I'm a team lead/dev who manages a team of 10 programmers. Most of them are hard working talented guys.

But of late, I've got this one person who while highly talented and has delivered great work for me in the past, has just become completely unreliable. It's not his ability - that is not in question - he's proven that many times.

He just looks bored now. Is blatantly not doing much work (despite a LOT of pressure being put on the team to meet tight deadlines etc.) He just doesn't seem to care and looks bored.

I'm partially guilty for not having addressed this before now - I was afraid to have to lose a talented guy given the workload I've got on.

But at this stage it's becoming a problem and affecting those around him.

Can anyone spare their thoughts or words of wisdom on how I should go about dealing this.

I want the talented AND motivated guy back. Otherwise he's gonna have to go.



+11  A: 

It sounds like the guy has got personal problems of some kind. You need to talk to him, be honest about your observations and offer to help him. Don't mention letting him go yet, but if you cannot make him understand where the problems lie, you will have to "threaten" with letting him go.

Yes on open communication, but easy on the "threaten" part. A good general guideline in employment is to never let your mouth write a check that your ass can't cash. If you can't afford to fire him when you utter those words, you're in for a world of pain.
Semi-true... you can always aford to fire someone if they become more of a cost than income. I don't think that's the case here though... ... ... but yes, easy on the threats :)
Timothy Khouri
Don't threaten if you won't follow through. And make sure you know exactly how you will have to follow through. This is often not straight-forward. This is a dangerous top answer!
Sam Meldrum
I put "threaten" in quotes for a reason. He must in the end be made to realize that continued employment depends on him getting on his feet again.
Assumption , from management, that drop of productivity is because of personal issue ... rather than office issue !!!
Vardhan Varma
+1  A: 

Find out why he is bored. Have you asked him if anything is wrong? Can you offer him some incentive to make him motivated?

Mitch Wheat
+4  A: 

Is he burned out? Is he bored? Stressed? On drugs? Personal problems? If he's bored, burned out or stressed, you might be able find out and change his assignment somewhat.

If he's on drugs or has personal problems, there is very little you can do because 1) he won't tell you, and 2) you're not the type of help he needs. Where you go from there depends a lot of the type of company you're in. I've worked with places (in Canada) that had anonymous help for those sorts of problems, where they'd refer you to the right sort of counselling and get you back on your feet. In the US, I've only worked for the other sort of company, where if you are sick, alcoholic, your wife has cancer, or whatever, their only solution is to fire you.

Paul Tomblin
So - what? An employer isn't supposed to do anything about an employee's drug addiction?
You can try, but it's not likely to be effective. What are you going to do, give him a lecture? Threaten to fire him? You can try to hook him up with services, but that's really not in your training as an IT manager. If you're lucky tho, there might be a resource elsehwere in your organization.
Adam Bellaire
In the US there is a stigma with mental illnesses/counseling still. Often an employer hotline will point you to professionals, but insurance will not pay for counseling.
I don't get it. If he's wife has cancer and she is going to die the "best" solution is to fire him? I mean screw capitalism for this.
Andrei Rinea
I mean to write "his wife" instead of "he's wife"
Andrei Rinea
+1  A: 

If someone's not motivated, then, well, there's very little you can do about it except make him motivated. Everything happens for a reason of course (personal problems at home aside) - no interesting projects and no challenges ahead of him being the most probable.

There have been some very high quality threads on how to keep your team motivated and on top of the game, a quick search on these would definitely give you lots of good starting points.

petr k.
There is no way you can "make someone motivated" - that is an internal thing.
+2  A: 

Just a word of caution. Don't hand this developer your most interesting project to see if that motivates him. Your interesting projects should be given as a reward to your already motivated, superstar developers. Rewarding him now will just bring down the morale of the rest of the team.

Talk to the guy and see if you can find out what's wrong. Let him know you've noticed a change. Also let him know about any upcoming projects that you have planned, but tell him you need to see some motivation before you make assignments.

Bill the Lizard
very good point on giving him the interesting project. You've got 9 other people who are contributing to the team. The last thing you want to do is "reward" the one person who others see as unmotivated.
Brett McCann
Unless they've never suitably rewareded in the past, which may be part of the problem
Gordon Hartley
+87  A: 

Why are you asking us and not him?

Honest communication is your solution. But you have to realize if the guy doesn't care anymore you're not going to change that. You'll have to fire him. Just be straight with him before it gets to that point, its the least you owe him.

+1. Shit happens. In other's life to. If it affects your life, you can give a warning to the other, but you can't let it carry on. It's hard. It's unfair. For both of you.
+1 definitely. Honest talk between employer and employee is always the best way. My boss once gave me an afternoon off because I had just broken up with my girlfriend... He said he needed me in good shape, not soaking all day
Keep in mind people won't always open up to a direct questioning. Psychology is pretty much a degree on getting people to tell you (and themselves) what they're -really- thinking.
Maybe so, but you should at least tell him what YOU are thinking. Either he can respond or not. But at least he'll never be able to claim you sprung his pink slip on him.
Try talking to him outside of work; take him out to lunch, or out for a beer, he'll be more open with a change of enviornment.
Some people can't tell you why they've burned out, I know I couldn't when I was 19.
too much php
@too_much_php: perhaps you are burned out from "too much PHP"?
Jared Updike
+1  A: 

May he needs some change of role o kind of job. The best way is to talk with him and try to determine what is happening without pressure.

+2  A: 


There'll be an obvious reason he's bored/un-motivated which you need to get to the bottom of.

This can sometimes happen when team members feel they are not valued or empowered in their jobs. Try assigning extra tasks that brings value to the team such as new technology research, app proto-typing etc.

I defintely think you need to confront him - do you hold reviews and feedback meetings for your team?

+10  A: 

Read Peopleware
and Managing Humans

Ya 100% Agreed - They are both GREAT books
+20  A: 

Have you recently done something to piss him off or depreciate his value at your company?

Have you or somebody else recently taken credit for something he's done?

Or blamed him for something he hasn't done?

Have you taken an interesting project, task, responsibility, or control away from him?

Have you been throwing projects at him in the 11th hour when it's been sitting on your desk for 3 months, then waiting 2 months to deploy his work?

Has it been made clear to this person that he's not going anywhere in your organization?

Or anything along these lines?

These are the quickest ways to demotivate me.

PS-this may sound overly critical towards management, but every time I've been demotivated at work, it's been for one of these reasons.

John MacIntyre
Amen. I too can easily go from I-totally-love-my-job state to updating-my-résumé because of stupid things management have done, or not done.
+2 if I could. This is like a reverse bucket list for project managers, unfortunately many of us have had to deal with all of them.
Tim Post
+11  A: 

How old is he? I'm not talking midlife crisis or anything as inane as that, but as a middle-aged bloke, I'm facing a variety of internal, external and health issues that are impacting negatively on my productivity. Also, depression (and I mean the clinical kind, rather than just "feeling a bit down lately") is a wild card.

I'd agree with the general consensus: take the lad aside in as non-threatening way as possible, perhaps over a pint at the local pub (if your organisation structure can stand that), let him know that you've noticed, that you care, that you don't want to lose him, but that you can't carry him forever and see if he opens up. If you can help, help. If you can't, make sure you've got a good plan 'B' that addresses his needs and yours. If separation can't be avoided, try to make it as amicable as possible. If you show compassion, you may end up with his CV on your desk sometime later, when the issues have been addressed.

+6  A: 

Lets hope he hasn't read your post about letting him go, sounds like you should be talking to him rather than posting about him on a public forum.

You need to chat with him and see if you can find out whats caused the change in behaviour.

Perhaps if you ask him he might give you some insight to the issues he is having.

Paul Whelan
+6  A: 

Tread carefully. Think about what you are doing. Keep good notes of any meetings. Seek advice from others in the company (e.g. your manager if you have one) - or those more senior or who may be affected financially (business owners). This may depend on size of organization.

Do you have an HR (Human Resources) team, or personnel team you can ask for advice? You can do this on a no names basis. If you have a good team, they should be able to help you.

What you can and should say may depend on what country / legislative environment you are working in. E.g. the currently top-rated answer (from Jesper E) currently refers to threatening to "let him go". You should absolutely not do this until you have checked out what your process is and have checked what you can and can't say with HR or an employment lawyer. And explored all other avenues.

At least in the UK, you will need to go through a formal process to carry through with this threat. Throughout that time you will need to make sure that you document everything meticulously and are able to demonstrate that he is not performing to the required standard. This will place a large burden on you as his manager. Make sure you are prepared to follow through if you make this threat.

Not going through the proper process and ensuring that you have dotted the is and crossed the ts could end up in an unfair dismissal claim and an expensive payout. If you can afford to pay him off, then go ahead and make the threat. It won't do the rest of the team morale any good though. Having good employee relations practices is a good idea - especially for tricky members of staff.

The other part of the answer by Jesper E is reasonable. Be honest and open with him and arrange to have a meeting with him to discuss how work is going. Be ready with some options if he does need to talk to someone about personal issues, you - as his team leader - may not be the right person. HR may be right. Or if you have an Employee Assistance program, have the details ready. Alternatively, if you don't have such things, you may need to arrange independant counselling. Is your company prepared to bear the cost? Preferably know the answer before you go into the meeting. How important is getting the motivated and talented team member back?

If they are not prepared to discuss the issues with you or an independant third party then you are going to need to agree some ground rules such that the team member's work is still acceptable. Get them to sign up to these and make sure everything is specific and measurable. You will need to keep documented records of every time they fail to satisfy the ground rules. And you will need to bring that to their attention to prove you have given them the opportunity to improve.

I assume you have regular meetings with all members of your team where you give and get feedback. If you don't, you should. Instigate this for all members of staff straight away. Make sure there isn't some systemic problem in your team of which he is just the first casualty. This way you also avoid any claim that you have unfairly picked on the one chap, as you have put in place feedback meetings for all the team. These meetings should be regular and fit in to your development cycle (ours are typically 6 weeks, yours could be shorter or longer, but I wouldn't go more than 2 months without a feedback meeting).

You should also have a formal appraisal system in place. This should be at least annual, but preferably with a six-month review. This will help keep people motivated and enable you to give and get feedback and to set longer term goals than your regular feedback meetings.

Sam Meldrum
+1  A: 

Give him the url to StackOverflow - he might not be any more productive, but it might get him interesting in coding again.

And who knows he might enter an answer to this question... :)

+3  A: 

I have been through such a phase myself because of troubles outside the office. The moment I saw it has serious impact on my work, I talked about it with my boss, and anything is settled and fine now ;-).

It is not easy to talk about your own problems, so be carefull not to force him in a corner. But create an atmosphere where you can talk about anything without direct concequences. It pays off in the long term.

+12  A: 

Others have given some great advice about talking to him, but there is another possibility:

This developer used to come in and work 80 hour weeks and now he decided he no longer wants to be a slave - and is "only" working 40 or 50 hours. In that case it is unrealistic expectations on you part.

Regardless, talk to him about it.

+12  A: 

Look for signs of burnout.

  • Has he had a big disappointment or series of disappointments recently?

  • Is there something wrong in his personal life?

  • Has he really been burning the candle at both ends?

  • Does he have any reason to feel under-appreciated?

  • Have there been any nasty office politics that he's been on the losing end of?

  • Find some resources on Burnout, perhaps even get a consultant in.

If he really is suffering from burnout, you're buggered. He really needs to change jobs or take a long sabbatical. Help him to do this as nicely as possible - a substantial paid leave, and counselling if he'll accept it - but burnout takes months or years to recover from, if ever.

Otherwise, you ask him what's wrong, perhaps with tact and sensitivity. Make him understand that you really appreciated the old him and want to know what happened to it.

"... - but burnout takes months or years to recover from, if ever." I would have never believed this if I didn't go through it myself; it is so surprising but so true.
Frank V
Holy cow, they have burnout consultants?
Tim Post
There are professionals who do this sort of thing - industrial psychologists and various species of mental health types like psychiatrists that do burnout counselling.
+4  A: 

I don't know, on the surface it seems like a clear case of the employee has personal problems, have a honest conversation, set some goals for improvement working with the employee and if things don't improve fire them and move on as was previously suggested.

But the question is what are "tight deadlines" and what kind of workload are we talking here? If 60 hour work weeks are the norm at your company, it may be that your employee just decided there is more to life than work. On the one hand you can have the conversation and fire him. But on the other hand most of your employees are going to reach that point and start dropping off. Most employees will not want to do 60 hour or even 50 hour work weeks every week. If you have an occasional crunch time that is one thing, if you are always having a crunch time, that is a sign of poor project management and needs to be addressed.

So I guess a lot of the above advice on talking to the employee and finding out what is wrong, maybe having to fire the employee if things don't improve is true and applies if everything is normal. If you are running your team into the ground, the advice may still apply, but if you don't fix your project management issues you may find that you have this same situation with employee after employee. So definitely talk to the employee, but take a step back and objectively decide if maybe you are making "unreasonable" demands. Otherwise get used to having to hire young unattached men/women and after a few years when he/she burns out or decides to start living a life having to let them go.

+8  A: 

Have you tried vacation (for him)...?

Thomas Hansen
+72  A: 

I would say, speaking from experience, that he is wanting to go someplace higher with his technical skills, and that the opportunity to do so is not apparent at your company. Why doesn't he just leave? Well, maybe the "personal issue" people refer to is that his salary is adequate to keep his family fed, clothed and housed, and quitting to change jobs in this economy is dicey at best, so he's caught having to stay where he is to provide safety for his family and wanting to work on more challenging stuff.

Don't assume that because he is single that he does not have family obligations. He may be caring for an ill/aging parent. He may be sending money back to the home country. He may have child support obligations for a youthful indiscretion (which, if he is paying faithfully, I commend him for).


He was obviously talented enough at some point. He might actually be one of those hackers who only do well under technically demanding conditions. Treat this well, there are many companies who want this sort of fellow; the sort you can throw a hard problem to and watch the problem become an elegant solution.

Has he talked about using newer tools, newer languages? Things that your "corporate overlords" do not allow, such as Python or a version control system that is not VSS or CVS? Does he go to esoteric computing websites and belong to esoteric mailing lists? Do you know? If this is what is chafing him, the issue is not burnout, but rather sheer boredom.

I know, it pays the bills to build yet-another-input-form in with c#, with yet another object persisted to oracle. But at some point the self-enlightened developer will want to automate and abstract all that away, or even better, search for and adopt a framework that does it automagically.

Boring work

I think you just have boring work at yet another boring shop. I suggest that you need to talk to him about what he feels can be done to improve team productivity with better tools, better systems, better processes. Then let him loose implementing.

Research and development

You may feel that you can't afford to go off on tangents. Let me tell you something. You know why GM is in such a fix? because they did not innovate and keep up with the rest of the automakers. There is only one fate that awaits companies that don't innovate: bankruptcy. There are no other alternatives.

If your company has an innovator on board; a person of great capacities who seek to better their craft and lift the capabilities of computing, you should absolutely take advantage of that individual's skills and drive.

Termination and recommendation

You should not terminate the guy. The failure is within your company. There is a lack of communication, and there is a lack of leadership. I know my words may sting, but somebody needs to tell you. If you are unable to properly motivate a skilled person, then that is a management problem, pure and simple.

If his skills are no longer needed, then you lay him off with severance and a glowing recommendation letter.

If his skills are needed but he's not motivated, that's a management challenge. You need to find a way to motivate him.

That you have come here seeking advice is a good step. You need to improve as a manager.

Finally: let the pressure off the guy. Nobody performs at their best under pressure.

Christopher Mahan
I have to disagree failure is not always within the company.Managers can only go so far in motivating people. If he has serious personal problems, they may not be able to help this guy. A drug addict or alcoholic may be beyond help. In this case letting him go may be the best choice.
I've had a case of a good programmer just loosing focus because the project did not motivate him anymore. Luckily we managed to move him internally to another project. That is something that just happens with generation Y :)
David Rodríguez - dribeas
I'm totally this employee, funny thing is you pretty much nailed all my issues at once in your list. I'm bored, my skills are under utilized, my company needs some serious "refactoring" and I have some really stressful real life obligations, throw on top of that my previously running 60 hours a week.
@firoso: Hang in there. it will get better.
Christopher Mahan

Talk to him tell him you think that he is a good developer but you've noticed his productivity drop of late. Ask him if there is anything that the company can do to help resolve his issues.

I remember a few months ago my productivity dropped because I was stressed to high hell because I was trying to sell my house and buy a new one, and everything under the sun seemed to be going wrong.

It really helped me to know that my manager cared, and even offered me time off to sort out the issues.

Omar Kooheji

the guy can be demotivated becouse of the low skill requirement of the tasks he need to complete, you need to check that, believe me this happens all the time, after development process, maintaning stuff demotivates people. is the guy still sees future on your company, his expectations because of former successful work satisfied ?

It is hard to tell without details, but by asking this kind of question which needs an equation with many variables that can not be expressed here, you give me an impression of rationalizing a judgement.

+1  A: 

I had a similar situation with one of my developers. In the end, it turned out that a family member was struggling with illness and it occupied a large amount of his though - and understandably so.

Obviously, you are going to need to talk to him. Just a couple of things to keep in mind to help you figure out how to approach the situation, as well. Is it just his work ethic that has changed, or has his entire personality shifted? If work ethic changes, but the person is as socially engaged with his peers as before, that is a very good indicator that there is a level of job dissatisfaction - whether that is lack of challenge, losing the drive in his career path, or something else will require some discussion.

If he has become withdrawn or there have been other behavioral changes, the chances are that whatever is bothering him is more of a personal problem. Just make sure to tread with caution, being understanding but remaining firm. It is tough when someone has a problem, but he has an obligation to his job, as well. Quality of work and meeting deadlines is important, and if it something that he can no longer do, he needs less responsibility, as opposed to throwing him a bone.

I don't know how involved you are in performance reviews, but it definitely needs to be addressed in there as well. Unfortunately, if things do head south, you would want to have some sort of documentation as to what has transpired for both your sake and for your human resources department.

+1  A: 

As a manager, you have an obligation to the company and the other employees to address this issue. Talk to HR first, but you should set up a meeting and show him documented examples of where his work is not up to the required standard. Then ask him why this is happening and how he can fix it. Give him a set time to fix the issue before escalating, but let him know that if the performance is not fixed, he will go to the next step in whatever process your HR has for dealing with performance problems.

It is not your job to motivate the person if he is not motivated. Motivation is an internal thing. It is your job to set clear performance standards and then insist that they be met. If he has personal problems that are causing a perfomrance problem, he may or may not choose to discuss them. However if he does not, then you can't offer any help to deal with those problems, but you can still insist that he earn his paycheck. If he does choose to discuss personal problems (This is why it is good to have HR in on this talk) then discuss what can be done to work around them. A short term problem can be worked around by lowering his workload temporarily (My boss did this for me for instance when my beloved died). It could be that if he says he is having depression or addiction problems, that his continued employment may then be based on his seeking treatment as well as improving performance.

Sometimes when a personal issue is affecting someone's work, he or she may not have noticed that or may think no one else has noticed. In this case, with a normally good worker, usually just telling tham that the performance has slipped is all that is needed to get them back on track.

Remember, the discussion is about performance and only performance. You can offer help or offer to discuss personal issues, but you are doing so only in the context of improving performance. You aren't a professional counselor. It is not your job to fix his personal life.

If the person is just bored, that isn't your problem - it is his problem. He's taking the paycheck, it is up to him to earn it. All jobs have boring work. You can't treat someone as a prima donna who only gets to do the fun stuff without affecting the rest of your staff. If you reward bad work by giving him the interesting stuf, you can expect more bad work from the others on your team. Remind the bad performer that he will only get the better stuff to work on after his performance improves.

Well, I'm very glad I don't work at your company. A geek goes to talk to HR first???!!!
Management is very good at demotivating otherwise quite motivated people: see
Christopher Mahan
A good manager always goes to talk to HR first before addressing a performance issue. There are legal issues to be aware of.
+1  A: 

I am in the same situation as the bored programmer, except I am as talented. What should I tell my manager?

+2  A: 

While burnout is a possible cause, boreout is another. Since boredom doesn't seem to be an issue (check if he's actually being assigned tasks or just -pretending- to have them), the cause can be lack of challenge or disinterest in the subject.

+10  A: 

In my experience, when there's a change for the worse in how a good person is working, nobody's more aware or concerned about it than he is. You want your talented and motivated guy back. He does too.

I've handled this by sitting down privately with the person and saying, essentially: You seem to be struggling right now. What can I do to help you with this?

That, to me, is the responsible and correct perspective for a manager to take. Your job is to help the people you manage do the best job they can. If someone's not doing a good job, the first thing you have to do is make sure you've been doing yours.

Every time I've encountered this problem, the person who's not doing a good job is miserable about it. He's miserable and he's frightened. He's personally unsatisfied with the job he's been doing. He's alienated from his co-workers, because they know he's not doing a good job and they aren't happy about it. I've never had to tell a person "shape up, or you're fired." What I've had to do instead is talk them out of quitting on the spot.

Because you don't want this guy to quit. You want him to do the job that you know he can do. If there's something that you can do to make that happen, you need to know what it is. And if there's not something that you can do, you need to know that too.

It may also happen that, for whatever reason, this person's not willing to enter into the discussion with you on the appropriate level. That's when you have to start going down the path of documenting problems and talking with HR.

Robert Rossney
"In my experience, when there's a change for the worse in how a good person is working, nobody's more aware or concerned about it than he is. You want your talented and motivated guy back. He does too." This!!

How many meetings do you have and how relevant are they to what he, personally is doing? How long are they? Meetings should not last longer than thirty minutes. If they are going longer you need to split into smaller meetings, probably with less people.

What other stuff might be piled on him by management and bureaucracy that he could do his job without?

Are his priorities shifted often? How often does he get close to finishing a task and then suddenly get told that something else is more important and have to put the task he was excited about on the back burner?

Do you have good issue tracking software that is used to organize priorities, and is it being used in a good, organized fashion? Does it entail any extra bookkeeping for him that could be eliminated?


Hmm... you post with a picture
and where pray tell do programmers go when bored? (hint: SO)

I agree that it is best to talk heart-to-heart with your employee - better than inadvertently showing disgust at his behavior, which might make him/her unrecoverable. We all get into a coding funk at some point or another, and the reasons could be varied.


Does he understand what he is boried? He may be in a down loop where initial acidental loss of interest brings mistakes which bring frustatation which brings mistakes which brings even more frustation. So he looks boried because he does not understand what is happening with him and why he is doing worse and worse. It is just protection from frustation. Expain him that he should not blaim himself for mistakes. It happens with everyone. May be it helps.


Going from pressure to a LOT of pressure is not going to have any positive effect on programmers. In general, they are self-motivated, and will produce at their top with a low level of pressure. More pressure just creates burn-out. You might want to read Quality Software Management by Gerald Weinberg.

Stephan Eggermont
+8  A: 

Hi Guys,

I'm posting an answer rather than a comment because I couldn't phyisically respond to every single one of the wonderful responses listed here.

Thanks so much for all your words of wisdom. I did speak with the guy in question and we're working out some issues - many of which people have referred to in the answers listed here.

Already seems to have made a big difference. Sometimes you know what to do but need the words of others to convince and compell you to do it.


Ed Bloom
I know this is an older post, but I am curious as to what the final outcome was. Were the issues resolved? If so, anything in particular which really fixed the problem?

This guy is probably a canary in the coal mine. If he's as talented as you say he is, this is a bad omen.

First, immediately pull him off whatever it is that he's working on. Then put him at most 80% on some other existing project of his choice. Then follow the "20% time" model. Let him find a new project to work on that he thinks would benefit the company. Approve it unless there's a really good reason not to. Under no circumstances should you attempt to manage his "20% project". You're undoubtedly already losing money on him anyways, so writing off 20% of his time should be easy.

This will result in one of two things. It will either get back the talented and motivated developer you once had, or alternatively, it will reveal him as an employee that is useless to you. It will also make it clear to him that you're willing to take drastic measures — he will likely figure out on his own that this is a last-ditch attempt to get some usefulness out of him. If he can't be productive while managing himself, there's simply no way to make this person productive at all and the best thing you can do for him is to fire him. When you fire someone, always make it clear that your objective in doing so is not to end their career.

A potential side-effect of all this is that you may end up having other employees asking for 20% projects. You probably shouldn't worry about this.

And finally, if he was working on a long-term project, double-check it. There may be some kind of intractable problem with the project that requires it to be redesigned from scratch based on new information or even cancelled.

Bob Aman

How to Win Friends and Influence People has some suggestions that I'd think may be worth considering:

  • Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  • Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.
  • Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
  • Call attention to other people's mistakes indirectly.
  • Talk about your own mistakes first.
  • Ask questions instead of directly giving orders.
  • Let the other person save face.
  • Praise every improvement.
  • Give them a fine reputation to live up to.
  • Encourage them by making their faults seem easy to correct.

Not everything applies of course, but it is surprising how sometimes the simple things can be so effective.

JB King
+1  A: 

I haven't seen anyone posting a link to this, so I will:

Choose Your Manager

This is an article where Eric Sink describes being bored enough at work to work on a hobby program, and the very surprising way his manager dealt with it. I think it might be applicable to your situation (which, granted, was long ago now).