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How Personal Matters Can Affect An Engineer’s Work

Coaching / Training / Mentorship
Health / Stress / Burn-Out
Performance

17 May, 2018

Shyam Sundar
Shyam Sundar

VP Engineering at Proofpoint

Shyam Sundar talks about how personal matters can affect your team’s work and how important it is to take the psychological aspects of what your team members tick into account.

Problem

I had a pretty competent software developer on my team who was really good at coming up with technical solutions to solve business problems. However, after some time, his performance dipped. He wasn't contributing and was checked out in terms of both team engagement and code quality.

Actions taken

This was a fairly challenging situation, especially because it was fairly early on in my management career. Managing people is part art and part science, and this is when I learned the importance of the emotional side of things. Often, managers will focus on technical skills without really understanding the psychological aspects of what makes their team members tick. In this person's case, there were a couple of things happening. He was buying a house for the first time and was stressed by this, and his family was traveling from his home country and he was charged with handling this. These things were draining his energy, so ultimately I gave him a week off to take care of things, and I reminded him that when he was at work he needed to give his best. If people have personal things going on, you should show empathy but should also make sure it doesn't bring down the team.

Lessons learned

Some issues that may seem complex at first have simple solutions. Sometimes, when there are too many things going on in your personal life, this can have a negative impact on your personal life as well. Often software developers are pretty introverted, so make sure you gather all of the facts and that people feel comfortable talking to you about whatever their personal situation may be. A good emotional quotient (EQ) is one of the qualities a manager should have - this consists of self-awareness, self-regulation, drive, and empathy. Being aware of your EQ is as important as execution and product thinking.

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