How to work with me

In March 2005, a photocopy was handed to me in preparation for work with one of the top wigs. It enumerated the rules necessary to avoid conflict and ensure efficient communication between me and someone who doesn't have time for bullshit.

Recently, I discovered said photocopy hiding within one of my coding books and showed it to my peers. They loved it. They loved it so much, that they wanted to use it for their own minions.

It is my ethical obligation to share with the world at large, provided the original author doesn't mind (unnamed for privacy) and provided you understand that this is half-jest and half-serious but definitely with a lot of respect and admiration for the author. After all, it takes balls to say what you think despite how weaklings might feel about it.

Here goes:

  1. I prefer to work fast, minimize bullshit, get to the point.
  2. You will sometimes have bad news for me. I want it immediately. I can usually show you how to fix it. And I never blame the messenger.
  3. Bring pen and paper to every meeting with me. Pay attention to what I say; I'll try to speak with care. If I frequently must repeat instructions, or remind you of something I've already told you, you will not work with me again.
  4. If I've scheduled a weekly meeting with you, don't assume that this meeting is the only time to raise issues with me; Interrupt me for time critical issues.
  5. If you have a meeting with me at an assigned time, and I am in another meeting with my door closed, interrupt me. I stack meetings, and each meeting leads into the next.
  6. I like "micro-meetings". Get in quick, bring only the necessary parties to the table, make a decision, get out. Five minutes or less. Make these effective by knowing what decision needs to be made before you start, and presenting the decision criteria ahead of time to all participants.
  7. Stand during micro-meetings.
  8. I don't like email, particularly for discussing complex topics. If a decision needs to be made, do a micro-meeting. If a problem needs to be discussed, ask the person with the most depth to prepare something, an agenda, have a whiteboard, and work through it quickly.
  9. One exception to the above: I like "micro-updates": Quick emails confirming time critical commitments and mutual understanding. These are especially useful after we hold a meeting and I give you a set of directives: I always like to hear our agreed-upon commitments echoed back to me. I may not respond, but I will read it. Keep these emails short: Spare me the greetings, thank yous, regards.
  10. Be consistent in your communication. Use words consistently. Use email headers consistently. Strive to make your work immediately comprehensible.
  11. If you disagree with me, voice your differences. I welcome and invite dissent. If this makes you uncomfortable, feel free to prepare your thoughts after the meeting and then later return to make your case.
  12. Ego-driven debates annoy me. Check your ego at the door: I'm only interested in reaching the best, most elegant solution —I don't care if it's your idea or mine.
  13. Don't be afraid to ask questions if you're not clear. I have more patience for explaining and clarifying my position before you start than I do patience for fixing a wasteful, incorrect approach after the fact.
  14. Don't tell me something is in the process of being done without telling me when it will be done. I'm more interested in the time commitment than the fact that an effort exists.
  15. Always give me options, informed by an economic analysis where possible (if there are dollars involved, an analysis is mandatory), and then make your recommendation. Don't tell me there's a problem without offering a solution. Don't offer me multiple solutions without giving me your best and final recommendation.
  16. If you must prepare reports for me, review spreadsheets I've created. Copy the style and format.
  17. Don't send me long documents. I like precision and concision. Say it on one page (or less).


I've fixed a typo, which was pretty hilarious. "Don't sent me long documents. I like precision...". Thank you, Hacker News for picking this up and for your comments.

If you'd like to read more, follow me @darkgoyle


Anonymous said...

well said -- I should start handing this out as part of any contract I have w/3rd parties ;)

Anonymous said...

...as stated in the book "One Minute Manager"

Natasha Murashev said...

Wow, you sound really angry.... Wouldn't want to work for you anyways.

brito said...

@Natasha Nah, the original author was not an angry guy at all, but I can see why the direct approach is intimidating.

Anonymous said...

Would have to agree with the previous commenter. I run a company myself and I don't have time for BS either but this sounds pretty anti-social and negative. Heck the title itself "How to work with me" is saying that the author is full of it. This definitely leaves something to be said about humility, respect and friendliness.

brito said...

@Anonymous: True, it does come across that way; but you are judging character based only on a list. His personal interactions are far more friendly and respectful.

One thing that I always keep in mind: smarter people can scare insecure people very easily.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the author is an impatient dick. I wouldn't work with you, and although some of your tips are useful, your tone would likely result in an ass kicking rather than better communication. The post would be better titled "Communication guide for Stasi. West Berlin". Or Google employee communication guide, one of the two.

F!!k you. And thanks.

Anonymous said...

Looks like a decent list. #2 is the only one that comes across as too arrogant for me.

brito said...

@Anonymous: It does sound like he is impatient. It sounds more like you jump to conclusions based on a list and project your internal contradiction as anger.

I contemplated not publishing your comment because it's hateful, but I want to make a point for the next readers: It's better to work with someone who puts cards on the table first, than work with someone who is judgemental and spiteful. Disagreements will always turn into ego wars in your case.

sirspudd said...

@3:28 PM

One less book I have to buy, neglect and shelve.


I have lost far more time to useless clueless inconsiderate prats than I have lost tears to frank direct people who want to touch base with me. Useless people are rife in any big company, if decorum has to go to get shit done, I will be the first to shell out the clams.

Zen said...

What I am finding amusing is the amount of folks who reflect on this and say "I would not want to work with you..."

This statement is made based on the ego-centric idea that you would be CHOSEN to work with the list maker.

You would not make the cut, bacause all the time and energy would be spent worrying about bruised egos, and not tackling the task at hand.

Direct communication regarding expectations is the key component for a successful project, it save time now, instead of backtracking because something was misunderstood, later.

Anonymous said...

"...Check your ego at the door: I'm only interested in reaching the best, most elegant solution —I don't care if it's your idea or mine...."

This is probably one of the top-3 reasons why projects fail due to poor collaboration.
Very good list.

Chris Nicola said...

My only criticism (and I loved it btw) is that 17 points was about 12 too many. He could have had 5 excellent points and accomplished the same thing with "precision and concision"

Ryan said...

Sounds like the author is very busy, and is doing something to combat meeting overload. I like his style. It's very Dutch.

Oh, and the author of the list is a senior manager. He spends his time in lots of meetings. He has to make lots of important decisions. His biggest constraint is time. This list helps him manage that.

It doesn't mean that he's an egotistical dick: it means that he's busy, but pragmatic. And probably very very successful.

Anonymous said...

Some feedback ..
1. People who have a different working style are just that .. not weaklings
2. Don't confuse efficiency with effectiveness .. I would focus on the latter even at the lose of the former.

Anonymous said...

Completely understand. I am sure many will appreciate it esp when you have been there and done that...not as a boss but as a worker and now you understand why they did what they did!!!!

Fab said...

I like how his last point doesn't really to his very long list:

"Don't send me long documents. I like precision and concision. Say it on one page (or less)."

Anonymous said...

This list sounds like it was made by someone I would like to work for.

Though sometimes I like to sit at mini-meetings...

Sage Gerard said...

Resubmission with fixed typos.

Although I am not offended, I do think this is the result of a pragmatic personality trying to find an excuse to not be tactful.

A monochromatic view on things being done or not done does wonders for efficiency, and I appreciate the author's attempt to speak in favor of projects getting done.

Problem is, I tried this attitude before and it got me nowhere. Being sensitive does not automatically imply that you are entertaining narcissists. All it does is show others that you are not a threat.

The presentation of this list suggests a strong desire for true honestly in business politics, but also a lack of interest in building relationships. A business personality and a "personal" personality are not truly seperated in the office, as much as management would like to believe otherwise.

Although emotions are not good guides for the best solutions, they still exist and influence our decisions. Would you rather have emotions be geared toward liking you, or not? This post almost seems to imply that the contributions made by angry/pragmatic people are no different than the ones made by happy/pragmatic people. Seriously? No amount of whining the author does about dealing with "egos" he does not personally like will change the fact that morale is important.

To be fair, I respect the author's decision to work only with people he can best see results with, and I think he is smart enough to realize that he is responsible for any loss of prospects or loss of morale that might come from narrowing his social focus in the office.

My criticism bears one big question: Is business communication between humans supposed to be on the emotional level of the computers we use? If so, why should we all adopt this standard? I am not happy living a life where prosperity comes at the cost of alienating clients.

Maybe I'm overanalyzing this. After all, I do hate dealing with OVERLY emotional, stubborn clients. However, If any readers adopt the standards documented here, I wish you the best of luck, but I doubt that you would be comitting to an adaptable business personality.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate this list very much, it's a manifesto about saving time.


Andy C. - www.gaia-matrix.com - Italy

Nick said...

I LOVE this list, I think it a no bs way to say what u are looking for in an employee without sugar coating. All the people who think it's angry or arrogant are the very people that NEED this list. If u stop to think through them, not one has any emotional connotation in any way, just simply stating what works best for this person. I would almost take a pay cut to work with a no nonsense person like this.

Rob Whelan said...

Excellent list! #2 made me pause -- "I can usually show you how to fix it" isn't well-worded, and gives the impression that when developers come to him with technical problems, he can immediately resolve them. I.e., either his developers aren't generally very good, or he thinks of them as not very good.

After reading the rest of the list, though, I suspect he's trying to say that he will immediately tackle the problems in his domain (related to resources, time, access, etc.), and will try to make a decision to address any such problem extremely rapidly. He clearly takes his own responsibilities extremely seriously -- there are multiple cases where he asks employees to break common decorum (be rude to him, and skip the more roundabout ways to respect his ego/authority/etc.) for the sake of efficiency & effectiveness.

With that perspective, yes -- this sounds like a great manager to work with.

Julie said...

This manager sounds like he's very efficient at getting work done in a high-volume environment, but probably not very effective at managing relationships (also part of a great manager's job), or not until he polished his people skills a bit. From that perspective the list is great but yes a bit long; the only thing that really put me off was at the end of #3.

Anonymous said...

1. This list is extremely limited information to judge the author's personality and likability.
2. Within this limitation, Sage Gerard makes the best, most valuable points here.

Paul W. Homer said...

While I like some of the sentiment (no BS, get to the point, etc.) I find that the list is very tailored to the author's personal needs and requirements. Perhaps he needs to follow #12?

Also, working quickly is a good idea for some situations, but others often require long conversations and plenty of deep thought to solve 'properly'. Just getting something done quickly isn't a good idea if it ends up causing more harm than good.


skuska said...

You're cool! This rocks!

agou said...

Two things, one for you and one for the author.

For you: if you believe that "it takes balls to say what you think despite how weaklings might feel about it" then your balls are weak.

For the author: I'm sure that every manager agrees to these rules (or has his own similar set). But what matters is who actually applies them. And only few do.

brito said...

@agou Ok, I'll bite.

If you provide criticism without providing a logical argument to support it, you are simply projecting your frustration. Evidently you choose the righteous way over sense of humor.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the perfect recipe for someone who is absolutely full of themselves.

*I* assume you are going to waste *my* time, so read this list of things *I* think you should follow.

Condescending to the max, but then again life is full of people who want to put everyone else below them in some hierarchy they control.

Now, 99.9% of the readers will assume *they* are the ones who need to hand out that list to those inferior souls who are at risk of wasting *their* time.
Because, frankly, no one imagines themselves as someone who could learn anything from it.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the list of a manager (tactical thinker) not a leader (strategic thinker.) Sargeants do get things done, but never run the company.

FB-E said...

Standing or sitting in a decision-making meeting is irrelevant. Haste only raises the probability of making mistakes. I'd say that you run into the situation of taking an important decision on your knees if you do not spend the right amount of time or human resources to obtain accurate and significant data and alternatives. Coaches have playbooks and quarterbacks have arm plans to support field decisions.