I find myself in the curious case of trying to partially de-motivate someone, some background:
I am the team lead of a ~30 person team ranging from interns and new college grads to senior folks with 30+ years under their belts. My team is technically focused and responsible for the implementation of several different projects we work on, and are often all or mostly in our lab at the same time, working on some various sets of physical servers and specialized processor boards.
I have one person on my team who is definitely mid-career, I think we hired him with about 20 years experience in the field, and he has been a great addition, including bringing one or two more new folks with him. He has been on my team for about a year and a half. In that time, he has taken on a project that branches out past what we typically do, and has had some struggles communicating with our customer and the team overall, but has started to really hit his stride.
Over the past two months or so, the rubber has really started to hit the road and this team member has been getting into "crunch time" working off-hours and coordinating insane meetings. I recently found out he has been averaging 18 hour days for the last month or so. I know no one asked him to do this because he is his own project lead - he has three or four other engineers that have been supporting off-shifts, but not going crazy over 40 hours per week.
The thing is, this project is really not very important. No one from "higher up" is asking for due dates, he is just arbitrarily setting them himself based on what he (in his words) "believes we should be doing". When I prodded him that he doesn't need to work these crazy hours and ask others to support weird shift times, he responded he "likes doing it" and basically expects others to follow along.
I'm not one to turn my nose up at a motivated engineer, but there are two issues here:
- Some of our work requires customer witness, so his requests for customer witnesses from 1800 - 0400 for weeks on end is starting to burn some good will
- 18 months is actually a relatively short amount of time, and he doesn't really have a full foundational understanding of "what we do here" this leads to endless frustration on everyone's part, to the point he has sent a quite strongly worded email to our mutual manager's own manager
I did raise both these concerns to him directly, and then later our mutual manager, neither have abated his habits. He is burning himself and others out for little to no reason, and struggling to understand and communicate roadblocks he is running into. It bears mentioning he volunteered for his role as project lead and was accepted against my and our manager's recommendation, so this was not entirely surprising, but has escalated to the point I am starting to become concerned.
TL;DR: I have a mid-career engineer who is working himself and others to the bone at the request of no one but himself. How do I convey that his project is not worth the extreme work conditions he is taking on and asking of others, without entirely deflating him?