A new recruit recently joined my team – an MBA graduate fresh out of London Business School. To the annoyance of all other team members, he is living up to the MBA acronym, Mighty Big Attitude. I am all for supporting up-and-coming leaders, but not to the detriment of others. He assumes he is on a fast track to senior management, name-drops his MBA theories, and is reluctant to do tasks he considers beneath him. How should I approach him about his manner in the work environment? I have no doubt he is a skilled worker but his cocksure demeanour and lack of team awareness must surely be addressed?
Manager, male, 51
There are few sights quite as ugly to someone with your length of experience as a jargon-talking young whippersnapper who thinks he is destined for the top.
Alas, one of the reasons the sight is so horrible is that the whippersnapper is likely to be right – I fear this one may advance far faster and further than you ever have. He talks the language, he has the ambition and people like him have a sickening way of doing really well.
I am assuming that you didn’t hire him yourself? If you did you are very silly: obnoxiousness is one of the few things that show up clearly at interview. It sounds as if you had him thrust upon you by someone senior, who saw promise, rather than a cocksure idiot jabbering about strategic initiatives.
In this case there is no point in wasting your time trying to coach him. He isn’t going to listen to you, as you are on the wrong side of the culture gap. You think he is pushy; I bet he thinks you are a has-been and a failure.
As his line manager it is simply your job to ensure that he does what he is supposed to do, whether he thinks it beneath him or not. If he refuses you have every right to come down on him very hard.
Either way I don’t think this situation will last long. Probably he will get promoted on to someone else’s team and you won’t have to think about him any more.
If he doesn’t, there is a good chance he’ll quit. It is encouraging that everyone else on your team dislikes him. Unless he is really thick-skinned, he may find that being ostracised in a job that he thinks is below him is not really a compelling value proposition.
With any luck he will take his awful jargon to a management consultancy, where both his words and his attitude would fit in nicely.