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Solving an ego conflict between two engineers

Krishna Vemuri

Sr. Engineering Manager at Townsquared

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Problem

"I had two engineers in my team who were very good. The problem was that they were in constant competition, with each one trying to prove that they were more intelligent than the other. In spite of helping the team thanks to their great capabilities, their attitude was harmful to the team's culture."

Actions taken

"I had several one-on-ones with each of them, and had meetings where all three of us talked about the issue very transparently. I tried to put their attitude into perspective and made them realize that their focus should be on helping junior engineers, and thinking about the team's performance, rather than thinking about their own performance. Once I laid out my expectations, we then discussed precisely how they could collaborate. I asked them to think about several questions such as, 'How could you change this situation? How could you collaborate? How could you help the team?' , and let them process these questions for a few days. They came back to me a few days later with some ideas, and after that, their direction and their goals seemed to be much clearer. Now they can work together and their presence is positive for the team."

Learned

"I knew they both had huge egos, and I tried to play with that by building trust with them. I did this by trying not to make them feel bad, and showing them I wasn't there to judge, but to understand and to help them find the best solution. I also explained that we were in this together. My personal success as a manager depended on their ability to work together. The other thing that helped with this problem was setting clearer expectations and laying out their tasks more deliberately, in order to avoid them fighting for territory."


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Krishna Vemuri

Sr. Engineering Manager at Townsquared


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