Asked To Fire A Technically Competent Manager

Bryan Minihan

Chief Technology Officer at Autoshop Solutions



"While working at Anderson Consulting (what is now called Accenture), I was transferred from the San Francisco office to Virginia to work as a network administrator. However, when I arrived, I was made the network engineering manager instead, and was put in charge of managing three different offices, which were all moving to the Virginia location. Unfortunately, the manager who had been leading the network team in the DC office thought he was getting the job that was given to me. He had a habit of being really belligerent and when he got angry he would send emails to senior directors and partners, so he was seen as a troublemaker. Because of this, one of the first things I was asked to do when I was given the job was to fire the other manager."

Actions taken

"I had gotten to know the manager over the course of our move to the Virginia office and understood that he was a brilliant network engineer. Technically speaking, he really knew his team and he had a great rapport with them. In this respect, he should have gotten the job. However, he lacked an understanding of how to navigate the politics and bureaucracy of upper management and how to communicate his grievances to the right people. I met with him at one point and explained that I agreed that he should have been given the management role I had been given. But I also said that if he didn't mind, I wanted to help him figure out how to get the job if I were to leave. A wise manager once told me that his job was to train me to replace him, and I follow the same rule. I gave him three or four tips to help him on his way. One was that if there was something wrong, he should follow the chain of command to politely discuss his concerns and provide feasible solutions. Over the course of the next year, he became a model employee. He came to love his job because with his improved communication, his concerns for his team and our data center were being addressed. When I left a year and a half later, he was promoted to my position and he kept it for seven more years."

Lessons learned

"I learned to question a little more before making such a final decision. Don't take HR direction from your seniors at face value. Rather than just accepting what they said and firing the guy, I really tried to understand the nature of the problem in order to try to fix it. I explained this to my more senior management by telling them I wasn't comfortable firing someone without any information. I didn't see the point in firing someone who could be really useful for the organization."

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Bryan Minihan

Chief Technology Officer at Autoshop Solutions

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingEngineering ManagementPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionSkill Development

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