Most geeks tend to fall into one of two categories: The “leave me alone. I can figure this out by myself” geek, and the “I need to understand ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING about this situation before I can be expected to even think about doing it” geek. I find the former type fairly easy to manage; just swing by for regular check-ins, make sure you know what they’re doing, and let them go. The latter, however, can be very difficult for a busy manager to handle.
The needy geek (as I will call her) also tends to fall into one of two categories: the “tell me everything” geek, and the “tell me stuff and I will take it away and over-analyze it and pepper you with questions” geek. I have to be honest–both of these geeks drive me absolutely nuts. When I have to deal with either of these geeks, my thoughts go something like this:
- Why can’t you just figure this out? Part of the project is to figure it out.
- Sigh. I hate repeating myself.
- Go away.
- Can’t you just figure this out yourself?
- Please go away?
- If I already knew everything about it, I would just do the damn thing myself.
- Now go away.
Obviously, not a good train of thoughts for a manager. I personally don’t like wishing that any of my reports would go away–I try to be more of a help and resource than that. Honestly, my lack of patience with “needy” geeks probably reveals some of my own shortcomings. I tend to lack patience. I tend to under-explain projects. I tend to expect everyone to understand everything I say the first time I say it. So I had to train myself. What works for me is:
- Take a deep breath
- Realize that people need varying levels of resources to complete tasks
- Try to gently suggest to the geek whatever path I want him to take
- Be honest about my expectations–do I expect her to figure it out herself? Tell her that.
- Be more detailed about projects in the future
So what works for you? How do you handle needy geeks?
Image courtesy of Tony Unruh.