I'm a team lead. One of our senior engineers, Uli, is part of a team of about 7 people that were tasked with steering the company to increased profitability (lots of work involving automation). His team delivered, and senior management promised him a promotion to "chief engineer" (the next level up; we only have a few of these at the company, and it's basically the first step towards become a junior executive). For some reason, which is not being shared with me by senior management (it's implied it's lack of money, which makes no sense; we're very profitable) Uli was given the "promotion" in name only (i.e. "you're the 'DevOps chief engineer', not a 'Chief Engineer'"; so he got the extra work and responsibility, but not increase in benefits/pay, not even a new title or anything that could help him in a job hunt).
Uli requested a transfer to another team (which seems odd, given the reputation his current team earned for competence), and won't be back on our team for a year. I had to pull some strings to get him re-assigned back to his hold team in 3 months rather than 1 year, but he's told me it'll take time to "step in to his old work boots again" (he extremely complex work). He claims that he had to build a lot of rapport and relationships with the open source community to accomplish the type of work he did, and study a lot of training material in personal time. Now, all of a sudden, he can no longer continue with those ("not in my contract to build bridges with outside communities or study in free time"), and claims he'll be very rusty when he resumes in 3 months ("you should really assign those tough tasks to a chief engineer: they'll be able to handle it!"). How does one forget in 3 months what they spent 2 years inventing and desinging?
Should I continue to invite Uli back to the old team (i.e. continue with plans to have him back on our team in 3 months)? I'm wondering if I should try and recall the favors I called in to have him back on the team. I pushed to have him back on the team before I realized senior management ****ed him over.
My boss and senior management made this asymmetrical move to load him down with more work and stress, not me. He always "gets things done", no matter how difficult the task thrown at him (and I convey this to senior management for annual reviews), but he's refusing to discuss his shifty behavior (i.e. we both know he could ramp-up in seconds again). Even if he doesn't do the "mythical 10x engineer" work he previously did, he'd still be a good addition to the team as a "normal 9-5 guy", but... I'm worried that he might take out his frustration on the team or be a potential risk since he won't even have a straight discussion with me over why he's pissed off.
I've pointed out to senior management how complex the work is that he does, that it requires being able to work with people just as well as technology, that the extra work he does after-hours is key. I have no idea why they're apparently trying to provoke one of my top engineers and not explain why.