8 biggest myths about managing geeks

Managing talented techies can be tricky business. Here's how

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<Geek management myth No. 7: Geeks are antisocial misfitsWhile the tech field tends to attract more introverts than extroverts, the image of geeks holed up in their cubicles thrumming away on their keyboards while everyone else around parties just doesn't hold water.

"I think the biggest myth is that geeks are antisocial," says David Jessurun, freelance Web designer and consultant. "In fact, one of the best guys I ever had in my teams had only one major issue: I had to constantly track him down and pry him away from the pretty girls in other departments -- and they from him."

Encouraging tech staff's social side is in fact a great motivator, says Live Leer, director of internal communications at Web browser company Opera Software.

"We host Friday beers, International Women's Day events, plus Christmas and summer parties, and our employees have organized among themselves board-games nights, singing groups, sailing trips, and dance classes," she says. "Also contrary to 'geek' stereotypes, we've found that offering a psychology service, having a masseur visit weekly, and generally offering a family-friendly workplace where staff can bring their children to work if needed is great for accommodating our employees and their needs."

Geeks need to develop good relationships with their coworkers, even if they are reluctant to do so, says life coach Scott Crabtree, chief happiness officer (yes, really) for Happy Brain Science.

"Introverts won't shout about how they need contact with people; they might even resist social activity," he says. "But science suggests that both introverts and extroverts benefit greatly from social contact. Providing opportunities for geeks to be social will boost their happiness and therefore their productivity, creativity, and health."

>Geek management myth No. 8: Solving tech problems is all the satisfaction a geek needsFor years, stingy employers have used the myth that geeks care only about technology -- and not money -- as an excuse to underpay and overwork them. If this dubious notion was ever true, it isn't any more, say experts. But money is only one of several key motivators, along with recognition from their peers, flexible work environments, or simply the opportunity and the tools to write tight code or solve a thorny problem. 

"Money matters, of course, but mostly as public reward for a job well done," says Munger. "Instead of an end-of-year holiday bonus, though, it's far better to walk into their work area with crisp $100 bills and reward victories throughout the year. For engineers who've spent extra time crashing on the job, I have sometimes bought a weekend getaway at a hotel resort for the whole family to enjoy after the project is done. Spouses appreciate that the company recognizes their sacrifice as well."

A job well done -- and recognized as such by management -- goes a long way to keeping the tech staff happy and motivated.

"Geeks build stuff, and there is no greater sense of achievement than seeing their app live and in use," says Nikki Garg, COO for Icreon, a tech consulting and development company. "Give them visibility; show off photographs or promotion material of the project, share the usage statistics, and tell the stories at internal staff meetings or events. Don't forget to celebrate victories together."

Even simple praise can do the trick -- just as it does with the rest of the nongeek staff, notes Suddreth.

"The old adage that geeks like to stay hidden in the dark while hand jamming away at their computers is really a thing of the past," he says. "They want to be appreciated and recognized just like anyone else in the organization. So be sure and give them a shout-out when they do a good job."

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This story, "8 biggest myths about managing geeks" was originally published by InfoWorld.

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