What do you do with needy geeks?

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.