Knowlton appeared threatened by Fester's grasp of technical concepts widely used in the project. He appears to be the kind of character that needs a degree of continual ego stroking. He was quite happy to muddle along with the perception that as long as the project produced results, his career and progression in the ranks would be secure. Knowlton had an early opportunity to ring-fence Festers involvement on his project when Dr. Jerrold loosely spoke to him about where Fester would ultimately land. At that time he did not raise any concerns.
Fester quickly struck up an alliance not only with Jerrold, but with Link, the project mathematician, who he saw as something of a kindred spirit and someone he could share ideas and solutions with on the basis of mutual background and skill. At the same time he dismissed the rest of the project team as being almost inconsequential.
Knowlton became distracted by whatever activities Fester undertook, however unassuming they may have been. Knowlton's leadership style was by choice a participative one, which is not something that necessarily suits a weak leader especially when a new, strong personality enters the team. Fester on the other hand was probably even less of a leader and certainly had no apparent underhand ideals of taking over the team.