When Growth Frustrates An Employee

Andrew Becherer

Chief Security Officer at Datadog



"I joined Datadog in October 2015, as the first designated security person in the company. So I came in, and had to build a Security team from scratch. After hiring the first person for the security team, we began working very hard alongside one another. The person was hired with a specific title and mandate, but wasn't limited by these because of the amount of work we had to plow through. As Datadog grew, the security team did too, and it ended up with 25 people in the Security team, but the first person I hired to work in our security team started to become unhappy."

Actions taken

"The first issue we faced was that this person thought they were a stronger technical professional than their manager and I believed. Ultimately, this individual had just one vision for their career - technical engineering work - but they weren't able to exercise that vision in their role. Because the team had grown, their title and mandate suddenly became very meaningful and the individual had a lane they were supposed to stay in that they were uncomfortable with."

"They expressed concern about being in a non-technical team rather than an engineering team, and about not writing code. We explained what our requirements were for individuals working in that engineering team and why they didn't meet those requirements."

"The next issue that was difficult to manage was that the individual was relatively junior. As such, when we formed the team they ultimately ended up being in, we brought in two levels of people who were more senior than them. It was very difficult for the person to understand why they were slipping down the ladder when they had worked for a longer time at the organization."

"We worked to address their questions and concerns, but the combination of these two issues resulted in the individual acting out in ways that damaged their team's morale. The working situation between this individual and one of their direct peers became so strained that they couldn't talk to each other anymore. This wasn't a tenable situation for me, as a leader in the organization. I was also concerned that the other individual, who was exceeding their role's expectations, would consider leaving if this continued."

"We went through several months of one-on-ones and quarterly skip-level meetings, where I would meet with the individual, which were set up in order to guide them in regards to what our expectations were. However, we were unsuccessful in improving the situation, and we got to a point where we had to make the stakes of the situation very clear. We explained they needed to either improve their behavior or that they would cease to be employed at our company."

"We created a formal performance improvement plan that clearly laid out what the expectations of the role were, and what they were required to do. We gave them time to work towards that and had weekly meetings to discuss their progress. Unfortunately, the individual couldn't meet the expectations of the role. It was really difficult for me as a manager. I was very personally invested in this individual, as they were the first member of my security team. This made our decision even more difficult when we realized we were going to have to let them go."

Lessons learned

"One thing I don't believe I did well enough was sharing my vision of the team with them earlier so they understood what that looked like in terms of levels of hierarchy, and the way the team would change. This may have prepared the individual more, and may have given them the chance to voice their concern earlier on about not being on the technical path so we could provide them with training opportunities."

"However, once it got to the point it was at in October, I am not sure what we could have done differently that would have resulted in a more positive outcome. I may, in fact, have let in persist too long because of my connection with that individual."

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Andrew Becherer

Chief Security Officer at Datadog

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