Dear Bob ...
I know you've said from time to time that you'd rather apologize for an employee's poor manners than lack of competence. How do you feel about bad attitude?
[ Also on InfoWorld: Bob offers tips on working with another common personality in the office in "How a team should deal with a slacker" | Get sage advice on IT careers and management from Bob Lewis in InfoWorld's Advice Line newsletter. ]
The company I work for hired me to straighten out a seriously dysfunctional department. I've been working away at it and making some progress. I've worked with my managers to turn them into more of a team. I've connected the dots between their work and the company's success. I'm treating everyone like a person and not an interchangeable part. I'm involving as many people as possible in "process-izing" an organization that's lived on improvising the same work over and over again so that we can stop making the same mistakes over and over again.
But with Barney, there's been no progress -- which wouldn't be a problem if I could fire or demote him. I can't. He's the only one who knows what he knows, and what he knows is a complex subject.
Barney is an eyeball roller. If he knows something someone else doesn't and they say something that isn't perfectly accurate, he rolls his eyes in exasperation. If I give him an assignment that isn't smack dab in the middle of his job description, he rolls his eyes and makes it clear he'll be doing me a huge favor if he decides to get around to it.
Ask him to explain some of his complex knowledge to his teammates? Eye-roll time again.
He's one of my managers, thinks he's destined for greater things, and certainly believes our roles should be reversed. Under most circumstances I'd just toss the guy, but as I say, he really does know things nobody else does, and I have no lever to force him to divulge.
- Paying ransom
Dear Paying ...
Sure: Stop paying. But first, you have to lay the groundwork.
I'm assuming, by the way, that you've already been through the standard drill of explaining your expectations, describing what being successful looks like, and expressing your concerns over his information hoarding. In other words, I'm assuming you've already given Barney plenty of rope -- that is, opportunities to play ball -- and he's simply refused to be part of the solution. Here's what comes next: