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Don’t Be a Victim of Your Difficult Employee

Hiring
Retention
Team Processes
Juniors

19 July, 2021

Bogdan Chebac
Bogdan Chebac

Engineering Manager at (Undisclosed)

Bogdan Chebac, Engineering Manager at Gorgias, explains how he managed to bounce back from a tough situation.

Problem

I was hired as an engineering manager and was given a greenfield project to start. Greenfield is when you act as a manager and start the project from scratch, whereas brownfield is more like the previous diary where you get the project underway from another manager. I got the project from scratch, which means new clients were coming in the outsourcing context. In essence, I was told to assemble a team for them to make sure that they met their software needs. That meant getting the proper front-end developers, back-end developers, QA staff product, and the UX. However, we had other people from the operations department to help us out with this one.

The problem that we encountered was the big rush to start the project, which meant that we needed to hire people at a faster rate. Most of them were a perfect match for the project, except one developer, who was only 60 to 70 percent of a match, but we needed to kickstart the project soon or we might have lost our client. Now here was the biggest mistake already: we hired someone who was not the 100 percent match for our team, either through hard skills relating to engineering or soft skills.

After that the twist in the story sets in. The newly hired engineer found himself another job, where he had a 50 percent raise in salary and was ready to leave! He was not willing to take the challenge that our project had posed, and prove his skills for the better. His sudden withdrawal from our company resulted in our clients’ losing their trust in us. That was a bigger mess than I thought it would be.

Actions taken

First and foremost, I practiced transparency within the team as their leader. Although I started the project procedures way ahead of time, the risks were pretty visible. Even in such a situation, I was willing to be honest and open, even though I felt slightly vulnerable. My biggest fear was that I did not want my team to lose trust in themselves. I made sure to provide the senior management with a series of consequences of what could go wrong in the worst case scenario.

Secondly, I made sure to have closer supervision over the concerned people and guide them in their path, even if they were not the right fit for the role. Arguably, the stronger your team’s soft skills are, the more camaraderie you are able to build. Therefore, I communicated with each and everyone to help them improve their soft skills along with the hard skills that they had. Besides, I wanted to involve them in actual courses that would enhance their engineering capabilities while working on the project. They were great techies, but they were not up to the mark.

Finally, I was able to find the right replacement for the appropriate position. Learning from my past mistakes, I hired another person, who was much more capable, experienced with a technical mindset, and more importantly, focused on their role. A bonus quality came with the person, which was his leadership skills. In the beginning, I did keep an eye on the “newly hired” person, but slowly and steadily, I started to trust him. In tune, I assisted and empowered him in achieving his goals via the role. Needless to mention that he adjusted quickly. The team regained their respect just as the technical expertise was back.

Lessons learned

  • Even when you deal with a lousy hand of cards, there is usually a way to learn from that growth and from that spin. When inconsistencies occur, and you have a feeling that you might lose the client, tweak a little bit here and there to adapt yourself in a situation. This will demonstrate some of your capabilities and best interests by heart.
  • If your engineering team needs some extra courses to enhance their competencies, do not hesitate to abide by their requests. My team did not have the engineering skills that we had expected of them, but as soon as they got their training, they aced the project.
  • Encourage your team to join the community of front-end development. It would be a great practice for their soft skills, while benefiting your company in the long run.

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