I’m a VP at a financial institution and oversee a quasi fintech branch of our company.
Two years ago, I hired a dev who turned out to be star. Great results putting him on one of our dev teams and he got involved in all sorts of projects at our office.
However, he wants to be promoted to the Director level (two levels below mine) and did apply for such a position. The committee rejected him because he is a star technical contributor, but seemingly has never demonstrated any real interest in management. Directors usually manage 3-5 employees.
I agree with that assessment. He is at his heart a problem solver, not a people one. Senior software developers (at my company, senior software developer (SSD) may or may not be a management role) can go to dark corners, but directors have management expectations. Management SSDs get to hire an intern or a junior dev. He didn’t. He works in a corner with headphones all day. We told him no a month ago.
Now, he has completely scaled back his involvement in projects. He sticks to his core assigned work to a pedantic level (a bad task spec will be coded as written without him questioning it). For example, the spec said that a piece of information shouldn’t be stored in [table_name]. Instead of checking, he wrote a log message which “confirmed that the data was sent to the backend and promptly not saved in [table_name].” And because people trust his work, that made it into prod.
He won’t say a word during sprint planning, “doesn’t know how” to solve certain problems, and has stopped checking other co-workers code, allowing bugs to flood into production (the dev team he is on is a mess which just revealed itself). He was the informal on-call person for his area of tech, but now sets up an “out of office” email at 5:00 on Friday. We had a system go down sometime this weekend and he “didn’t check his messages” his phone until 9 on Monday, costing tens of thousands of dollars.
He is still doing his core job of clearing sprint tasks from 9 to 5 (with extreme attention to time), but nothing else. He is also telling other key people that “there are a lot of exciting tech jobs out there” and openly suggesting positions to them on LinkedIn.
How do I get him back to normal? His bad attitude and “work to rule” mindset is destructive and immature. Firing him is on the table, but the amount of knowledge lost about certain key systems would be enormous and morale would take a huge hit. Sure we have documentation, but it’s a poor substitute for the guy who wrote a lot of the systems.
I’m willing to forgive the past month (and cover it up with other departments) as work is his life and losing sucks, but it’s not a tenable thing going forward. I would have already fired any of his co-workers who did this.
What motivates you coders? Many of you aren’t people people and acknowledge that, so what can I do?
I’m a dev (I try to get a few commits in at least) who is a people person. How can I better understand those who aren’t (like many of you, no offence intended)?
Regarding pay, he already earns well above his bracket (finance pays stars well), so the promotion wouldn’t have gained him any additional salary automatically (as he is above that bracket too). Brackets aren’t firm, so something could have been worked out, but he has never asked for a raise. I just authorized it to make sure he stayed.
I found a similar question already on here (How to discipline overeager engineer), but the difference is that I am in a position to bend rules and give him something, just not the something he wanted because his personality is entirely unsuited to managing a group of people.
Alternatively if he can't be salvaged, how can I force him out without hurting his future or his sense of self? His work seems to be all he has in life, so I would prefer to do it in a way that doesn't end up with me learning he shot himself.
This question was reported as a duplicate. I explicitly explained why it is not as I found it already.
To clear up the issue of "interested in management"
"The committee rejected him because he is a star technical contributor, but seemingly has never demonstrated any real interest in management." Let me address this, as I was not clear. He is clearly interested in the position of management. He has never demonstrated interest in the nuts and bolts of management. The software lead asked him to help with hiring devs and he declined. I've asked him about doing project management and he declined. The intern was offered to him and he declined. He doesn't work closely with the devs on his team.
People can certainly change, but the first information I had about his interest was learning that he first applied and was rejected. Prior to this, he has always chosen technical over any kind of people management.
EDIT: How this was resolved
It took a couple of weeks to sort out exactly what would be the permanent solution. In the week after I asked this, I had a conversation with him where I essentially presented him with 4 choices from the bundle produced here with the relevant adaptations made for our company.
- Just take a raise and a new title which can be anything he wanted.
- Work with someone at the company required to develop the leadership experience required for promotion to a management position and then reapply in 6 months to one year's time.
- Manage a new project with resources, but with no formal authority over the others assigned to the team (as I can't give that) and use that as the leadership experience for the promotion. It would be a project largely of his choice.
- Exit the company with a bonus if he stays long enough to tie up loose ends and find me a replacement for him.
He chose option 3. Turns out that he loves innovation, but couldn't deliver it so wanted the promotion to give him the power to deliver it. He has his new pet project, in a few months we will get a cool new system, and balance is restored to the force.