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When Your Senior Dev Doesn’t Meet Expectations

Leadership
Conflict Solving
Health / Stress / Burn-Out
Performance

19 July, 2018

Thomas Bartolucci
Thomas Bartolucci

Engineering Director at Squarespace

Thomas Bartolucci talks about the mistakes he made, as well as the lessons he learned, when dealing with a Senior Developer who wasn’t living up to his expectations.

Problem

As an early manager, when I first started working with a team, I hired my first Senior Developer. However, while the developer was very senior and did a good job, I had certain expectations of him that he wasn't living up to.

Actions taken

As a new manager, I didn't handle this situation as maturely as I should have. I would question why he didn't know certain things and would tell him he should be able to figure out answers to problems by himself. Instead of coaching him to understand how to handle certain issues, I would just become frustrated. Eventually, through reading and learning from a management course, I realized that not everybody is the same. Not every senior developer will know the same things - they'll have different strengths and weaknesses. I had expectations that he would know certain things and would be able to address certain issues, but his strengths were elsewhere. Resolving this problem came down to us sitting down and openly having a heart-to-heart. I apologized for my behaviors, explained where I was coming from and where I had gotten to and I then reset my expectations. Ever since, we've had a very good relationship. He's been at the company for five years and we talk frequently and regularly help each other out.

Lessons learned

There was a level of maturity I needed to gain while dealing with this situation, as I hadn't considered before that not everybody will know everything I know, and I won't know everything other people know. Different people require different management techniques, but they always deserve to be treated with respect.

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