How Not To Do Your Job; Losing Faith In A Team Member

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Posted by Brian Borg

Our PM likes to delegate. Too much in fact. There's 8 of us on the team and each have been the recipient of his delegation generosity, to the point where we wonder what he actually does. To his credit he does do some work on occasion, and does take some of the load of the dev cycle off the shoulders of those that are producing heavily day in and out, but the fact is, we've lost faith in a team member and I don't believe there's any way out except one.

Losing trust in someone is an interesting experience. There's resentment and anger, and the feeling of being betrayed. I suppose if one were in an intimate relationship with that person there would be much deeper feelings of hurt. But in a professional relationship there's simply the (usually unspoken) attitude of "why can't you pull your act together??" along with a desire to shake them and wake them up. We pay you to complete a job, one that you have promised to complete and do well, and you are not fulfilling it...please stop wasting our time and either get with it or get out. But then that's the problem - what's the best way to handle someone that isn't fulfilling their prescribed duties?

One previous supervisor of mine had the 'ignore it and it will go away' leadership. He was right too - the problem will go away...eventually. It's the time difference between recognizing that deadweight must go and the time it actually happens that is the real catch - time, money, and patience are spent by everyone on the team putting up a façade until the person finally packs up their desk and leaves.

I prefer the direct approach - tell them honestly and directly. Perhaps it's my faith in humanity that we can each take direct criticism in the face, accept when we've made mistakes, and learn from them as we move on. It may be considered idealistic, but it does uncover any elephants in the room directly and without question...and if the person denies, misdirects, or gets defensive, then it's yet another opportunity to examine whether I as the manager am speaking the truth clearly in that moment and stay strong in my position, or shift as necessary. Readily acknowledge where the person has contributed, but also don't soften the reality of their lack of usefulness to the overall needs of the project.

The bottom line: deadweight must go. There's enough time and frustration spent in team members picking up the slack when someone is not doing their job. We're currently in the middle of the biggest release of the year and there's zero interest on anyone's part to take on more work then the pile that's already in front of us. But I can tell you this - each one of us would much rather take on a portion of our PM's responsibilities and see him out the door now, then pretend that he's actually a useful member on this project.

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