There are some tricky management situations and possible responses.


  • Andy: Extremely talented and smart. Not very social. Very arrogant and has the tendency to put people down unintentionally. Senior Engineer.
  • Brian: Having trouble finding his place in the team. Has communication problems, and seems to be hiding from the team. Looks for ways to get out of meetings. Senior Engineer.
  • Ram: Very talented but does not spend enough time working on his skills. Gets involved in unproductive politics, and wiles away a lot of precious time. Junior Engineer.
  • Grace: Talented but spends a lot of time thinking about theoretical/not-so-likely problems and solutions. Does not spend enough time working on the ‘now’ and hence lags behind delivering stories. Senior Engineer.

Moment 1

Ram meets you in the hallway and talks about the latest he’s heard about the VP of engineering leaving the team. He tries to engage you in a conversation about who could replace her. He is extremely excited about the conversation.


Shift the conversation in a different direction. Talk about work-related projects, issues or technologies. Sometimes, these conversations are unavoidable, but if this is a pattern, bring it up in 1–1s. Be vocal about avoiding gossip. My manager readme also has a paragraph devoted to this topic.

Moment 2

Some code has been checked in, that breaks an integration test. Grace is assigned to look at the issue. She comes back after an hour of debugging and tells you that the team should invest in an ML-based solution to fix the test.


Do not dismiss Grace. She seems to have a lot of big ideas, and you need a thousand good ideas to uncover a great one. Find a way to channel the ideas. Can she work on an ML-based solution in a hackathon? Can she note these ideas down, present them to the team and rally the team to budget for them? Work with her in a 1–1 and be deliberate about not derailing existing plans for new plans, while also creating space for new ideas.

Moment 3

There is a discussion in the team’s slack channel about how we should collect user feedback. There is a lot of chatter from almost everyone on the team. Brian has been silent all this while and then posts a long message about AB testing, that is copy-pasted from a google search. He does not respond to follow up questions on his message.


Brian seems to be low on confidence. He is trying his best to contribute to the team in any way possible. Help him answer some of the follow-up questions on slack. Protect him. Use 1–1s to figure out what his insecurities are. See if a mentor will help. If the team is not a good match, work out a transition plan with him. Every single person on your team is talented. If a member of your team does not perform well, the likely problem is a mismatch of interests or a lack of motivation.

Moment 4

The team decides to do weekly lunch and learn meetings. The agenda is unclear but the idea is to get everyone together in an informal setting and discuss something of common interest. Andy rejects the meeting with the response “I do not do lunch meetings”.


While it’s ok to reject meetings, speak to Andy about being more polite with his responses. As he grows into a more senior role, communication and approachability become extremely important. A better response could be “I like to have my lunchtime to help me recharge. I can do these meetings at another time. Thank you”. This response has a more positive vibe while achieving the same result.

Moment 5

Brian is assigned a bug that seems to be very trivial at first glance. Brian tries hard to fix it but does not make much progress. He then goes to Andy for help. Andy smirks and says “This is easy enough, can you not figure it out?”


This response hurts Brian, who is already low on confidence. He will most likely go into his shell, and not ask questions of anyone after this episode. Speak to Andy about team awareness. The issue may be trivial for Andy but may not be for Brian. While we work out what ails Brian, the team needs to be supportive of him. This is a great usage of the SBI model for a 1–1 with Andy.

Moment 6

Ram is working on a very complex project. He does a great job with the project and makes a lot of progress. But, he does not finish the project on time. He is seen spending a lot of time with his buddy and taking very long lunch breaks over the last week.


It’s ok for Ram to spend time with his buddy. As long as he finishes his work on time, no questions need to be asked. If a project is delayed, talk to Ram about what the problem was. There could be other reasons for the delay. Approach these meetings with curiosity rather than preconceived notions. If a pattern establishes, bring up time management. Curiosity over judgment is key to being a multiplier.