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Managing a Remote Report Who is Resistant to Feedback

Wayne Chang

Engineering Manager at Facebook Inc.

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Problem

The thing that my worst reports all shared in common was that they didn't have the self-awareness to know that they weren't all that good at what they were doing. In this specific case, there is a non-junior in a less junior person's body who wants the respect of a non-junior person. How would I deal with this?

Actions taken

  • One thing that I highly recommend from my past experience at Facebook, especially for people who have reports in timezones spanning more than four hours apart, is to set up a coffee chat type of one-on-one. It should be a bit more informal and less structured, just to see what they are working on and what they may need help with.
  • Give very intense, in person coaching. Try pairing them with a mentor that he really respects and looks up to.
  • Have a serious in person conversation with the report that covers the components of your relationship in terms of what the thinks it is versus what it should be. Admit to the report that you are not as good in this specific topic as they are. Likewise, specify that you are not supposed to be the expert as much as they should be. However, do make them aware that your skill is to fill in the gaps and try to help where you can.

Lessons learned

  • A 15 to 20 minute coffee call check in should not constitute as your regular weekly one-on-one which should be about 30 minutes to an hour every week, but rather supplement it. This type of brief check in should be done outside of written updates to keep the pulse of the situation.
  • Having a real mentor who the report trusts and a pseudo manager regularly helping them out can give you a second opinion and better form your role with the report. If they can't benefit from having a mentor than that is a much bigger issue.
  • The difficult part of being a PM or an EM is that sometimes, there is not really a good reason to have peer one-on-one's with people as much as it is for an IC.
  • I couldn't help but feel inadequate and inexperienced when I was starting out managing people older and more senior level than me. The best analogy that really helped me was that all Olympic coaches didn't actually get gold in the Olympics themselves, but they are the coaches for people to do it because they offer a different skill set. This is why it's important to get through to your report on the value they should be getting from you.

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Wayne Chang

Engineering Manager at Facebook Inc.


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