I have a colleague (lets call him Harry) who is constantly either forgetting do work, or only half doing it. I work in an IT shop that is currently still practicing the waterfall method of development.

Harry always reports that his work is on target, but when the time come to move the code into production, it is either not started or half done. This has left a lot of our team unhappy with Harry, because we are the ones that are assigned to clean up the mess. I spent many overtime hours cleaning up the last mess because the team leader didn't trust Harry to do the solution. It is getting the point where Harry will probably be disciplined. I think Harry could do the work if he cared enough to try. Harry tends to refuse any help offered and gets flustered when micro-managed. When he isn't micro-managed and left to do the work, it doesn't get done.

I am in not way managing Harry, I am just a co-worker who would rather see this end well for him. Short of doing his work for him, is there anything I can do? Or is this a case of sink or swim for Harry?

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  • I work in IT, people like Harry usually get's canned and not pass the probation period. I am not sure why your management hasn't done anything to let him go and get a new replacement. How long has this been going on? Anything special about Harry that can't be replaced?
    – Isaiah3015
    Nov 1, 2017 at 17:54
  • @Isaiah3015 My shop has a very bad track record of keeping people they probably shouldn't have. By the time they full realize the extent of the damage, the person has finished probation and because we are unionized, canning someone is a longer process than it probably should be. The management team usually just doesn't want to put in the effort required to can someone. This person has been here longer than me (I've been here 5 years) and there is nothing special about them or what they do. Nov 1, 2017 at 17:59
  • You already mentioned him having a tendency to refuse any help offered. So are you trying to help him underhandedly? Because the options are for him to agree to receive help, you to help him without him knowing or you to not help him. Nov 1, 2017 at 18:01
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    Related Possible Duplicate: workplace.stackexchange.com/q/64267/16 Nov 1, 2017 at 18:03

3 Answers 3


I work in IT as well, and there will always be the occasional task that, at the eleventh hour, turns out to be far more time-consuming than anticipated. No matter how late in the process this is, Harry should know that these moments need to be brought to the attention of everyone affected as soon as possible. Honesty is always the best policy.

As his co-worker, you should encourage Harry to be more honest about his deadlines. He can explain if it is due to his inexperience with a certain part of the system, or some unforeseen complications. Emphasise (if you need to) that he won't be in trouble if he asks for help. You and your colleagues will surely see right away if his justifications are genuine or if he is simply being lazy.

Do you have to log your time spent working on tasks, bugs etc. anywhere? Colleagues can usually see each other's tasks and progress on these and it would surely stand out if Harry is falling behind or not logging his time properly. If he has logged 10 hours against a task with a 2-hour estimate, you can approach him as the more experienced colleague and offer help. This can be done in a friendly way, as knowledge-sharing is always encouraged in IT, lest a single employee becomes the only one that can fix a critical system! Here in the UK, in the places I've worked, it becomes part of the work culture. It may sound harsh but if he is outright lying when delivering estimates, it should be important to work out if he is being a bad apple or genuinely trying and struggling. From that point on, there is little you can do for him unless he shows a willingness to improve or change his attitude.

In short; determine first if he is struggling, nervous or lazy. Decide if he is worth helping and if not, let your manager (eventually) let him go.

  • from what I can tell, its just plain lazy or lack of motivation. He's a last guy to arrive first to leave type of guy. There have been times he has had to clean up his own mess and was able to, it just after he already moved his code to production. Nov 1, 2017 at 17:51

I think Harry could do the work if he cared enough to try.

Short of doing his work for him, is there anything I can do? Or is this a case of sink or swim for Harry?

There's probably nothing you can do for someone who can't be bothered to try.

If Harry doesn't realize that he is close to being disciplined, you might clue him in on that. Otherwise, you have to let him choose his own path. Maybe the discipline will be a wake up call.

My personal philosophy - I have always helped folks on my team and my coworkers any way I could - right up until the point where I could tell they weren't trying. Then, they are on their own.


This is something for management to handle. You say he doesn't like being micromanaged. Tough, he has made micromanagement necessary. Your manager should expect daily commits from him and should code review then to see if he is making progress. If someone lies about meeting a deadline and never brings up that they are not making progress, then they cannot be trusted until they show by their actions that they are doing well. We had to do this with someone who was working remotely (as well as revoking the right to work remotely) and as soon as this person knew how closely she was being watched, she straightened up and did her job and we were able to ease off after a couple of weeks.

As a peer, you can do nothing about this except discuss the lack of progress with the manager and help him or her devise a game plan. Most likely this person will be fired from what you describe. Be prepared to pick up his part of the work. You can suggest that he be assigned to less critical tasks, you can suggest that he be given a deadline a couple of days before the real one so that someone can pick up the work if he fails again. You can plan to be done early knowing you will have to pick up his part of the work. But only management can take effective action when a person is under-performing.

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