How to Torture Programmers

Matt McCormick


Do you have a programmer in your life that drives you up the wall? Would you like to be rid of him forever? You can! Just follow these five simple steps and your programmer will run crying for the hills.

  1. Put him in an open office

Remove as many barriers to communication as possible. Put the most talkative person - the person who can’t keep quiet for more than five minutes - as close as possible. It’s best if you have many non-programmers within earshot so they can chatter about topics of non-interest to the programmer.

Microsoft did a study that showed that for each interruption, it takes a programmer at least 15 minutes to get back into the focus they were in before being interrupted. If you have everyone in an open office, there will be more interruptions and chances for torture.

  1. Lockdown his machine

Don’t let him pick the tools he wants to do his job. After all, security is paramount and programmers can’t be trusted. Instead, give him the tools that you choose. Preferably pick ones that companies with a large sales staff directly sold to you. Only let him use one browser - and that browser is IE 6.

When you hire a mechanic to fix your car, he would go nuts if you told him he could only use one wrench. The same is true of programmers. Limited tools means more frustration!

  1. Timely Interruptions

Programmers generally work in 45 minute blocks. The first 15 minutes is gathering information, identifying the problem and coming up with a plan to solve it. The next 15 minutes is trying different methods and learning about which ones work. The final 15 minutes is putting the learning to use, figuring out the solution and implementing it.

If you want to torture programmers, you need to time your interruptions. Interrupt too frequently and he will never start work. Interrupt too late and he will have accomplished his task already. You want to hit that sweet spot around 25-30 minutes. This will break his state and cause him to lose much of the learning he has acquired to solve his task. Do this at strategic points throughout the day and he will leave feeling he has accomplished nothing.

When you interrupt, do it for some mundane reason. The more pointless and non-urgent the better. Also, be sure not to ask if he’s busy. You don’t want him to have the opportunity to put your interruption on hold.

  1. Provide Pointless Work

Or, better yet, no work at all. Force the programmer to still come to the office and sit there all day. He can surf the Internet but isn’t allowed to work on anything challenging or useful. This might be fine for a couple days, especially if he has been overworked, so you may need to give this plan some time. After a few weeks, the programmer will be dreading the morning when he has to go to work and not be productive.

  1. Shoddy Equipment

If the psychological torture isn’t good enough, it’s time to turn physical. Buy the cheapest equipment you can. Make sure his chair has as little adjustments as possible. Even better, have him sit on a stool. Gravity will do the work for you and strain will start to cause problems with the programmer’s spine, shoulders and arms. He will start developing back problems causing him pain for a long period of time.

Your company does not need to put up with happy and productive programmers anymore! Just implement these 5 simple steps and you will have broken their spirits. Productivity will cease and morale will plummet. Work will soon be torturous for programmers just like it is for you.