Letting go an engineer can result in a win-win situation

Clive Henrick

Director, Strategic Planning and Operations at Electronic Arts



"In one of my previous teams, one of my engineers wanted to be promoted to team lead. He was an excellent IC and after giving it a lot of thought, I decided to give him the opportunity to become a 'provisionary' team lead. Unfortunately, this happened to be a mistake as I quickly realized that there were personality misfits with some people in the team. I had feedback from his direct reports saying he was hard to work with. However, nothing of the sort had ever been said about him when he was an IC."

Actions taken

"I decided to coach him and to make him a better manager, but unfortunately, nothing seemed to work, so I decided to remove his manager's responsibilities from him. We talked a lot about it and it appeared that he still had the ambition to become a manager and was not ready to go down another path. Obviously, the company was not able to provide growth opportunities for him, so we agreed that it was better for him to go. I managed to come up with a good severance package, which gave him some time to find another job and also ensured a successful knowledge transfer for other team members. He, the team, and I were all much happier once he had left."

Lessons learned

"The competition for engineers is very high in the Bay area. This leads to a lot of pressure in keeping engineers no matter what (except when they are underperforming). But sometimes, for various reasons, their growth is not possible within the company. I believe you should know when to let people go. It's a win-win for everyone. As a manager, you can plan and roll out a transition plan, the team will be happier, and the employee leaves on good terms. That last part is extremely important as networking and reputation play a big role in recruiting nowadays. For the record, the employee I let go in that story knew people and even referred someone that we later hired."

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Clive Henrick

Director, Strategic Planning and Operations at Electronic Arts

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentEngineering ManagementPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesCareer Growth

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