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5 reasons why you should fire workaholic programmers

JAXenter Editorial Team
Busy image via Shutterstock

David Heinemeier Hansson says that workaholics aren’t the solution to your start-up cash woes. Rather than rely on slave-driving to push your idea, DHH thinks you need a better strategy to get creative, interesting people investing in your vision.

Saving money for your start-up? Don’t even think about skimping on wages via the workaholic state of mind. David Heinemeier Hansson, the well known race car driver, amateur photographer and inventor of the Web application framework Ruby on Rails has explained in a blog post why he recommends the dismissal of workaholics.

A few tips Heinemeier Hansson published several years ago were inspired by a list of savings proposals for start-ups written by Jason Calacanis. Passing over a telephone system or Microsoft Office software seemed like good ideas, however when it came to the suggestion of firing workers because they weren’t available to work excessive hours on the operation, the fun stops.

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Even before his book Agile Web Development with Rails indicated he was a man of clear words, Heinemeier Hansson’s response to the list was to craft five reasons why a founder should get rid of the workaholics instead:

  1. Working up to fourteen hours a day will only lead to burnout in the long run. This collapse will hit the operation pretty hard and – with Heinemeier Hansson recalling Murphy’s Law – probably at the worst possible time.
  2. Workaholics are convinced that throwing extra hours at problems are the solution to those issues. These employees are judged to be far less productive than employees who can work flexibly and are always looking for creative solutions.
  3. The worker who’s always staying back late is likely to make those working reasonable hours have a bad conscience. He also quotes the ‘ass-in-seat’ mentality, where staying late out of obligation doesn’t actually mean they’re being productive.
  4. Life is more than work. To make important value judgements, you need a life outside the office. Heinemeier Hansson sees this as a critical aspect of great work.
  5. Heinemeier Hansson wants to work with interesting people, as most people probably do, but being a workaholic isn’t likely to lead to interesting discussion topics over lunch.

Heinemeier Hansson doesn’t sugarcoat it when it comes to revealing his point of view. He’s convinced that having a workaholics-only attitude is a sign of a poor start-up:

If your start-up can only succeed by being a sweatshop, your idea is simply not good enough. Go back to the drawing board and come up with something better that can be implemented by whole people, not cogs.

Calacanis was mentioned as ‘sort of’ reconsidering his position after the post by noting that employees require passion. Heinemeier Hansson thinks this is a stance that all start-up founders can get behind.

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