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We are a technology startup, the problem i am facing is that my colleague(same designation as mine) Manager A and a member of his team (Coder A) have become incompatible.. it started out with sarcastic jabs.. i mediated once around two months ago and made it clear to Coder A that he has to improve in his professional relationship management. Coder A has just 1 yr experience and really does not know what/when to say... A few days back the problem resurfaced and Coder A came back to me with complaint that Manager A is demotivating him by micromanaging him and telling very petty details while explaining tasks to do. I consoled him and told him to take things like these as Manager A is his big brother. We are a small team and we cant have issues like this plaguing our productivity. I discussed with Manager A and he is like i was joking which i find trustworthy as he really is the funny guy of the team. Manager A has given up on Coder A and has asked me to manage him.

This could work but i am a bit sceptical as the team is small and work load huge... we need everyone firing on cylinders... such problems unnecessarily damage the mood and productivity of people involved. One more problem is that Coder A's productivity is really low(from our expectation when hiring... he is from a top college).

The other angle which seems plausible is that Coder A knows that since there are two people at top he can be safe if he is in good books of one... so he just comes to me and patronizes me.... i do not have any proof so i am not taking any action...

How to deal with this so we have a good professional atmosphere between these two guys...Any ideas?

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    Your post is rambling, citing facts and speculating in no particular order. The point is that Coder A is in conflict with Manager A and patronizes you - that's two-for-two in terms of failure to work with people, so far as I am concerned. In addition, Coder A's performance is subpar. You don't seem to be going out of your way either to exercise any supervision on Coder A now that Manager A has asked you to take over the supervision of Coder A. This does not point to a good ending for Coder A. – Vietnhi Phuvan Apr 20 '15 at 13:57
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    " I consoled him and told him to take things like these as Manager A is his big brother." What does that even mean? My big brother was an absolute pain in the ass growing up, if I had a manager like that I'd certainly have problems working with them. Micromanaging and going into "petty details" when explaining tasks probably isn't the right management style, so the problem isn't necessarily just with Coder A. – Anthony Grist Apr 20 '15 at 14:50
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    You made a major mistake in that you tolerated him coming to you when you were not his manager and not his manager's manager. Do not do this. You have probably made the problem worse. – HLGEM Apr 20 '15 at 15:51
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    @gladiator Well, that cleared up absolutely nothing. I'm trying to understand how you're expecting him to react and relate to his manager when you say he should take things like his manager is his "big brother". That seems like entirely the wrong advice, since this guy isn't his big brother, he's his superior at work. – Anthony Grist Apr 21 '15 at 8:16
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    is Coder A the same person as in the following question? How to deal with a demanding and moody employee – kleineg Apr 21 '15 at 17:01
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There is no way you should take over this person. This is more or less equivalent to a 2 year-old getting in trouble by dad and running over to mom. He is playing you and it is working because you are actually thinking about taking him on your team.

Let's go over the issues:

  • he can't get along with his manager
  • his output is subpar
  • he doesn't understand company hierarchy (why would he take an issue to you?)
  • he needs to be told petty details
  • he needs to be micromanaged (I made these last two assumptions based on managing a good 100 tech guys out of college - 30-40% of them fall in this category until they realize that they are at "work" and not play)

What you do? Well you can fire him. Why deal with someone who can't do the job and wants to bring drama to a small team.

If you don't want to fire him? Sit down with him and other manager. I would clearly explain to him if he doesn't get along with the team and other manager that someone will have to go, and it isn't the manager. At the same time I would emphasize that he is being micromanaged because he is not doing quality work and not meeting expectations. He should know that the micromanaging will continue until everyone sees long-term improvement.

Just having this conversation will scare most new guys straight. I have had a similar conversation so many times I couldn't give you a count. If it doesn't work then you have an unproductive drama queen working for you and then you know what to do from there.

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    Excellent answer. I would add that people new to the workplace often perceive any management as micromanagment. He needs to understand that there are things any manager will ask of him and that is because it is their job to do so. It is not micromanagment to ask for daily progress reports for instance. Managers often have to report this information up the chain and they need to know what is going on in all aspects of the project. Giving a junior guy a particular approach to follow is also not micromanagement especially if performance has been subpar. – HLGEM Apr 20 '15 at 15:48
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    @HLGEM - When I ran a large helpdesk I had a number of new employees that went to upper management saying that I was micromanaging them. We had 20-30 daily tasks + phone calls. I expected them to do all the tasks (2 hours) right away in case phone calls got bad.... Upper management laughed - they were like don't most of your colleagues play LAN games at the end of their shifts? I think that a lot of people coming out of college think its OK to do things on their time and don't understand the implications of doing it the right way. – blankip Apr 20 '15 at 15:52
  • @blankip: agreed. I've dealt with that exact same thing. In a larger group, all it takes is terminating one while making the reasons known for the others to figure out they need to actually do the tasks they are given when they are told to do them. – NotMe Apr 20 '15 at 16:26
  • @NotMe - I fired a couple of people but always a last resort. More than anything is getting another senior member basically telling the employee that they aren't doing a good job and they are about to get fired. They often think the manager is the "bad guy" because they are making them work and they just need a wake up call from someone else at the company to realize it's not a manager problem but a me problem. – blankip Apr 20 '15 at 18:05
  • You or manager A need to start documenting the subpar output and your efforts to correct it. You will likely need this when you get to the point of termination. I think you wouldn't hire this guy if you knew what he was like, so don't take him on as your protege. He needs tough love--either in the form of telling him he needs to start working in no uncertain terms, or, if he fails at that, in the form of "this is what happens when you don't work" and terminate. – msouth May 19 '17 at 4:30
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Remember that even people who are fresh out of a top college are still fresh out of college. They have barely any experience in the working life and often need help finding their feet.

In this case, in a start-up you don't always have the luxury of giving such a person a lot of space, so a more direct approach may be appropriate:

Have a meeting with the employee, explain to him clearly and without emotional aspects what the problems are that concern him, and work with him to decide on a plan to improve the situation. Decide on a date at which point you will re-evaluate the performance and make sure he is aware that his job is on the line.

Make sure you explain that this is not a personal thing between you and him, illustrate that the start up needs to be firing on all cilinders and that currently, he is the weak link in the team.

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This is just adding a bit to blankip's great answer:

The next time an employee, who does not directly report to you, starts complaining about their manager you need to stop them, refuse to listen and send them back to either their direct manager or that person's boss.

Unless we are talking about something illegal, it is not your place to get involved. The only help you should be providing is to let them know what the proper channels are.

Also, I'm not sure what it is you did to "mediate" a problem between those two. Again, it was a mistake on your part to get involved. If I were Manager A I would have already fired the employee. If I were Manager A's boss and I heard about all these shenanigans I'd probably fire the employee then put manager A on an "improvement" program because this is exactly the type of thing that a manager should be able to handle themselves. If they can't then they shouldn't be a manager.

*to be clear, if I were Manager A's boss and (s)he came to me with this problem then I'd tell them exactly how to handle it. However, if no one came to me and I heard about the OP's mediation from the grapevine then I'd step in and solve it; although few people would be happy with that solution as at least one person would be out of a job and one or two others would be on notice.

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