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Standing up for an Employee in Trouble

Conflict Solving
Feedback
Ownership
Juniors

17 June, 2021

Rohan Kulkarni
Rohan Kulkarni

Sr Engineering Manager at Expedia

Rohan Kulkarni, Engineering Manager at Expedia, takes his responsibility as an advocate for his team members very seriously.

Problem

As a team, we had an application that we owned and were the primary contributors to. Another team within the company happened to know about it and wanted to contribute some code to it. When the code came for us to approve, one of my junior engineers recommended some optimizations.

The other team did not take the feedback well. They refused to make the changes. They even started to bully my colleague. It became such a problem that they came to me to intervene.

Actions taken

In order to protect my employee, I dove into the GitHub conversation to get the whole story. I brought my observations to the manager of the partner team. I told them that the behavior of his report to mine was not acceptable. They spoke to the engineers in question and gave them the proper feedback.Thankfully, they apologized for the inappropriate language used.

I used this incident as an example of how not to behave. No disagreement should ever devolve into what had happened. The language used was really hurtful and did not communicate the real problem that they were having. Thankfully, we were able to read the transcripts and figure it all out in the end.

Conflict resolution is one of the most important skills that you must acquire as a manager. My advice is to always gain an understanding of the entire situation, stepping in only when you have identified the problem. We can sometimes be biased toward our own teams, I want them to feel as though they are in a safe environment and that they can share their opinions freely. Always bring these things up.

Lessons learned

  • As a manager, it’s my job to protect the people on my team.
  • From this incident onward, I always encourage my engineers to get me involved sooner rather than later.
  • Getting to the bottom of the matter meant getting in touch with the right people on the other side.

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