Smartest kid on the block? You may need patience

Is there such a thing as being too intelligent? In some cases, perhaps. Engineering Project Supervisor Ken Graham had an IQ of 159, if not genius category, he was certainly exceptionally bright.
By Raymond Dreyfack September 1, 1998

Is there such a thing as being too intelligent? In some cases, perhaps.

Engineering Project Supervisor Ken Graham had an IQ of 159, if not genius category, he was certainly exceptionally bright. But according to some of his subordinates, if separate IQs could be established based on human relations alone, Graham’s would be under 100.

Graham’s technical knowledge was second to none in the plant engineering department. Ambitious and goal oriented, he had little tolerance for people who wasted his — or their own — valuable time.

Chief Engineer Bob Kreissman had mixed feelings about Graham. On the one hand, he admired and respected his engineering expertise and conscientious effort to get the job done right. On the other, Graham’s people-related shortcomings disturbed him. Especially bothersome was the high turnover rate in his group.

In response to this concern, Kreissman conducted a few post-exit interviews with engineers assigned to Graham who had resigned. Though most were reluctant to criticize their former supervisor, a clear pattern emerged. Graham was characterized as snappish and petulant, overly critical, and a man his people had trouble communicating with.

What to do about it? Kreissman wisely decided to seek his boss’ advice.

Question : Were this problem dumped in your lap, how would you handle it?

Plant engineer’s decision: Plant Engineer Roy Walkman listened thoughtfully to Kreissman’s concern. “The situation isn’t unusual,” he replied. “Extremely bright people like Graham often have difficulty adjusting their level of comprehension to that of associates and subordinates. What takes Ken seconds to grasp may require minutes or longer for others. A subordinate might need to have the details spelled out for him whereas Ken could understand in a glance.

“A byproduct of this is the bright person’s frustration triggered by this comprehension differential. Especially in the case of a goal-driven professional like Ken. He perceives a subordinate’s failure to see something he regards as clear and obvious as a goal deterrent and waste of time. Goal-driven people become irritable and overly critical when they perceive goals as being delayed or defeated. Send Ken to my office. All he may need is a heart-to-heart talk on the subject. A guy as bright and willing as Ken shouldn’t have much difficulty catching on to the realities of the situation.”