Inigima

Careerchat II

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I have a new-ish underling who has a variety of problems all stemming from his intolerable need to sound like he's in the know about everything. He isn't retaining information because he's in a hurry to demonstrate that he knows everything already, which mostly results in him regurgitating specific terms he's heard us use, whether they're relevant or not, rather than paying attention. He once insisted that we were wrong about a product he acknowledges having never used. He's incredibly loud in places he needs to be quiet and just generally does not understand how to behave like a professional or an adult. I need to make him functional at a basic level so I can send him out to do things unsupervised, until which point he is effectively an intern, except I have actual interns who are quite capable.

Any of you guys had people like this and have advice to offer on how to whip him into shape? I'm happy to work with him and help him improve, but I'm not sure how to teach someone who thinks he already knows everything. It's not that he doesn't want to be good, it's that he wants to prove he already is. And no, while I direct his day-to-day activities in the field, I am not actually his manager and cannot cut him loose.

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as your underling I assume you are in fact his supervisor. 

I had a sous chef not too long ago who was similar.  he felt his skills and abilities were far better than they were,  was emotionally immature and was generally a joke to my staff...who he was supervisor of. 

after many many hours of nurturing, coaching and trying to build him into the chef i needed i made him breakdown and cry one day when he was two hours late and he quit.  problem solved. 

don't go that way.

having a talk where you explain that you not only know a great deal of knowledge  and have loads of experience and want to share these things to ensure success for yourself,  him and your overall team. empower him to grow and develop as a professional.  

if that fails tear him apart and send him crying out the door.

Edited by MercifulChief

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I've found the direct route to be pretty effective. "I need you to be a professional before I send you out to the field. You have yet to prove to me that you're capable of doing that for reason 1, reason 2, and reason 3. I am happy to work with you to build those necessary job skills. When do you want to start?"

The above is, of course, predicated on you having a frank discussion first with this person's manager so they know that their hire is currently useless to you, but that you are happy to help get them up to speed. Otherwise, doing anything other than constantly benching the dude will be seen as you overstepping your managerial bounds. I am currently doing this with a colleague -- her hire and she is the hire's direct manager, but she and I both work with the hire and the hire is just not progressing in a way that is helpful to us. So colleague and I have worked out a deal where I'll be doing some intensive job training with said hire at the same time I'm doing job training with two new interns. Then we'll re-evaluate.

Edited by Xray the Enforcer

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Ini - that's a tough situation.  Smart but impatient to build knowledge/experience is easier to deal with.  Deeply insecure to the point of bombastic faking of knowledge is a borderline cut-him-loose. 

My best suggestion is to make sure that you, he and his manager are on the same page.  Talk with his manager about your concern and arrange for an objective measure of knowledge, e.g. some industry-relevant exam.  When he scores as low as you expect, use it as an unbiased basis for him to go on an improvement plan that includes active listening, summarizing back what he has heard and direct, frequent feedback on whether his work reflects his listening.  If he does not improve, or gets defensive and resist, then ask that he be terminated or reassigned.  Won't learn is just as bad as can't learn. 

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Industry benchmarking is a good idea. It won't work in my particular case (no such thing really exists), but there might be for Ini's field.

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I should have said that MC and Xray's approach of a direct talk is the best place to start.  My suggestion of destroying his delusion is only if he is too insecure/defensive to acknowledge the problem. 

Considering the way he's acting, it might be best to tell him that he is obviously overcompensating, it's transparent to all, and that it will undermine him.  If he can see that his behavior is achieving the exact opposite of what he wants, then I would hope he would listen to your suggestions. 

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His professional shortcomings can be addressed as developmental requirements, ie if he expects to progress he is required to attain certain competencies. This can be laid out and agreed upon as a personal development plan and he should be pleased that his employer cares about his development. :)

Personal shortcomings can also be addressed as directly impacting on professional development - they go hand in hand. So as you say, he should be held back from independent work until he can demonstrate he is capable of behaving in an appropriately professional manner. 

Either his manager handles this directly, or they delegate it to you as a suitably chosen superior colleague. 

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Uggghhh. Is there any task more soul-crushing than trying to write a cover letter? Two hours of staring at the screen and I've got two lines written. :bang:

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Nope. Though I like to think I've developed a certain devil-may-care verve for them at this point. One thing that really helps me is setting it like a GRE-type essay in my head: 30 minutes, subject, GO! 

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"I consider myself an excellent fit for this position due to my willingness to perform utterly uninteresting tasks in exchange for the money I require to not starve."

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1 hour ago, Liffguard said:

"I consider myself an excellent fit for this position due to my willingness to perform utterly uninteresting tasks in exchange for the money I require to not starve."

"And buy all the beer" 

Seriously though, I have to write personal statements to programs I'm applying to next year. There are about 50/60 of them. I am not looking forward to this task - and I don't think "I'll bite your hand off for a good training program" is a good opening salvo. 

Edited by Raja

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You're both over-thinking it.  No-one remembers the cover letter more than two seconds after they glance it.  Be succinct and clear, and don't gush about yourself.  I am so tired of cover letters and follow up emails that ramble for several paragraphs about how perfectly suited this candidate is to my company and/or ruling the universe.

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I've been trying to follow a format of:

"I'm applying for [position] as advertised on [website/paper/whatever]

I have [skills] that would make me good at this job. I achieved [these things] that are similar to what the job requires.

I would be a good fit for the company culture and ethos because [reasons]

Available for interview [whenever]."

It can just get tedious and frustrating customising it for each application and pretending an enthusiasm I just don't feel.

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I have a nagging dilemma.  This is the kind of thing that's always at the back of your mind, but has now been forced to the top by an exec coach (my company put me in a program for "managers to leaders" that involves direct consultation with an exec coach or career coach). 

Most careers peak in mid to late 40s.  I turn 39 in a few months.  If I'm going to push for some much more senior leadership position, potentially far from my current fast growing start-up within a very big firm, then I need to start making moves soon.  

I'm not unhappy in my current role or its prospects, but I risk being trapped by my own incremental, low risk approach to career steps.  My boss was my age when he got his current role.  Most of the people above me are only around ten years older than me so there won't be a lot of leadership positions just becoming available from retirements.

I need to have a real conversation about this with my boss, who never discusses development or career options and frankly has every incentive to keep me where I am (and definitely not get replaced by me), and perhaps reach out to a couple of other senior colleagues to gather some informed impressions of the likely opportunity set, and decide if I may need to look outside instead.  

I've never been proactive enough about this stuff and just trusted that being awesome would be rewarded.  But the more senior you get, the more you need to initiate and maneuver to create the next step.  As it gets narrower at the top of the pyramid, there are fewer and fewer opportunities at the next level.  I guess this is exactly why they gave me an exec coach -- I needed the reminder to not leave this on the back burner too long. 

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On 21/06/2016 at 9:09 PM, Immobile Buffon said:

You're both over-thinking it.  No-one remembers the cover letter more than two seconds after they glance it.  Be succinct and clear, and don't gush about yourself.  I am so tired of cover letters and follow up emails that ramble for several paragraphs about how perfectly suited this candidate is to my company and/or ruling the universe.

Woah, wait - is that not the point of a cover letter?*

*everything I know about cover letters I learned on this very board. 

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11 hours ago, Immobile Buffon said:

 As it gets narrower at the top of the pyramid, there are fewer and fewer opportunities at the next level.  

I don't have any experience in the sort of work you do, and I'm relatively new to the whole 'job market' ( *Points to awful Linkedin profile* ), so I could be off base here  - but from reading your post, it seems like you're fairly happy where you are and don't really want to move to the next level? 

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1 hour ago, Raja said:

I don't have any experience in the sort of work you do, and I'm relatively new to the whole 'job market' ( *Points to awful Linkedin profile* ), so I could be off base here  - but from reading your post, it seems like you're fairly happy where you are and don't really want to move to the next level? 

In theory, this could be an acceptable outcome.  I'm very good at my current role, provide a very good lifestyle for my family, have improved my work/life balance in recent years, and I enjoy working with my clients and colleagues. 

But the nagging dilemma is similar to universal sources of midlife crises*: the sense that your window of opportunity is closing forever, reconciling your actual achievements with your youthful ambitions or dreams, and living with the speculation of what might have been.  I mentioned my current age because I'm guessing it's a factor here.  And there is my competitive nature: I have as much ability as the people above me, and many of my clients and colleagues openly expect that I could be in a senior leadership role, so I would feel like I underachieved if I don't. 

 

(*It's a complete tangent and possibly worthy of another thread, but I find myself wondering if these three are the universal sources of midlife crises, or if it is just the realization of your growing sexual irrelevance to young, attractive potential mates still in their reproductive phase.   The latter is unfortunately more chimp-like and more universal and unfortunately therefore more likely to be the case.  As my peers and I approach 40, I can see how the milestone affects people differently)

Edited by Immobile Buffon
I don't know why the font size changes like that and cannot fix it on my phone.

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On 7/4/2016 at 0:44 AM, Immobile Buffon said:

I've never been proactive enough about this stuff and just trusted that being awesome would be rewarded.  But the more senior you get, the more you need to initiate and maneuver to create the next step.  As it gets narrower at the top of the pyramid, there are fewer and fewer opportunities at the next level.  I guess this is exactly why they gave me an exec coach -- I needed the reminder to not leave this on the back burner too long. 

I am in this exact spot right now, too, but I'm currently considering what I want do to. Leadership at my current gig is full of toxic assholes and I'm just not sure I want to agitate myself into that vipers' nest. Plus the only place for me to go is to eventually overthrow my own boss, who is also a friend -- or change roles drastically, which I'm not sure is going to make me especially happy, because I like what I do right now. But I don't want to be stuck in my current semi-senior gig forever. It's eating at me. :\ Good luck, whatever you end up doing!! 

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this probably going to sound dumb or basic, but I have an interview tomorrow, and I'm having a little trouble coming up with thoughtful questions of my own to ask. 

now it would be an internal promotion, and it would be at a location I've worked at previously, reporting to someone I've worked with previously... so on one hand I'm feeling pretty confident, not really sure what to ask as follow up (which I kinda feel like I should) 

Best I've got so far (courtesy of my boss ass wife) is "what advice would you give to the person in this position?" any other ideas would be greatly appreciated

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1 hour ago, R'hllors Red Lobster said:

this probably going to sound dumb or basic, but I have an interview tomorrow, and I'm having a little trouble coming up with thoughtful questions of my own to ask. 

now it would be an internal promotion, and it would be at a location I've worked at previously, reporting to someone I've worked with previously... so on one hand I'm feeling pretty confident, not really sure what to ask as follow up (which I kinda feel like I should) 

Best I've got so far (courtesy of my boss ass wife) is "what advice would you give to the person in this position?" any other ideas would be greatly appreciated

What would be success for this role?  How should this role contribute to the organization's goals? What is the first priority for the new person in this role?  What will you need from this person to make your job easier?  Do you see this role changing over time?  How should this role interact with other teams/groups in the business?  What has made this role available?

Questions should be open-ended, focus on the interviewer's POV rather than yours, and open a picture of mutual success. Never lack for questions at an interview.  Don't ask about your benefits or perks -- you negotiate for them after you've made them want you.  Good luck. 

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