Need advice managing a smart but difficult engineer
March 9, 2011 9:54 PM Subscribe
Please help! Need advice managing a smart but difficult engineer. It's stressing me out and not sure how to proceed.
posted by zebraspots to human relations (53 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
I manage a small group of software engineers and everyone is great but there is one person who I've had constant issues with over the years. The main problem is that his tone and attitude is often combative and confrontational. There doesn't seem to be a mutual respect and I feel like it causes unnecessary stress and brings down morale in subtle ways. I've spoken with him about it a few times and each time he is apologetic but it keeps coming up. I'm not sure what to do next.
For example, most times when I come up to ask him a question he'll roll his eyes, or sigh or answer with "what?" as if to make me feel like I'm bothering him. During meetings, he'll typically be the last to walk in, stands the furthest away and acts very unengaged and annoyed. He's good at programming and solves difficult problems, but he'll put up a fight when asked to do things that aren't his forte or not as fun. I'm totally fine if people don't think certain things are a good idea for them work on, but with him it always feels like a confrontation more than a conversation. It's really starting to wear me out.
I work well with the rest of my team and I feel like I'm not an overbearing manager at all. Other team members seem to get along with him, but he does have the reputation of being the cranky and cynical guy in the group. He also seems very moody - one day he seems very unapproachable and the next he'll be friendly. He does have a good sense of humor and doesn't have problems socially but I would not characterize him as a helpful, communicative, team-oriented person. He's competent but not "professional".
How do I address these attitude problems in a concrete and appropriate way? I'm hesitant to keep having one-on-ones because they just seem so heavy and I can't simply say "you need to be nicer." His performance is good because he gets things done. And a lot of the reasons why he fights back are valid. It's just all about the body language, tone of voice and general grumpiness that are really not helpful. Are these valid things to say that he needs to change?