Knowing When To Say Stop

Mary Nicknish

Senior Engineering Manager at Vitally



"We were growing our team very quickly, and a friend recommended that I hire a senior engineer. My friend had never worked with the senior engineer, but she thought he was very smart and could help us. Based on this recommendation, I brought John in to interview with the team. They were all blown away - John was a very charismatic, energetic, and brilliant man. At every interview he ended up talking with the team about the right solution to their problems. Everyone gave him a thumbs up, so we decided to bring him on board. However, we had him meet with HR and they immediately tried to warn me not to hire him. He was unhappy with our background check and was scrutinizing every document he had to sign. It took weeks to finally get him onboard. However, I still didn't listen to HR."

Actions taken

"We assigned the engineer to the most important feature we had, which was being closely watched by the entire company, and he made a lot of fanfare about the progress he was making. He had to work with the team in Singapore, so was rarely in the office and worked at night with the team there. He spent many hours on the phone with them discussing the design. However, months went by and still no code had been written. When we talked to him about the lack of progress he would challenge us and say he couldn't write any code until the design was finalized. But despite him causing all kinds of drama in the office, we let him keep going for another few months. After too many excuses and too many months of no code being written, I finally let him go. We found out after this that he also didn't write any code at his last job and that he was let go. Luckily, I met a woman on a school field trip who just so happened to be an out of work Python developer. She came to work for us right away and delivered the solution in three short months. She did not believe in spending too much time designing but instead got right to work on a prototype that ended up being the code we used."

Lessons learned

"Keeping people who cause drama and can't get things done is not worth the price. Even if the senior engineer really did deliver what he said he would, it was not worth putting up with the drama he caused across the company. I would much rather have a team that worked well together, delivered what they said they could, and didn't cause stress in the organization. When you have people that are high drama, others in the organization will leave if they don't feel comfortable. I also learned to listen to my HR department. They can catch things that you don't see. Be sure to work closely with them to get the best team in place."

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Mary Nicknish

Senior Engineering Manager at Vitally

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthTeam & Project Management

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