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Like herding cats

By gamboge ·
I've been assigned to manage a guy who's got a history of being disorganized and of taking longer than expected (read: billing lots of hours) to complete tasks. Let me emphasize that I do not think he's "padding" his hours, just has a hard time getting focused and tends to wander. This man is extremely bright and personable and technically excellent and I like working with him --but it's been made clear to me that I'm in charge of reining him in and making sure he sticks to allocated hours and just does what's asked for (he tends to go above and beyond, but there's no time/budget for extras on this project). It's only been a week and already he's done some work that's outside the scope. Advice on keeping him on track?

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Re: I'm that guy

by support In reply to I'm that guy!

Points well put. While it does sound like the guy may have some form of ADD, it also sounds like this guy is trying to do the very best job he can and to create the very best products possible, not just something that is mediocre. It's too bad the company is not trying to listen to his ideas and reasonings, I'd think the clients would be impressed if you went to them and said "hey, if we do it this way, these problems are going to happen, but if we do it this way you'll get a better product" and then at least attempt to renegotiate with them. If your company can't appreciate someone who takes pride in their work and wants to put out the best product possible then send the guy my way.

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Errant Employee

by Perseus In reply to Like herding cats

Most likely you are wrong person at the wrong time. Seems to me as if someone suddenly wokeup to the time overuns of timesheets. Also since you are talking about timesheets & billable hours, I think he is not a employee but a Contractor. If such is the case then you need to be doubly careful as there is usually a lot of politics involved.

As far as the errant employee is concerned, I think he is being underutilised. Without appearing to mention this, if you could ask him to do some extra work which is helpful & productive, that will go a long way.

Remember that you can not give just any work to such employees. You need to give something that he will take interest in. Or else he'll get bored and you will be back to Square One.

A trick I used to do is to timeshare such employees with other projects if possible. That gave them variety and didn't bore them to death. That seems to be the typical case with such Bright employees.

Along with all these carrots, comes the stick. Tell him those hours he is putting on the timesheet that are not productive work will not be signed. But please use it sparingly. Just make him aware that its there.

Lastly don't even consider the option of terminating him. You will certainly lose a gem that just needs to be harnessed properly.

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I'm there now!

by mark In reply to Errant Employee

I agree that there needs to be a balance between getting things done and remembering that we are all people at the end of the day!

I am in a similar situation now ... in my permanent role I have become disengaged by the fact that my skills are just not being used despite the fact that I have asked repeatedly for them to be used.

When I started this role I had a team that had a similar person and over the months through coaching and letting this person know and feel that they mattered and their opinions matter they have turned over many of their bad habits.

It is not an easy situation to be in and you need to gradually work out what the _real_ issue is.

Hope that helps.


Mark

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The Other side

by Perseus In reply to I'm there now!

For a person who is THE GUY like you, things can be very difficult. Since you are permanant employee, it will be little better as there is no weekly/hourly billing.

Still the demoralisation is omnipresent. You just have to live with it and remember it will pass too. Don't get bogged down by it. You may get fed up and decide to leave as well, but remember these are difficult times for IT people next job may be hard to come by.

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Have you thought... This is ME

by sarahbeth In reply to Like herding cats

One key bit I think everyone is missing.... Look up an ADD/ADHD site. No, I am NOT suggesting drugs. I am suggesting the understanding and management tools there. Possibly -- if you feel comfortable with it -- over lunch sometime -- suggest to the employee that he look this up, he might find some useful tools there.

For me, I realize this is my problem. When it gets out of hand, I sigh, and go back on Ritalin. The rest of the time I manage it. I use a timeline -- if I keep note of what I did, when, it keeps me on task. Second, I have a planned task list. Not TOO detailed, as some have suggested -- that gets back to the same problem. Third -- I cheerfully keep notes of problems encountered. Sometimes they are ignored, and I know it. Sometimes they are implemented. Sometimes I don't know. At least my manager periodically pats me on the back for them, and I minimize my wanting to fix them myself. Also... I truly do two things at a time better than only one.

Mostly, in realizing the problem, I keep a handle on it. And, my boss listens to me -- when I start to stutter badly, she tells me -- and I sigh and grab hold of myself. It is our indicator.

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Excellent!

by LahTera In reply to Have you thought... This ...

I love your post. Sounds like you have a wonderful working relationship. (Do you work at AT&T? I did when my boss there clued me into my AD/HD.)

LahTera

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Like herding cats

by jurgislasevicius In reply to Like herding cats

From personal experience I would get this employee to get medical treament as from the description he suffers from ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) which has never been treated, with the correct treatment you will probably have one of the best employees out.
As I too suffer from ADD and have been a National Technical Support (staff of 23 reporting directly to me)and Branch Manager with 42 people working under me in the past (with no less than 4 "problem" employees) 3 of them came right with medical treatment.
Now I work for myself and sometimes still find it hard to concentrate because of the "problem", think of this individual as a challenge not a problem, but a word of caution be too hard on him and he WILL rebel in such a way that it will be difficult to pin it on him.

Good luck with this one.

Regards

Perkunas

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How to agree what's in scope

by commandgce In reply to Like herding cats

I reckon this guy is worth keeping, unless his wanderings are for ego-trips. Get him to identify his role models - some may be work-oriented role models and some may be goofing-off role models [=drinking buddies, spam writers, hackers]. Emphasize the work-oriented ones.

He is your apprentice. He is wandering into areas where there are few clear signposts, or if there are signposts, they are quite subtle. So, when he wanders off track, according to you, have a discussion with him on what's in and what's out of scope. Have a discussion, before he starts on a stage of a project, about the economic parameters.

Not a good idea to bawl him out for going the extra mile - get him to have a scratch pad so that the next time he feels he might be stepping out of scope, he can learn what triggers the need to go off on his own vs what triggers his asking you whether the track he's on is correct.

If he's into adding 'features', then he's had too much imbibing at the marketing trough. He needs some guidance about production economics and production planning.

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Like herding cats

by jurgislasevicius In reply to Like herding cats

From personal experience I would get this employee to get medical treament as from the description he suffers from ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder) which has never been treated, with the correct treatment you will probably have one of the best employees out.
As I too suffer from ADD and have been a National Technical Support (staff of 23 reporting directly to me)and Branch Manager with 42 people working under me in the past (with no less than 4 "problem" employees) 3 of them came right with medical treatment.
Now I work for myself and sometimes still find it hard to concentrate because of the "problem", think of this individual as a challenge not a problem, but a word of caution be too hard on him and he WILL rebel in such a way that it will be difficult to pin it on him.

Good luck with this one.

Regards

Perkunas

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Its not Always ADD

by Perseus In reply to Like herding cats

Not every person that has a short time span is a ADD person. Its just that some really brillient people do get bored by the repetetive tasks. It could even be that, he knows he can easily finish work at hand on time, hence diverting in other activities.

For you to mention it based on personal experience is one thing, but for GAMBOGE to detect it is different matter altogether. Bringing a psychiatrist in picture could just antagonise him in the worst possible way as you have correctly pointed out. Hence one needs to tackle this without involving Psychiatrists.

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