Managing to change an employee’s bad habit

Brett Huff

Former Head of Engineering at BillionToOne



"Some time ago, I hired an engineer who had always worked in small start-up environments, where communication was very informal. When he started at Trello we had around 80 people, and we already had formal ways in which we communicated information. However, he had trouble adapting to this. One of the biggest problems he had was that he would use swear words all the time, which was not part of Trello's culture."

Actions taken

"Very soon after he arrived, I talked to him about this problem in a very gentle way. It let him know that Trello's culture was different, and he started to change. Then, each time he talked in an inappropriate way (either via text or when talking) I made sure to tell him straight away, via Slack, that he should have used different words. This meant he could be told instantaneously and discretely when he'd made a mistake. He was able to stop his bad habit in a few months."

Lessons learned

"I learned that there will always be things that you cannot expect new employees to know, and these things can take some of your time and energy to deal with. It is never enjoyable to give negative feedback to a new employee, but you can do it without too much friction if you talk to the person as soon as possible after noticing they have made a mistake. In this way, the person can change rapidly and will fit in better with the company's culture. Instantaneous written communication was really helpful in this particular case."

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Brett Huff

Former Head of Engineering at BillionToOne

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyCulture DevelopmentLeadership TrainingFeedback TechniquesCareer GrowthIndividual Contributor RolesTeam & Project ManagementDiversity & Inclusion

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