The Dilemma of Spending More Time on an Underperforming Employee or Letting Him Go
Engineering manager at Stripe
A few years ago, when I became a manager for the first time, I used to work in a small start-up. I was working with the executives of the company to find an engineer to hire, but we struggled to find someone suitable. We finally recruited someone who had a lot of experience in the industry, although there were some red flags before we hired him. During interviews, I told him that being a startup, we needed someone who could take initiative to solve problems and someone who could work with a lot of autonomy and proactivity.
While it didn't seem to be a problem for him at the time, I soon realized that he was not used to this level of leeway. In his previous jobs, he had always been told by his bosses how he should proceed. Since he was not at ease with this style of working, he spent too much time implementing an overly complex solution and slowed down other people on the team. As a manager, I considered whether it was worth spending time trying to fix the problem with him, or whether the engineer was simply not capable enough for the job. I finally decided that although he would be a good engineer at a large company, he was not a good fit for the job and we had to let him go.
Looking back, I realize that I should have made my expectations much clearer from the beginning and followed up more often with the engineer. I think I may have taken too long before deciding to do this. However, at the end of the day, I would have made the same decision, as he was not the right fit for the job.
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