Sunday, November 4, 2007

November 5, 2007 – Dealing with a Newbie, Part 2

Last week we looked at how to deal with a pretty standard newbie just trying to fit in, establish himself and be productive. But what happens when you get a problem newbie? Some are just killing time while collecting a pay check but others may actually be gunning for you and your job. Either one is a pain to deal with. Here are some suggestions for training your newbie to get his act together and recognize you as the manager.

Formally assign work. Come right out and say it. Don’t suggest or hint that you want something done, assign it to him. Show him where it is in the schedule with his name on it. Give him a task list. Find something that works, but make sure you set the expectation that he is responsible for accomplishing certain items. Formally assigning and receiving of tasks is an acknowledgement that you are the manager.

Agree on target dates. Work with him to identify completion dates for the tasks assigned that he can agree to and the project can live with. Giving him a say in the due dates transfers ownership to him. At least subconsciously he will know a measurement has been established and he will be held to it.

Hold status meetings.
If you are not already have weekly status meetings with the team, start them. Have everyone give a synopsis of their accomplishments for the week. The peer pressure of hearing his teammates’ achievements may inspire him. Also, meet informally one on one with him to check on progress.

Give him praise. When he does a good job, recognize it. The act of receiving the recognition builds on the manager / team member relationship. Be sincere with your praise and don’t go overboard. For the non-productive newbie this can spark further good work. If you feel he is attempting to outshine you, don’t try to extinguish his flame. Give him the recognition he deserves.

Accept mistakes. When he misses targets or makes a mistake, don't ridicule or yell at him. Recognize that he messed up and say something like, "that's ok, I'm sure you will do better next time." For honest mistakes this approach should make him try harder next time where yelling might reinforce failure. If he is deliberately messing up, you now have specific, documented instances of poor performance where expected work, based on agreed timeframes, is not being completed.

Report the facts. There are several resource reporting processes in most companies. For functional organizations (project team borrowed from different groups) the newbie’s reporting manager will want specifics. Many companies have a 90 day review process for new hires that may lend to an easy out. Your management may sense tension or the newbie may actually be going directly to your boss to stirring up trouble. Keep report the facts. Either the newbie is accomplishing his assignments or things are slipping. Feed your manager specific expected accomplishments ahead of time (i.e. "Based on newbie’s estimates the following tickets should be completed by Friday. I've asked them to..."). Then follow up with the results.

The idea is to train the newbie to recognize you as the manager and become productive without resorting to outright warfare. He will either fall in line and start acting like you are in charge or it will frustrate him to the point that his actions will be too visible to hide. By keeping management informed on a regular basis it will be difficult for him to paint a different picture of what is going on. From there disciplinary action can be taken.

There are many other aspects to handling difficult resources and we’ve barely scratched the surface on the topic. Here are two more notes to keep in mind. (1) You may have actually hired a genius that deserves to move up the ranks. Hopefully he can do it without being a jerk. Your approach can help mold his progress and may determine your future employment. (2) Jerks have a way of eventually ticking off the wrong person. If he is trampling people to gain control, chances are you aren’t the only one noticing.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Project Management for Newbies: