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Five ways to motivate an engineer

For some reason, this idea just popped into my head.  Sometimes engineers get a little leery when it comes to a new project, especially in this micromanaged digitally connected world.  I have learned to beware of buzz words and phrases  like:

  • We couldn’t do it without you
  • We need you to guide this project through
  • I’ve got your back
  • Failure is not an option
  • Engineers are what makes radio stations tick
What they really mean is:
  • If we could figure out a way, we’d do it without you
  • We need you to answer your cellphone and email 24/7 so we can direct your guidance
  • Watch your back
  • This is such a lame brained idea, it’s going to fail and we are going to blame you
  • Who really knows what engineers do?

What management does not seem to understand is what motivates engineers.  How do you get the guy who is on call 24/7 three hundred and sixty five days out of the year (even on vacation) to rise above his normal performance level and really shine?

Have no fear, there are things that engineers daydream about, those special little projects that can only be categorized one way: “NEAT!”

Most engineers that I know are enamored with efficiency.  Anything that can increase efficiency, increase data throughput, provide more information and or make a difficult job easier may fall into the NEAT! category. Things like IP enabled remote controls, transmitters and processing that can be accessed from lap tops or smart phones.  Installing VNC or like program on computer automation systems, servers and the like so that they too can be viewed and fixed from lap tops or smart phones is another good example.  Of course, exactly what qualifies as NEAT! varies from engineer to engineer.

Here is the complete list of engineering motivators:

  1. Having some projects with the aforementioned NEAT! items on occasion
  2. Increased compensation and or bonuses for good performance, completed projects, etc
  3. Decreased number of “pocket protector” jokes, glassy eyed staring, silly remarks and the like
  4. Engineers are highly trained professionals.  It is not up to us to fix the chair your ass broke, fix the toilet your cheap ass had installed, tape the worn out carpet you got on trade, fix the leaking roof you also got on trade, change light bulbs or wash the station vehicle.  So don’t ask.
  5. If somebody could figure out how to include one of these with all new equipment installations or projects, perhaps in the ancillary kit or something:

That would be great.

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A pessimist sees the glass as half empty. An optimist sees the glass as half full. The engineer sees the glass as twice the size it needs to be.

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