Managing Inconsistency in the Workplace
11 May, 2021
At one of the companies I worked at, we hired an engineer who was both fairly intelligent and great with his coding test. Everything went well on paper. However, after a month or so, I started receiving complaints about the newly hired engineer from other engineers. While I thought it was more of a cultural issue and not so much on the engineer’s competency, problems still kept arising. It was so confusing to me, as he had a great background and someone who would be an asset to our company. That is when I had to step in and talk to him personally, put him on a performance improvement plan (PIP), and eventually let him go.
The first step of action was to identify what the actual problem was. The problem could have been technical, cultural, or something that the engineer may not want to talk about. So, I addressed the complaints made by other engineers to find out what was going on. This action helped me to make concrete decisions about the newly hired engineer.
Once I had identified the problem, and it turned out to be a problem related to work, I would set them up for a soft PIP. Generally, I do not particularly appreciate doing formal PIPs because it would just add unnecessary stress. I initiated a very soft PIP, which was a weekly, or in some cases, bi-weekly check-ins with me or even their manager to investigate what stage of the problem they were in. The whole point of this was not to scare them away but to assure them that we were with them regardless of any issues.
And since all else failed, the last resort was a very formalized action, whereby I got the HR involved and their manager. This was a setup to help the engineer navigate and get through the problem successfully for one last time. For me, it was all about having an honest discussion to allow them to reiterate the aims and goals that they were working towards. Although in most cases, matters do not escalate to that point if it is identified at the right time, this time, we had to let this person go.
- Despite this engineer being an all-star, it is not necessary to conclude that the same engineer would be a great performer in all teams.
- An engineer might be fantastic on pen and paper, but you have to keep an eye on their actions. Sometimes, it is not only about the talents and skills but also about being the right fit. Never judge a book by its cover.
- One company’s A-player is another company’s B-player and vice versa. You could have the best engineer, who might not do well in your company, but when they step elsewhere, they might bring all the fortune.
- Hiring is very hard. There is no algorithmic process to it. I had hired people who had had a tough time in other companies, whereas they were the star when they came into our company. We cannot judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree.
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