Developers Don’t Quit Managers…They Quit Bad Tooling

Enterprise tools don't have to be boring anymore and developers know that.


“There are more developers resigning, combined with a predicted shortage of software developers.”

This is quite an alarming statement from the article titled The 2021 Software Developer Shortage Is Coming. Another article found 21% of developers are looking to leave their current role, which begs the question why—why are developers quitting their jobs?

With workforces going remote, companies are embracing all things digital and cloud. This has led to an increase in software, which has boosted the demand for software developers.

Deciding to dig deeper, Harvard Business Review conducted an in-depth analysis of over nine million employee records across different industries and found that resignation rates were highest in tech and healthcare.

Resignation rates were higher among employees who work in fields that had experienced an extreme increase in demand due to the pandemic, likely leading to increased workload and burnout.

But are increased workloads and burnout the only reason why developers are resigning from their jobs?

Developers want to learn and grow

In his piece for Fast Company, Stack Overflow COO Jeff Szczepanski says, “developers care about learning and growing.”

To help companies retain great developers, Jeff emphasizes the need to build and promote a developer-first culture so developers can put their talents and coding prowess to use, along with a meaningful level of autonomy, where they have more control over their work.

Sure, managers can make the work environment a friendlier place for developers by implementing the above. But developers will still need something critical to do their jobs: quality tools.

A developer’s primary job is to solve problems using technology, and when your whole job revolves around technology, you need the right tools. This includes hardware, like high-end monitors and keyboards, as well as advanced software that helps developers write high-quality code more efficiently.

The rising demand for developers has also increased the awareness of the benefits of developer tools. However, there’s a very thin line between good tooling and bad tooling.

Developers aren’t willing to work around bad tooling anymore

In the tech world, “technical debt“ is a common pain point of developers around the world.

From dealing with systems that require a decade of bug fixes, to putting up with past (read: obsolete) coding practices, to the peculiar choice of programming language for building backend systems, developers have long struggled with legacy systems instead of forcing management to implement new, better systems.

Developers are finally losing patience with the idea of juggling this continuous mishmash of programming tools. In fact, they are likely to give up on their jobs rather than try to find a way around obsolete or unsuitable technologies.

Jenkins, GitLab, Zoom—having too many tools isn’t the answer

Adding more options to your developer’s toolkit isn’t a feasible solution, either.

Developers enjoyed new options in programming languages, operating systems, databases, and innovation in developer-friendly technologies. They were open to working with increasingly complex tools if it helped them do their job.

Today, however, they are fed up with the so-called “polyglot party.”

Developers desire a relatively homogeneous mix of general-purpose technology to simplify development and coding. It’s not that the excitement of trying out new technologies isn’t there—they just want to consolidate optimal tools, even if they become general-purpose after borrowing features from other technologies in the system.

Tool fatigue is real, too.

We’ve already established that developers rely on the right tools to get the job done in every step of their to-do lists. But having too many tools to choose from, often with overlapping values, can make it difficult for developers to fit them into their respective workflows.

This leads to burnout on a smaller scale, where developers feel overwhelmed, unproductive, and frustrated. These feelings stem from their inability to collaborate across all of the different tools being used and cohesively tracked data stored on separate platforms.

Luckily, having the best of both worlds is possible.

Give developers enterprise development tools that let them maximize productivity while having fun

Enterprise developers know what programming looks like beyond their corporate firewall. That’s also why they will never be satisfied when forced to use yesterday’s technology to fix the current world’s business problems.

What’s more, enterprise tools don’t have to be boring anymore and developers know that. They want tools that help them meet job expectations while also enjoying their work.

Tech companies that understand this need and buy the right tools to help developers do their jobs will retain them for longer. If they don’t, developers will find another company that will.

Managers should work with development teams to build a structure for evaluation and use of tools. With the active involvement of developers, companies will eventually see a case of good tooling, leading to increased productivity, improved code quality, and of course, higher retention.

Which is your least favorite SaaS tool that just needs to go? And which one do you use all the time? Let us know!


Tim has been designing web applications and fostering developer communities for over 15 years. With a background in design and engineering, Tim helped develop the Australian Ruby developer community and launched the CSSConf and JSConf developer conferences in Australia. Outside of Buildkite, Tim can be found climbing rocky walls and searching Melbourne for the best eggplant parmigiana.