Too much can be indistinguishable from arrogance, too little and you are pegged as needing hand-holding. A good engineer needs to find a balance that matches the needs of the company–or more important, the supervisor–while keeping within his ability.
I’ve seen both extremes fail miserably and in most cases they never understood what they were doing wrong. The know-it-all seems to know everything except his job and the fact that he doesn’t know what he’s doing. He certainly doesn’t know that he’s alienating those more seasoned engineers around him who really do know what they’re doing.
The engineer lacking initiative comes off as needing constant supervision and pushing to get anything done. And he does need those things. So the burden is put on the supervisor or the senior engineer to get any solid product out of the timid engineer.
Though much of both sorts comes from personality, both can improve and move to some middle ground where there is enough initiative to get stuff done but not so much that they go off half-cocked. Unfortunately both entail close supervision with appropriate corrections. The real trick is to couch those corrections in a way that encourages rather than initiates their defenses.
So… If anybody knows how to pull off this trick, drop us a comment. Cuz I don’t seem to be having much luck.