General discussion

  • Creator
  • #2189367

    Help managing a very brilliant employee


    by robroynj ·

    I have a person on my staff that is easily the most talented IT guy I’ve work with. He seemingly can do it all and can do it quickly and without supervision. I’ve been working hard to get this guy more exposure, more money, etc. and he is really at the peak of our company pay scale for someone that is not a manager of other employees.

    He’s expressed an interest in doing more and making more and I would like him to do this with my company and on my larger team.

    The problem: In group settings the guy is a train wreck. He will either shrink quietly into a corner and defer to anyone else in the room or he will annoyingly finish everyone’s sentances, make really bad (sometimes offensive) jokes, etc. A bit of a Jeckel and Hyde… I’ve talked to him about this and he is very sensative and doesn’t react well. Still, he wants to manage people and get more freedom and interesting projects. These aren’t good traits for a manager of others.

    I don’t want this guy to leave my company (we need more people like him and frankly, it only helps me as a manager to have others really kick butt on my team.) How can I approach him with this constructive criticism and help him get what he and I want?

    I’m pursuing the creation of a new position in our new fiscal year but I don’t have high hopes that this will happen as HR is very much against this kind of deal.

All Comments

  • Author
    • #3063459

      A few things

      by jmgarvin ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      1) First of all, he probably hasn’t had much exposure to dealing with people in a corporate setting. I’d (god I loath to say this) send him to a sensitivity class.

      2) Put him in charge of something, but with no reports. You can promote him, but he doesn’t have to have any reports. Create a position like Lead System Administator of Project X. Then let him go nuts.

      3) If he doesn’t do well in meetings, just give him the minutes and let him continue to work during the meeting.

      4) Sometimes the best thing to do is NOT let people manage. You can put him on other projects, but some people just can’t lead/manage others. So don’t put a square peg in a round hole.

      • #3060978

        Round and Square

        by mia1bxa ·

        In reply to A few things

        Mucho good points here jmgarvin!
        Efficient workers often dont make good managers. A good worker will always be a good worker, and if he’s exceptional then pay him what he’s worth or risk loosing him.
        This is what is going wrong with our corporate America. Promote who’s right, not who you like or feel sorry for. Why must we Americans manage our companies with our hearts on our sleeves? Stop feeling sorry for the guy and just give him a raise according to his merit.
        Manage and promote according to merit, not feelings.

        • #3060955

          Concentrate on his strengths

          by ciscoguyinkc ·

          In reply to Round and Square

          In my opinion, it is a waste of time and energy to hone soft-skills. The only way a person will ever fix soft-skill problems is if the person WANTS to fix them. Then he will approach you for help. But that type of change comes from within, not an outside source. Spend 80% of your efforts improving his strengths. Manage around his weaknesses. Sure, at review time you need to address his weaknesses, but spend the majority of the time discussing his strengths, and give him opportunities to improve them, and to really shine. He’ll make a bigger impact on the success of your projects, he can make more money and he won’t feel bad.
          Now, some people never really shine at communication until they are in a leadership role. How would you ever find out whyhen dealing with this type of person? Maybe one of the following will work?
          Make him a project-leader for an important project. He’ll have tracking, reporting and consultative responsibilities. While he is not in charge of people, he is the go-to guy when someone needs help. Remember how good it feels when someone “needs” your strengths? It gets the guy used to working with others as a leader. You can also start taking him and your team on some team-building (I HATE that term) functions at your local Chamber of Commerce networking functions. He’ll be exposed to a lot of people, a lot of executives, a lot of sales people. In short, a lot of professional networkers with various communications tool-kits. He might look at them and say “WOW! How do they do that?” He might not. Bottom line, however, you worked on his communication skills without insulting him.

        • #3060934

          Management Responsibilty

          by jharrell ·

          In reply to Round and Square

          If this is a good employee, them mentor him. His problem could be a simple as not being prepared for meetings. Unfortunately many individuals that call a meeting do not provide an agenda before hand. Have you provided feedback to him during one-on-one conversations? Some people do lack meeting etiquette but they need to be informed of their shortcomings. I have seen many ?managers? that did not have any technical expertise but they had an MBA. These are the individuals that ?shoot from the hip? without any idea of the possible ramifications of there decision. In short it is every managers responsibility to provide both positive and negative feedback, provide an acceptable career path, determine how to get the most out of their direct reports. Maybe, as you instill these positive management traits, they will rub off on him as well as others.

        • #3060918

          I agree, and you can do more

          by blueknight ·

          In reply to Management Responsibilty

          As jharrell stated, if this is truly a good employee, it is up to you, his manager, to mentor him and “groom” him for advancement. While you’re doing so, continually evaluate his progress (or lack thereof) and include your observations in his performance reviews. Watch for traits/behavior that might tell you that no matter how good this guy is “in the trenches,” he won’t make a decent manager — you don’t want to short him on mentoring/training, but you also don’t want to waste your valuable time after a point if it won’t pay off in the future. Also, be up front with the employee… tell him honestly, that you think he is top notch and you’d like to help him move up. While you’re at it, tactfully let him know where he needs improvement, and why – give specific examples so he has no doubt as to what you mean.

          One more thing that jharrell made note of… if an upcoming meeting is yours, make sure you send out an agenda beforehand. Prior to the meeting, review the agenda with the “problematic” employee so he’ll be prepared. This may help keep him from shrinking into a corner as you put it. He may also give you some additional ideas for the meeting. After your meetings, debrief with the employee so you can 1) get his feedback (which may give you insight as to why he said/did something you disliked, and 2) provide feedback to him so he knows that his participation was valuable, or that something in particular he said was off-color. I think most of us at one time or another make “shoot from the hip” comments, and most of us know where the line is that makes comments off-color or offensive. Others, like this employee, need help locating that line — some never find it.

          Best of luck to you both.

        • #3061879

          Management’s Real Responsibility

          by workin4$$$ ·

          In reply to I agree, and you can do more

          The only responisbility Managers (and this guy’s a VP) have is to their shareholders.

          Employees are replaceable. All of them. Management is as well.

          Employees are necessary to meet company objectives and satisfy the pockets of the shareholders. Nothing more.

          Employees who are management material will make themselves known, and if they are ready, they can be promoted. Some people never have the hope of becoming managers, and anyone who thinks mentoring helps is wrong in my opinion.

          When I was an employee, I felt that I deserved to be a manager. I bought into the rhetoric that is pandered about how everyone can be a manager, and that my manager’s responsibility is to coach me to be one.

          I became a manager 3-months after I shunned this approach and decided the only way to become a manager was to not rely on my manager to manage my own psychology and career. I took into into my own hands. 1-year after making manager I made director. 5-years later, I made VP.

          The only way to advance an employee is have them come to this decision of their own accord. I cannot provide petty means of motivation to all of my employees. I reward the successful ones, and discipline the unsuccessful ones.

          It’s the only logical way. People are a commodity in any organization. If a company could by without them, they would.

        • #3061761

          People are a commodity?

          by jakaiju ·

          In reply to Management’s Real Responsibility

          Although I agree with the gist of your response, one cannot seriously assert that “people are a commodity in any orginization.” By describing employees as “managed material” is simply de-huminizing, and is an opinion that is (thank God) not shared by all managers.

          I have managed employees in a lesser capacity, but have not been in your position. However, since you are an upper-level manager, you should know that employees [as people] are still human, and like it or not, bring in the human condition to any job. What I mean is that people cannot simply turn off being people and change into efficient, money-making machines as soon as the work day starts.

          Granted that employee behavior, as well as performance, is dictated by company guidelines, there remains a certain amount of behavioral margin for people to function in and still be efficient at helping the company make money. The way you seem to want employees to behave is to be like robots — completely stoic and without a soul.

          Yes, good performance should be rewarded and bad performance deserves discipline, but are you considering the effects of employee morale to overall production? It seems that your not really concerned about this aspect and if you treat all of the company “commodities” as something less than human, then your going to have a lot of declining morale, and subsequently less productivity and greater resentment towards you and the company. The opposite is true also — a manager providing a little motivation to an employee now and then can be a good thing.

          Somewhere I read or heard a quote from a successful business person who stated that a company’s employees are it’s greatest asset. When you think about, that’s true because the employees are the ones running the whole operation (even the managers). The employees are the ones who interact and deal with other people, especially the customers, who make the decisions and who operate the business machines (not the other way around).

          Maybe your position doesn’t require you to be a good people manager so all this doesn’t matter to you. However, you stated, “when I was an employee,” don’t you mean that you are STILL an employee of the same company even after reaching your VP position? Unless you are actually the owner/CEO of the company, you are technically still an employee — one who is, in your terms, “managed material” by others who are higher up. Even your user name, “Working4$$$,” indicates where your real values lie (as in the dillusional idea that the acquisition of lots of money and material things are the only true measure of success).

          Your stance towards people in your organization makes you seem a little resentful. I wonder, could that have been because your were treated with disdain by managers in your climb to the top?

        • #3061750

          We all are working for Money

          by workin4$$$ ·

          In reply to People are a commodity?

          Tell me different and you’re lying. Sure, you get to do something you may like, but take away the money and you’ll leave pretty fast.

          Yes, I’m still an employee. I report to a pair of CEO’s and a Board of Directors. I’m not in the same company I started out in though. I tend to be brought into organizations when they’re having morale problems to get them fixed. (that’s a joke)

          Do some of my employees suffer from demotivation? Of course they do. Empowerment is up to themselves.

          Do my CEO’s and board care if I’m having a bad day/month/year? That my cat just died?

          Of course not. They’re concerned that I produce. They still don’t want to see me cry in front of them. I don’t mis-treat my employees. I use them as tools for the companies productivity. If a robot could do their job, I’d buy one. I don’t have to educate a robot. I don’t have to coach one either.

          I didn’t mean I can buy and sell people as commodities. I meant that they have their uses, and when the day is done, if they’re management material, they will get noticed by me and promoted where appropriate.

        • #3061739

          Right, yet wrong again.

          by darinhamer ·

          In reply to People are a commodity?

          Take away the money. I’m gone. I’ve got a family I have to support. But I’m not JUST working for money. That’s the point in my earlier post. You don’t have to just be doing one thing. I’m working for money. I’m working for career advancement. I’m working for personal satisfaction. I’m working so that I can do some good. It isn’t all about money. And the “use them, then dispose of them” mentality is deplorable. Of course, you’re the VP. I’m sure you know better than I do. The day will come, though, when you will be the one who is used up. And I wonder if you will feel the same way.

          Good luck to you.

        • #3061747

          So right, yet so horribly wrong!

          by darinhamer ·

          In reply to Management’s Real Responsibility

          Some of the things that Workin4$$$ says are true. Not everyone is management material. Employees should be replaceable and a company should never allow itself to get in a situation where someone is irreplaceable. If you find you’re in that situation, figure out a way to get out of it quickly. And, ONE of the responsibilities IS to put money in the pockets of the shareholders.

          But understand that managers and especially VPs have obligations to others besides the shareholders. The data and research–and common sense–on management all show that it is not only possible to seek profit as well as higher ideals, but it essential to do so. One of those ideals is to do some succession planning. Good companies don’t see their employees as a commodity input, but as a resource that, if invested in properly, can help make a profit. Yes, the labor is a commodity input, but the employees are part of the company’s assets.

          Companies that have values like you have expressed have no soul, no character. They don’t add much value to our society and while they can be financially successful for awhile, they tend to be short-lived in the whole scheme of things. The long-lasting, visionary companies have a reason for existing other than to just make a profit, and I think they would applaud this guy’s efforts to help his employee achieve his personal goals while adding value to the company.

          It is rather smug to make it to VP, but to turn your back on others who might also like to be there some day. But then if all you’re doing is working for $$$, I guess that point will be lost on you.

        • #3061703

          You’re right

          by workin4$$$ ·

          In reply to So right, yet so horribly wrong!

          I think some of the details that go on in someone’s head always get missed through personal interpretation.

          I’m going to number this up in point form to bring some clarity and consistency to everything I am attempting to get across on all of my posts.

          1. The only purpose of any company is to make money. If a company’s stock prices plummet, investors run faster than employees. If investors run, the company goes under. (P.S. – the 5% share I own of my company, makes me an owner, and though I report to my CEO’s, they also report to me.)

          2. Employees effect (either directly or indirectly) the bottom line of any company, public or otherwise. They require space, care, attention, salary, benefits, parking spaces, vacation time.

          On the flip-side, employees are there to assist the company achieve its goal of making more money. They ARE INTEGRAL to its survival. I know and believe that, and anything I’ve said that seems to the contrary is taken out of context.

          Again, if I COULD live without them, I WOULD.

          I cannot live without them. I don’t have any employees like the one in question. I received my current position about 8 years ago. The first 2 years saw a lot of turn-over. I have a department of 150. I have the lowest turn-over in the company. Last year I had 7 people leave for good, 1 was after a maternity leave. 1 was terminated due to negligence with our Intellectual Property. 1 was terminated because he stole a laptop. 1 was terminated because he could never show up on time.

          Here’s a reality for you;

          3. When I think about every decision made, I don’t think about the employees it will affect. I think instead about my share value and how it will be impacted. I also think about the long-term profitability of my company. If my company goes bankrupt, 800 people are terminated, not 1.

          This means that nobody has any work, even the honourable that want to because they enjoy it.

          4. I enjoy my work, I wouldn’t be doing it otherwise. I have enough to retire and live a reasonably comfortable life. I stay because I like it. Not everyone likes their job. When I was at the bottom, I hated my job. Do I want to be CEO? Nope. I’m happy with the level I’ve reached. I didn’t quit high-school for nothing!

          5. My CEO’s don’t coach me! WHY?

          I bet it’s because they’re too busy planning and strategising like I am. If I do something wrong, they just tell me. They don’t hand-hold me. If I keep doing it, they fire me, I’ve seen them do it with other incompetents, and I’d do the same to any incompetent employee of mine. I don’t hand-hold employees through their careers either, and neither do my drectors, their managers, their employees, etc. It’s my mandate. If you want to get ahead, figure out how. (You’d be surprised how many do figure it out)

          6. If you lose a customer, you will be reprimanded. Customers are our business, period.

          7. In the end, employees are assets of the company. But again, if I COULD do without them, I WOULD. I spend far too much time already focussing on human resources.

          Thanks for you time.

        • #3061596

          wrong attitude

          by jrgnvogel ·

          In reply to So right, yet so horribly wrong!

          We had one manager which acted exactly the same way as $$$. He lasted about two years, then he got fired as he well deserved. We lost two many good people due to his attitude. I discussed the matter with our CEO and it was decided that we could not effort this troubleshooting maniac. Yes the company has to make money but not at the expenses of our most importand workers. The company in question had a total of 148.000 employees worldwide. The gentleman in question also got blacklisted and probably will never work as a manager again. Companies do talk together.

        • #3073376

          Of course, you’re the VP.

          by too old for it ·

          In reply to So right, yet so horribly wrong!

          I’m sure you know better than I do. What is more important, the VP is convinced that they know more thanyou do, despite the fact if they walked into an empty shop one day (news of their “I hate my employees” attitude finally leaked out?) they wouldn’t know how to do it.

          Every day I am convinced that it is not the Osama bin Laden’s of the world who hate the citizens of this country as much as the “shitcan American workers and outsource the rest” managers!!!

        • #3073268

          My last response to working4$$$

          by darinhamer ·

          In reply to So right, yet so horribly wrong!

          I appreciate your taking the time to explain your position in greater detail. It’s been a lively debate and I appreciate it. There are definitely some things you and I agree on. First of all, bad employees should be canned. Period. Companies should not spend time and effort trying to make a bad employee good. Furthermore, good employees don’t need “hand holding” but they do need to learn from those who’ve already been there, one way or another. Maybe they can figure it out on their own, or maybe the VPs have a vested interest in making the investment in training and mentoring to see that the best they have get better.

          I still have two points where I disagree:

          1) Companies do not necessarily exist JUST to make a profit. They exist to fill other roles as well, but they cannot do that without making a profit. It is possible–imperative–to seek a profit at the same time as seeking other goals, such as making the higest quality, most affordable widgit on the planet.

          2) GE is an example of a company that has always groomed its leaders from the time they enter the company to the time they step into the CEO role–or whatever role they end up with. Perhaps your CEO doesn’t coach you, or maybe it’s subtle–for instance, rather than firing you immediately for doing something wrong, he tells you about it and expects you to fix it. That’s coaching. I’m not talking about hand holding. I’m talking about preparing the next generation of leaders for the company so that the company outlasts its current leadership. To me, that’s smart business and you have to be proactive about it.

          In the end, I suspect working4$$$ and I agree on more than we disagree. There are certainly days I wish I could work with androids without emotions and personal agendas instead of working with humans. But I can’t, so I have to work at ways of getting past all the human stuff to get the job done. I suspect this is what working4$$$ is saying. With a very low turnover rate in the company, I would say that he must be pretty good to work for, or people would be scratching at the door to get out.

        • #3073232

          Made this account just to incite a riot? :)

          by mr l ·

          In reply to Management’s Real Responsibility

          Very nice flame bait. Your use of inflammatory and derogatory comments earns you a solid 4 on the troll-o-meter. Next time though, in order to get serious troll points make sure you have an account you created years ago to lend you at least the illusion of credibility. Now go away.

        • #3070142

          I agree, this person is unlikely to be a VP

          by hippikon ·

          In reply to Made this account just to incite a riot? :)

          Made a lot of inflammatory remarks that many VPs surely feel (you HAVE to be that ruthless to reach there), but to actually express these opinions is blasphemy!!!! You have to be a really accomplished hypocrite (often fooling yourself) to reach these positions, and this person wasnt even trying to preach goodness to mankind through their deeds, as all leaders infallibly do…

        • #3057727

          yeah, sure…

          by rmrenneboog ·

          In reply to Management’s Real Responsibility

          I can see how your point of view works, but I sure don’t agree with it. People tend to act only in the way that is expected of them. If you want to believe your employees are a commodity and treat them that way, then that is exactly the type of employee you are going to have throughout your company, including management. Predictable productivity, but well below what they are capable of in both quantity and quality, and a decided lack of creativity and innovation coming from anywhere within the company. If I had to guess, I’d say your company has to outsource just about everything that calls for creativity and fresh points of view, and has a monumental employee turnover rate. You can’t soar like an eagle when you’re working for turkeys.

        • #3072135


          by leonard j rivera sr. ·

          In reply to I agree, and you can do more

          I stopped reading too soon. I agree with these past two posts (see my post way down the list). I’m glad to see others stepping up and voicing “the right thing to do”. I see we have some good managers here.

        • #3061859

          Step Carefully

          by craig.engel ·

          In reply to Management Responsibilty

          I’ve met people like this. The biggest mistake managers make is they assume because they are A Manager that this somehow enables them to deal with significant personality disorders or behavioral problems. The guy could be acting this way because he is an alcoholic, a drug addict, his parents were pedaphiles, he has low self-esteem, he may be bipolar or otherwise in need of psychiatric medical treatment. Give it to him straight, explain the dilemna, give him a chance to demonstrate his capabilities, and if he can’t then he doesn’t get promoted to a management position. You’re not an adoption agency.

        • #3072190

          Maybe that is what is needed….

          by ou jipi je ·

          In reply to Management Responsibilty

          Maybe if you promote him and listen to him a bit closely, you might find out that it is not “personality problem”; it might be just a different style of approach.

          If someone is “good worker” a bit of an aversion towards management might play role here as well (if person deals with management requests and does the good job, often he sees dow deep the problems go — so he says once I am manager I am going to solve it)…

          2 Options:
          a.) Involve him in information (management level) he previously did not had access to. Ask him about his opinion before you make a decision. Start small. Make him understand that there are two teams — management and work floor, both have different issues, and on the management team often numbers and not comon sense dictate outcome of a decision. Make him understand why some decisions are taking place. Make him understand why he needs to be quiet at times.

          This does not have to take longer then three months, in which it should be obvious whether he is the management material (from your description, people like that usually are, it is the rest of the management team that might have a problem…). Then promote him.

          2. He will leave and if he is good as you are saying, it is your loss really, not his.

        • #3072048

          Good point

          by hagrinas ·

          In reply to Round and Square

          Many companies will promote people to a certain level, after which the only way to move up is to manage. It’s not necessarily in the best interest of the company or the employee.

          If an employee is more valuable than his current compensation, then change it. Don’t move him up to management.

          The problem is that many companies won’t let you do that. I used to work for the top VP in a company, and he moved me up to management, but for the most part, he just let me do my work. I did have a few employees to supervise, review, etc. But I did not have to go out and bring in new clients as most managers did.

          It’s up to the company to figure these things out, and many companies are foolish about this. The problem is that management comes up with the rules, and it seems clear to them that managers are the ones on top. Why put somebody in charge of somebody else with a higher salary? It’s a rhetorical question for most managers, but the answer is that the manager still has the authority, and by having the best possible workers, he can move up by having his projects come out well.

      • #3061907

        What kind of promotion?

        by blarman ·

        In reply to A few things

        Management means dealing with people. Your concerns indicate that this individual doesn’t have the people skills to effectively manage, so until those get developed, I’d stay away from that.

        What you should do is sit down with the person and explain that you think they are a very valuable person, that they have a future with you, and that you’d like to help prepare them for future responsibility. Then develop a plan to prepare that person for what you want. This may mean specific traning classes or coaching to help them develop people skills, mentoring an intern, or some other interim step. By showing your commitment and helping him/her in the direction you’d like, you will be building a lasting relationship. In addition, the rest of your employees will notice why this person was singled out and may become more productive.

      • #3061861

        why is manager the only way up?

        by shane ·

        In reply to A few things

        Ask yourself why he is asking to be a manager. Is it because he wants to manage people or is it because he thinks that is the only way to advance in your organization?

        Sit down with him and ask him what he really wants. It might be that he just wants a raise and thinks being a manager is the only way to get it. He might want more respect or authority and perceives that only being given to managers.

        You acknowledge his value as a technical authority, but does the rest of your organization? Does your company view the corporate latter as a single dimension triangle or is there a career path for purely technical leaders?

        Also, his behavior in meetings sounds like he is desperate to be heard. You might consider changing the type of meetings he attends to be more about brainstorming, collaboration, and review.

        As a technology leader myself, I’ve had to evangelize the differences between people leaders and technology leaders and how they are rarely the same people … and that it’s perfectly fine and should be supported by any tech-infused organization.

        • #3072060

          The way up

          by librarygeek ·

          In reply to why is manager the only way up?

          I completely agree with this response.
          Technical staff in my organization are stymied from moving upward because only managers are promoted up the power grid.
          The organization has listened to some extent and extended the salary ranges on some developer/business analyst positions. However, there is still no ability to sit at the table and influence the organization’s direction. One does not need to manage people to have strategic ideas.

          I think that this issue exists in a number of organizations. I am considered to be equal to middle management — even though I do not manage people — I manage processes and projects.
          However, I will not be able to move upward in this or in most other organizations (according to postings I’ve seen) without managing others.

        • #3072018

          Someone should carve …

          by too old for it ·

          In reply to The way up

          … your learned words onto a piece of granite, to be delivered to every CEO’s desk in America:

          “One does not need to manage people to have strategic ideas.”

      • #3061778

        Re: problem with employee

        by bphardy ·

        In reply to A few things

        Dear Sir,

        I have a few suggestions for this employee. Well first thing you have to acknowledge is at least he has a personality. You HARDLY get that in droned out office settings nowadays. These are people if trained right who cannot only be an good IT guy but also sell almost anything because of their personality.

        When I read this this almost sounded like the guy in high school who makes all the jokes but when the teacher is asking questions in class or something is asked of him. he shirks in a corner. I think they called him “The class clown?” I know what that type of person is like because I used to do that in my office settings so I’m that guy too! Sensitivity classes are good but a personal talk is better because you are telling him one on one without any third party as this builds and sustains the relationship of employer and employee as it should be, just tell him to keep his myrth and attitude because without him there would be no fun at all in the office (isn’t work supposed to be fun anyway?..don’t answer that) but to please lighten up on the comments because some of his jokes can be taken the wrong way by employees or come out in the wrong way. This is an office setting and we are more than just a group of people working together, we are a family and family respects each other and we consider you as family here.

        That’s about it. Like I said you are talking to one who had to really take a look at himself and see what he was saying and how some comments do more damage than good. Sensitivity to others however is the key.

        Well thanks for letting me post. Please take care and have a nice day!

        Sincerely Yours,

        Blanton Pierre Hardy

    • #3063457

      Desire is the key to change

      by gralfus ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Sometimes the highly intelligent don’t have very good social skills. I’ve attended meetings of a high IQ society and there are several folks with some peculiar behaviors. Having shared some of these traits, I have found that becoming more socially “acceptable” takes a lot of time and a personal desire to change. If the desire isn’t there, or the person doesn’t see a reason to be more conformable, then it is a lost cause to try to cause the change from the outside.

      I used to hide in my clamshell and not talk unless I absolutely had to. I was content with myself and expected others to be content also. But they invariably wanted to force me to open up and be like them. Problem was, I saw myself as ok and I didn’t particularly like them, so why would I want to change? Fitting-in was not a high priority for me. Since I didn’t fit in (in school anyway), the others then turned on me and treated me like a turd (a common experience with people on either end of the intelligence curve).

      Years later, I got a job on a helpdesk doing phone support. The desire to do well in a computer job forced me to change. I also didn’t want to spend my life alone, so that desire forced me to research dating, personalities, marriage, and courtship. Now I have years of IT experience in various capacities, and have been married for 6 years. I only retreat into the cave after a lot of interaction with people, sort of a recharging.

      • #3061063

        Get him to conduct a session…..

        by avalok ·

        In reply to Desire is the key to change

        I do face similar problems with my highly talented Tech-support staff.
        I did try out an experiment which has yielded positive results.
        On working Saturdays we conduct interactive sessions on variuos topics chosen by our staff. The condition is that the topic should in no way be related to “Business”!
        Employees are encouraged to choose their fav topic and give a presentation/talk to others. What i have observed is, since the topic is non-biz,people are more relaxed when they give the presentation and since it is their fav topic/hobby they are talking about, they do enjoy the sessions. I have noticed marked improvement,oevr a period of time, in my techies soft-skills…
        A method worth trying…

      • #3061883

        HOW to change?

        by dcreader ·

        In reply to Desire is the key to change

        I’m one of those people, and bored with the same tech responsibilities I had 15 years ago. Others with fewer tech skills (or even strategy skills) have passed me by, and it is a chore to work under people who make bad decisions.

        Unfortunately, enough people do not see me as having management potential to make a difference, so I’m stuck.

        My employer is not at all interested in helping me out of my current position, so they have raised my pay to unreasonable levels, but I’m still bored and frustrated. Moreover, being asked to manage a project without having any dedicated resources seems like asking the impossible if I can’t do everything myself.

        So, maybe your guy is like me, and would rather handle this new skill acquisition on his own. How would you suggest he do it? Dale Carnegie? I got an MBA two years ago, but it did NOT IMPRESS MY BOSSES OR COWORKERS AT ALL. I figured at least it demonstrated my eagerness to learn new things, but it didn’t really target the social skills I need.

        • #3061801

          change doesn’t happen overnight

          by b9girl ·

          In reply to HOW to change?

          I agree with the gralfus to some extent. Desire to change is the first step, but it’s not the whole equation. It’s admirable to pull yourself up by the bootstraps, but not everyone can pick up a book and change themselves. Social behavior is very entrenched in our psyches. It takes a whole lot of work to change.

          People’s brains can just be wired differently – like seeing through a polka-dot filter when everybody else sees through blue stripes. You just think differently. Self-help plus a desire to change may not be the right course for people who need structured, individual guidance. A personal-trainer for the mind. AKA therapist, shrink or whatever you want to call them. There’s no shame in hiring a consultant to fix a software glitch, so why should people hesitate to get mental help when it is so clearly impacting their work, relationships, life etc? #1. I don’t have a problem, it’s everybody else’s problem.

          It can be very hard to deal with employee’s/management’s psychological issues at work. Brilliant and damaged, but valuable people. The biggest lesson is that YOU CAN’T CHANGE PEOPLE. They really do have to WANT to do it for themselves. That doesn’t mean you can’t throw them a lifeline. For the employer who wants to ‘fix’ an employee, hire a consultant who deals with psychological and behavioral issues in the workplace. Don’t bury the issue or pretend it doesn’t exist.

          And last, some people are truly not suited for management. There’s no shame in that. It’s not the be-all end-all of a career. And don’t beat yourself up if that is you. A high-level career path for a not-a-people-person personality could be a strategist, or have split responsibilities with another who is a management type.

          Change doesn’t happen overnight. It’s one click at a time…

        • #3069930

          Have you looked elsewhere?

          by 39fhao9!z ·

          In reply to HOW to change?

          Have you put yourself out in the marketplace since you got your MBA? What sorts of responses did you receive?

          I’m thinking of getting my MBA. I have 10 years of tech experience, with 1 year of supervisory experience from a job long ago. I’m paid very well at my current job. I am not in management, but would like to be (I think). Primarily because I want the chance to be at the table when strategic discussions are held and decisions are made regarding how the company conducts its business, how to improve performance, products, skill-sets, delivery time, etc. I am convinced that getting an MBA will NOT help me at my current place of employment. But I can’t help thinking that it would improve my chances of landing a low-level management position somewhere else.

          Have you tried to find a management position somewhere else? Why not (if not)?

      • #3061757

        Wholly crap you described me to a capital T!!!

        by lsmith1989 ·

        In reply to Desire is the key to change

        I too was not concerned with fitting in. In fact I didnt really care for a number of years and got treated like an outsider, even among my relatives like cousin’s, etc. I had a lock on my door to my room and I would lock myself away to either play online MMPORGs or read the latest dragonlance book or try and learn about computer stuff.

        Soon, I picked up a desktop support IT job and was forced to socialize, interact with the people I support. I then gradually worked my way up to Network Admin and now have to plan and lead huge IT projects which involve plenty of face to face interaction and resource management. I would say that I am at the opposite end of the scale personality wise from where I was 6 years ago.

        I too need to “recharge” at the end of a busy workday. Some folks go out and party as soon as they are done working, like my wife for instance, but I feel the need to sit at home where its nice and quiet and read a good book and watch a “no brain power required” TV show like Spongebob Squarepants or Family Guy.

    • #3063453


      by firstpeter ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Are you sure you WANT him in management? I’m a HUGE believer that the people that make the best individual contributors (which is exactly what this guy sounds like) generally make average managers at best (not ALWAYS, but generally). Check out “The One Thing You Need To Know” by Marcus Buckingham – great book on this topic.

      Is it possible to create a position without management responsibility that enables you to provide him the freedom he’s after? I know a lot of times the good ol’ corporate world says that managers should always make more than individual contributors (a really bad policy to have if you want your business to be the best), but if you can get around that with a new position that may very well be your best route.

      I would be very wary of putting this person in management. Ultimately if that’s where he wants to go you probably want to make sure he understands what it takes (no crude jokes, patience when others are talking, etc.) and put the onus on him to make the changes necessary to get there. Even then be careful, but if he’s showing the initiative to do that then you’ve got a great start.

      • #3061807

        What do you want.

        by theslaw ·

        In reply to Management…?

        This brings up a good point. You say you don’t want to lose him. But it’s not as clear as to what you do want.

        It sounds like you want to promote him, yet with his behavior, management wouldn’t work for you.

        So, something needs to shift:
        Add another technical level or
        He changes his behavior.

        If you can’t do the first, then he has to change the second for you to succeed. The changes he needs to do are what others have described here. Good luck

    • #3063445

      Promotion to the point of incompetence

      by choppit ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      This guy needs needs recognition (as do most people), but promotion to the point of imcompetence is a bad policy.

      From past experience I’ve seen many individuals (outside IT) promoted to management based on their technical supremacy. The end result is usually the same, you’ll lose your best technical people and end up with a company run by lousy managers. Great technical ability and managerial ability are rarely found in the same individual. Not everyone is management material, which is just as well because the nature of the role dictates that not everyone can be a manager.

      However, if you see a spark, then test the waters, by allowing him to manage a small (non critical) project with a small team and see how he fares.

      • #3061046

        Amen to that!!!

        by wingood ·

        In reply to Promotion to the point of incompetence

        To set the stage for my comments, MENSA says I have an IQ of 135, way into the genius range. However, I would be near the absolute bottom as a manager.

        The problem with HR is that they see everybody as interchangeable parts. Unplug Joe and plug in Fred, and everything will be the same. They have no imagination.

        The ONLY thing to do with an employee like this is to create a special category, like a specialist, where they can earn more money and get more recognition for contributing what they are best suited to contribute. We have to get past this silly idea that the person who manages him must earn more money because they get all this production out of him. Everything happens because of who he is, not because of anything that the manager does. About the only effect a manager can have on him is to turn him off.

        • #3061027

          I Used to be management

          by tantor ·

          In reply to Amen to that!!!

          And at the time I thought it was management I wanted. I was among the worst kind of managers too, I was in charge of developing and training those everyone else thought had management potential.

          I know this fact intimately: You can’t get a square peg in a round hole.

          Making someone a manager just to recognize the contribution is a very dangerous road to go down.

          I was pretty good at being a manager, but I just didn’t *want* it. I became a manager because someone along the line thought I had the “spark”. I never asked for it, and as a amanager I was pretty miserable. The money was nice at the time, but when I made the leap to leave that world and hone my technical skills and get into this world, it was the best day of my life. I make a lot more money now and I have considerably fewer headaches. I simply prefer to “manage” these logical little machines than illogical and emotional people.

          Now, the best way my manager can reward me is to fight for raises or pay for more training to do my existing job. I like where I’m at. He knows I have no interest whatsoever in being a manager. He also makes it a point that when one of my ideas is approved by management that it is clear to them that I did the research and design.

          He changed my title to “Senior Engineer”. My life has not changed except 10% more in my check and the other engineers run tech issues through me before going to him. I don’t manage them, I help them.

          And I couldn’t be happier.

          Don’t try to make this guy a manager, simply ask him what would make him happiest.

        • #3060975

          Technical and Management

          by ropperman ·

          In reply to Amen to that!!!

          Hi All

          I see a few questions arise:
          1) Does this person really want to go into management?
          2) If, YES, then why? To get paid more ? this is NOT a good thing. Rather speak to the powers to be and see if you can?t use the ?company policy? as a guideline rather than law. Everyone wants to be a manager, why? Because ?it pay Better?! If that is the only reason everyone will jest get frustrated.
          3) If the person has the potential, I?d say give him a break. As most other people suggest, start small.
          4) Why does he make the kind of comments? Maybe his is just looking for ?attention?.
          5) How much time do you spend with this employee?

          1) Task him to do research on management!
          2) Talk to him and setup daily/weekly review sessions to review his progress.
          3) Work on the strengths, and see how you can manage the weakness.
          4) Try more exposure in smaller groups.
          5) He need to understand that a a manage you need to be ?a team player?. In other words, he should not try and do everything himself.

        • #3061806

          genius is above 140

          by theslaw ·

          In reply to Amen to that!!!


    • #3063378

      This guy is not going to be a manager

      by dc guy ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      At least not soon enough to solve this problem. You need to face that and deal with reality. You can and indeed should send him to classes and do your managerial best to mentor him into improving his people skills, but that will take years, IF he can be motivated to do so.

      Most savvy companies do exactly what you suggest, set up a parallel track for non-managerial technical people so they can keep giving them raises and keep them on staff. If your company isn’t savvy enough to do that then that’s just another reality you’re going to have to face. Reality can sure suck, can’t it?

      Once you eliminate the impossible, to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, what’s left are your real-life choices. I have a feeling I’m about twice your age, and in my experience people like this guy can turn into real personnel problems when they creep up on middle age and it dawns on them that they can’t reprogram the universe to recognize and reward their supreme magnificence.

      He may seem like an invaluable member of your time at the moment, but if he refuses to grow up then he’ll grow in some other much less likeable direction. Letting him go and become somebody else’s problem might end up being your best choice in the long run.

      • #3071999

        maybe he will

        by hagrinas ·

        In reply to This guy is not going to be a manager

        The problem with broad generalizations is that they are never true. Many people can’t change, but it does happen.

        I once worked for a VP with extreme problems relating to people. He was overbearing and anti motivational. He ignored what others said, and often did not give them the chance to state their reasons for anything. Instead he would tell them how he could have done the entire project by himself in a few hours so there’s no excuse. Sometimes he left during meetings since he had other more important things to do. I’m talking about meetings with him and a single employee who was called to his office.

        Then one day, he changed. It seemed to happen overnight. He somehow found out that the way he acted was not effective or conducive to business. After that, he always heard people out before he told them why he was right. He no longer berated people and became more of a social butterfly.

    • #3063363

      You’re solving the wrong problem

      by amcol ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      I’m going to take a contrarian view on this one, based on all the previous responses. I think you should promote him to a management position, and I think you (and everyone else) have misidentified the problem.

      There’s a huge difference between management and leadership. This guy strikes me as having authority related issues, which means he’s probably a lousy leader. He fails miserably in a group setting because he’s intimidated at being a member of a group. OK, fine…but how is he one on one?

      If he’s the same way when dealing with people one at a time, then you do indeed have someone who can’t be promoted at all. Based on your description of the situation I’d be willing to bet he does pretty well in a one on one situation, which is one of the critical skills for an entry level manager.

      Test the waters. Before you give him a promotion give him overall responsibility for a discreet project and assign him a single resource. Make it clear that the reporting relationship is dotted line, that he’s responsible for his resource’s work assignments but not for administration. He has no hire/fire authority, but he is expected to write and deliver his resource’s performance review.

      Then sit back and see what happens. Don’t be entirely disengaged, of course, but resist the urge to step in the moment things go a little south. Let him work it out on his own, only getting involved if things are going completely to hell.

      I’ve got a nickel that says he’ll thrive under the challenge and learn something about himself in the process. As you watch him grow and become more emotionally mature and sure of himself you can officially promote him and change the reporting relationship to solid line, adding more resources one at a time very carefully and very slowly so as not to overwhelm him. You may have a diamond in the rough here, and the only way you’ll know that is to spend some time and energy polishing him.

      Of course, if what you really have is just some iron pyrite you haven’t lost anything by trying.

      • #3063141

        sounds like

        by jaqui ·

        In reply to You’re solving the wrong problem

        you are suggesting he be made project lead.
        head the team developing a project.

        that would be my own recommendation.
        a small team, of decently qualified people, each doing well in different aspects. let him make all the decisions about task assignments, scheduleing, reviews etc.

        if he does well, give him a larger project.

        if still does well, two small projects at same time.

        at that point you know if he has what it takes to actually be a full manager, or if project lead is where he is best suited.

        but, definately, never just promote to level of incompetence. that is nothing but trouble.

      • #3063056

        Good to see you out here again

        by too old for it ·

        In reply to You’re solving the wrong problem

        Just wondering what your view is of parallel tracks? One that heads off into management (sales, business facing, etc) and one that is purely technical (keeps the servers, LAN, WAN, NOC, backbone etc up … but the office is the last door on the left, out of the way).

        Kinda like the technical rates in the navy. You become the acknowledged expert at say fire control, you don’t ever get to the Pentagon, but you still get paid the same.

        • #3063013

          Good to be seen

          by amcol ·

          In reply to Good to see you out here again

          I was out of the country for a while, and things in the office have gotten very busy, so I haven’t had too many opportunities to participate in discussions. Thanks for the thought.

          I think parallel tracks are a great idea under the right set of circumstances. Early in my own career I was working in the consulting arm of a Fortune 500 financial services company and had the opportunity to spend a couple of years in sales. I was so good at it that it’s lucky I was allowed to return to my technical roots, but that’s another story. Actually, it did turn out to be my ticket into management…the technical skills and knowledge coupled with the sales experience made me a candidate for a technical management spot, and things went on from there.

          In this particular case I’m not sure it’s appropriate, however, at least not just yet. The employee in question seems to have some baggage to deal with, and putting him in another department having nothing to do with IT might be the worst thing for him. I base that assessment on the fact that the baggage seems to have a lot to do with interpersonal communication issues. The best chance this person has to improve and overcome his limitations is with his current manager, who knows him best…and seems to care what happens to him, more to the point.

          After a year or two of success at addressing his underlying issues then, yes, I think it would be a great idea to move him around and get him some other more varied experience. It’s a great career management technique for anyone.

        • #3062600

          Moving around a bit (or a lot)

          by too old for it ·

          In reply to Good to be seen

          You remind me of the consulting bit I did at a major truck manufacturer.

          As a management trainee, you spent some time in every department, niche, nook and cranny of the place. Now, rarely did you actually DO work, due to the union contracts, but if you gained the respect of the line workers (or maintenance, or whatever) they would let you watch real closly, and maybe put a hand to it yourself.

          (When I or a management trainee did “work”, we had to make sure that a union employee was on the clock, but idle at the time … hands in the pockets idle. Sometimes we had to call an “extra” over, just to make sure we had someone who was idle, so we couldn’t be accused of taking “work” away from a represented employee.)

        • #3060973

          Parallel tracks … NOT

          by oneshotstop ·

          In reply to Good to see you out here again

          The problem with the parallel tracks is that they are not parallel. The technical side rarely matches the pay scale of the management side. Yes, it is a much better place for the no social skills tech geek (myself included), but the rewards are not as rich.

        • #3061874

          Still subordinate

          by dcreader ·

          In reply to Parallel tracks … NOT

          It’s not just about the money, either. Parallel tracks still put the techies who understand the details under the managers who understand the big picture (if only that were really possible without understanding the details).

          I get the idea that people are pidgeonholed as detail-oriented, just because they can work with details. The rest of the people are automatically assigned “big picture” jobs, even though they may have no capabilities at all.

          Somehow social skills are the key to getting the “big picture” in one’s mind across to others. Often average managers just dumb everything down to the point where it’s no longer true, just to make a paletable presentation.

          There’s nothing really parallel about it.

        • #3061786

          Therein lies the problem

          by too old for it ·

          In reply to Parallel tracks … NOT

          Rather than management-or-out, most companies would be better served if someone tacked the CFO, and figured out a promotion and pay track for techies that equalled management (or sales or whomever).

      • #3061008

        Management Training

        by diana o ·

        In reply to You’re solving the wrong problem

        Why oh why does everyone assume that management skill is somehow just “inborn”? Yes, being an extrovert or an introvert is, but not being a manager. I have worked with and for more people who are managers, and behave inappropriately in their role (can you say “gossip about her/his employees to everyone else in the department” and “speculate on who’s getting laid off in the middle of the floor in a loud voice”?).

        Anyone who manages people needs management training to start and at regular intervals thereafter. And it’s not just about people skills, there are laws that have to be followed (state and federal) when you supervise others.

        My management training gave me lots of confidence because I knew what to do in most situations, and where to go for help when I didn’t.

        Get the guy some training. Ask him to read some things (such as Emotional Intelligence in the Workplace), and walk through some better ways to handle things without being critical. (My boss says, “That was good, but let’s try to improve on it. What could you do next time?”

        Of course, not everyone is cut out to manage others. If that is the case, and he doesn’t want to do it, see if you can get HR to add a “grade” or senior version of his current position so he has a career path and a target to shoot for for more money and responsibility.

        Good luck, and I hope he realizes what a good mentor you are!!

        Diana O

        • #3061800

          Off the mark

          by amcol ·

          In reply to Management Training

          I don’t think I’ve ever been involved with any organization, either via direct connection or through collegial access, that gave anyone a management job without some kind of training, either in advance of taking the position or sometime soon after.

          Management is not something that just comes naturally, but training alone is insufficient. Training’s required, but you can’t train someone who lacks natural ability. It’s a combination of the two.

          The bad behavior you describe is more of a leadership failure than that of management. Two completely different things, and while one can certainly take any number of training classes in leadershp this is an area in which natural ability is absolutely a prerequisite.

          People should get training for any career, but in management and leadership as in medicine and law and carpentry and plumbing a certain amount of natural ability needs to be there first. It’s not one or the other…it’s both.

        • #3069376


          by stan0228 ·

          In reply to Management Training

          Toastmaster training of public speaking, planning, structuring presentaitons can spill over into the daily conversation and planning what and how to say it. Have him involved in committees with a mentor.

          Don’t give up on him. Let him know his weak points and strong points. Have a written plan of what to attack first with miles stones and time lines.
          Good luck.

    • #3063171

      Asperger Syndrome

      by bfilmfan ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Is there any chance this person suffers from Asperger Syndrome, which is a form of autism?

      Individuals with AS can exhibit a variety of characteristics and the disorder can range from mild to severe. Persons with AS show marked deficiencies in social skills, have difficulties with transitions or changes and prefer sameness. They often have obsessive routines and may be preoccupied with a particular subject of interest. They have a great deal of difficulty reading nonverbal cues (body language) and very often the individual with AS has difficulty determining proper body space. Often overly sensitive to sounds, tastes, smells, and sights, the person with AS may prefer soft clothing, certain foods, and be bothered by sounds or lights no one else seems to hear or see. It’s important to remember that the person with AS perceives the world very differently. Therefore, many behaviors that seem odd or unusual are due to those neurological differences and not the result of intentional rudeness or bad behavior, and most certainly not the result of “improper parenting”.

      By definition, those with AS have a normal IQ and many individuals (although not all), exhibit exceptional skill or talent in a specific area. Because of their high degree of functionality and their naivet?, those with AS are often viewed as eccentric or odd and can easily become victims of teasing and bullying. While language development seems, on the surface, normal, individuals with AS often have deficits in pragmatics and prosody. Vocabularies may be extraordinarily rich and some children sound like “little professors.” However, persons with AS can be extremely literal and have difficulty using language in a social context.

      I have worked with at least 3 individuals over the years, which have this disorder and the person you are describing certainly has some of the symptoms.

      • #3061018

        Glad to see this post, I was going to bring it up

        by edf_pa ·

        In reply to Asperger Syndrome

        Looks exactly like Asperger’s. I am a parent to an AS child, fitting the above description almost perfectly. The differences in these people are subtle until they are thrust into a “spotlight” situation.
        I also work with someone who fits the description of AS, but I don’t know whether he’s ever been diagnosed. He’s advanced through IT, to the point where he is now the DBA. Although he has no directs below him, there are many dotted lines from him in this particular role. We’ve brought him along carefuuly, encouraging him to present in group settings, at first in small groups of people he is comfortable with, then growing the audience through time.
        Soemthing off-the-wall that might be worth trying – if he is diagnosed with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder, which includes Asperger’s, HR may view him differently and may make exception for him. Mention the Disabilities Act and you may get their attention.
        Good luck.

      • #3060976

        AS, comes with the territory?

        by tyr67360 ·

        In reply to Asperger Syndrome

        I have a son who exhibited many peculiar behaviors –
        rudeness, thoughtlessness, obsession with minute
        details (legos, computers, fantasy games/worlds). A
        psychologist friend suggested he might have AS. I read
        a few books and studied my son for two years and have
        concluded he does. Funny thing though – as I was
        learning about this I began to realize two of the three
        employees I supervise align with these symptoms. You
        mentioned that you have supervised three persons with
        Asperger. It appears to me that the field of technology is
        a perfect fit for those who devour and retain mundane
        facts. Of the two employees I have one (webmaster)
        prefers to avoid people and interaction with others. He
        likes all the information given to him (spoon fed) and he
        will take it from there. The other (direct Macintosh
        support) is by nature required to interface. He just
        wants to work with problems and equipment but finds
        the best clues are usually given by the people so he is
        forced to “deal with it”. My Mac guy is in very much the
        same perdicament as the subject of this thread.

        Here is how I handle it. We have come to agree that his
        people skills are lacking and in need of refinement. But
        he also agrees that he has to work with people to be
        effective in his role. I minimize the interruptions and
        interactions by a in-house developed Help Desk. This
        allows me to handle the difficult people cases,
        circumvents the anger brought on by interruptions to
        the task at hand and keeps some personallity and
        emotion out of the communication. In addition I have
        helped him to see and understand that he is great at
        techincal support and expressed the reallity that he
        may never be suited to a supervisory position. He has
        accepted this. Now the real problem is that he wants to
        move forward in the company too ( especially
        financially). It has been my responsibility to raise the
        percieved value of his giftedness so I can give him
        financial rewards that keep him happy and employed.
        The trick is in teaching HR the added value of these
        people who are cream of the crop technically.
        Fortunately this is not too diffiicult. Because he is
        continually learning and pursuing deeper knowledge
        he is at the same time become more and more
        valuable. This causes me to re-evaluate his Job
        Description more often than you would normally. At
        each new realm of responsibility I begin gnawing away
        at my boss and our HR department to recognize the
        value of these new skills and repsonsibilities. I also
        have the “what if he leaves” which works well in this
        situation since his skills are so specialized and he is
        the only one (besides myself) who can get us out of
        trouble in a deadline intense environment.

        To summarize: you may not ever (with good conscience
        ) be able to recommend your employee for a
        supervisory position. However, remember people skills
        are just that skills and they can be learned. So if you
        have someone who is teachable you may be able to
        work with them. If you do not have someone who can/
        will learn people skills you need a come to Jesus
        meeting where you tell them the truth about what their
        prospect of management is. Of course you could shelter
        them by giving them more things to manage and less
        people interaction. In any case as their supervisor you
        need to tell them the “truth in love”. Commit to them to
        help them grow if they are willing to do the work. If they
        are not willing to do the hard job – change – then
        explain that is why they are limited in their ability to
        grow in the company.

        • #3061798

          Some Speculation that…

          by gsg ·

          In reply to AS, comes with the territory?

          There has been some speculation that Bill Gates has Asperger’s syndrome. I read an article about this recently. Apparently, he’s admitted that he has issues with some social situations, and, whether you are a Microsoft, Linux, Mac, or whatever devotee, you have to admit, the man is brilliant. It does seem that the tech industry does seem to grab these apparently eccentric people.

          Also, coming from this guy’s point of view. I was in his situation, and felt I had to take a supervisory role to make more money. I was terrible at it. Luckily, I had a manager that realized I was terribly unhappy, and she helped me to transition in another direction. Namely, into IT. Since then I’ve been quite happy, and have trained myself to be more comfortable in some of these social situations, and am better able to deal with some of the interpersonal relationships that I have to have as a Project Manager. Be frank with this guy and tell him that you’ve noticed that he feels uncomfortable in meetings, and ask him what you can do to help. It could be that he’s just an extreme introvert and by trying to fit in and become less so, he’s inappropriate.

      • #3072010

        It’s possible

        by hagrinas ·

        In reply to Asperger Syndrome

        AS is an autistic spectrum disorder, and has many common characteristics with autism, but is not technically a form of autism even though that’s an easy way to put it. It’s a pervasive developmental disorder, and is very closely related to autism with a lot of overlap.

        It’s also a medical diagnosis, so I personally wouldn’t go there (neither would any doctor) without much more information. But you may be right.

        Many necessary aspects of AS were not mentioned, so they may or may not be there. But there are other things that could cause those symptoms ranging from ADD to simply being expected consequences of being brilliant. I covered that in another post.

    • #3063119

      change of tact

      by rrgilmore_2001 ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      IT sounds like you are not reinforcing the good with the bad…. In other words say something when he does something good not only when it is bad…. How old is this guy? young under 25? I think you have to not care how he reacts when you get on his case. Just let him have it… I would call him to my office tell him we have to talk and you are going to listen…. Hell either get the point or he won’t and if that is the case he still needs to grow up and that is that..

      • #3063089

        more background

        by robroynj ·

        In reply to change of tact

        there are currently three levels for non-management IT in my company and he has received 2 promotions in 2 years and cannot move up formally. He’s received great reviews and deserved them. He knows he’s good and he knows he’s appreciated. In fact, I sometimes wish he wasn’t so secure with his current position but he is central to all sorts of major projects and is the resource of last resort for many other people in the department.

        He is in his late 20’s and was one of those guys that was doing consulting all the way through college so he has lots of hands on experience. He worked with a start-up that went belly up before coming to my company. I suspect but don’t know that he made a good bit of $$ as the bubble was inflating.

        You’re point is a good one. I’m best as a manager with people that are more receptive to coaching. I don’t like to ride employees and this might be a time where I need to do just that. He’s very enchanted with becoming a manager and I won’t promote him simply to keep him.

        Thanks to everyone that has offered suggestions. Very helpful for the new ideas and the reinforcement.

        • #3063034

          Focus on Wrong Employee

          by wayne m. ·

          In reply to more background

          I may be reading between the lines too much, but I would suggest the underlying problem is with the remaining staff. Why have you let a single individual become “central to all sorts of major projects and is the resource of last resort for many other people in the department”?

          How does the referenced employee relate to his peers? If his interactions in meetings are an indication, he may be well intimidating the others and keeping them down so that he can shine. The first order of business is to get him to hand over responsibility for some of his current tasks to his peers. Pick one task and one team member to take over. Meet individually with both and brief them separately, then have a kickoff meeting with both. Get updates on progress during weekly staff meetings. If the individual is not able to train and turnover a task to a peer, he will be unable to delegate as a manager.

          I assume your staff has weekly staff meetings. You need to maintain control of the meeting. If the individual is quiet (common among technical staff), ask for his recommendations. If he makes inappropriate jokes or comments, immediately cut him off and state publicly that you find the comment inappropriate or offensive, don’t wait until after the meeting, do it immediately.

          You may want to recommend Toastmasters (find them on the web) to the individual. The dues are cheap, but the set up is pretty much learn by doing. He should at least learn some meeting etiquette, though some people find their rah-rah nature a little bit grating.

          Focus on the remainder of your staff. Let the individual in question know you are looking at staff improvement and ask for his help. Only after this person shows some ability to work with his peers should you consider any additional promotion to management or a newly defined track. If he is unable to work well with his peers, you need to slowly ease him out of key roles.

        • #3062866

          Set Goals

          by cuteelf ·

          In reply to more background

          You and he have both discussed him promoting?

          From what I read:
          You think he’s farking smart as a tack
          He sucks with humans
          He can kick A$$ with computers and troubleshooting

          Does he want to be promoted for money reasons or for status? Or for going further up the food chain?

          Because those are the 3 biggest reasons to be moving somewhere. And for what you’re saying, he does not really need the $ *he gets it from you already*, he has tenure/ big fish status.

          So have you really asked him what he wants? HIS goals in life? I mean …really ask him.

          You can do a goal setting promotion by saying: here, this is the deal.
          You go take these classes, I’ll give you smore responsiblity..and once a month we’ll meet about you and work. In 6 months, I’ll take a look @ if you’re worth putting up into a different dept. or role.

          Try that too.

          If this person wants to change his role, he’ll have to change behaviour. Big time.

          I am horrid with people, and I’d much rather deal with cable and pc’s and crappy keyboards than whiney users and people who demand to have it fixed five minutes ago …gah.

          You might not be able to promote him: it may be better to keep him as a tech, but up the pay. Fight for him if he wants that- he may be worth it.

          Good luck,


        • #3062593

          This does pose an answer to the conundrum …

          by too old for it ·

          In reply to Set Goals

          … of what to do with qualified people who are much better at fitting their mark and doing their assignments than interfacing with the business side, or moving into management and having MORE! BIG!! MEASUREABLE!!! ACHIEVEMENTS!!!!

          You keep them wehre they perform the best .. and pay them commensurate witht he guys in the other tracks.

          That was simple.

          Much simpler than promoting them out of thier realm then having to “demote” them back to the
          duties for which they have repeatedly demonstrated unswerving ability. (yeah, a Star Trek moment …)

        • #3061036


          by mygetbiz ·

          In reply to more background

          Maybe find a weekend social skills program, start with the local universities.

          Your employee seems to be a male about the age of 25 who has graduated with a gps of 3.4 or higher.

          Odds are he spent much time in the books with little socializing.

          He may spend too much of his time as an adult with tech toys over really socializing with adults.

          A weekend social skills program that evolves study as well as pratice sounds in order.

          Perhaps a communications courses and hiking combo. He seem to need communications skills and it has to be fun to keep his mind from wandering elsewhere.

        • #3061870

          Weekend social skills program?

          by dcreader ·

          In reply to REPOSTED

          Can you tell me more? What would it be called? How does it work? Know of anything like that in DC?

      • #3073201

        grammar nazi

        by jdgeek ·

        In reply to change of tact

        You mean (see nautical)

        unless it was an intentional play on words, in which case well done.

    • #3063085

      I have lived through this several times

      by surflover ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      I have had to deal with this several times, and the result was the same each time… The last company I worked for the previous CIO had to fire the Dir. of Engineering, and promoted the “star” engineer into this role (probably had a lot to do with his demise :-))… He was without doubt, the worst manager I have ever met… I attempted to reclassify him as a “principal engineer”, but he was long time freinds with the CEO (had been with company a long time) and went over my head to keep the management job… the CEO backed him (1 of the many reasons I left) and they’re still having unbelieveable problems with the engineering group… about 15 years ago I had made the mistake myself, and as one of the other posts said, I lost my best technitian, gained a crummy manager, and eventually lost some of his staff due to his incompetance, and eventually had to fire him…

      I’d reccomend creating somthing like a principal tech job if you can pull it off…

      • #3061872

        On the right track

        by eric.p ·

        In reply to I have lived through this several times

        I think all the posts I’ve read about somehow getting this guy into management are on the wrong track. This guy is a perfect fit for the “principal tech” type of position, which doesn’t involve management, but includes enough reward to keep him in your company. The problem is with HR departments, who generally are not capable of understanding the advantages of such an approach. To them people are just people and you fit them into boxes based on tenure and their resume skill set. Every company should have room for such “brilliant” people without forcing them into management. The idea that someone can only provide maximum value to the company by managing other people is ridiculous. Microsoft has many people who are making a lot of money because of their technical expertise and ability to produce, who don’t manage anyone. Some of these people are really strange and they kind of have to lock them off by themselves either because they rarely bathe, or they’re just otherwise offensive to other human beings. They recognize the value of these individuals just the way they are and don’t try and mold them into something they aren’t. From a purely business perspective this is a really smart move in my judgement.

        My employer allows me to work at home most of the time because of my difficulty coming into the office because of my health. While I do have management capabilities, and have managed in the past, my health won’t allow it right now and my manager recognizes that and cuts me a lot of slack in return for the ability for him to give me all kinds of specialized tasks and count on me getting them done in a quality and timely manner. They also pay me quite well, and all this together makes me loath to seriously consider the outside offers that come along quite regularly.

      • #3069306

        It’s way too common

        by ~neil ·

        In reply to I have lived through this several times

        I’ve had to fire myself from management. Company I used to work for promoted me to team leader — I happen to be a terrible manager. I did manage to get in on the hiring for my old position, found somebody who could do the management, and switched him into the team lead. I was much happier in my more technical role.

        I see a lot of diagnoses in these threads based on little information. The actual answer is, you’re going to have to troubleshoot him. *IS* he add/asberger/something else, and act accordingly. If he can’t deal with people, can he be kept to a technical role? (My current position is sort of a ‘floater’; I work on issues from all departments, whether they have much to do with my position, or not.)

        If you’ve eliminated medical issues (some people have neurological issues, some are just shy ) then, sure, you might want to offer him advancement with people, contingent on his learning how.

        Find out what his concept of management is, specifically. It might not be the same as yours (my concept of management I can do has very little to do with meetings).

        Be as creative as you have the room to be (eg, maybe get him an assistant, or a junior he can mentor, that can take over at meetings, etc, etc), but if that doesn’t work, you might have to let him go. There are a lot of good geeks out there.

        Two good, old, articles on this topic:

    • #3062925


      by ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      if you have the budget send him to classes.

      • #3061050

        Team building exercises may help…

        by alan.duncan ·

        In reply to training

        I know this is an uncommon and usually not a possible approach, but one way to test the waters to see if this guy has management potential is to take the whole team out for a non business related team building exercise.

        I’ve only really dealt with this kind of thing when i was in the military, but it always seemed to have a fairly major impact on someones natural leadership skills.

        Aside from that, it allows your team to gel on a more personal level, allowing them to be more comfortable with each other, allowing them to be more productive in the long run.

        Doing something like paintballing for example and putting the guy in charge of the other team is a good way to test him. Especially as field tactics aren’t all that different from running a business (the same sort of decisions need to be made, but just in a different arena. i.e. you still need to be able to assess each persons strengths and put them in a position where they can put them to the greatest benefit of the team.).

        If it isn’t possible for the company to do this, see if the team members will be willing to go and do it in their own time (at their own expense obviously).

        That might be one way to let the guy come out of his shell.

    • #3062776

      A very difficult situation .

      by hozcanhan ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      People of this sort ( your employee ) usually end up in a pit hole , because of their tongue. Sometimes for not using at the right time and sometimes for using it to sting others. The profile you draw points at an intelligent being . One way to put such a figure into an order of line is to show him video , give him books/documents and/or send him in person to a course where they teach the art of being a manager. Yes , you need to educate him in this respect as well. And don’t forget to offer everything from your pocket . Challenge him : ” if you are intelligent enough , you agree to train yourself and pass this rudimentary managerial course ..etc ” . If he is a type to ever succeed he will take . Otherwise , no one can save him.

    • #3062763

      Find ways to challenge and recognize him

      by jamesbr ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Making this person a manager would be a huge mistake right now – even with a small team. A manager relies on totally different skills that the technical skills you’ve described for this employee – rapport-building, leadership, coaching, etc. Usually, the basic needs of high performers like this are 1) recognition, and 2) challenge. He may be pushing for a management role or more money because he sees it as a path to more visibility or recognition of his abilities. But, from what you’ve described, this would take him away from an area where he is excellent and put him into a role for which he is not at all suitable. I agree with previous posts that you need to find him a challenging, difficult, well-contained project where he can solve some difficult problems. Then, it’s your responsibility to see that he gets the recognition for it throughout the company.

    • #3061067

      Lack of Social Skills

      by kris.palmer ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      As a manager and supervisor, my advice is to be up front with him. Tell him like it is otherwise either his career will never take off, or should he by some means get a supervisory/manager position he will probably get fired. He may not want to supervise/manage, so you need to establish that first. Quite honestly, if a person has a lack of social skills they will not move up the chain. Offer to send him to training on this topic. He has to want to do it and he needs to understand that his behavior is unacceptable for progression. I had a boss tell me one time – that he would prefer someone less skilled to administer his network than someone with top notch skills who can’t work with people. The position I have currently – the guy before was exactly like that and he lasted 3 weeks!! That is the bottom line for your employee!

      • #3061023

        Excellent points

        by mygetbiz ·

        In reply to Lack of Social Skills

        He knows that management envolves interaction with others, keeping the peace to get the work done. Delegate to the wrong on, problems occur because of skills or drama.

        I would promote the person that is competent in tech skills and people skills.

        Morale goes down as well as production in environments to too much drama.

        The drama builds because the manager doesn’t have a grasp on his people.

        A bad manager creates drama, people actually refusing to work better because the boss upsets them. Most can understand if they do not get want they won’t based on something logical and fair, a manager without social skills will lack fairness in the eys of his subordinates.

        I believe when people truly understand the tasks at hand and where they fit in, most will make fair decisions about what they can and can not have.

        Human behavior course are still electives at Universities instead of core. It should be core because ot’s so important to understand different behaviors, the roots of them and how to more effectively communication what you need done with the different personalities.

        Management/Marketing courses are full of behavioral science, IT courses are not. IT needs to have behavioral sciences enlaced in the ciriculum, more so than less.

        OH, you’re management style that you have rvealed makes me wish I had you as a boss.

      • #3060963

        Born To Manage

        by dmwoodcock ·

        In reply to Lack of Social Skills

        What is a manager? Are they born that way? When new technology and new inventions develop, do you think it was on the inventors mind that he wanted to immediately find someone to manage the invention? Can a comapny run and be successful without manager’s? We have got so caught up in the everything has to be nice and if you don’t fit the corporate mold, then hit the streets. I guess that is why we are seeing such a flux in CIO/CTO/COO etc…You have idea people, you have doers, you have structured people, you have adhoc people, and guess what, you need them all.
        Your boss that told you he would prefer someone less skilled needs some real life events to show him why just a smile sometimes just don’t get the systems back up.

    • #3061066

      Be Honest

      by eldane ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      At the begining of my career, I was in this very situation from the other side. I had watched as others around me were given pay rises and advancement but I remained static. I raised this with my manager who told me a very similar story to the one you describe: “technically sound but interpersonally challenged”

      To cut a long story short, I asked “how do I fix this” he helped me get those skills that I was lacking and along the way I relaised that making a career in IT is about more than playing with really cool stuff, but about working with people. I have never looked back.

      I am still grateful to that manager for telling me the truth and helping me become the IT professional I am today.

      No surprises then, that my advice is to be honest with this person and help them make it work. Mentoring is a good method and one I have used successfully myself to develop young engineers.

    • #3061065

      You’ll be lucky if…….

      by fgarvin ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      You will be lucky if you can keep the guy around in the capacity he is already in. The problem is with this line from your post:

      In group settings the guy is a train wreck. He will either shrink quietly into a corner and defer to anyone else in the room or he will annoyingly finish everyone’s sentances, make really bad (sometimes offensive) jokes, etc.

      In today’s workplace, someone who routinely tells offensive jokes is going to get fired the first time someone complains to upper management. If they don’t take that action, they are openeing themselves up to a lawsuit for having a hostile work environment if not a Sexual harrasment lawsuit (Depending on the content of the offensive jokes). Companies are routinely brouht into court by employees even for offensive behavior that most would not consider offensive. It only take one person. Given time, that will happen eventually.

      • #3061060

        Your addressing a different issue.

        by byronvn ·

        In reply to You’ll be lucky if…….

        Sitting in the same position as employee, I’ve been told that I lack the ability to communicate with others from non-technical / networking background.
        I work for a subdivision of a retailer in the IT Division.
        My quetsion is this. Does your employee have difficulty speaking to techies or non-techies?
        If he has an issue with non-techies, I suggest those non-techies rtfm.
        I would address the offensive jokes thing though.

    • #3061064

      Believe it or not, it’s NEUROLOGICAL!

      by edeldoug ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      This guy sounds like a classic adult with Asperger’s Syndrome… which is on the Autism spectrum. Very high functioning and intelligent, very focused on a single field of expertise, having social ineptness and sensitivity are all characteristic. My best advice is to google the syndrome (just look for “ASPERGERS”) and learn a bit about it… then respond to what you learn. EXCELLENT book recommendation: “Right Address, Wrong Planet” about parenting a now-adult with the syndrome.

      • #3061041

        Course Work

        by mygetbiz ·

        In reply to Believe it or not, it’s NEUROLOGICAL!

        Maybe find a weekend social skills program, start with the local universities.

        Your employee seems to be a male about the age of 25 who has graduated with a gps of 3.4 or higher.

        Odds are he spent much time in the books with little socializing.

        He may spend too much of his time as an adult with tech toys over really socializing with adults.

        A weekend social skills program that evolves study as well as pratice sounds in order.

        Perhaps a communications courses and hiking combo. He seem to need communications skills and it has to be fun to keep his mind from wandering elsewhere.

      • #3060940

        Or it could be…

        by autumn_leaves ·

        In reply to Believe it or not, it’s NEUROLOGICAL!

        ADHD — somewhat similar — I work with some ADD employees, and they are like that. HR would probably help coach you on how to approach the topic. Ours suggested that that you can either request or require thay be checked out by a doctor to have approval for working if it affects performance, which it sounds like it does.

      • #3061813

        or it could just be training

        by theslaw ·

        In reply to Believe it or not, it’s NEUROLOGICAL!

        Maybe he just learned to be that way.

        Yes learn about this, but be open to all possibilities.

    • #3061058


      by bizzo ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      If you had an employee who was a brilliant “people person” and could manage everyone at any level but wasn’t at all technically minded, and they expressed a desire to become part of a technical team, would you let them just because you needed more technical people?

      Probably not, because they’re not suited to the position, and they’d lose respect from their colleagues.

      Like most people, in the past I’ve had some dire managers who were technically brilliant a few years ago, before they became management. But as managers, frankly, they sucked. But they had to become managers to get a promotion.

      I think it would be a really bad move to make this person a manager. Aside from the inter-personal skills, would he be bored with the management role? Would he actually be able to let go of his technical role and manage people full time? Would he get sidetracked or frustrated when his team have technical problems?

      One thing you could try doing is making him a technical team leader, which would involve, not managing the people as such, but managing the tasks they do which will also allow him to keep the technical part of his role and become a sort of mentor to the rest of the team.

    • #3061056

      Lacking the Natural Talent?

      by nemesis”t”warlock ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Many of the responses here have focussed on training him or mentoring him into this new kind of role. Problem is that from what you say he has never shown any sign of having the capability to perform these new responsibilities.

      It is often possible for people to change but generally it is combination of factors the vast majority of which are out of your control such as age, life experience, and external social factors.

      Be honest with yourself. Have you seen any sign that he could do what he needs to do to be promoted into the positions that are available? At any point has he stepped up and done something well? Have you ever really put him in the position where you will find out if he has the ability or have you watched and hoped he will distinguish himself from the crowd? I hope there is at least one or two good examples.

      If you are at the point where he is pushing for promotion and a raise but you have not already addressed his shortcomings then you have probably left it too late. The key is to identify your stars early on and coach them from the beginning to fit a future role. Miss this critical point and you might as well resign yourself to losing him.

      If you haven’t done this then try it. You have attempted to speak to him to address his shortcomings but he has been defensive and oversensitive. Did you approach them head on or did you let him identify his own weaknesses? As another post says, the willingness to change is critical in getting someone to change and therefore it is important to have the person acknowledge that the weakness exists.

      Sit him down and give him the simple instruction that he is to document what he sees as his personal barriers to getting to where he wants to be. Alongside this he should also identify what he sees as the possible actions for him to take to address these issues and most importantly over what timescale he thinks this should happen. Hopefully he will be honest enough with himself (and remember your past discussions) to identify at least the key items, and by listing what he should do he may buy into the change itself. Committing himself to a timescale will show you if he also has Realistic Time Perspective. Don’t forget to allow him to focus on the positive too; let him list the good aspects of his personality that will match future roles but still work on how to accentuate these positives further.

      If he does well here then you have a chance to do the gradual work needed to improve him. If not then you know you need to work on the rest of your team to avoid the potential impact of the loss of a good tech.

    • #3061055


      by wblackwell ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      First off is to get him to recognize not only his skills but his weaknesses as well. You also need to see if this is just a part of his personality as it will revert even if he makes changes to achieve his goal of moving up. Ask him directly if he knows that he is shooting himself in the foot by these offensive manners, his reaction to you should show what type of control he can exhibit.

      • #3061051

        Peer Perception

        by tcampbell ·

        In reply to Recognize

        How would his peers respond to your promoting him? I suspect they may be offended at the thought and it might cause more problems.

    • #3061053


      by sborder ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Try showing him ways to be diplomatic. Explain to him that he must think before he speaks and always think about how what he is about to say will affect the person he is saying it to. Let’s face it; we’re not in our positions because we are great sales men or business men. We’re here becaue we know how to manipulate software, hardware, or any electrical devices.
      When I first started at my current company I didn’t send out the best emails. I didn’t know how to be diplomatic. Instead of saying something like, “Let’s help each other and get this issue resolved!” It was more like an order. “See that it doesn’t happen again!” I had to focus on how my emials were being read. I didn’t mean for them to sound aggresive and mean, even bossy. I was just trying to get the attention of my team. I learned to read each email before I sent it and made sure that if I were reading it from some one else, I didn’t have a bad taste in my mouth afterward.
      Just explain to the guy that he is a bit unbalanced when it comes to his actions and your trying to get him a promotion, but it isn’t going to happen if he keeps making remarks about the chesty blond that signs his checks…

    • #3061052

      Manager or Leader

      by wdoliver ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      First, it disturbs me he makes offensive jokes. You need to call him down on that now. This behavior definitely should not be happening within a work environment.

      IRT not letting people finish their sentences this is not unusal for a person who is passionate about the subject being discussed. This is one of my problems I am constantly working on and have people around me letting me know if I start the behavior again. He probably does not even realize he is doing it. Bring it to his attention and provide suggestions to try and be more aware of what he is doing.

      Being a social person does help one advance faster, but one can still advance without socializing. People skills is another matter. If he cannot communicate and collaborate effectively with others then he will never be more than a Subject Matter Expert.

      People like the individual you described are needed in an organization. You promote them into management or leadership and there is no desire he will leave. Give him a choice change or get fired he will start looking for another employer and you will have just provided your competition with a valuable asset that your company has invested a lot of time and money refining skill and experience base.

      Many organizations are now recognizing a top technologist does not necessarily make a good manager or leader. In recognition of this they establish two career paths. One for the technologist who specializes in a skill area and the other for individuals that desire to go into management. They allow individuals to change career paths if they change their goals.

      There is a place for people who work well in teams and those who work well alone. There are some people who do not desire to lead nor manage. They just want to be left alone to accomplish their responsibilities and have enough lattitude to have a say in how they are accomplished.

      It sounds like this employee does not desire to manage, but desires more responsibilities. I would assign a new hire or a person with a lot less experience and skills for him to mentor. Keep abreast on how the mentoring is progressing and make suggestions in approaches or behavior that will improve his ability to lead.

      You might have him attend or take a CBT course on effective communication, leadership, etc… Your company should be doing this regularly for their employees anyway.

    • #3061049

      competency development

      by cb0503 ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      I’ll confess I haven’t read all the replies to this. In the last couple of businesses I have worked for we have had a set of skills and competencies which each role is described by. The level of skill or competency varies by role, and by person. So the role may require someone to be “full operational” in a particular skills but as it is a role they are developing in, they may only have “basic awareness”. This is then one of their development needs, because of the gap between role need and person practice.

      Can you approach this issue by looking (and discussing – as par of a coaching programme) the competencies (as opposed to technical or professional skills) he would need to exhibit as a “manager” rather than the role he has now.

      Then you can say that he needs to show evidence of these competencies at a certain level before he would be considered for such a role. (Not necessarily at the full level required for the role, but a long way towards it).

    • #3061048

      Buy him a book

      by dmouzakis ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Get him the book “Emotional Inteligence” by Daniel Coleman.

      Seriously !



    • #3061047

      Build him up slowly

      by rocjoe71 ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      He’s probably feeling very uncomfortable, maybe threatened in groups, hence the aggression (shyness/rude jokes). Pair him off with one of your other employees, prefereably one of your more popular employees, to do a collaborative project (like authoring some specs for a bigger project or produce some productivity tool for the rest of the team).

      Explain it to the brilliant one that the other fellow needs his help and that it would look very good on him if he was seen helping other people in the office raise their game.

      Explain it to the friendly one that they’ve got a good opportunity to learn and produce something bigger/better than they have yet done on their own.

      It would be good if they can sit nearby to each other to foster more opportunities to talk, adjacent cubicles/desks.

      It’s not going to happen overnight but as this guy develops one-on-one relationships this way, he’ll feel less threatened in groups when he’s got an ally or two in the group.

    • #3061045

      Management is NOT the end-all…

      by 50kilroy ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee


      I would suggest that you ask your brilliant staff member if he wants to be a manager. I have been avoiding management positions for years for some of the reasons that you quote in your post.
      Management is not, and will never be, the only path of advancement that is best for all. Some of us do not _want_ to be managers.

      Please keep that in mind.

    • #3061043

      We already have enough “Bad” to “Mediocre” Managers

      by beoweolf ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      We need more tech, that actually “know” something…and to reward them for being good at what they do, instead of trying to push a square peg in a round hole!

      This problem was very big in the military for years. They resolved it by creating another…”non-Leadership” role. Thus the “Specialist” and “Warrant Officer” classification was born.

      The point is….despite the very American dogma that you can be anything you want to be; some people just aren’t leadership material or social or even very nice. So your effort to create a “special position” for your “Special person” is the way to handle this situation. You would do yourself and him a big favor by keeping him in the trenches, where his skills are best suited than in trying to make him over into some kind of “silk purse”. This is not an issue like a person having bad hygine or failing to “dress for sucess”. Many people in IT gravitate to it because they already know they are lacking in people skills…we make reasonable accomodations for the disabled, lack of social skills could be a marker for any number of clinical conditions for ADD/ADHD, Asbergers syndrome, functional Autism or any of a number other “high functioning” mental disorders.

      I am not a big fan of inventing a disease to fit a lack of social skills, but in this country you need some validation before people will accept the facts as they are instead trying to “fix” people.

      As far as his input at meetings and possible glib responses to questions or in voicing his opinion; there are any number of executive training programs that you could send him to…that could make him more aware of the impression he makes on others and help him to find a balance between his shrinking personality, contracted comfort zone and his need to participate in meetings.

      From my point of view, you don’t so much have a problem as you are forcing a bad fit for a unique resource.

      Making exceptions for his shortcoming might be the best way to handle this individual. There is nothing wrong with having a weird uncle that lives in the basement.

      This might be a case of killing the goose that lays the golden egg, his value lies in what he can do, not in what you want.

    • #3061040

      Stop Coaching

      by workin4$$$ ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      You need to focus more on your career, not his. Would you like to be Director, or VP?

      Next time he asks tell him that he hasn’t proven himself as management material yet. He may ask why, so give him a project, to go away and come back when he knows why.

      He’ll react one of two ways.

      1. He’ll withdrawl – This is a sign of what some people call low self-esteem, but I call an acute recognition of position in society. Some people aren’t cut out for senior roles. If he reisgns himself to this, he’s proven it for you. If he hits this wall, you’ll congratulate yourself for not taking the risk in getting him promoted.

      2. He’ll figure it out – This is a sign of someone who may be management material. Of course, he still has to prove that he’s capable of acheiving those things that are management qualities.

      The long and short of it is;

      The only person who can change an employee’s attitude and focus is them. If you spend too much time stressing about it, you’ll detract from what you really have to do. Get promoted.

      Hope it’s helped…

      • #3061014

        I am a VP

        by robroynj ·

        In reply to Stop Coaching

        First, thanks again to all for their thoughts.

        I’ve been doing this a long time. I do pretty well and my job is to make this organization work. Until recently, IT was a very big internal organization. Now, I lead a team that supports only our R&D division. The rest of IT now works for a major consulting firm and we have IT for hire. My team has about 25 people and manages a very large infrastructure for the scientists and others. It is intersting work and I like it but it is much less stressful than my previous job.

        I’ve seen situations like this come in the past and I’ve always let the person leave the company and I’m sick of this. Also, this guy is an amazing talent and I’d like to see his career grow. This is an old, big organization that has been a very good place to work but is not known for its flexibility. I worked hard to get this guy to stay with me and I don’t want to lose him.

        Again, thanks for all of the responses.

        • #3061010

          Hostage situation

          by angry_white_male ·

          In reply to I am a VP

          Don’t let this guy hold you hostage. If he’s not leadership material – you will take the heat for his failures.

          No one wants to see good talent walk out the door – but if the next step he’s aspiring to isn’t a good mutual fit for both the employee, the team and the company, don’t try to force a square peg into a round hole. You’ll have more headaches trying to backtrack and clean up the mess, than you will trying to find a replacement when he walks out the door.

          Speaking of which, if he’s already hinted that he’s looking to make more $$$ and move up the ladder, odds are he’s quietly looking for another job anyway.

          It’s clear you have your doubts about this guy’s ability in a leadership role, otherwise you wouldn’t have come here to ask for our advice.

          You need to do what’s best for the team – and not for the individual.

        • #3060997

          Good Job–can I work for you?

          by diana o ·

          In reply to I am a VP

          You sound just like the kind of supervisor I like to have, interested in coaching and developing their employees!

          Good for you! “Riding” is for horses, not people 😀 Those comments just highlight that some people who really need management training don’t get it. And then they wonder why they have so much turnover.

        • #3060982

          You can work for me

          by workin4$$$ ·

          In reply to Good Job–can I work for you?

          If you’re manager material, prove it to me. I’m not, however, going to waste my companies resources trying to find something that may or may not be there.

          If I know it’s there, then I encourage cultivation. I reward over-performing employees with extra money/perks, etc.

          Eventually, some of them leave, and some of them get promoted.

          The last thing I am is a tyrant, but Employees are a necessary evil. I wish our organization could run and make money without them. It causes less headaches in the end and employee turn-over would be non-existent.

      • #3061841

        Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!

        by firstpeter ·

        In reply to Stop Coaching

        With all due respect, it’s apparent you’ve never been a manager before (or you were only jesting in your post). I don’t mean that as a put-down, but the first part of your post indicates (to me, at least) that you’ve got the purpose of “management” confused.

        Management, in the most basic terms, IS coaching, plain and simple. It’s taking a team of folks and helping them get the most out of themselves (for the end purpose of improving the business). To recommend a “stop coaching” approach is the equivalent of telling a fireman that he should stop putting out fires and just worry about saving cats from trees. The simple fact that this question was posed originally tells us that you’ve got a person who’s concerned about an employee – that’s one heck of a start for a good manager.

        I’m constantly surprised by the sheer number of managers who stop focusing on their employees and wonder why things go wrong. Managers in good companies who focus more on _their_ career than those of their employees are going to quickly find themselves stuck in the exact same place that they are today.

        You are correct, though, that the only person who can change an employee’s focus and attitude is them. Absolutely, no doubt about it. And if you spend too much time stressing about it to the point that you ignore your other responsibilities then absolutely – that’s bad. But as a good (or even an AVERAGE) manager you can never forget that your responsibility IS your employees – you exist only to the extent that you can help them get their job done. If you focus on getting promoted instead get ready to see “poor” attached to your name.

        • #3061787

          Perhaps I Should Clarify

          by workin4$$$ ·

          In reply to Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!

          I am an executive. I manage my company’s profitability through technology. If I could get by without employees, I would. It’s cheaper, and employees only cause problems.

          The company has a goal. My objective is to make them meet those goals. Generally, the goals involve making more money, and thereby the shareholders and my salary/bonus is tied to all of that.

          Maybe you’ve been a manager and some people have reported to you, and you’ve managed their personalities well enough that they got on as a team.

          Executives are responsible for a larger picture than human resources. They are coming up with ideas that employees can not. They are making decisions that will determine whether or not stock prices go up, or if I implement a new technology (like we’re in the process of right now) that will eliminate the need for 150 of my 800 employees.

          Yes, I’m going to have almost a quarter of the workforce eliminated. That was my decision. 1 pice of technology for $1M, with $1/2M in implementation and project fees will reduce my company’s operating budget by over $5M per year. Go find work, you’re not needed.

          I don’t disagree that management is responsible for the actions of their employees. They are not, however, responsible for the direction of their careers.

          A perfect executive will make sure an good employee with no people skills and outstanding technical skills with no inherent ability to be management stays in his job and his happy doing it. If he/she is not happy, there’s always the door. My business isn’t going to meet their every needs, they’re not snowflakes.

          Either way, if he stands in the way of the companies objectives, or hurts its ability to be productiive, he’s out the door. There’s no need for ineptitude or internal sabotage.

          I give credit where credit is due. I reward good employees (call it positive reinforcement) and I think so does the rest of the world. I punish failure. Generally by telling them they made a mistake. Repeated failures are another thing.

          In the end, as long as my shareholders are happy, so am I. After all, I’m a shareholder too. It affects my profitability. So show another technology to eliminate jobs, and I’ll have it bought and implemented.

        • #3072006

          So, let’s assume that all executives …

          by too old for it ·

          In reply to Perhaps I Should Clarify

          … in the country can figure out how to shitcan a quarter of their employees and still keep going. You take the (newly created) 25% unemployment you have created, add it to the existing 6% or so true rate of unemployment, and with say 31% of the country out of work, the economy helps your company prosper how?

          Is it truly necessary to have such an unbridled prejudice and hatred for everyone beneath you to make it to the executive suite, or does it merely anecdotal?

        • #3071992

          Let’s Assume

          by workin4$$$ ·

          In reply to So, let’s assume that all executives …

          …that employees can retrain themselves. We’re not talking macroeconomics of a state, or nation or the world entire. What we are talking about is one guy, who has a chip on his shoulder. My initial point was to say that not everyone is cut out for management. Any attempts YOU make to motivate someone else to do anything, are just that, YOUR attempts. An authentically ambitious person will motivate and educate themselves. They will see their short-comings. They will take genuine criticism easily and use it to better themselves. They will consider self-help and motivational seminars to be condescending, uninspiring and generally a waste of money.

          They will pull themselves up by their own boot straps and acheive greatness with or without anyone else’s assistance.

          The more you promote the mediocre, the more you develop mediocre middle-management. The more the truly ambitious get left behind, because they’re not happy-go-lucky people pleasers who love motivational posters and after-work functions.

          There’s a saying, but I’m not sure from where, that I think sums it up pretty good.

          MOTIVATION – If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job, the kind robots will be doing soon.

          This is my last post on this topic. I’m done my vacation now and have to get back to ruining my mediocre employees lives by finding the company I partially own more efficient ways to make money. When I’m done, if there’s anyone left, I’ll probably find another poorly run company to fix.

          After all…that’s what they hire me for.

    • #3061033

      Reply To: Help managing a very brilliant employee

      by tomaaa19 ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      You may be dealing with the archtypical geek, talk to him one on one and see if he wants to move into management, then discuss the path he wishes and some possible courses to take, EG: public speaking etc.

      Let him know that you want him to grow and thrive in the company. And remember critisize the behaviour not the person.


    • #3061031

      HR resource is a start

      by jocelyn.boyer ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Well, you need to help the one who is living in its own world. He likes tech task. Meeting seem to be boring situation and a must to do. In fact is uncomfortable in group. With the help of HR to seek for ways to help him to trust other in group and value of respect in the meeting process is the key.
      Personally I will meet with him to identify what he like most, see what his feeling with meeting is and see also around his level of communication with the client its serves. This will be an indicator of the status of his social communication. Maybe it is only group or everyone (he is solitaire). This may come from the time he study where competition for mark where high and he want to preserve his knowledge. Maybe he feel meeting are futile compare to the tasks to be done.
      Once you know where he stands (emotionally) about meeting and group work you be able to task him with trainee or coop student to help him to communicate its knowledge. In US you are extremely focus on performance as job done, and less in client satisfaction (needing to talk to your client). Your client is only $$$$$ earn or spend and less seen as a co-worker or part of the benefit the company have. He may be in a mood to do his job, still ?techky? at home and living on this state of mind 24/7. If so, you will lose him soon as your tech. will not be as interesting as another Cie. So find where his stand and you will be able with HR dept. to figure out how to make him more social and respectful and interested to share.

      PS.: English being my second language, please forgive my mistakes.

    • #3061030

      A different perspective

      by mistymtn0208 ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Something else for you to consider: Promoting someone to a management role that does not have adequate people skills for the position may allow you to retain this particular employee, but it may cost you to loose several other employees.

      We have an employee on our team that behaves similarly to what you’ve described; only this person is brash, loud, and controlling in both group and one-on-one settings. This person has strong technical skills though, so he’s valuable to the company, and he knows it. He has the most seniority on the team, and he seems to feel that that entitles him to a more supervisory role. He’s been placed in a technical lead position, but the people who were placed below him hate dealing with him. He wants the glory of being in a leadership position, but he doesn’t want the actual responsibility of having to keep track of how his team members are progressing with their projects or having to deal with them when something goes wrong. As a matter of fact, he hates dealing with problems so much that he has actually designated one of his team members to be his go-between to deal with issues so he doesn’t have to. This is not the behavior of a person who should be managing anything. I can guarantee that if he were actually made a manager, several team members would leave the company.

      I know a lot of people on the forum have suggested training, but as others have pointed out that only works if the individual recognizes that he needs to make changes to his behavior. Our employee has been sent to “sensitivity training”, but the only effect it seems to have had was to send this person crawling deeper into his shell so that he practically refuses to engage in direct communication with any staff members that he’s had run-ins with in the past. The problem is, he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with his behavior. He thinks the problem lies with the rest of the team; therefore, he thinks the rest of us need an attitude adjustment, not him.

      Take care in promoting a highly technical person with inadequate people skills into a leadership position. Promoting one person in an effort to keep him from leaving could end up costing you much more in the long run if his staff revolts and walks out the door.

    • #3061029

      You might want to reconsider

      by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      I am sure I am echoing many who have replied who have said not to promote this individual. The MOST important skills for a manager are people skills.
      Clearly this person is a technical wizard and should be put into positions where he can succeed – which means dealing with technology not people. Putting him into a managerial position is setting him up to fail – which will make both of you miserable.

      It certainly doesn’t sound like this person aspires to management and you should have no fears of him landing a managerial position elsewhere given your description.

      It does sound like you are concerned you may lose him due to pay. My suggestion would be to work with HR to create another grade of his current position WITHOUT including supervisory or management duties in it.

      Good luck!

    • #3061022

      Vision issue

      by blue-knight ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      He sounds like a good employee and it will take a little to fix. It is a vision problem. If he is willing to see that this is a area that needs work, probably he will address it on his own. A little coaching or getting him to go to toastmasters will give the polish he needs.

      If he does not think he is ‘broken’ then he will resist and thwart most attempts to ‘fix’ him. The same drive and skills you value will be against you. Write a short a letter either to yourself or him. List some of his good points in paragraph one. List the problem in the second paragraph in general terms, how do I get to recognise he needs to improve in a area that he is unaware of?

      If it is ignorance or he just does not value it enough, then change is easy. Once he knows it is a major goal, he will take care of it. The problem is if he rejects it, (This is the way I am and it is ok type of reaction). This is where your and his communication style and abilities determine how to proceed.


    • #3061020

      You want to help him? Don’t lie to him

      by harlemite ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      If he can’t understand (and accept!) that with any such promotion come reponsibility and higher expectations then he shouldn’t get the position. It sounds to me like he may not be mature enough for the promotion. That’s not a good thing.

      Some things to consider:

      1) You are who you promote: Remember, this person, if promoted, becomes a reflection of YOU because YOU deemed him worthy of promotion. I imagine your boss is watching you and evaluating your decision making skills as well. Will this person be someone you’d be glad to introduce your boss to? If not…

      2) He’ll appreciate it… eventually: Some of the best bosses I’ve had are the ones who were honest with me. This doesn’t mean they were tyranical in any way, but they pointed out my faults. I worked on them and became much better for it. It didn’t always feel great listening to the criticism, but that was when I was young and didn’t know much about life. I bet you can remember some folks who were like that.

      3) Don’t treat him like an idiot: If this guy’s half as smart as you make him out to be and you create some position without any real management potential he’s going to see right through it. You either want him to manage or you don’t.

      4) There will be others: NO ONE is that valuable. If they are, then you might want to have a talk with yourself about YOUR management style. And if he actually starts to believe he’s that valuable he may decide to leave on his own anyway. Trust me when I say I’ve seen many a superstar. “Many” being the key word. They come and they go.

      Just my two cents.

      Good Luck!

    • #3061015

      Don’t do it!

      by angry_white_male ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      You’ll only make a bad situation even worse.

      One very important trait that a good leader has is the ability to handle the brutal truth. If this person retreats back under the rock he crawled out of every time he’s challenged, imagine the impact this will have when he’s put into a management role. Finding someone with both good technical skills and good leadership/people skills is very hard. Doesn’t sound like this guy cuts the mustard in that regard.

      Make the best of his abilities in the role he’s currently in. Even if he’s at the top of his pay grade, try to bump him up another grade and continue to reward him with a generous paycheck. Do a salary survey – see if his pay is in-line with similar positions in your industry and geographical area.

      If you put him in a management/leadership position and it blows up – you’re the one who will be held responsible for it. Don’t put your own career at stake. If this employee feels that he’s hit the ceiling – let him take his chances on the job market. There are 100’s of people out there who can run circles around him and are willing to do it for less pay.

    • #3061012

      Help managing a very brilliant employee

      by manny ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      One approach may be to require customer service training for this employee as part of the deal to take on new responsibilities. I am a strong believer of training. While we can’t always change people, everyone IS capable of learning and adapting. Traits are what they are but I believe that good solid customer training can be effective to the extent that the employee is willing to use it as a vehicle of personal growth. He must also understand embrace it as a pre-requisite for his new task, or job.

      In today’s market, we can not effort to lack the basic skill of emotional intelligence no matter what are of IT you are involved in.

    • #3061009
      Avatar photo

      HR is the problem

      by thomas moser ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      The last large company I worked for recognized that the engineers and not the managers contributed the most to the bottom line.

      They had a salary and position structure that reflected this awareness. When I left there I help the position of Senior Technical Consultant and had the same pay grade as a Director of Engineering. The
      next step up the chain was Vice President.

      My pay scale was significantly higher than the line / middle managers I worked for and was the same scale as the Department Director.

      You do not have an employee problem you have an HR problem.

    • #3061007

      We called these guys Trolls…

      by rick.leonard ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      When I worked for a small, but rapidly growing, consulting firm we had a group of people that were very similar that we called Trolls: They could live under the bridge, but they couldn’t ever, ever meet the customers!

      They were essential, and although I was a pretty experienced geek, they schooled me on a pretty regular basis. But they didn’t have the social skills I had, and there was no way to move them beyond the Troll stage, so we focused on finding ways to add value to the work they did, so we could bill them out for more, so we could pay more and retain them.

      What we never did was try and mold them into something they weren’t. When I’m hiring I make it practice not to focus on technical skills (although they have to have the minimum) since I can train anyone to do just about anything technical. What I can’t do is train them to do it with a smile on their face and kind word for team members, and that’s the key skill I often need.

      If I need a Troll, I’ll hire one and get what you’ve got, but I’ll never try and make him something else. He won’t be happy, and neither will you.

    • #3061006

      Experts vs managers

      by mgfyo01 ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      There are two kinds of positions : expert positions, you do and manager positions : you make people do.
      The brilliant guy seems to be a brilliant expert. May be he will be a poor manager.
      The skills an expert needs have nothing to do with the skills a manager needs.
      Why should a promotion necessarily take a guy out of an expert position into a management position ?
      Can’t your company create two parallel stairs, one for managers and one for pure experts ? Can’t you use this guy as an internal high level consultant ?

    • #3061000

      Watch your step

      by rocksteady ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Sometimes we all must realize most of the very best techs are somewhat reclusive people. Any manager with any tenure, in this forum, will attest to such. There are options. I like to give these techs project control. Your project will be done amazingly and they will get the sense of dealing with people. This is their test. Most of the time you will never hear about managing people again. Also, most of my best techs are members of TechRepublic. So, watch your step.

    • #3060980

      Round Peg Square hole

      by computercoach ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      I have seen this problem many times in high tech positions. One company I worked for was smart enough to recognize that many highly skilled technically superior people are not management material. They had the same problem of running out of reward for individual contributors that just are not management types. Their solution was to create new positions with titles like principle engineer and consulting engineer. As far as the finacial side the were small increases in salary but the motivators were now things like performance based stock incentives, etc. If you have an open minded, enlightened management team they may consider this approach. Good Luck!

    • #3060979

      Our workplace isn’t a very free environment

      by gawiman ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Very interesting thought that this person may have mild asperger syndrome. There are a whole range of neurological conditions including ADHD and Tourette’s syndrome, or even petit mal epilepsy that can affect a person’s social range.

      Unfortunately for all our yapping about “diversity” our workplaces are not very diverse. We’re not good at dealing with people who have different personalities. Our sensitive widdle feewings get hurt too easily. Makes it hard for a guy like him to get anywhere.

      Tell him straight out; his technical skills and his interpersonal skills come out of different mental bank accounts – he is apparently rich in one and poor in the other. He would not be happy in a job (management) where the primary demand is on interpersonal skills and he would have less opportunity to shine technically.

      Forget “Emotional Intelligence.” Buy him a copy of Dale Carnegie’s “How to Win Friends and Influence People”. If he can come to view interpersonal skills as a technical problem he might have a strength on which to draw there.

    • #3060974

      Reply To: Help managing a very brilliant employee

      by the admiral ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      You are in essence describing me! Now I have your job in my company. The thing to do is to coach him properly and not make it look like it.

    • #3060971

      Whatever you do

      by placidair ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      don’t put this guy in a position where he’s managing employees you want to keep. I’ve reported to a few like that over the years, and they drive the other talent right out the door…. sometimes in droves. A former employer of mine lost almost all of it’s key people within days of each other, because none of us could stand to deal with him any more. There wasn’t any one thing to complain to HR about, it was all the little things that made working there a living hell on a daily basis. They lost their network manager, top network engineer, DMS and desktop person and top litigation support person — we all gave notice within 2 days of each other. Send him to classes, buy him a copy of Dale Carnegie, do whatever you want to to help bring this guy along — but don’t put him in a management position unless he changes drastically, unless you’re willing to lose other staff members in the process.

    • #3060962

      Managing Brilliance

      by karon.rice ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      It’s clear that your staff person is technically capable of delivering your needs. You might explain to him the requirements of good management and expanded scope of responsibilities. Companies now depend on teams to deliver and in order to be a good manager he’ll need to acquire the necessary skills. Show him how interested you are in his development by requesting that he take Team Training; Interpersonal Skills; etc. Use these as some of the criteria for his next review (make sure everyone else is getting the same treatment though). Use team reviews as one of the measurements for personal success on the job. He should be aware of how everyone else views his contribution/interaction with the team. Once he sees the Team Review applied to the team as a whole, he might understand that acquiring these kinds of skills are valuable and key to his ascent in the organization. He won’t feel singled out.

      You may have to have ongoing discussions with him to ensure that he understands the requirements. Use every opportunity to encourage him and include the topic of team/interpersonal skill dynamics as part of the discussions.

      If this doesn’t work, then he is determined not to be a team player, will not develop necessary leadership skills (to be a good leader you must first learn to be a good follower/team player). One cannot avoid the requirement of good personal skills in today’s organizations and his future is at risk even if he goes to other companies to work.

    • #3060957

      Tough situation to resolve

      by gaston nusimovich ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee


      It really seems that you are in a rather tight spot, very much like a catch-22 situation: damned if you do, danmed if you don’t!.

      I have a suggestion for this kind of situation, which may sound weird or even crazy, but I think that you either take a shot (a wild shot, that is), or you loose.

      The problem is with this guy interacting vis-a-vis (face to face) with the team in meetings and the like, and not necessarily with his comments: his comments may be useful, even great, but cannot be uttered to the rest of the team in the face!.

      So, use technology to disengage face-to-face contact (two-way communication) between this guy and the team.

      Put a web-cam with sound in the meetings, with this guy in another room, taking all the comments and registering all his feedback in any way you see fit (he could even talk to you though headphones during the meetings, feeding you with comments and suggestions, and you can do the filtering).

      That way, the team could have feedback from this guy without the awful moment of anybody loosing face (either him, you, or the person that is the “target” of his feedback) .

      From what you describe, he is a very resourceful asset for your company to afford the luxury of loosing him over a stupid communications problem.

      Many geeks have social and/or communication difficulties of various degree that appear very hard for them to resolve, and it looks like it comes with the package, so you either take the geeks as they are, or you don’t take them at all.

      I am not using the word “geek” lightly or with disrespect: many of these guys are wizards in various fields of expertise.

      If we are to build a better society based on mutual respect for diversity, we must add and build on diversity, not divide on diversity.

      Regards, Gast?n

      • #3061866

        On hiring coaches….

        by yipp ·

        In reply to Tough situation to resolve

        I saw the recommendation to hire a coach, and like you, I really cringed at the idea. I am not anwhere near a techy, but we all can use help in communication. I happen to be lucky enough to have a friend who is a personal coach, and it is unbelieveable how he has taught me to say the same things in a different way…..and have a very differnet impact/turn out. He also helps me to realize “why” the way I said it can be misconstrued. It is just like anything else, it may not be intuitive, but once somebody tells you what to do, it clicks. Many times reading books just doesn’t do it like personal interaction with someone you respect. Respect is the key. My coach has a very disarming, non-judgemental way about him. He knows he is there to help. Some of the things my coach tells me I am doing wrong in my communication style quite frankly anger me initially, but I put my ego in check and know he is an expert so I try them, with stellar results. Don’t underestimate what a good coach can do for this guy. They are expensive, though.

        • #3061804

          I concur

          by theslaw ·

          In reply to On hiring coaches….

          I was an engineer for 20 years, with almost no mentoring or communications training. I rarely got promotions and was good at NOT influencing people.

          I left engineering and for the last 7+ years have been studying communications, relationships, the mind, and have become a coach.

          Why? Because I knew I was not the only one out there.

          And why coaching? Because weekend seminars without ongoing support create almost no change in thinking, behaviors and results. People need ongoing effective support if they are going to make significant behavioral/lifestyle changes.

          So, now I work with those who suffer like I did.

          And as for the cost, only get a coach if you see the benefit to your company as greater than the cost. Otherwise, it’s not worth it.

          So, check out some coaches and see if ones a fit. It may work.

    • #3060956

      ‘Fit’ is the Question, Not ‘Finesse’

      by skip harden ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      I marvel at how much emphasis we place on “finesse,” when clearly there is a fit for your “socially inept” employee and his talents.

      I see this a great deal on my side of the business: tech sales. I had a sales and marketing ace on my team who was promotable because of her outstanding, consistent performance, but her internal selling was sorely lacking. She managed herself well, but could not manage others.

      In short, you’d think a salesperson who hits consistent home runs would have excellent management and people skills (every time I write/hear that phrase I think of Tom Smykowski in “Office Space”:

      They almost never do! The two skill sets are completely different!

      The question I asked HR (you probably have already), is a simple one: “Why can’t we create a new position – combining ono-on-one (instead of group) training, mentoring, coaching, or whatever else will utilize her skills – instead of trying to make this well-rounded peg fit into an obviously square position?” This accomplishes two things: it makes HR your partner in the success/failure of the promotion, and challenges them to live up to the “we embrace change, creativity, diversity, blah, blah, blah…” they espouse all the time.

      I’m afraid that if you move such an employee into group management, no matter how much sensitivity training they are given, they will be set to fail. That’s what happened to my sales guru within six months of her promotion to VP Sales (I’m the CMO).

      She now works for one of our toughest competitors…

      Skip in MA

    • #3060932

      Forget Him…

      by activated ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      He has basic personality flaws for managing others. This NEVER gets better. Leave him in the backroom, and pay him according to his value their.

    • #3060928

      Help managing a very brilliant employee

      by techrepublic ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Read the Peter Principle. It still applies. People will tend to rise to their level of incompetence and then remain there. There are only two things than can get you fired – 1. super-incompetence or 2. super-competence.

      Your guy’s talents lie in the technical field, not in managing people. Supervisory positions, while often requiring technical competence are primarily administrative and people management, totally different skill sets.

      Often people will think they want a promotion because of social pressure to “succeed” by moving up the corporate ladder, which can also equate to a bigger paycheck. (Spouses are the biggest promoters, prodders and nags.) However, when they get into the administrative/supervisor position, they are no longer doing what they love to do and for which they are ideally suited. The dumbest thing a company can do is move a brilliant, competent employee from what they love to do to something that will frustrate them, and everyone around them. High turnover can result and eventually (or sooner) the brilliant, but now incompetent employee will move to another company, perhaps also triggering a divorce.

      HR may not like “special deals”. However, smart management recognizes a gem and creates the environment (with pay) that reflects the unique talents. Dumb management follows the Peter Principle and screws up the individual and the company.

      Inspite of Hollywood scripts, you are not going to change this guy’s personality. Your guy still needs social interaction to feel accepted, but will cause chaos as a supervisor. Why not ask him what types of creative projects he would like to pursue as the lead “investigator”. In his opinion, what whould be the best of all worlds for him. Give him time to do some creative thinking. You might also want to emphasize the various unpleasant tasks he would have to do if he were shifted to an administrative position. And remind him that people can be such a pain in the butt. 🙂

    • #3060927

      Try hiring him a coach

      by aoglanian ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      If this is an employee that you want to keep and keep happy, then try giving him a small starting management opportunity contingent upon him working with an independent coach who will design a program to teach him successful management skills. Give him a time frame (12 mo) to work on the skills. One of two things will happen: he’ll either be successful and loyal or he’ll be unsuccessful and appreciate everything you’ve done for him. Hiring a coach also takes some pressure off you…

      • #3061904

        Clearly Insane

        by workin4$$$ ·

        In reply to Try hiring him a coach

        You’re trying to solve someone else’s problem by throwing company money at it. He will see hiring a coach as giving the salary he was intended to someone else, worse off, he’ll report to him.

        We need to get past the idea that the employee is only trying to good for the company. It’s just not true. Employees have their own agendas. All of them. VP’s, CIO’s and CEO’s all their own agendas too. As manager, your agenda should be 2-fold.

        1. To increase shareholder value
        2. By performing 1, get a promotion.

        There are many ways of increasing shareholder value, but encouraging under-performing employees by throwing money at THEIR problems is not chief among them. Save corporate money for cost-saving solutions.

        In short, don’t reconfigure your organization to fit an employee, reconfigure your employee to fit your organization. If this doesn’t work, he or she will leave, and you’ll hire somebody that fits the mold better.

    • #3060926

      Two Thoughts

      by wdsnead ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      1) Sometimes people are realy great with their skills and do not have people skills and can’t seemingly develop people skills. The trik is to keep them and isolate them from the public. Something like a Senior Specialist where their need to interact with people is limited to personel in their own department.

      2) I believe that the best way to offer constructive criticism is to begin with their positives and instead of the “but” word try using the “and” word. As an example:

      “You have shown great knowledge and skills in improving our downtime but we need to find a way to work on your people skills.”


      “You have shown great knowledge and skills in improving our downtime and I know that I can count on those same strengths to…”

      It may sound like I am harping on a word (but vs and) but the feeling is really different. Try a sample example on a friend and see how it “feels” to them.


    • #3060925

      Cut your losses before he does real damage

      by robbin.johanson ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      I understand the desire to make a place for a technical guru who lacks teaming and interaction skills. With over 25 years of managing IT organizations, I have been bit a few times attempting to fit a square peg into a round hole. There is no other department within a company in which it is more important to ensure you have staff with people skills. Technical skills can be taught to bright energetic employees. Regardless of all the social skills training one can receive, the success rate is not high. Over the years, my most successful IT people have been those who possess decent technical skills but have excellent communication and interpersonal skills along with a natural understanding and empathy of customer needs.

      At minimum, your employee needs to understand his strenghs and weaknesses and the role in which he can best contribute to the organization…as an idividual contributor…and not be allowed to talk to your customers without a chaperon!

      • #3061862

        Have you tried it?

        by eric.p ·

        In reply to Cut your losses before he does real damage

        Maybe the reason your most successful IT people have been those with people skills is because you either have not had one of these brilliant people come along, or if you have, you didn’t manage them correctly. I’m not suggesting that all such people will work out, but if their talents are recognized and the environment properly shaped to allow them to excel, they can way out-perform a lot of those people with better interpersonal skills. Again, I’m not saying this is always the answer, and not always possible, but I believe it’s something worth giving serious thought to if you are privileged to have one of these unique souls come your way.

        • #3061850

          I am doing it!

          by robbin.johanson ·

          In reply to Have you tried it?

          Yes. I have a few staff who are brilliant technically but lack the social skills inspite of significant training and counseling. Cetainly these staff are important to the organization, but are usually higher maintenance. Most everything boils down to ROI.

    • #3060913

      Career ladder

      by pmoleski ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      I always like to think about a technical career, or any career, as a ladder. As one progresses up the ladder in terms of skills they overlap with the job above them so that by the time they move into the next job they already have proven that they can do the entry-level competencies for the job.

      I will give you an example for a system developer. You can modify it for any (technical) position.

      Rookie ? write electronic reports using something like SQL to learn the structure of the data
      – Do very simple changes to programs like the colour of a button to learn how to use the tool set and to move things from development to test to quality and finally to production
      – Learn the flow of systems in the production including the files and tables involved have the ability to start and stop things as required to ensure production continues

      Junior programmer

      – All of the above
      – Ability to code a transaction and or module of code given a design
      – Ability to fix code within a single module given the design of what it is supposed to do

      Senior programmer

      – All of the above
      – Ability to trouble shoot complex problems across multiple modules within a major system
      – Ability to write complex code independently
      – Ability to write designs for modules of s system given requirements that include the data and flows between data stores

      Junior analyst

      – All of the above
      – Ability to write a design for a whole system where you do the work from requirements
      – Ability to mentor a junior employee and start them up the learning curve
      – Ability to work with an end client to determine if a system is working properly as per what the business needs
      – Ability to provide system designs to a junior programmer and mentor them to ensure the work is completed properly
      – Ability to work directly with an end client to determine the business requirements for a small project
      – Ability to manage small project consisting mainly of your own work and maybe one junior staff member to learn the basics of project management

      Senior analyst
      – All of the above
      – Ability to project manage the efforts of everyone involved in the unit working on a large project
      – Expert level problem solving skills that span production flows crossing multiple subsystems and databases
      – Ability to mentor several employees including junior analysts
      – Ability to fill in for the unit manager when required meeting with clients on a strategic level to discuss broadly where the business is going
      – Ability to architecture complex IT solutions and work with the clients to define the business requirements for those projects

      From here the career can split in many directions including Project manger, Unit/Program manager, technical specialist/DBA, etc.

      The key is that for each stage the person takes on progressively more tasks from the next stage building on where they are so that when they move to the next stage they are set up for success.

      In the case of the employee with strong technical skills he needs to have this ladder explained to him quite bluntly. Before promoting him he has to prove that he can take on tasks that involve the mentoring and appropriate direction of at least one other staff member. In the example above the employee slowly takes on and develops people skills mentored by people further along at each step of the progress. If your employee can work up the ladder proving that he can do the people skills then some day he may development into an analyst or manager. If he can?t develop the people side them his career is very limited. Some times companies will create what is called a technical ladder to allow an exceptional technical resource to move up to the equivalent of a senior analyst. But even in this case he is no good to the team if he can?t work with and mentor other people.

      Summary ? prove you can work at the level above your job while in your current position before you get a promotion. Hopefully the above provides some incite into how you can grow any employee.

      For Your Consideration

    • #3060908

      Change the Company

      by gprinsloo ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Sounds like you are happy with his technical abilities and performance.

      Why not then leave him in his corner, use his skills and pay him according to his knowledge not his ability to interact.

      After all, sounds like you need him as a technical person. Your problem appears to me to be, you do not pay your technical staff enough and as a manager you perhaps are not able to convince top management that they need to re-adjust their wages.

      I have experienced this where companies start living a brain drain as a result of such problems.

      My cents worth is, pay management to manage and technicians their fair wages. So what if a great technician earns more than his manager we are talking about technical and administrative abilities.

      The guy is probably more than peed off about the money, but is happy working in a corner.

    • #3060900

      Crucial Conversations

      by rkerr ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      I don’t like to recommend that people read books, but…

      An excellent book that will help you to think through this discussion is Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, et al. It lays out a framework to think about what you are going to say (“work on me first”, which included thinking about what to address and if you need to address it, and then to master your own story with the facts and just the facts), then to actually have the conversation (“confront with safety”, which includes keepng it emotionally safe, describing the gap, among others) and then what happens after the meeting (“Move to action”, which includes agree on a plan and follow up).

      If you don’t have time for a book, they have periodic webcasts on their approach.

      Excellent, excellent book that has helped me a lot.

    • #3060899

      Be honest and straight forward

      by jonf ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Tell the guy straight up that he is a valued and talented employee. Then go in honestly on what improvements need to be made with his behavior.

    • #3060897

      5 dysfunctions of a team

      by jaredh ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Have you ever read the book called The 5 dysfunctions of a team? It is great and may help you in your managerial struggle.

    • #3060894

      Mentor as 2IC / appropriate job assignment / correct role & pay structure

      by nojacketreqd ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      After having read mostly the threads where you’ve replied – I am compelled to suggest the you (as a VP) may get hints by looking up blogs posted for CIOs.

      You find this individual valuable beyond his technical skills (quote “kick butt”) in your fast paced A-type company doing R&D for scientific solutions … alternate CIO blogs suggest that a senior / executive manager may benefit from having a side-kick / 2IC for support and soundboarding – ideally mentor this talented person towards such a non-line management senior role (which you’ll have to create if this works for you) … this could be an excellent option for your succession planning … I assume that your team of +- 25 resources contains a 3 (maybe 4) of sub-managers, they may be more suited as admin managers and may need to be teamed with a visionary to one day take your place (heaven forbid, you could be met by some misfortune like the proverbial “being run over by a bus”).

      An alternative / additional option is to address your role and payment structure …. Can a specialist earn as much or more than his / her manager? It ought to be possible, but some organizations don’t make allowance for it and therefore encourage incorrect desires or career paths for some techies.

      However, in parallel sub-managers may elect the prize assignments for themselves to stay in touch and retain technical credibility, thereby failing to grow their subordinates fairly, this could be happening to this individual unbeknown to you and could frustrate him (possibly resulting in perceived unsocial behavour and criticism from the sub-managers perhaps spawned in fear / competition of this talent) – another thing to avoid / resolve.

      You may also want to analyze situations creating the most noise and where this individual becomes most engaging or disillutioned – chances are that you have some unresolved departmental focus areas needing attention (not related to this individual talent, but that actual functioning of your R&D division).

      Good luck!

      • #3061884

        Managing is not magic – it can be taught

        by ludditeatheart ·

        In reply to Mentor as 2IC / appropriate job assignment / correct role & pay structure

        In looking at the postings you have done throughout the discussion, it seems that this employee wants to be in management. If that is the case it doesn’t really matter why – it is his goal. This person went to school to learn how to work in IT, why don’t you suggest that he go to school to learn to manage?

        Anyone who has suffered under a bad manager knows how miserable life can be, so why take the chance on promoting this person until they are ready? I think it is wonderful to help this person develop some social skills using the helpful suggestions you have received already. But it won’t hurt the employee to take some management and supervision classes. It may give him some insight into other parts of business that will be helpful in the future. If we all emphasize training to keep up with current technology, why not training to be a manager?

        I know many on this list disparage formal schooling as not “real-world” but this is a very smart person. He will be able to take what he learns through classes, compare it to what he sees at work and be able to develop his own managerial style that works for him. Besides, course work and degrees are popular with HR departments and can do nothing but improve his status there also.

    • #3061906

      Prima Donna

      by eff ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Perhaps this kids attitude is a direct result of the attention he’s already gotten for his allegedly “great” tech skills…

      Managers who feel they have “lost touch” with the techie world often latch on to some younger and seemingly more tech savy employee to keep their hand in it…and they often attempt to justify this to themselves by saying they are trying to “develop” this person. Often they pick some guy who is not really a threat to actually be someone to develop, therefore they keep their resource close, without really having to fear losing him to anything except his own ego (i.e. leaving for a bigger better deal).

      This symbiotic relationship between the non techie or previously techie manager and the young, aspiring techie wannabe manager is just going to become a bigger and bigger issue in business as more and more non techie’s become managers (for HR\EEOC reasons) and fewer and fewer manager jobs become available for for techie manager wannabes.

    • #3061896


      by cfblmc ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      What you are describing is ADHD. People who have ADHD are generally extremely intelligent; however, their social skills are lacking. The issue of finishing sentences, inappropriate jokes, and personality changes are common issues with adults with ADD and ADHD. It is believed that both Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein had ADHD. Thomas Edison was kicked out of school at a young age and his mother was told basically that he’d never amount to anything. The key here is people who have ADHD have a hard time picking up on the signals in social situations (I know I have it also). They are very good at things they enjoy (they tend to become hyperfocused). The answer to this situation might be to discuss this possible problem and have it evaluated by someone who is skilled in Adult ADHD. There are medications that can greatly improve his ability to deal with the situations that you describe. I can say from my own experience that the medication gave me an ability to focus not only on what I like but also on the other things around me. It also took away the impulse control issue (that’s why he interupts). Personnaly, I’ve been on Adderall XR for 5 years and have seen a dramatic difference in how I can handle things and also in my level of performance. You might even mention to him that ADD and ADHD have actually helped some individuals in the world of business. The gentleman who started Kinco’s has ADHD (it was his wandering that actually made him see the need for copying services). ADD and ADHD are also covered under the ADA. A good site to read about Adult ADHD is:
      You probably have someone who is very capable of being an excellent manager if he can get help resolving the other problems. I know also that one of the other things that has helped me a great deal is finding a mentor at work who takes the time to teach me skills in which I am lacking. For instance when we were meeting with a group one time (I interrupted one of the men a few times), after the meeting my mentor took me in private and went over the problem with me and said that once before he had a guy who did that and during meetings he would sit across from him and they had a cue that he would give if he started interrupting.
      The last thing is even though your employee is intelligent and capable, he most likely is aware of his faults and has some insecurity because of them. That is partially because when you have ADHD you usually can’t control them on your own and it’s very frustrating. Just be sensitive to those things when you talk with him about it.

      • #3061869

        Crutch or Excuse ……..

        by cio ·

        In reply to ADHD

        more than ADHD….slightly Bi-polar and the list goes on….what about tramua or his childhood???? Codependency???

        I’m not paid at my company for my medical and Psych certifications….but it’s not rocket science…so this “GUY” — obviousily imbalanced; whether medical or tramua related.

        We can discuss all possibilities and excuses for his behavioral problems….behavorial modification is at best, temporary

        The questions is…. Is the risk worth the reward?

        • #3061711

          Reply to Crutch or Excuse

          by cfblmc ·

          In reply to Crutch or Excuse ……..

          It’s sad that you choose to look at ADHD as a crutch or excuse. It’s obviously a real disorder as it’s covered under the american with disabilities act. So what if you had an employee who had a TIA and ended up with some loss of mental capacity, would you just call them mental or crazy? I would have to question your company’s diversity if they allow an attitude such as the one displayed in your email. There are a lot of illnesses and diseases which we don’t understand; however, that doesn’t change the fact that they exist. How would you feel if one day something happened to you and caused you to have a lose of mental capacity? Would you truely appreciate the people around you having an attitude of you’re just mental?

    • #3061878

      Monkeys Matches & Dynamite

      by cio ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Jeckel & Hyde does even begin to describe the imbalance in your situation.

      If he’s not repecting others, then he will eventually not respect his manager or supervisor.
      He’s a ticking bomb. It’s not a matter of “IF” it’s a matter of “WHEN”.

      When some event sets him off, I hope he’s not quietly vindictive. Hopefully he’ll give you early verbal warning.

      You could always encourage personal pursuit towards company consulting. The outside angle. (Start his own business)

      This relationship would mutually benefit both the company & this guy. “Money” would not be so much of an issue, HR would be somewhat out of the loop, and company rules & regs would gain leverage & authority. His self awareness could be the best thing for your company’s gain.

    • #3061867

      Training covers more than technical skill…

      by zentross ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      If it is within your ability to authorize such.
      Try sending him to a training seminar
      Give him a project that should take about a week or so and put two techs under him.

      After completion, sit down for a Q&A. Ask him what he liked about the project. How well did the two jr’s work out? Were there disagreements? How were they resolved?

      By taking this approach, you’re giving him a fair shot, an eye opening experience, and a realistic outlook on what needs to be done to succeed.

      Be sure to drive the point home that you want him to succeed, but you’ll need to be firm that he should overcome his people limitations.

      By nature, I’m not a people person. 12yrs on helpdesk has made me so though and now I do more than just that. You can’t go wrong to augment tech skills with arts and social skills.

    • #3061856


      by eyost05 ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Place the individual in the group, and let the group discuss his traits, if he walks, so much the better, because he will take employess out of the company by making them victims of the train wreck attribute you discussed.
      He can go one of two directions, and it seems he needs confrontation for the cure. The change you desire can only take place if the person wishes to change him or herself for what can be considered good not only for him/her but for the entire group.

    • #3061848

      It looks like an education issue to me.

      by theslaw ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Many of us engineers, me included, learned to think very effectively technically, but not at all at the human level. We never learned the dynamics of how to communicate in a way that everybody wins (win-win-win You-me-eveyone else). The techies among us with the best of these skills ended up getting promoted, yet still need to learn the dynamics of how to create these winning scenarios.

      I suggest trying to find a way to get your person to understand that in order for him to become a manager within the company, he needs additional communication training (as evidenced by his behaviors). And if you fall into the management category described above, you may decide you could use it, too.

      The most powerful, yet simple communication tool I have found is Nonviolent Communication(TM). Don’t be fooled by the name. It is a straitforward process that helps people learn the dynamics of effective language, connection and meeting everyone’s needs. This skill will help him, not only in business, but in all relationships in his life.

      See for more info. Or feel free to contact me.


    • #3061815

      This is funny…

      by mtufts ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      To me, this is hilarious. This is why I was hired. We had a brilliant IT Director–absolutely brilliant–but he was so nervous around end-users he just couldn’t effectively get his (excellent) points across in interacting, training, etc. Thus–he hired me for end-user help desk support and invited me to many of the meetings he attended. Then he left…now I have to learn a lot of his duties and try to match even a fraction of his brilliance–and it is hard (if not impossible). I have some advice that I have TAPED to my computer and it works for me: “As for soft skills, it’s paramount that you have good communication skills, staying cool under stress, listening, patient, positive, kind, and happy. People will always call on a person with these qualities even if his skills are less than the others. In most instances, people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. I know, it’s corny, but it’s true.” AND IT IS! Get the guy a Dale Carnegie course–you’ll be glad you did.

    • #3061795


      by alanaaa2 ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      I have spent nearly 30 years managing employees so I have a great deal of experience with this type of situation.

      First, I would never create a position just to placate an employee that might leave. Organization and positions are created based on the mission of the organization, and not based on the people in the organization.

      Second, as a manager it is important to provide both formal and informal coaching for every staff member. The informal coaching might be to pull the person aside after a meeting where his performance was either good or bad and let him know what he did well and one or two items that he needs to improve with SPECIFIC suggestion on how he may have handled the situation differently. The reason for only one or two is that you don’t want to overwhelm the guy, you are just trying to emphasis the things that he did well and give him one or two things to work on. The formal coaching would be during a performance review. (I would guess that this guy has never received a ?bad? review.) I always found that if I broke the performance review into two parts, the skills and behavior for the current position and the skills and behavior for the next position, that I could give positive feedback on the performance in the current job and then address performance deficiencies that are limiting the employee from advancing in the context of trying to help the employee advance. While not everyone has the skills for management it should always be clear to every employee where they are lacking and what they must improve to be considered for advancement. Please note that I said considered. Just because an employee has the skills necessary for advancement does not mean that they are the best person for the limited advancement opportunities available.

      If you are honest with the person and he knows that you have his best interest in mind, then I don?t know why the person would want to leave.

      I can suggest a book that will help in dealing with employees. The book is ?Winning? by Jack Welch (yes, I worked for GE for almost 15 years) I would especially recommend that discussion on candor.

    • #3061768

      Dale Carnegie

      by merlin the wiz ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      I was that guy. Well almost like you described. My company sent me to the Dale Carnegie. It helped a lot. i’m still that guy sometimes..

      • #3061665

        standard case: make aware of his behaviour

        by jan.witschge ·

        In reply to Dale Carnegie

        You should give him the opportunity to look into a mirror and see his own behaviour. Personal skills training exists to do just that and to make him aware of the consequences of his own behavior. These trainings last 2 – 5 days and can change his world and make him a better candidate. From that point onward give him personal coaching or a personal coach.
        Do not pull him out of his comfort zone of technology, instead give him some mediors that he can co?rdinate when the time is ripe. Do not make him a project manager. Other people will do a better job.

    • #3061668

      Upper Management Material

      by conquistador ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Too bad he’s technically competent. If he weren’t he would jump straight to the top of the organization.

    • #3061653

      Send him to Toastmasters!

      by davidpenrose61 ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      I am an IT manager and Division Governor with Toastmasters International in Sunshine Coast, Australia. I can appreciate your situation. If confidence is the issue, send him to a local Toastmasters Club. It is the cheapest professional development around and will develop confidence, speaking and leadership skills. Check out the web site I have seen many people come from this situation totally transformed in a relatively short period of time – and gain rapid promotion. Of course he has to want to be in management but that is another issue. by the way it is better if he pays for some or all of the cost so he has ownership! Toastmasters is a Win/Win situation. Check it out. You cannot lose. David Penrose.

    • #3061646

      Brilliant employee ego problem

      by tejas73 ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      I think employees have a serious mix of ego and inferiority complex.Inferiority complex because they know they dont know how to behave prfessionaly in socially. And ego problem because they have been so ideaalised by the management that they think they are the best of all and knows everything.I have seen some cases in my company and they have caused serous problem to themselvs and company in general….

      In my opnion the best way to get what u want is to first humblise the character and them grove them professioanlly


    • #3061636

      I agree with w4$$$$

      by dgjacquin ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      As a mgt employee for a large corporation there are some fundamental truths.

      1. If the corporation can get by without you they will.

      2. They’re in business to make money.

      3. An employee that is not good at dealing with people will have limited career growth and all things being equal, is the one that departs when difficult times arrive (as in automotive).

      A good manager provides frequent feedback which leads to improved behavior/performance or helps the employee out (as in departure).

      • #3072158

        I knew it

        by workin4$$$ ·

        In reply to I agree with w4$$$$

        I knew that someone else out there was sick of pandering to employees.

        There are 2 kinds of employees.

        1. The artificially ambitious. These are the ones that love motivational seminars and self-help books. The one’s that never get anywhere, but gossip a lot at work and are always finding new ways to do less work for more money.

        2. The authentic ambitious. THere are the ones that regard self-help and motiviational courses as uninspiring, condescending and generally a waste of time and money. If you put road-blocks in front of this person, the find detours quickly. They hate company mixers and don’t tend to volunteer for things like the social committee.

        I have all #2’s on my management team. Any #1’s aren’t promoted unless they make a change in themselves. Most #1’s in my environment, are happy to stay in their jobs, once they realize I won’t take their crap about how it’s my fault they aren’t succeeding.

        #2’s don’t like praise as much as #1’s. #2’s take more pride in actual acheivment. They’re refreshing to have working for you.


    • #3061605

      Reply To: Help managing a very brilliant employee

      by lambe_m ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      try to get him to interact more with the group.
      Ask him to present something to the team. That way he may be able to gain confidence to speak up and interact more with the group

    • #3061604

      No social skills & no need for them.

      by absolutely ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      The best analytical minds do not learn “people skills”. Tell him shut up unless he has something substantial to say. Explain to him what you told us: he has exactly one positive attribute, and it isn’t his “humor”. His understanding of pertinent facts is the [b]only[/b] thing he should be attempting to communicate. Actually, that’s true of everybody, but in his case it’s obviously an issue.

      Tell him that he’s the most talented member of the team (“easily the most talented IT guy I’ve ever worked with” might make him unmanageable!), but to advance he needs a more reserved, professional demeanor. All true, right? If he can’t take that criticism when it’s delivered [b]with[/b] such high praise, he not only doesn’t belong in a business, he probably doesn’t belong in society.

    • #3072187

      Another angle

      by pbayj ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      I read a number of the posts on this. You sound like a good someone to work for, so maybe you’ll consider this: there may be another angle – maybe his tech skills are (originally) a compensation for inadequate social skills ? Have a look at
      and see if you think it may be relevant.

    • #3072154

      Does he want a promotion or respect?

      by benb ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Does he want a promotion? What is the history of promotions in your company? Do you normally promote the sharpest technical people or the ones who would make the most politically correct? Sharp technical people are often not interested in promotions if that promotion comes with a lot of political stuff that limits their ability to speak freely and solve problems directly. Your employees approach to group situations may be his cynical response to, what are obvious to him, bad management choices (or politically motivated decisions) in which he feels helpless to act – so he acts out. Perhaps you can have another discussion with your employee, tell him your plans, and ask him what you can do to help. The employee must decide that this is something he wants.

      Good luck!

    • #3072140

      Enough of this…

      by leonard j rivera sr. ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      I’ve only gotten through several posted responses. Some make sense and some don’t.

      Do not abandon the possibility of turning this employee into a manger. Managers are made. And you, as his manager, have a responsibility to yourself and your company to grow and challenge your staff. And to train them to replace you someday. Maybe this guy is your perfect replacement. By replacement I mean, if you don’t have one, the company will be less likely to promote you out of your current position, but if you have someone fully capable of filling your shoes, everybody wins.

      So I say this, work with HR. Do not rush into creating a new position and trying to promote this person. You must mentor and coach him. Don’t stick him into the position and hope he can grow and develope that way. He clearly has interaction issues with others, these issues need to be taken care of first or you are surely setting him up to fail.

      Train him, send him to management classes for new IT managers or even project management classes. Work him up to the responsability. At least by taking this path of career developement you will bide some time and be able to know if he can be made into a manager or not.

      At the very least, you’ll give him something to look forward to. He has to understand that tech skills alone will not get him into a manager’s position and you are willing to coach him along and help him reach this goal, but in the end it is up to him and not you.

      Just give him the challenge and see where it goes from there. Sure, it hurts to losed a good tech, however, if he turns down your offer for a position elsewhere, then he turns down an opportunity to grow in his field and clearly does not understand what it takes to be a successful manager.

      Being a manager is one thing, being a good manager is another. Do the right thing by him, yourself and the company by opening up the path to him, offer to walk it with him, but in the end, he’s the one who needs to put one foot in front of the other.

      • #3071914

        Perhaps you are already his mentor?

        by nojacketreqd ·

        In reply to Enough of this…

        I somehow get this nagging feeling that his two promotions in the last two years diplay that you’re already giving this talent a lot of attention – perhaps YOU are mentoring / coaching him already? And hence your convictions towards his capabilities!

        Do you have a structured environment with no-one else displaying this behavior? Not even executive management!

        Is there a chance that YOU yourself perhaps display similar characteristics / behavior, OR perhaps some of the more senior staff and/or someone that this talent looks up to?

        My thinking is that this talent is already aware of his development areas (thanks to previous discussions / coaching), but that he may be copying seniors (who get away with this behavior because of their seniority … so he withdraws when he’s trying to control himself (conscious behavior), but then he joins the gang when things get informal (but his juniority does not make his behavior acceptable). I think you may want to address your team and meeting dynamics – maybe try team building and then analyze the behavior patterns.

        Additionally he may be speaking out of turn, or finishing others’ sentences at times when they are battling with something AND he already sees the answer. You may have senior / management staff who are not his equal – causing him frustration, and causing others to feel threathened by him (don’t want him to bypass them for some “social status” reason perhaps – e.g. age) – a loose-loose situation. Be prepared to look deeper at the broader team, the working structure, team dynamics, and be honest to yourself when you analyze the overall team performance rated by your user community.

        The fact that he currently assists everywhere shows competence and leadership abilities – evidently a passionate change agent! – YES, probably a talent to be nurtured as your own successor – and you may be freed up and empowered to greater power WITH a truely confident person supporting you in your past role.

    • #3072016

      Talk to him about it.

      by hagrinas ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      The problem with being brilliant, or even moderately gifted (there’s a defined IQ level for that) is that the person’s intellectual maturity and chronological age do not match while growing up. If those things matched, he’d have a normal IQ by definition. This is a problem when growing up because a person’s maturity is more likely to follow his chronological age. It can even lag that if he does not have normal social interaction with his peers.

      Having normal interaction with peers while growing up can be difficult for the intellectually gifted. For one thing, other kids will have no idea what he’s talking about most of the time. And he might not relate to them either. This impacts the development of social skills.

      I’m sure your employee is aware of some of these issues, and the subject was broached many times while he was growing up. It won’t be a surprise if you talk to him about it. But you need to have the right approach.

      Chances are that the approach that his peers took when he was growing up was to call him weird, keep him out of certain activities (brilliant people are not always the best athletes or team players, bu sometimes they are) or much worse.

      A different approach is to discuss the issues on a point by point basis. Tell him that you would like him to move up, but there will be certain expectations. For example, he can’t make jokes in meetings. If he points out that others do, be frank. It’s not jokes per se, that are the problem, but how others react to them. In his case, others have been offended or annoyed, and that’s just not going to work. They have a different mindset and won’t appreciate it. He may have to try hard, but it’s important.

      The shrinking part is not surprising either. If he grew up in an environment where he was alienated from his peers, it’s either fight or flight. Shrinking works if he can’t relate well, and so does being overbearing. He needs to understand that management requires a “take charge” attitude. He would be responsible for the work product of others, and for taking care of certain issues that arise outside of the scope of the projects. Employees must feel that they will be taken seriously by him, and that he can be genuinely helpful when working with them. Give specific examples, and let him know that if he’s not sure how to handle a situation, he can talk to you first.

      He won’t change completely overnight, but if it’s clear that you find him a valuable employee, and you’d really like to see him move up he’ll understand that he must do what it takes.

      You may have to point things out discreetly that others would pick up on by themselves, but it can be workable. If his direct reports start going over his head to you, then you can address those issues on a case by case basis and see if the trend changes.

      Another issue is that many brilliant people have problems in group meetings because of the way their minds work. A disadvantage of having an active mind with many ideas spinning around all the time is that it makes it hard to focus in group settings. If one point brought up in a meeting causes his mind to go in a different direction, it’s easy to get side tracked. And if many people are talking, ideas are moving back and forth, but the comments are not directed specifically to him, it may result in sensory overload because of the way his mind juggles information. For every idea that others bring up, he may have a dozen of his own to consider. That might create the impulse to finish others’ sentences because it’s a way of taking back control of the flow. If all questions and answers either came from him or were directed to him, it might work better, since others wouldn’t go on while he’s thinking an idea through. But that’s not a sure thing, since he might still get side tracked.

      He may have to adapt a management style that has more one on one meetings with others, or there may be other things that help, such as a more detailed agenda before a meeting. A psychiatrist would be helpful, but it would not be appropriate to tell him that.

      It’s impossible to give a comprehensive solution when I don’t know the guy, and some of this may be off base, but if you keep in mind that there’s a reason for all of those behaviors, and they could even be expected for people with specific backgrounds, you will no longer see him as somebody who is out of control for no reason.

      • #3073890

        Hagrinas has it right.

        by robertmi ·

        In reply to Talk to him about it.

        Your man is super-intelligent. He operates on a different plane from ‘ordinary’ people. He is good at the technical stuff because it is complex but mechanical in that it does not involve interaction with people who cannot understand his approach and speed of problem solving. In group situations he lacks confidence, perhaps because he is smart enough to know he doesn’t fit in, or perhaps because he has been told he is seriously weird and he knows that people discount what he says. His lack of confidence can manifest itself in shy or over assertive behaviour as he tries to overcome his self perceived shortcomings. It might depend on the group makeup and what individuals in the group have said to him in the past. He operates on a different wavelength, and his speed of thought will lead him to finish other people’s sentences. He might see this as affirmation of the concept on his part and may not realise how irritating it can be for the speaker who is developing a concept as he/she speaks, only to have the conclusion snatched from their mouth. The guy obviously wants to fit in, but does not know how. He needs help of different kinds so that he can understand the dynamics of his workplace and of his situation within it. My bet he is an INTP (Myers-Briggs) and is doomed to be misunderstood for much of his working life.

        How do I know this stuff? I am highly intelligent. I empathise completely with your guy, because I have been there. Unlike him perhaps, I had a strong instinct for leadership (when custard occurred I could always be relied upon to spot the solution and implement it) Much of the time my ideas were laughed at because my peer group were ‘ordinary’ folk of normal intelligence who thought in linear fashion, and whose problem solving approaches were more conventional than mine. I nevertheless rose through the levels of management over 36 years to manage an operation of over 200 staff, and was genarally regarded as a ‘good boss’. My management skills were learned the hard way. Your man will benefit first by understanding his situation, and making a big adjustment so as to neither “look too good nor talk too wise”. Next he needs to understand that others around him do not have his capacity for near instantaneous uptake. He must pace himself to the group and sometimes make his contribution through planting the seeds in the minds of others. He needs to discover that being a team player involves celebrating team success, and contributing quietly to that success in a way that does not make his colleagues feel threatened or resentful. He can reserve his brilliance for the occasions when the team is stuck and needs a truly innovative solution. Even then he should be aware that office dynamics do not always reward the guy who is different, especially if he is ‘clever’.

        Get him onto management courses where communication skills are taught, so that he understands the importance of interpersonal interaction in the workplace, and that it is as important to be successful in this area as it is in the technical area. An alternative career for this guy would be to find him a blue sky project that he could sink his mental teeth into while at the same time coming to grips with the disciplines involved in project management. I liked the diamond analogy made earlier. This guy needs some new facets cut and polished so that he can become the complete jewel.

        • #3073795

          pussification of America

          by lumbergh77 ·

          In reply to Hagrinas has it right.

          “Your man will benefit first by understanding his situation, and making a big adjustment so as to neither “look too good nor talk too wise”. Next he needs to understand that others around him do not have his capacity for near instantaneous uptake. He must pace himself to the group and sometimes make his contribution through planting the seeds in the minds of others. He needs to discover that being a team player involves celebrating team success, and contributing quietly to that success in a way that does not make his colleagues feel threatened or resentful. He can reserve his brilliance for the occasions when the team is stuck and needs a truly innovative solution. Even then he should be aware that office dynamics do not always reward the guy who is different, especially if he is ‘clever’.”

          This reminds me of the school teachers who pass every student so that nobody “feels bad” about failing. Or the sports leagues where they don’t keep score and “everybody wins”.

          Let’s face the facts. We live in a compatitive, capitalistic society. This guy is to contribute less and worry about making others feel good so he doesn’t “hurt somebody’s feelings”? What a bunch of crap. We were once the most technologically advanced nation in the world and we’re losing ground because of this type of thinking.

          “Get him onto management courses where communication skills are taught, so that he understands the importance of interpersonal interaction in the workplace, and that it is as important to be successful in this area as it is in the technical area.”

          Yes, I agree with this. he SHOULD improve his communication skills. And then LEAVE corporate America and start his own company. He probably makes twice the contribution as the other team members and getting paid the same or even less. He should stop subsidizing his “average” co-workers and take advantage of that IQ of his. DO NOT dumb this guy down and ruin the confidence that he does have in his abilities.

    • #3071916


      by tonythetiger ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      You could have him taking the minutes at the meetings. That way he gets the exposure but won’t be able to say as much since he’s busy.

    • #3073850

      super-heroes and are they profitable?

      by crseel ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Supeheroes = challenges, Retaining them is a short term option.
      Fully occupied and distracted from other opportunities is the main goal. Perhaps your company could outsource some of his skills, send him to support external area’s where your company could gain knowledge and extra skills, with his learning curve. You can keep him interested, increase his salary, make more income for your company, and retain him for a longer term. and take some of the heat off the rest of your team.
      Letting him stagnate and become dissolusioned will mean you loose sooner rather than later. The Later you let him go the better.
      It is a fact that talented individuals, have less tolerance for mediocracy, see no value in procrastination. Even with their gung ho attitude and their mammoth mistakes they drive businesses forward and are sadly missed by the companies who invested in them, when they leave, often the rest of the staff are a bit happier then, as others have a chance to shine, remember superstars are resented as much as appreciated.
      Is it profitable long term to invest? the overall benefits have to be weighed against the short term gains, profit and loss. Teams need team-members!

    • #3073744

      A few recommendations

      by carolange ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      You said this employee is sensitive to criticism, so that makes it very difficult to broach the subject of his behavior. If you are the least bit concerned about his reaction (or your safety), you might want to have another person in the room wheen you talk to him.

      This person sounds like he has a dysfunctional background and if that is the case, he should seek out some therapy and books that will help him better understand why he is the way he is.

      One book that you might recommend is ‘What your boss doesn’t tell you until it’s too late: How to correct behavior that is holding you back’ by Robert Bramson. It should probably be required reading for anyone who is frustrated that they are not moving up and they don’t know why.

      Good luck.

    • #3073702

      I used to be like this.

      by el_gazzítò ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      The employee that you are describing is very similar to me when I first started out. I was very similar in behaviour and technical ability. It’s like ciscoguyinkc says: “The change has to come from within.”

      The way that I got around this was to try many different things, none of which worked, until I tried Sahaja Yoga Meditation.

      This is taught for free in over 96 countries around the globe. It’s not the bending and stretching type of yoga, but straight meditation. Not the meditiation that you are constantly thinking the same mantra over and over again, but clearing your mind of all thoughts meditation.

      Even though this sounds hard, it’s really quite easy, and can be learned in about 10 mins or less.

      Go to to learn more. You will need a PC with a soundcard and speakers attached, as well as Shockwave player installed or the ability to download and install it.

      Using these meditation and clearing techniques, (That you will learn further down the track at free classes) I have managed to get rid of the emotional baggage that had been holding me back, become more easy going and friendly and generally be more relaxed whilst dealing with clients. This has been the most beneficial for me, as I used to sieze up around other people.

      If you knew me 5 years ago, and saw me now, I have totally changed and it’s all thanks to this meditation.

      Once you have given this a go, let me know what you think.


    • #3073665

      quit enabling and go to class and take him with you

      by sgt_shultz ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      you both:

      1. need a mentor to help with problems you are not practiced in resolving
      2. need team building, management, conflict resolution/negotiation training.

      be careful not to inadvertently blame HR here. this is opportunity to team with them, don’t blow it

      you want him to:

      learn more people skills
      learn how to listen
      take responsibility for his career

      so you do that.

      Here is a crazy idea about how to figure out how to give him ‘constructive criticism’ (don’t those words void each other out or something?)
      take him to lunch and ask him for constructive criticism on your . (if you are now thinking that personality is not the thing you want criticised: bingo)
      make some rules up so you can control it so you do not feel attacked. be as specific as need to be. ‘no raised voices’ ‘no swearing’ ‘keep smiling’ ‘limit to 3 things’. what ever you need so YOU feel comfortable taking his constructive criticism. you will be not speaking much except, ‘thank you’ after his comments or to clarify what he means. write it down and get him to approve it. you do not criticise him a whit at this meeting.
      is this not a model of what you wish him to do?
      (and, do you now think that is a reasonable expectation of him?)
      how to give constructive criticism: don’t.

      you have to be willing for him to not take your advice. it has to be ok with you for him to be like he is or he is never budging…i bet Troll manager’s approach got some of those trolls out from under the bridge. just guessing.

      you have to just figure out what you will accept and let him know,in very friendly way. you are doing yourself and him no favor accepting rude meeting behaviors, is my reaction.
      until you get a mentor who can model for you tossing off words to the wise when subject appears receptive, wouldn’t management class or team building class for you two or boy, your whole team, in the forest (learning meditation?) be oh so much better? go patch up that relationship with HR right now!
      they can help with this. really.

    • #3072606

      Facilitation of EQ value and learning – or helping the penny to dfrop

      by fm ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      If the guy really is a good IT guy, it is probably fair to say that his brain is hard wired for logic as opposed to EQ and soft skills.

      I would appeal to his log, start to discuss his future with him. If he truly sees himself in managment, then he needs to follow the behaviours of managers. It would be good to pick out a few successful managers at your company and use them as case studies – allow him to join up the dots by himself. Guide him along a path that shows him that those who climb up the corporate ladder are predominantly individuals that display considerable soft skills in addition to SME (sunbject matter expertise). You may also wish to introduce the examples of individuals known to you, who have been excellent in their technical skills, but who have been superceded in their careers by individuals demonstrating the balanced portfolio of skills.

      In my experience employees such as you BYT (bright young thing) need to have the penny drop by itself as opposed to being lectured.

      Hope this helps in some way.

      Frederick Martin
      Programme & Change Mgmt Consultant

    • #3072605

      Seems like a copy of what I was some time back

      by amitabhajo ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Well to be very frank, I was something like the employee you have described above, though I didnot finish other people’s sentences. ;-). I was told my my then boss than though I had done wonderfully when, I was just not fitting in the group.

      So my boss started giving me individual projects first. the after some time he started deputing some juniors under me. I was rather rough with them. the blow came when we had the half yearly 360 degree feedback. Though I had met my targets in the difficult year, I was rated very badly as a boss and mentor and this was very humbling. I decided to have a frank feedback session from both my juniors and my boss.

      I guess I have improved a bit only because of that.

      So my advice –
      1. Give him some rookies to handle
      2. have a regular session where in the rookies give their feedback and so do you.
      3. Make it clear to the rookies that their feedback will not be held against them. If the need be, have anonymous feedbacks.
      4. For most brilliant guys , failures are difficult to come to terms with and usually allof them will delve deep into the causes of the failures. this would help him.

    • #3072580

      Try to be-friend him

      by soul_bro ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Most good techs are not very social. I would suggest be-friending him. As you gain his trust, tell him about the books you have been reading:
      How to win friends and influence people:

      Awakening the giant within:

      Getting to the yes:

      How to succeed with Women

    • #3072578

      Peer Feedback

      by warrior_king ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Anonymous feedback from his peers could work. Have him consolidate the responses, come up with possible solutions and you help point the problem areas out in the future to break him from the behaviour. Support him by reminding him in private and continue to make it part of his performance reviews.

    • #3072567

      a suggestion

      by drcglobal ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      First the IT staff in this case is an introvert, the behavior (acting out in group settings) is a result of his insecurity – fish out of water. Brilliant but unfortunately socially inept.

      It appears that as the manager you are attempting to find solutions to an HR issue. Go to the HR department and both of you brainstorm alternatives to assist you in getting the max from this employee. Your suggestion about creating a new position does not fly with HR as they do not want to set the employee up for failure, plus this only adds to their workload.

      go back to the basics – job description and job performance – if you truely see opportunity in this valued employee – get help from the HR department and coach him. Put in place the tools/learning opportunities he needs that will help him move forward. You need to look at skill (people skills in this case) and motivation – in end is this employee willing to change or unable to change?

      any way hope that helps is some small way

    • #3073257

      I agree with working4$$

      by mart1n ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      I rate myself as a talented employee and am progressing up the management ladder. However I feel I am still underutilised. I feel if more managers were as objective as working4$$ talented people would be better off. Instead we have weak VPs who promote “yes men” and “buddies” in hope of keeping their position unchallenged. This is short lived as they are destined to deliver poor results.
      A VP who is brave enough to promote the best people will be successful.

      As for moral, anyone who knows about competition knows the greatest motivator is success. And I don’t mean spin. To many VPs hide poor results behind spin and their staff all know it too.

      The objective is all about profit, this is the basic that makes all the rest happen. Forget this and you have lost it. Be successful and everyone will be happy.

    • #3073197

      Give him the money and make him realise he doesn’t want to be a manager

      by stelian ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      What can be more rewarding than getting manager dollars without all the hassles that come with the actual manager job?

    • #3073063

      Prima Donna Response

      by wheresundontshine ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Try the following…
























      • #3069904


        by darinhamer ·

        In reply to Prima Donna Response

        Your post is unintelligible. The only thing it is good for is proof that punctuation is really useful and that alcohol and computers don’t mix.

        • #3070179


          by wheresundontshine ·

          In reply to What?!


    • #3071468

      Team work

      by cedric.tanga ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      What has worked for me in the past is to team such a person with at least 2 females of your current team(if youu have them), who are outgoing no-nonsense woman though with bubbly personalities, a good sense of humour and technically IT savvy and put them to work on a project.
      This brings in positive gender social skills that are tranferrable in a social setting, a “working with” rather than independant approach, and having to discuss collaberatively a projects challenges. It will take some time though the end result will be positivelly more than anticipated.

    • #3071466

      May Not Be a Manager

      by jkowolf ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      You may have to face the fact that this person is not a manager. Maybe this person could be promoted to a higher level programmer instead.

      The other option is to make this person aware of their problems and see if they can get some help in the social aspects of a manager’s job. Some people are not aware that they may have to work with people differently if they want to be in a leadership position.

      Many sales staffs run into the same problem. The best salesman is not always the best manager (Usually they are not.).

    • #3071411

      Sane People Skills

      by whiterdragon ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      What worked for me is sane training in people skills. I’m not talking about psychology — I tried that first and dind’t find out anything useful in real life. Any sincere religious organization should be able to help, but the best results I’ve found are with Scientology. In addition to being “the world’s fastest growing religion” and “the science of knowing how to know”, Scientology is the first truly scientific study of people in that it was formed by 1) looking at lots of raw data, 2) forming theories about the data, 3)using the theories to predice new phenomena previously unknown, 4) verifying the applicability of the theories to ALL data — old and new, and 5) discarding or refining any theory that did not cover all the data. The result is a workable science of people that ANYONE can learn to use to get along better with others.

    • #3071393

      JeReL’s Reply 2U

      by jrl21 ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Send the superstar to a training area where he will be taught how to deal with other people. This seems to be the only area he needs guidance on. If he comes out well and people start to like him a bit more and you’ll feel better about promoting him.

    • #3071361

      Reply To: Help managing a very brilliant employee

      by rdl ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Try asking him whether he perceives (or has noticed) any issues or problems in his relationships with other staff. If he has, ask more questions about how he feels this could be addressed – get him to outline the problem and the solutions, then help him to achieve them. If the discussion falters, ask more targeted questions to lead it where you need it to go. The object is to bring him on side by getting him to contribute to the answer, and feel he has identified with the process. Keep it constructive (ie free of criticism of him or anyone else) at all times, if you can. Show you value his opinions, but steer the discussion and keep control of it – don’t let it get into a slanging match. Show him you all value his work – the root of his problem could be insecurity. Also, if you can, bring other colleagues into the process, slowly at first, get them to show they value him as a person (but choose carefully, some people can be unwittingly cruel). Social skills need to be learned, but before they can be there has to be willingness to learn. Look at training for these situations, possibly for yourself as well as for him, as we can always learn more about handling these situations.

    • #3057729

      Points to consider

      by goldmoon ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      You have raised a very interesting question, in response to which I would like to emphasize three points to consider
      (I have not read all the replies in the thread and do apologize if some of these have been already mentioned):

      1) Could his ?shrinking into the corner? indicate that he is occupied with this own thoughts on how he would approach, prioritize and solve the issues being discussed at these meetings? The very fact that he wants to become a manager suggests that he indeed has already developed his own managerial ideas, which he would like to bring forward and realize as a leader. His crude remarks may indicate that he is simply frustrated by the current managerial practices and there is a vast likelihood that his manners will greatly change when he is the one to organize and lead the meetings instead of merely participating and obeying the instructions concluded. What you may also want to look into is if the competence and attitude of majority of the team members are compatible with his exceptional mind and passion for work. (?)
      2) Managerial skills are much more complex than mere people/social skills; these include much creativity in practice (which he does seem to possess) and the pre-existing knowledge of the specific techniques and best practices of how to organize, monitor and prioritize project/company goals and tasks and how to foster knowledge-sharing activities and a result-oriented attitude within a team. Most of the knowledge of the managerial methodologies and principles normally is acquired in a business college, which incorporates the understanding of what company culture and professional conduct means. If he does not yet possess this knowledge, he needs to complete his education by taking the respective college courses.
      3) Just like managerial skills are much more complex than people/social skills, the so called people/social skills cover a much wider concept than one?s professional aptitude and conduct. Social/people skills can be beneficial ? both for team leaders and members – but the importance thereof should not be misrepresented and overemphasized against the values of great minds and field professionals who make the success of a company on an essential level. Furthermore, most of the social skills in a wide sense cannot be learnt; one needs to be born with them or born into the social/family environment where these can be naturally developed. However, not all of these social skills are needed for a manager. What is needed is the knowledge mentioned above and business-like professional conduct, which, as it was pointed out above, can be and should be learnt.

    • #3057688

      You’ll probably lose your geek

      by mgordon ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Short answer: You’ll probably lose your geek — hard to say whether he will walk before HR fires him.

      Long answer:

      Social Darwinism is the game we play; it is the means by which each “kind” of person manipulates the environment to ensure success of his or her own kind.

      Management is one kind; usually ESTJ but often ESFJ (Reference: Myers-Briggs MBTI). This kind enjoys control and involvement of people and is motivated by control and involvement of people. This kind values others of the same kind and is in competition with others of the same kind.

      Readers of this site are very likely to be INTP, sometimes known as geeks when sufficiently intelligent and educated about computers and commensurately under-educated about human beings.

      Being in control of machines, or pure logic (computer programming) is where the INTP obtains thrills. People are impediments, except for other INTPs with whom he may be intensely competitive, since it is the INTP class that invents machines in the first place.

      In a sense, therefore, INTP’s seek to control other people by dominating the inventions of those other people. Hackers are the extreme example of this; by finding flaws in software, he has found a flaw in the inventor, and thereby demonstrated his superiority over the inventor. Hackers are competitive with each other; hence the portfolios of “zombie machines” each possesses.

      What this is supposed to lead to is reproductive success, wealth and fame; but in fact it seldom leads to this, which is why the INTP type is only about 3 percent of the population.

      I obtained great wisdom from a negotiation seminar I once attended; followed by a series of tapes on the same subject.

      INTP’s need to consider some facts:

      1. Everything you want is owned or controlled by someone else (an oversimplification but it will suffice).

      2. Others cannot know what you _know_; they can only observe what you _DO_.

      3. Consider carefully the message you are sending from what they observe. Do not rely on your own obviously flawed judgement; ask some “normal people” for help with dress, grooming, personal habits. It may seem incomprehensible that it makes a difference what color tie you wear with what color (and kind) of shirt, shoes and so forth; but it makes a BIG difference. When I worked at CacheNET for a while, I had just come from Washington DC where (almost) everyone wears shirt and tie every day. I continued to do so, I feel better about myself when I do. The combination of my self-awareness and dress radiated an authority; so that even though I was just an administrator, one of three such persons, when customers came in they invariably came to me with their questions, proposals, complaints and so forth. My dress and my demeanor conveyed authority and competence.

      If it happens that what you do is “invisible” (you are stuck in a cubicle writing assembly language device drivers that will be incorporated into an application for which someone else gets the credit anyway) then you are doomed. Bad choice of occupation, unless you work for one of the five people in America that still value that kind of specialization.

      But it’s too late — what if you already are a geek in a conventional corporation? You must diversify! What you do is “FM” to most people; do also some things that are comprehensible. Be the company graphic artist, the company photographer, write the newsletter. Most people are self-centered; be the LISTENER and let them talk. Amazingly, they will think YOU are brilliant when all you do is let people talk about THEIR achievements. Along the way, you not only ingratiate yourself, you actually do gain quite a lot of diverse knowledge and you will be happier in your employment. You will start to realize that “civilized people” are good people, and that dress codes are really a secret language by which civilized people detect other civilized people.

      You can still be a geek at heart, but it makes a huge difference that outwardly you listen more than talk, dress neatly, and make other people happy.

      • #3069902

        Right on, brother.

        by darinhamer ·

        In reply to You’ll probably lose your geek

        Pretty amazing post. I like what you say.

        On caution, though, with MBTI. It can be useful in helping to improve communication by identifying different people’s styles, but be careful about pigeon holing someone because of their MBTI type. I am an INTP, but not at all like you describe because I am middle-of-the-road on most of the measurements. What you are describing is someone who is off the charts on each of the measurements.

        But in the end, your advice is great. Unfortunately, the off-the-charts INTPs will likely not be able to do what you suggest, no matter how hard they try, or even really understand what you are talking about. It takes all types to make the world go around. Sometimes it is best to realize what type you are and be O.K. with that. If that means you are an invisible geek, try to make the most of it. Enjoy it.

    • #3057644

      Addendum – re: communication skills

      by goldmoon ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      While reading some replies in this thread I remembered that I have also observed a tendency of omitting an analytical approach to the concept of an employee?s ?good communication skills?, which is an issue implied in your original problem.
      The questions I would like to raise related to this, are: who decides about the general values of an employee, – with an emphasis on his/her communication skills – why and on what power granted to him/her by what authorities,- especially if/when such skills are evaluated in a a context outside work?
      The factors that should be considered in this regard:

      1)How would the person who is empowered to perform such evaluation define the elements of ?good communication skills??
      In most cases a person considers those to have ?good communication skills? with whom he/she can easily communicate.
      2)However, on what OBJECTIVE basis can a person be empowered to decide if someone possesses good communication skills or not? For example: someone forming such judgment may as well be considered a bad communicator by the person he/she has been judged. I have personally observed on many occasions that the standards of the so called ?good communication skills? are often set by those who actually do not possess the necessary analytical and logical skills to make decisions in such matters, nor are they qualified to contribute to the expert content, within the context of which they are supposed to evaluate someone?s communication skills. The higher level an expert may be the more difficult it is to follow his/her thinking, hence the lower his/her communication skills will be deemed by the majority.
      3) Further to the former point: since communication skills can be examined and evaluated only in a specific context and only with regard to the particular subject of a particular communication in a particular environment, one person can be an excellent communicator at work but may be silent and dull in social activities when topics outside of his/her interest are being discussed. The same person shying away from discussing a simple everyday subject at a company dinner, may as well be brilliant, witty and funny in another group discussing other topics, suc as scientific articles, philosophical questions, etc.
      4) Good communication skills are also often referred to as good self-presentation skills, which is a very common conceptual mistake. These skills are essential only for the personnel directly facing the clients and/or the public, but considering this as a general requirement for all employees and managers is a rescue argument mostly cited by those who have nothing else to add to the company than an image.
      I agree with the former poster that what the others will perceive is not what you know but what you DO, but to be precise: within what one does what really matters is what one DOES as a manifestation of his/her knowledge and work ethics, which is the knowledge, attitude and action that brings tangible results to the company. If your company?s managers and HR can only notice what your employee displays instead of what he/she does in essence, then HR itself and your managers should be fired as incompetent, otherwise your company will start to sink at the speed of light.

      As I pointed out in my former post, the only absolute basis that can be referred to as a requirement in this regard is the objective elements of professional conduct, but the primary objective professional values are the actual and proven knowledge of an employee, his/her effective and efficient work and willingness and ability to transfer his/her knowledge, as well as his/her genuine love of work combined with perfect work ethics.

    • #3060542


      by asarme ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Sounds like this employee may have a disability, perhaps high functioning Autism or Aspergers Syndrome. He/she may not even be diagnosed. If this is the case, it is a matter of understanding and providing the type of environment that suits them, rather than forcing them into the “expected social environment” that you speak of.

    • #3053411

      Try Dale Carnegie

      by ieorlady ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      He sounds like someone who is under the “Autistic Spectrum”, Asperger’s etc. as I am. I had similar problems and enrolled in a many month long Dale Carnegie class(es). I am now known as a “people person”. I basically just learned techniques on how to handle people which where never inherent to me. Good luck!

    • #3119320

      Read “Managing & Motivating Computer Personnel” by Cougar & Zawacki

      by mdpetrel ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      Your “genius” is a train wreck for the same reasons he is brilliant: he is focused on his work.

      That is why he will either not participate, or why he will say something socially inappropriate.

      Have him work from home.

      The odds are that he will put in 18 hrs per day for you, and you will get even MORE productivity out of him. If he is isolated from the rest of the team, what do you lose? Probably very little (be honest here…).

    • #3132407

      Gifted People Are Different in How They Relate

      by a_dangerous_mind ·

      In reply to Help managing a very brilliant employee

      I’m a developer and Mensa member, and I work off hours with a support group for gifted adults. This person sounds like he qualifies as gifted.

      It’s a stereotype that the gifted do not have social skills; rather, their giftedness means that they relate to others socially differently. Often others are far more sensitive to the faults of a gifted person than they would be to someone else.

      Try videotaping at least one meeting and let him observe his own behavior. He may well see what needs improvement. He may well be his own best critic.

      BTW, there are two good resources on what it means to be a gifted adult:

      Jacobson, M.E. (1999). The gifted adult: A revolutionary guide to liberating everyday genius. New York: Ballantine Books.

      Streznewski, M.K. (1999). Gifted grownups: The mixed blessings of extraordinary potential. New York: John Wiley and Sons.

Viewing 100 reply threads