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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The way up

by LibraryGeek In reply to why is manager the only w ...

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.

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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."

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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

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Desire is the key to change

by gralfus In reply to Help managing a very bril ...

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.

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Get him to conduct a session.....

by avalok In reply to Desire is the key to chan ...

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...

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HOW to change?

by DCreader In reply to Desire is the key to chan ...

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.

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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...

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