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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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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)?

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

by lsmith1989 In reply to Desire is the key to chan ...

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.

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Management...?

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

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.

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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 steve-cole.com

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Promotion to the point of incompetence

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

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.

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Amen to that!!!

by wingood In reply to Promotion to the point of ...

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.

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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.

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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?

Comments/Suggestions:
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.

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genius is above 140

by theslaw In reply to Amen to that!!!
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This guy is not going to be a manager

by DC Guy In reply to Help managing a very bril ...

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.

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