When an employee’s interests don’t fit with what the team can offer.

Christopher Bee

Engineering manager at Uber



"I once had two engineers that started the same day: one back-end and one front-end engineer, who I was able to place on projects and teams accordingly. After a while, I discovered that the back-end engineer was motivated by infrastructure challenges, which weren't the kind of projects our product engineering team could offer at that time."

Actions taken

"After a series of one-on-one conversations and adjustments to project work, we mutually decided that the product-oriented work we were doing may not be the best fit for him. With that, I managed to find him a spot at the company on an infrastructure team, with challenges that suited him more."

Lessons learned

"I try to do my best to keep people motivated about the work, especially new hires. A big part of this happens during the actual recruiting process. I believe you must separate the two questions 'Are they qualified?' and 'Are they a good fit?'. Too often we tend to forget the latter, resulting in the hiring of qualified people who won't be fulfilled by the work that you have to offer. While it is important to hit hiring goals as soon as reasonably possible, you shouldn't sacrifice team fit. It is better to delay filling an opening with the wrong person than have them get started and then leave soon after."

"Onboarding plays an important role as well. You must be clear about what motivates people: Are they looking for system and architecture challenges with developers as their customers or are they looking for building a product for end users?"

"In the events described above, there was a mismatch between the employee's motivations and what the team needed. In these types of cases, honesty from both sides is the best way to handle it. I was happy that we were able to have an open discussion to keep him in the company and to prevent his performance dropping or his motivations becoming prominent and discouraging for others. Making sure people are still motivated about their company and their work is one of the things that I look for during my one-on-ones."

"Finally, I emphasize underlying motivations a lot more in my interviews now and I pass on profiles that aren't a good fit for my teams."

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Christopher Bee

Engineering manager at Uber

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationEngineering ManagementCareer GrowthCareer ProgressionIndividual Contributor RolesStaff EngineerPrincipal EngineerTech LeadTeam & Project Management

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