Being a leader does not mean you will always be popular, and that’s okay

Radha Shenoy

VP of Engineering at Puzzle



"I was promoted to a managerial role, in which I ended up supervising a number of engineers who had been my peers. Because I had worked with them on various projects, I knew which members were not pulling their weight and were, therefore, making the whole team look bad. Whilst previous managers had known about this issue, they had decided to ignore it. Once I became the manager, being able to deliver became my top priority, but this was not very popular with some of my team members. I knew I had to make some drastic changes."

Actions taken

"The team had about six members, two of whom were problematic. One simply slacked off and the other worked on pet projects, which ultimately impacted on his delivery of what he had been assigned. Since I was now accountable for the team's deliverables, I knew we had to address these issues. I wasn't sure how to do this, so I reached out to HR who suggested revising the all six team member's performance metrics. I had the hope that this would remedy the behaviors of the whole team. Further, this avoided singling out anybody - the goal was to rebuild the team, not to simply fire the two under-performers. Our Director bought into the plan and we put it in motion. It wasn't very popular, as the four performers felt they were having to prove their worth yet again, and the two under-performers felt singled out, but ultimately they all agreed. Once the plan was in place, one of the two under-performers stepped up and started working well with the team. However, the other one didn't follow along with the rest of the team. Whilst, he was a fun, engaging personality and everyone liked him a lot, his lack of performance led me to terminate his employment."

Lessons learned

"Becoming a manager is tough, but once you are in that position you have to be willing to make decisions that make friends and peers uncomfortable if you believe those decisions are in the team's and the company's best interest. You can maintain professional and friendly relationships at work with direct reports, provided they are performing as you need them to. If not, sometimes you have to put personal friendships aside and make tough decisions. I also learned that it can be helpful to ask for advice from HR, your Director, or other managers at your company."

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Radha Shenoy

VP of Engineering at Puzzle

Leadership DevelopmentPerformance MetricsPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesIndividual Contributor RolesStaff EngineerLeadership RolesEngineering ManagerDirector of Engineering

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