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Team player vs. high performer

Toxic Employee
Toxic Atmospheres
Performance

3 October, 2018

Luc Vincent

Luc Vincent

VP Engineering & Product at Lyft

Luc gives direct feedback to a developer who had excellent technical skills, but who has created a toxic atmosphere in their team.

Problem

Years ago I hired a very strong tech contributor, who turned out to be a bit of a prima donna. Because he was technically excellent he thought very highly of himself, and was thus often impatient with people that were not at his level. For example, if someone had questions about his code, he would send a one-liner email that often came across as harsh and dismissive of others. His behavior created a toxic atmosphere in my team. Overall, his impact was negative, despite his technical knowledge.

Actions taken

It took me about a year to realize where the problem came from. Things take time because other team members generally avoid speaking negatively about their peers, unless things get pretty bad. Once I understood through some discussions that he might be the cause of the drop of happiness in the team, I had several conversations with him. I gave him direct and honest feedback and he finally understood my perspective and how he was perceived by his colleagues. I saw some improvement, but not as much as I would have liked. This engineer had burnt too many bridges by then. Then things got worse again, and I was about to start working with HR to take action when he found a way to transfer out to another team.

Lessons Learned

I should have asked for feedback as soon as I noticed a decline in the team's happiness and energy level. From this episode, I have learned that on balance, I prefer someone who might be less strong technically, but who is a better team player.

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