You are an IT boss. Your job is to manage the IT crowd. Depending on your skills and knowledge you may find this job more easy or hard.

This guide is created by those who you try to manage: The IT crowd.


I am a System Engineer currently working 80% for (Swiss Phonebook) and 20% for ungleich (Unix/Linux infrastructure company).

On a daily basis I see how employees and bosses are acting and I spent time on analysing the behaviour of both parties (for fun - not profit). As I often see common mistakes and behaviour patterns, which make good or bad bosses, the idea was born to create a guide for IT bosses.


Be honest

Not a special requirement in regards of IT, but if you want your employees to respect you, you definitely need to be honest.

Don't even think about playing tricks on them, they will find out and everybody will lose the respect for you. Guaranteed.

Be available

Your job involves a lot of meetings and coordination. Your employees understand that and may even be very thankful you took that job. Still, as you are the boss, communicate straightly when you are available, so people can bring their questions and problems to you.

If you see there is too less time to be available for your team, it's probably good time to split up the team or to move on to another position and promote somebody else for being the head of IT crowd.

Give freedom

More important than in probably most other areas is the amount of freedom you give: IT professionals are usually bright people who understand their job very well. The learn on the job (which includes getting side tracked from time to time), they are keen to touch the latest and newest technologies and have a high motivation.

Adding artifical borders to the way the work makes them less productive, less motivated and in the worst case leave your workplace.

Pay even more attention on this topic, if you have some technical background. You may know (or think you know!) what the best solution or technical choice is, but you hired those people to do a good job, not just to execute your thoughts, did you?

Don't assume

Don't try to enhance the working situation of your employees with stuff you assume could be good for them.

You will most likely be wrong.

Instead listen to your employees or ask them about your idea. Spending an hour or day discussing is probably more worth than throwing away your shiny new invention.

Give tools

Have you ever seen a good craftsman working with broken tools? Probably not. Take the same approach for your IT professionals: If they request specific tools (software, notebook, mobile phone, screen, etc.), they probably have a good reason for it.

Don't hesitate to question the request ("Why do you need this / how does it make you more efficient?"), but also don't hesitate to let them buy the right tools afterwards.

Denying to give good tools makes your employees less motivated, less productive and indicate you don't value their work.

Regarding value: Did you consider that the 3000 USD notebook, even if it is not better than the employees current computer, is worth the motivation you gain from it?

Plan, assist and communicate objectives

Your key competence as an IT boss is probably planning and communication. Use this power to assist (!) your IT crowd: Aid them in planning their work, show them how to plan and communicate what you expect from them.

Don't try to squeeze them into a specific way of working. Better: Let your employees know what the objectives are (expected results, date of delivery). They probably figure better out how to reach it than you. Always remember: IT guys are different, some of them love to work in the night, some of them cannot concentrate in open plan offices and some of them want to work under high pressure (do all the work in one night).

Consider the difference

Compared to many other professions, IT people are behaving a bit differently (that's why sysadmins have their own time management book, for example). This may require special treatments from your side: For instance the usual motivation factors may not work as expected. If you listen carefully, you may hear "weird" requests like "I'd like to start working at 14:00 until the night". If possible, try to honour these requests: They don't cost a lot of ressources, but they require an open minded leader.

Set values in relation

IT projects are quite often expensive and there are various reasons for it. One of them being a future orientated market requires using latest high technology equipment. IT guys are used to carrying around computers worth a car or a bigger house. Thus IT guys are aware of the money that is being spent on IT equipment.

As stated before, your IT guys may have special requirements, not only in terms of working time, but also their choice of tools may be non standard.

Instead of denying to buy simple tools for your IT guys, include those costs into the project budget. Also consider reading Parkinson's law of triviality.

See also

The following resources may be of interest for you as well:

* [The Hacker FAQ](
* [Managing Humans: Biting and Humorous Tales of a Software Engineering Manager](
* [How to Work with Software Engineers](

More to come

This article is work in progress and is being enhanced by input from other IT professionals (thanks for all the great comments!).

If you want to contribute, you can add a comment on Hackernews,
reddit or contact me directly.