I recently came across an interesting story on the web highlighting some of the common challenges teams face when bringing on new senior developers.
In this case, a senior dev joined the team and immediately started refactoring vast sections of the codebase with every commit. While the team was initially impressed with the developer’s skills, they soon found that the overly abstracted and fragmented code was nearly impossible to review efficiently.
Despite the tech lead’s feedback, the developer continued submitting pull requests that touched dozens of files and introduced layers of abstraction that the team saw as unnecessary. This coding style, while perhaps technically sound, was misaligned with the team’s standards and preferences.
I’ve seen firsthand how crucial it is to align on coding conventions and collaboration methods ss someone who has managed many developers over the years. Especially when integrating a new senior team member. Their experience and expertise can be a boon, but only if properly channeled.
Common Problems Managing Senior Engineers
Managing senior engineers can be tricky. They’ve got excellent tech skills but sometimes act in ways that hurt team unity. I tried to shed some light on common problems I’ve seen.
We can guide senior engineers to become better leaders, not just solo coders, with care and patience. Turning these challenges into growth opportunities helps the whole company.
Experienced developers tend to build complex, over-engineered systems. They abstract simple features into layers of interfaces, which is generally fantastic but often needs to be more balanced from a project planning perspective. It’s important to stay agile and simple whenever possible.
Explain the mindset of starting basic and evolving the architecture gradually, beginning with straightforward solutions and refactoring over time if needed.
Another problem is making significant unilateral changes ignoring feedback to simplify. This top-down style hurts team cohesion. Other team members feel disrespected when their opinions are dismissed.
No matter who the most experienced person is, consensus is required for major changes. Any leader should avoid dictating standards. Instead, we should evolve coding practices together. With more code reviews, you can enable collaboration and reach alignment.
Not mentoring others
Sometimes, senior developers prefer to work alone, rarely collaborating or letting others contribute to complex tasks. Executing flawlessly is one thing, but you have to explain your work and train more junior teammates. Failing to do so is a missed opportunity to level up others and share expertise.
Mentoring should be part of onboarding new team members, and this contribution should be recognized. The CTO should demonstrate teaching through his actions to help the team fully leverage the skills of expert developers.
Resisting standard tools
It’s common for experts to insist on niche tools they are used to rather than the standard frameworks the rest of the team is familiar with. It’s easy to stay comfortable with the tools that are obscure to others, but this specialized knowledge does not transfer magically, which will cause issues down the line.
Adhering to the stacks and libraries that are common for the team avoids duplication and leverages existing skills gained over the years. You can adopt new tools strategically when they fill the gaps, but it shouldn’t be done on a whim just for personal preference. Focusing on the team’s productivity over preferences helps a lot here.
Experts have a lot of confidence about how the work should be done. Sometimes, they feel that ignoring code reviews, CI/CD, ticketing, or time-tracking processes is an unnecessary bureaucratic overhead. But bypassing these processes undermines transparency and breaks planning. When management has poor project visibility, nothing good can happen.
Most workflows can and should be improved, but bypassing them randomly damages team integrity. The processes should be evolved collaboratively while adhering to them first. Senior team members should lead by example on process compliance instead of sabotaging it.
Bridging the Divide
We’ve all been there — the thrill of bringing an experienced new hire onto the team, expecting great things. Their resume is stellar, and their expertise is obvious. Finally, the rock star developer we needed!
Yet, slowly, frustrations creep in. Coding habits misalign with team norms. Excess abstraction muddles simple logic. Feedback falls on deaf ears. Where’s the collaborative spirit?
It’s easy to resent the brilliant but stubborn coders. But it’s not very productive. Understanding and patience can help transform them into mentors and guides. Their skills are invaluable if channeled constructively.
In situations like these, gentle but candid conversations are key. The CTO should explain how the developer’s approach, while impressive in its own right, is harming the team’s agility and velocity. Adhering to existing standards, at least initially, shows respect for the team’s norms.
Of course, there may also be room for the team to evolve and incorporate some of the developer’s ideas over time. But this requires collaboration and consensus from the whole team, not a revolution. Unilateral decisions, even by senior members, undermine the whole team’s work.
Originally published on Medium.com