How to Damage the Morale of Your Staff

This note is a collection of posts from certain gamedev forum. I tried to select some of the more reasonable examples, so hopefully lonely manager who wanders here one day can learn something (if you’re from management - read carefully and sin no more). It’s a little sad, because most points look obvious and I didnt even put most of the creepy ones (ie, buy a new shiny Ferrari based on the royalties, the day you fire 50% of the crew) as people guilty of those: a) dont read, b) are beyond hope. Anyway, the list:

  • Have people crunch for weeks to get a feature finished before a deadline. Then once they are nearly finished with the work mention offhandedly that the feature was cut weeks ago.

  • Start charging for free drinks/coffee/snacks/etc (this is like canary in the coal mine, sprint away as soon as your company does this, it’ll go under in 6 months).

  • Make everyone vacuum their own cube and empty their own trash.

  • Before every upcoming deadline (the more, the better) announce it’s the most important deadline evah. Deadline comes and goes, nothing happens. Few weeks later, same speech again. Rinse & repeat.

  • Schedule every milestone deliverable for a Monday, without fail.

  • Reschedule employee’s holiday because of a milestone date (even if it was booked months before and you agreed).

  • Stand by the no bonus, despite making a ton of cash on the last project.

  • Give an idiot an important job they cant do. Despite numerous complaints keep that person doing said job. When a sufficently important deadline comes out farm 12 months of that persons work out to other team members to fix (or in most cases actually implement). This one seems to exist also in outsource form (outsource something, than cancel and make some poor guy inside finish it. Bonus points if he fails his own tasks because of that in the process and doesnt get extra payment, in the best case he’ll fund outsource out of his pocket).

  • Stick to your guns on a feature that is tedious and time consuming to implement when no one on the dev team sees any value in. Cut said feature after completion. Bonus points for blaming random person for coming up with “so stupid” feature. Insist it definitelly couldnt be your idea.

  • Announce that we are now in a crunch, starting right now, today, zero days notice. Do this on a Friday, a year before your game ships.

  • Never thank for anything.

  • Start demanding that people clock in during crunch, treat them like children when they are 2 minutes late, but crucially, don’t record the time they leave.

  • Begin staff meetings at 4.55pm (5.55pm, if you work 10-6, you get the drill).

  • Ask staff to do a task and then sit there with your feet on the coders desk ensuring they’re doing the work.

  • Insist on adding robots/aliens/whatever you’ve just seen in another game/movie. Bonus points if this happens in the last month of development. Double bonus points for requesting multi-player as well.

Dont do it. Seriously.

Old comments

ed 2008-01-29 19:51:24

Don’t do what ? Those are great advices. Hopefully will get morale boost in my team. I like especially the one with charging for coffee. Question is for how much…

Malfunction 2008-01-29 20:02:33

Yeah! Just CITY-INTERACTIVE! At every point :)

Michal 2008-01-29 20:29:55

:-) in your imagination Malfunction - CI got 150 and it grows fast because of a great team spirit and reasonable goals.

Riddlemaster 2008-01-29 20:31:18

This “Never thank for anything.” thing is the most morale-killing one I had ever ‘dealt’ with. If only the management guys had more frequently any programming experience, life would be so much simpler…

Malfunction 2008-02-06 19:48:40

Michal - the one of the mentioned in the article I see ;)

Dysfunction 2008-02-06 20:00:29

100% correct in case of Michal. I wouldn’t say he does not read things, he does, but he never understands.

Jacek Weso??owski 2008-02-07 01:04:36

Those 5pm meetings were my last boss’ specialty. I actually got fired over the matter. I have yet to meet a GameDev manager who knows the labour code, let alone observe it.
Another one for the list: ask a level designer to design a level/mission, but don’t give them sufficient documentation. Avoid giving clear answers to designer’s questions. Wait for designer to create a mission based on their own assuptions, then complain it doesn’t comply with your vision of the game. Ask for another version. On the next day, complain that the level is not ready yet.
And now for an authentic story. Hire an HR manager. Gather all staff in a single room (rent a pub for an evening, if you need to), introduce the manager, and announce that anyone can approach him/her with any complaints or doubts regarding their job. Then wait for some guy to actually approach the HR manager with a list of complaints and doubts, and fire him on the spot. Wait for the staff to start calling the manager “human replacement”, then organize a “damage control” meeting. During that meeting allow some excitable girl from sales dept. to insult all the production staff by telling them how stupid and ingracious they are. Let some equally excitable programmer return the pleasantries to all the sales staff, and watch your company’s team spirit burn to ashes. Bonus points for saying out loud that it is all the fired guy’s fault.
As for City Interactive, I used to work there. I left last July. About the same time at least eight others left (that’s how many I can name off the top of my hat). That’s some 15% of the creative staff at City’s Warsaw HQ. Great team spirit of a growing company, indeed.

Michal 2008-02-19 12:03:25

bla bla bla ;) Of course we do mistakes in recrutation process as every other company do. Sometimes we are forced to say bye to people who simply can’t fit, have problems with understanding company values and at the end are offensive and abbusive to ppl. It doesn’t make sense to waste a time together - better way is to find dream job and make something constructive.
Jacek wrote an coarse e-mail to HR where he offend her and others from CI in very vulgar way. It’s obvious that in any kind of company and private life that kind of behaviour will be punished but not for him.

ed 2008-02-20 09:45:05

Jacek used in email, if I rememeber correctly, not so much abbusive, one word about main boss of CI (he wasn’t also “offending others from CI”) and despite of that, plenty of statements in that mail were very very true. But you decided to take it personaly and fired him.
And you’re right about one thing. If someone wants to make something constructive, should look for job other than in CI.
And that is what I hear in CI very often “my way or the high way”. Yeah, this is what will fix morale of your staff.

Michal 2008-02-20 12:12:55

Ed - I have this e-mail. It’s extremely abusive and offending. It’s nothing personal - that was the only way in this case. Facts are that CI is growing fast and during that time, ppl who are/where friends of Jacek or Mlf still work for company, thrive themselfs and improve their skills - why are they have different perception of the situation in the company? 150 ppl are wrong, few ppl knows better - yea, sure.
I hate this kind of politics when a few ppl who changed work or in this case where fired, are trying to offend company. What for? This isn’t good behaviour and I’m sure in this rather small industry, it will move round and hit themselfs sooner or later.
For me it’s EOT

ed 2008-02-20 16:55:02

Just like communism. How it can be bad if so many ppl live in the countries like that. Note your statement “this rather small industry”.

Jacek Weso??owski 2008-02-20 20:40:29

Ahh, now we’re taking things personally, aren’t we? Funny how I deliberately avoided mentioning City in that story, but then Michal tried to spite me, and only made things worse for himself in the result. Some people may think he’s being right, and not me, but nobody can deny there is a conflict within City.
I realize these local wars aren’t very relevant to the GameDev industry at large. But they may carry some value as a case study.
The worst word I used in that letter was “dymaƄ?”, which is fairly inoffensive in terms of vulgarity, although it does have an ugly meaning (it means both “to cheat” and “to have sex with someone who doesn’t really know what they are doing”). I was very angry at the moment, but I didn’t have a public outburst. The HR manager was the only recipient, and as an HR manager it was her job to deal with situations like this. Or so I was told. I got angry mostly because I had tried to talk to her before, and all I heard was that either she or the CEO hadn’t had time to talk to each other about problems we faced.
After I left, I felt bad about the whole thing, mostly because Kasia (the HR manager) was a nice person, and she seemed a bit upset, and it wasn’t really my intention to give her a hard time (as for the CEO, I regret nothing). And everybody seemed to think of the whole affair as some kind of martyr thing - “Jacek is getting fired because he’s right”. So I did a silly thing that only an anxiety-disordered person like me could do: I put a copy of that letter on a remote host as a kind of confession, so that everyone could read it and see for themselves. They did, and it actually caused many people to show even more support. You know why? Because they were as angry with the company as me.
It seems everybody has benefited in the long run. My new employer seems much more civilized. For example, I don’t have any no-competition clauses in my contract. People who left City at the same time as me have found new jobs, often abroad. Michal has been replaced by a new guy, whom most people refer to as “reasonable”. The new guy actually does some of the stuff I had demanded, and he’s being fairly succesful at that. A kind of happy end, isn’t it?

Michal 2008-02-20 22:31:31

For “dymac kogos” there is stright translation: “fuck somebody”.
HR - Kasia and few other ppl including me were upset because e-mail was really terrible. Mail was send not only to HR but also at least to one of Jacek’s “friends” who send it (“in secret” of course) to large group of ppl in the company (politics again)…
I don’t want to disappoint Jacek but after he “left” CI I wasn’t replaced but promoted, we did number of projects, opened 2 new dev studios in Poland and lunched NDS. Development started to be really hudge and on the beginning of ‘08 was splited into PC and DS and I’m taking care about DS section and “new guy” for PC and indeed he’s a good manager. Another good news is that we are opening new development studio in Peru:
It’s good that Jacek see happy end and likes his work in PCF.

admin 2008-02-21 09:54:01

Let’s end it at that, then. As entertaining as reading it may be for those involved, the article itself wasnt supposed to be about any specific company, just a bunch of general observations.

Mara 2008-10-27 16:03:22

Good for people to know.