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I made a post a few months ago about "managing Eeyore." The recap is we have a person on staff that has high skills and one of the worst attitudes and sets of behavior I've ever seen in a workplace.

Well, this week came the breaking point for me. In a meeting he exhibited behavior that showed he should never again be allowed in a meeting at this company again. "Unprofessional" hardly begins to cover it. On this, his manager and I agree.

However, his manager's decision on how to handle this is simply to not invite him to meetings anymore. (It was my meeting and to be blunt, I didn't invite the guy. The manager asked him along for his input.) I assured him that wouldn't be an issue with me since I never wanted to lay eyes on this guy again. The manager's reaction to that statement: smile, shrug and walk away.

An hour later, the Director of that organization called me in to his office to ask me how I wanted to handle the situtation for my project (I'm the Project Manager on a high-profile application development project.) My response was the following: "[i]Name[/i] is the best DBA we have, without a doubt. And if I were his manager yesterday I would have spent all day today making sure he was unemployed tomorrow. I don't care if I have to fall back on my own limited and 10 year-old DBA skills, my project won't have him on the team in any capacity whatsoever from this point on."

When asked if perhaps I wasn't being too harsh, I assured him that these were the most professional and calm comments I had on the subject. He got the point, assigned another DBA to my project and I moved on. I have documented the behavior exhibited and my concerns in an email to all managers invovled and to my files.

In all honesty, I feel I've done all I can do about the situation. I've protected my team and my project. I've let the powers that be know what happened and how I feel. I have not gone to HR because we are being sold and HR is hip deep in dealing with that and I know nothing will be accomplished via that route for at least 3 months. His manager is not only aware of the situation but is a witness. All those with the authority to take further action are keenly aware of the situation. In fact, they know it better than I since they all predate me at the company by at least 2 years. But still, here I am wondering if anyone has any ideas about anything else I can or should do.

Comments?

itilimp's picture

Not sure what the 'right' answer is but at the moment I think the following:

Their manager was a witness to the behaviour and therefore it is their responsibility to give feedback to their direct.

Although you've got a solution to the project by moving the dba off your team, did you actually give their manager feedback about how you'd appreciate if they had a word with their direct about their inappropriate behaviour because of the impact on their career? There's a cast somewhere about giving feedback to peers I think.

If their management doesn't give any feedback to the direct, then, if the behaviour was as bad as you say, I'd be very tempted to speak to the direct in capacity as their former project manager about their behaviour.

My point is, the dba may not actually realise how inappropriate their behaviour was given the audience and if noone tells them, they are being done a disservice by not having the opportunity to apologise and make improvements in the future.

EDIT: If the incident is REALLY bad then I'd be questioning why they aren't being put on disciplinary - but that depends on your organisation procedures and standards.

pneuhardt's picture

I did give the manager specific feedback about this. "Hey manager-name-changed, can I give you some feedback? When this guy exhibits these behaviors in meetings (name calling, referring to other people as stupid, referring to their work as stupid, when he mumbles so softly he can't be heard then refuses to speak up because "I already said what I have to say", when he uses profanity in expressing his opinions, etc.), here's what happens: team morale is disrupted, the flow of meetings is changed and productivity drops, we aren't getting the professional input from him we need, and the members of the team are all made uncomfortable, to the point that several are asking to either have this guy removed or be let off the team themselves. Furthermore, these sorts of behaviors violate company conduct standards and I think you realize that as much as I do. What are we goign to do about this?"

I considered having the discussion directly with the DBA, but I have learned that I would not be the first. This situation has been allowed to fester for over 3 years now. So far as I can tell, I'm the 5th project manager that has booted this guy from a team. The last PM to have dumped this guy from a team did try to speak with him directly about it. The response was "I said what I have to say and I'm not changing anything. If you have a problem with that, tough. This is who I am." (I removed several expletives from the version I got as a courtesy to readers.)

Our disciplinary process is basically to leave it to the individual managers, and this guys' boss, the boss' boss and that person's boss all know the score here. They are the ones that have let it go this long and unless they alter that behavior, I am at the end of what I can do under our formal policies.

To share your confusion, I not only don't understand why the guy hasn't been disciplined but I don't get why he hasn't been fired. I know this company isn't shy about firing people, because we have fired several people for inadequate performance since I've been there. The only excuse I see is the person's managers not stepping up to the plate and doing their jobs.

As I mentioned we are being sold, and I told the group Director that I was going to be very interested in what the code of conduct was going to be with our new owners and how that might affect this person. We will see what, if any, effect that has.

itilimp's picture

Hmm, I suppose part of the reason that they haven't been disciplined may be one of fear.

If he's the 'best DBA' they have it may be that this could be translated as 'he's the only DBA who knows the system inside out and back to front, he doesn't document anything so all the knowledge is in his head, we can't afford to lose him.'

If that's that the case then he's going to see no reason to change as he's confident in his power base of knowledge. Maybe he wows everyone with his technical prowess so they overlook bad behaviour (personally I think that's no excuse).

Perhaps it's time to implement some rewards based upon contributions to knowledge bases, sharing etc. which highlights those who are working as a team and gives opportunity for further feedback.

Perhaps he needs to learn that he isn't indispensible. Sure there would be some inconvenience to the company in the interim, but it may be the opportunity needed to ensure they don't end up in this situation again.

Interested to read other people's views on this one.

pneuhardt's picture

You have it right. "Best" is defined as "most technically skilled" and in this case, "the only one who really knows the structures in our main system."

juliahhavener's picture

It's scary to face losing your 'best' person because of their inability to accept feedback and change.

That being said, I think a good dose of the feedback and coaching models from his boss is necessary to make this person acceptable to retain. Your company can't be held hostage by one person. It does ALL of the things you noted and then some.

On my last team, we had one long-standing member who had decided that he couldn't be fired. My boss gave him feedback, coaching, ranting, feedback, and coaching. I gave him feedback (with very similar responses from your DBA), coaching, and more feedback. I finally turned to my boss and said 'You've tried this (mind you, she'd been working with him for a YEAR). I've tried this. In the last 48 hours, these are the behaviors I've witnessed from this person. It has to end here. The damage to the team is too overwhelming.' His behavior was damaging the team as a whole and encouraging others to mimic some of his most ineffective behaviors as 'acceptable'.

Shockingly, he was released two days later for all the reasons outlined. Those others very quickly realized that he wasn't right and he wasn't infallible. It's more than that, we had a lot of direct feedback and coaching involved, but that was a kind of subliminal signal that we really were serious about accomplishing our goals, even if it meant that they weren't there to be a part of it.

pneuhardt's picture

Julia,

You have touched on one of the things that really flabbergasts me. Yes, he is the best we have. But he's not the best I've ever seen. Not even close.

And, with apologies to all the professional database administrators out there, DBAs are a dime a dozen in this market. There is nothing in this guy that can't be replaced.

But, nobody in a position to take the necessary action is willing to face up to that. At least, not so far.

Thanks for the feedback. I'm enjoying this discussion and look forward to more of it.

arun's picture

In my view, it is necessary for a manager to sometimes look beyond the immediate problem. If you let this person go, it may take you a while to employ someone else or you may even fill the position quickly regardless it will involve spending time acquainting the person with the company culture etc. All in all "short term pain for longer term gain".

I had a situation 4 years ago when one of my staff was showing similar behaviour and was very troublesome to the point that no one would approach her for fear of getting their head bit off. She resigned in a huff one day when I gave her some feedback. Cooled down the next day and wanted to retract her resignation and even went to my boss to plead her case. The company stood their ground and refused. We went through a learning curve with a new person for three months and she has now been a part of my team for 4 years and performing exceptionally well.

Cheers

roger_reiss's picture

I'm glad to see that most of the stories in this thread reaffirm that the buck stops with the manager. He/she MUST bite the bullet and deal with the situation. In my only experience with this as a manager, I was fortunate to be dealing with a good functional for my problem child. The functional took care of the situation and re-assigned the bad actor after I gave the functional some feedback.

Lesson learned the hard way: "That which we permit, we encourage."

juliahhavener's picture

[quote="roger_reiss"]Lesson learned the hard way: "That which we permit, we encourage."[/quote]

Oh, if I only I had learned that lesson *before* my marriage! It's accurate, regardless of application.

sholden's picture

[quote="juliahdoyle"][quote="roger_reiss"]Lesson learned the hard way: "That which we permit, we encourage."[/quote]
Oh, if I only I had learned that lesson *before* my marriage! It's accurate, regardless of application.[/quote]

I have to totally agree with this summary ... Especially with IT, there is definitely an unfortunate chartacteristic that some people think themselves irreplaceable and thus think they can get away with behavior that would make their mother go ballistic if they knew they were doing it.

My approach over the last two years is to regularly talk about staff replacement contingencies with everyone on the team, and that every position on the team should survive if the person in it left or was hit by a bus. It seems to have kept this behavior more in control with my current team. My last team was another story.

Steve

juliahhavener's picture

Exactly, Steve. It happens that it was a technical position/employee that I outlined earlier in this thread.

Mark's picture

My apologies for my delay.

Sounds like you did the right thing. Managing one's own is hard enough - the best way to "manage" other managers' folks is to set the right example.

Again, I regret my absence.

Mark

pneuhardt's picture

To All,

There has been an interesting side-effect of my actions regarding this particular individual. Since my actions, he has been shown the gate on 3 other projects by the project managers. Basically, when others saw I could take this stand and not lose my job )or at least anger the powers that be) they did the same thing.

The only disturbing part to me is that the manager of this group has simply taken on all the work for these projects himself instead of taking corrective action regarding this situation. Sad, really.

Mark's picture

And there again the lesson: teaching peers is best left to walking the walk, and not talking the talk.

Manager Tools managers' behaviors seem territorial: that is, we focus on our area's contribution to the org, and tend to allow others their own ways. We do this not because we don't care, but because we are smart enough to know that we have little ability to influence outside of the example we set, and an hour spent there is an hour not spent here, where we can know the value to the org.

One with conviction is a majority.

Mark

pneuhardt's picture

Mark,

"One with conviction is a majority." That small phrase says so much. Is it original with you? I was unable to find any other source for it on the Web.

Mark's picture

It's not mine, but I can't find the cite. If I come across it, I will let you know.

Mark

aspiringceo's picture

I seem to remember another similar quote which was "One person and the Almighty make a majority." but when I googled it it came up as unknown

Edmund