I Knew a Programmer that Went Completely Insane
By: Kenneth Parker
Not long ago one of our programmers just lost it and he lost it good. He walked into the manager’s office and began screaming strange things. If I didn’t know him as well as I did I would have thought that he was on some kind of drug. But what had really happened was nothing short of a complete mental breakdown.
He was one of the hardest workers I had seen in the industry. He would frequently stay after hours to work on projects; He was always available when management needed someone to rush a job out over the weekend. During this time the Company was not making money and they needed the work done as quickly as possible, so any software that had to be rushed to a customer was automatically assigned to him. His willingness to push himself to get a job done is what they liked about him.
However, his productivity was not so great when he landed in a mental institution. I was the one that the company sent to visit him in the hospital to check on him after his breakdown. He asked me for a pen and a piece of paper so he could write a program down. “I think I still got it” he said, as he sat there in his hospital robe. He wrote two lines of code on the piece of paper and then began to weep uncontrollably. The company let him go after about three months in a hospital and a few threatening phone calls. He ranted about how he should be the CEO and that he was going to be the new face of the company.
Later he spoke about how the effort he put into the company should have given him more respect and a better position. Despite being well treated and paid, for his hard work, he was still looked at as just a worker that produced well. He was never considered to be a key player in the company.
It may be hard to swallow but the extra effort and hours that you put into your job as a software developer does not usually amount to someone higher up thinking you should run the company. It has been my experience that good producers are more likely to be asked to continue to produce. If they moved you to a higher position and better pay then who would produce the software?
All too often we lose site of the human factors in software. It doesn’t matter if management pushes people to overwork or if it was their own bright idea to get ahead. The result is always the same. People are just people. They are not machines that can produce day after day without some kind of human interaction. In the end everyone needs a life.