Don't take duplication of your brilliance for granted

No question about it. Engineering Project Supervisor Fred Bailik's savvy was second-to-none in the plant engineering department. And that was exactly the problem.


No question about it. Engineering Project Supervisor Fred Bailik's savvy was second-to-none in the plant engineering department. And that was exactly the problem.

Chief Engineer Milton Fore brought it to Plant Engineer Henry Lowe's attention one day. The evidence was summed up in an Employee Turnover Report distributed by Personnel.

"Take a look at this, Henry," Fore suggested.

The report listed employee resignations and terminations over a 3-yr period, broken down by department, section, and supervisor.

Lowe frowned. He gazed up at Fore. "Bailik?"

Fore nodded. What disturbed the Chief was clear. The number of quits of good people in Bailik's group were at least double those from any other group in the engineering department.

"What do you think?" Fore asked.

"This can't be ignored. Thanks for bringing it to my attention."

The situation called for a bit of investigation, Lowe decided. He selected five of the qualified professionals who had resigned from Bailik's group and picked up the telephone. By the second call, he had an idea of what Bailik's problem might be. By the fifth, he was convinced.

Question: Can you make a guess regarding Lowe's subsequent action?

Lowe's resolution: Lowe summoned Bailik to his office, offered him coffee, and made the visit as casual as possible.

"What's up?" Bailik asked.

"Small problem, which I think you can easily solve."

He showed Bailik the Turnover Report. It was the project leader's turn to frown. "What do you have in mind?"

Lowe smiled. "Nothing drastic. I think the excessive quits you've been experiencing might be nothing more than a case of a bright executive being too smart for his own good."

He told him about the phone calls he had made.

"The response followed a similar line. Dissatisfaction attributed to what I might categorize as communications gaps. First, I know how busy you are. Second, busy people often lose patience with things that take time. Third, bright people sometimes take it for granted that associates possess the same knowledge and understanding they do. Crediting a subordinate with similar savvy and smarts may be a compliment, but it can also be frustrating. In my opinion, it might make sense for you to slow down a bit in training people, giving assignments, and getting feedback to make sure the other guy is on the same wavelength."

Bailik's high brow was furrowed.

Lowe grinned. "It's not all that serious, Fred. But please give it some thought."

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