What’s The First Thing You Tell Your Underling?

You were just given permission to hire an underling, and today’s their first day reporting to you.

What’s the first thing you warn them about?

I asked on Twitter, and the replies were great:

Chris and I had a followup discussion because I was curious to hear if he meant “do” to mean accept one, give one, or both. He meant both, and I agree. Plus, if you understand why, you’ll do a better job of executing the task and handling any surprises that come up during execution.

I’d extend that to include, “The data model speaks the truth, but the data often lies.”

I love that last one because it teaches the underling to take over as much as they can. It’s heartwarmingly encouraging, and we should all be that way to our underlings.

Y’all have such great advice that you deserve underlings.

Previous Post
SQLBits Attendees: Here Are Your Prerequisites for Mastering Index Tuning.
Next Post
[Video] Office Hours: Open Q&A About SQL Server

11 Comments. Leave new

  • I’m going to print a couple of these answers on T-shirts.

  • The best advice I ever got from a boss at a new job:

    Don’t worry about making mistakes. You will make them. Just don’t make the same one twice.

    If you make a mistake, tell me first. Don’t let me go into a meeting with other managers to find out about it. If I know about it, I can have a solution ready to throw down and we can work on it.

  • When you make a mistake, STOP before you fix it. Ideally, talk it over with me or someone else before you fix it.

    You’ve already messed up, don’t make the problem worse by panicking; It is easy to get tunnel vision and dig a deeper hole or make the situation unfixable if you are hurrying too much.

    Messing Up is not a problem – everyone does it sometimes. Covering it up or making it worse IS a problem because that undermines trust.

  • When you ask me for help again, I have multiple choices…

    • You want your underlings to ask for help… You SHOULD know more than they do and this allows you to mentor them.

      Even if they sometimes do make the same mistake, that isn’t terrible – it may not have seemed to be the same mistake to them or they may have been so busy avoiding one mistake, that they didn’t notice the other one.

      If they KEEP making the same mistake, it may become a problem but the solution is not to warn them yet again. Instead, you need to accept that that “mistake” is simply a feature of that employee’s innate character. Either fire their sorry ass or change their working environment to prevent that aspect of their character being a problem ; If they keep forgetting to update the documentation, implement a change management routine that requires the documentation to be updated in order to allow a change to be made. Keep their talents by finding a way to work around their weaknesses, which may improve things for everyone.

  • Few things:

    There are people here with a masters degree in sociology that “learned” how to write SQL reports. they will be your greatest source of time waste in your entire career, that even exceed safety meetings in facility expansion construction projects where tech work also takes place separately.

    All the analysts think they are smarter than you, but to most of them, you will regularly need to show them the correct logic for math in SQL as well as endlessly explain types. Don’t let them make you doubt yourself. When in doubt, blame their problems on bad python or R code but keep an open mind. This preliminary assumption is usually correct.

    You will need to become very good at finding MS whitepapers and KB to explain to managers why bad ideas on SQL servers are bad ideas.

    Never let the server team do your backups unless they are a DBA. Ever.

  • I have found the opposite regarding data models: If they even exist at all, they are often out-of-date.

  • For you – Start by not calling them underlings:)

    For them – Don’t lead people, projects, or yourself with your ego. Learn how to communicate clearly, kindly, concisely, effectively, and efficiently with everyone from the c-suite to the cleaning crew – regardless of subject matter.

    • 🙂

      Sorry. I meant “minions” since “flunkeys” would wear fancy clothes, they don’t have the muscles to qualify as “henchmen”, and they hopefully have more potential than “dogsbodies”…

      Maybe this is why I am not a Manager (and don’t want to be).

  • Chris Switalski
    September 3, 2020 8:15 am

    “Don’t be afraid to ask for help and don’t be afraid to ask questions…but you better damn well have googled the question and check at least 5 links/articles because if I google it and the answer is the first link you’re getting smacked.”

    While I agree mostly with this I for one still am OK with asking the questions even if the subject has been googled. I have often been asked if I’m a cop because I ask so many questions. While I do read and google, I learn best when something is explained to me either by whiteboard, chalkboard, Powerpoint, pen and paper, youtube videos, etc. Especially if it is a new topic, I really struggle to understand if all I did is read about it. I like to joke with my kids that I can count on one hand how many times I skipped/missed class in HS and college because I learned best when the topic was discussed/presented by the instructor. This also allowed me to ask questions(the cop in me).


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.