How to keep your developers motivated

What’s your most important resource?

Try asking that question to a person who owns a software development or software heavy business and wait for the answer. What you will get is mostly in the lines of:

  • Our servers
  • Our strong brand
  • Land and building

Yet they all miss a very crucial asset. I will let Steve Balmer say it.

Yes that’s right! No matter how prime your location and brand is, nothing comes close to the value provided by good developers. This is because our industry is unique in that we don’t create value by the traditional methods of reducing the costs or increasing the price, we create value by coming up with new ways of doing things.

In this way one developer can create value hundreds maybe even thousand of times what it costs you to keep them.

Yet we have lost our way and treat our developers not as gems but interchangeable cogs. Don’t believe me? Well below are some of the behaviours that kill developer morale.

Noisy work area

Coding is an intensely mental task. The open plan movement entirely ignores the need for peace and quiet to get anything done. For other professions a noisy work place is ok perhaps even welcome. For developers thou we do need a quiet space even in open plan office special space should be segregated and declared a noise free area.


A developer could goof off all day on the terminal getting absolutely nothing done as you watch on! Get over the notion that you can force developers to work by watching their every step.

Instead try respecting their space and let them do what they do best. You see most developers get into the field because of their passion. More than anything else the chance to create something great is appealing. What is not appealing is a boss who thinks their Masters in Some CS course hallows them to god status.

Unrealistic deadlines

“Just quickly move this button from this page to that other page, that should take you like a minute right?” If you have ever said that to a developer kindly take a second to slap some of that nonsense out of your head.

Unrealistic deadlines are not only going to be skipped, but they bulldoze morale and motivation. They say you don’t think the work the developer is doing is challenging and worse the developer never really gets appreciated even when they have great turn around time.

No investment

The best always get better. This is a truism that you would do well to note. Because its corollary is, if the best can’t get better at your organization then they will be packing.

Ask yourself, is it really not possible to sponsor a ticket to that conference that your top developer has been hankering about?

Paper work

Everyone hates paper work. However since you get paid more, you get to do all the mindless paper pushing! Passing this responsibility down to your developers is abdication of duty.

In case you are wondering, yes, paper work does not get any more palatable when its in digital format.

Customer is the king

In the land of developers we are a free people, we say no to aristocracy. The people of this land are good and considerate we will do everything to serve the clients needs but not all their wants.

On this point, its important to note that clients are generally concerned with costs and developers are concerned with quality. Giving up quality is a very painful experience for the developer.

And while at that

The world is a complex place, there will be a million and one things to do at all times. Requests like “Fix the bug on the XYZ product and while at that create a new accounting system for the people at finance” just doesn’t float.

It is your job to prioritize the work and have the developers working on only the most important task at the time and nothing more.

How do you avoid this morale killers in your own organization? Tell us in the comment section below.