early days, and your circle of influence is narrow. As you become more senior, your circle of influence will widen, and you'll gradually be expected to communicate with many more people. Therefore you'll need to learn to communicate well.

Communication is very important in forming an engineer and manager. This is a solution to answering problems in the work environment. Most engineers are supposed to communicate effectively and clearly with the managers, clients, coworkers, and even customers. In short, technical skills are incomplete without soft skills like communication skills. Having said that, as long as your title is engineer, you're still expected to hone your technical skills and do occasional hands-on.

An engineer is not only a developer who develops a product but also a problem solver who needs to master many aspects beyond the developer skills. Timotius also advised that a manager is a position that is not obtained due to a promotion. Managers must have competent skills in managing a team not only from a technical point of view but also from a business and another aspect. Managerial is a different skill from engineering. Indeed, there is a special managerial for engineering. Better, don't treat managers as the next level from engineering contributors. This can cause a double kill "losing a good engineer and getting a bad manager." At the same time, the manager is not a benchmark for someone to be a team leader. Wherever someone can be a leader, the experience can encourage us to become leaders wherever and in any position.

Engineers and management are necessary for every organization. Teams that can quickly adapt to new technological developments are needed in the rapidly evolving tech sector, as are strong personalities to manage those teams. Leaders, managers, engineers, and teams drive businesses' success in the market behind the scenes.

Written by Denny Fardian
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