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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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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,


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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 ...)

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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.

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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?

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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.

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I have lived through this several times

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

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...

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On the right track

by eric.peckham In reply to I have lived through this ...

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.

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It's way too common

by ~Neil In reply to I have lived through this ...

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 <shrug&gt 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:

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if you have the budget send him to classes.

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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.

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