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I am team lead of the Information Security Operations team where I work. Several weeks ago, a new team member joined the team. This person a very strong technical background (several years of relevant work experience with two industry certifications - CISSP and CISA). He is reliable and has a great attitude.

Generally, I really like this person, but I have found he often lacks initiative and seems hesitant to participate fully in team discussions and offer opinions in team debate. As team lead, I encourage a diplomatic management style, where I see my role as to facilitate / mentor among equals, not to command and dictate. A team where micro - management is kept to minimum and where all team members make personal contributions to discussion is preferred. A flat hierarchy and transparent communication is also espoused by senior management.

To give some example of this new team members reluctance to participate:

  • I had him do a first round screening of a resume of a new SOC engineer and provide me with his feedback. When I discussed with him, his basic response was that he wanted me to make a final decision, and that he no preference either way. I found this reaction somewhat odd, as it would be to all team member's interests to feel comfortable with a potential new colleague. If there was something that concerns him, I want to hear to about it, to better inform my hiring decision.

  • I had him review our annual penetration testing report and provide feedback on the vulnerability remediation plan. I provided him resources in the company he could talk to as well as well as references to online resources such as MITRE and OWASP. He did not seem confident in his analysis and frequently consulted me as a source of authority.

This person is from an East Asian country but grew up in the USA, so not sure if this is a cultural issue. My goal is for this person to become more independent, and feel more at ease with contributing their own opinions to the team. I want to feel comfortable with voicing constructive criticism and a differences in opinion.

How can I support this person to show more initiative and function more independently within the team?

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    Given that this person has only been working for a few weeks, perhaps the task you have pushed have far too much responsibility for this person to feel comfortable. Having him screen a resume seems like a big step for a new employee, especially one who is still trying to establish their place in the workplace/team. Similarly, having him review the annual pen testing report seems like a big burden for a new hire. – Shadowzee Dec 17 '19 at 5:55
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    Give it more time - until you know his strengths/weaknesses, but especially his likes/dislikes – Mawg says reinstate Monica Dec 17 '19 at 6:26
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He is a couple weeks in. You are rushing this.

I am a few months into a new job and it took me about 6 weeks to know where HR was for payroll issues, what to do about a lost access pass, and which boardroom was which. It was maybe a month ago when I started participating actively. He is learning the other personalities, trying to figure out the rules of engagement, and generally trying to avoid a major screwup that comes to define his time there.

I found this reaction somewhat odd, as it would be to all team member's interests to feel comfortable with a potential new colleague.

It is also in his interests to feel comfortable around you and have you approve of him. A new colleague can be somewhat avoided. A boss cannot.

If there was something that concerns him, I want to hear to about it, to better inform my hiring decision.

Bluntly, you would never get an opinion out of me on such a subjective topic a few weeks into the job. I am going to be open ended until I know your personality better. Most people have been burned for "having the wrong opinion" at some point in their career.

I had him review our annual penetration testing report and provide feedback on the vulnerability remediation plan. I provided him resources in the company he could talk to as well as well as references to online resources such as MITRE and OWASP.

Has he even meaningfully worked on the systems he is reviewing? Resources are all well and good so long as you know what questions to ask, but does that not require project experience?

He did not seem confident in his analysis and frequently consulted me as a source of authority.

I am development, not infosec, but this seems like a project where the consequences for a mistake (such as missing a vulnerability) could be severe. And were you not on the list of resources? Even if he were experienced at the company, consulting you (as you are presumably more experienced and know the system better) seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

This just seems like an introverted new team member finding his bearings. Come back after 6-8 weeks.

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I think you're not seeing the good parts about this employee's behavior.

I had him do a first round screening of a resume of a new SOC engineer and provide me with his feedback. When I discussed with him, his basic response was that he wanted me to make a final decision, and that he no preference either way. I found this reaction somewhat odd, as it would be to all team member's interests to feel comfortable with a potential new colleague.

"It's not my place to decide" is a mature response that shows this person knows their role in the workplace. Most likely, he was part of the interview process to assess technical knowledge, not to inject subjective opinions about the applicant in general.

That's not to say that asking for insight isn't allowed, but it's perfectly reasonable for someone to not weigh in on something they feel incapable of objectively weighing in on.

As a developer, I often engage in conversation with an analyst or product owner where I ask exactly what they want, and I may present two viable options A and B. Unless the difference between A and B has significant technical ramifications, it's purely a business decision, and I won't have a clear preference for A or B either, just like him.

That's a good thing. You wouldn't want employees who by default weigh in on things they shouldn't be weighing in on.


I had him review our annual penetration testing report and provide feedback on the vulnerability remediation plan. I provided him resources in the company he could talk to as well as well as references to online resources such as MITRE and OWASP. He did not seem confident in his analysis and frequently consulted me as a source of authority.

This guy joined your company only a few weeks ago. You can't expect him to immediately give you accurate feedback that takes the entire company situation into account.

and frequently consulted me as a source of authority

Authority and information are two very different things.

Especially in the field of security, you don't want people to make uninformed decisions. It's so very easy to make a decision while glossing over a consideration you're not aware of yet.

To reiterate, that's not to say that asking for insight isn't allowed, but it's perfectly reasonable for someone to not weigh in on something they feel incapable of objectively weighing in on.

You may want to ask concrete questions (which they know the answer to) rather than an open-ended question, as the latter would make any reasonable person apprehensive of grasping the full picture.
Confidence comes with experience, and a few weeks is not enough time to make big picture decisions while also not deferring to the opinion of more experienced colleagues.


I see my role as to facilitate / mentor among equals, not to command and dictate

Commanding someone to contribute differently than the way they are currently contributing is still commanding.

Is there an actual problem here? Or are you trying to change how this person operates in the team based on your opinion on how he should operate in the team?

Equality does not mean that everyone should speak up in equal amounts, but rather than they are given the possibility to speak up, but also have the freedom to yield/defer to others if they agree with them.

The freedom to speak also entails the freedom to not speak. There is no point forcing this employee to speak up if they already agree with an opinion that was given, or willingly defer to more experienced colleagues.

Just because this person doesn't speak up doesn't mean that they will never speak up. It just means that they currently don't see a need to speak up, most likely because they already feel like the right decision has been made.


If you have any reasonable cause to suspect this person is not speaking up because they feel they are not allowed to do so, then your question is valid. But right now, all you have presented is inference and expectation.

I very much appreciate the intent to ensure equality in a team but I do urge you to pull back a little and not enforce it to a degree that people aren't able to not speak up if they don't feel the need to.

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I had him review our annual penetration testing report and provide feedback on the vulnerability remediation plan.
...
He did not seem confident in his analysis and frequently consulted me as a source of authority

Is this something he ought to be able to do, or is training required?

he often lacks initiative and seems hesitant to participate fully in team discussions and offer opinions in team debate

quite natural for some people, if they are afraid of looking foolish (me? I just right in and ask basic, possibly stupid, questions; but that's not everyone's approach)

Give it more time - until you know his strengths/weaknesses, but especially his likes/dislikes. A few weeks is far too soon to make judgment, as he is finding his feet & learning the job & the way you guys do things.

After that, you will make the most progress by asking him which areas he would like to work on. Right now, he can't tell you - he needs to get to learn more about the job first.

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It sounds like he may be a little gun shy providing feedback due to a bad experience in one of his past roles. Perhaps his superior was harsh on him and attacked him for any little mistake he made. He may also have the attitude that if you are his superior on those projects, you should be the one "finalizing" them. He could be resentful if he is the one doing the work, and in addition making final selections, and final recommendations on the pentest reports, maybe he should be getting your paycheck? Why are you kicking the ball to him for final decisions if you are the team lead? We do not know what he could be thinking.

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