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I’m a developer at a small startup. There is a performance review coming up for everybody. We are asked to prepare according to a list with the usual items (what are my goals etc) but also ”do you have any concerns” and other feedback.

My main concern is a new employee (lets call this person Kim) who is still on the probationary period, but in a couple months may or may not be hired permanently. Kim has solid technical skills, but is not a team player. Kim has very strict ideas about design, frameworks and implementation, and argues loudly and incessantly until either everyone gives up or the CTO orders Kim to do it ”our” way. When the latter happens Kim interrupts meetings with arguments or statements about her dissatisfaction and brings this negativity into other contexts (workshops, brainstorming etc) effectively blocking the others from doing creative work, and causing general demoralization.

The management has so far seemed unable to deal with this behaviour. I suspect the reason is that sometimes Kim decides to deliver, and then things get done quickly and efficiently. Maybe they hope Kim will improve socially over time.

Problem is that I don’t see a sustainable way forward, unless Kim is is either insulated so the negativism doesn’t impact the rest of the team, or that Kim is let go when probation ends.

Is it a good idea to raise this as a concern during the review, since they are asking for feedback? Should I raise this concern at another time? Or is it a bad idea to discuss such concerns at all?

Edit: I have 20 years prior experience as an entrepreneur, including managing subcontractors and other freelancers in small teams. For work/life balance reasons, I joined this company as an employee in a technical non-managerial role. It's a small company with relatively flat structure, one of the cofounders is handling the performance reviews. In my previous life I would have dealt with this person swiftly, but this is not my responsibility in the current role.

  • What is your position and level of authority in the company in general and specifically as compared to the management handling these reviews and Kim's manager? What is your general experience level? 0-2 years? 2-5? 5+? Do you have management experience? – Lilienthal Jan 31 '18 at 21:28
  • I have 20 years experience as an entrepreneur, also with managing subcontractors and the like. This time however I joined the startup as an employee with a technical non-managerial role. It’s a small company with relatively flat structure. One of the founders is handling the reviews. – frankhond Jan 31 '18 at 21:37
  • Do you have a good rapport with anyone in the management chain that you could raise your concerns with? Have you discussed ambitions towards moving into a management position at the time you were hired? There's a risk that raising this when you're not in the management chain could make people think you weren't honest at the time you were hired if you said something like "management isn't for me and I'm happy to take a step down" at the time. By the way, you're encouraged on this site to edit info you give in comments into the question itself. – Lilienthal Jan 31 '18 at 21:40
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If one toxic employee is added to a team, the end result may very well be that LESS work is done even though the team is one "stronger". If the new hire is toxic enough, everything can go down in flames. There is a risk/reward calculation to do. But you know that already.

I have 20 years experience as an entrepreneur, also with managing subcontractors and the like.

Perhaps you have more management experience than your own boss, but you are not "the" boss... this can be one of these "learn to relax" scenarios, or it could be one of those "you saw it coming" scenarios...

Kim argues loudly and incessantly until either everyone gives up or the CTO orders Kim to do it ”our” way.

The rest of your post sounds like you want to give Kim a chance, but your loyalties do not lie with her, rather you should be loyal to your colleagues if the team works well, and to the company if it treats you well. I suggest you ask your colleagues what they think about Kim. If you have trouble making a choice, their answers may help. You might be surprised to find out that everyone hates her. If this is the case, then I should point out that hiring someone who is hated by the rest of the team is a Bad Decision.

You took the time to write this question, and voice your doubts about Kim. Do your colleagues have the same doubts? If you did not ask them, then you don't know. Maybe they all agree with you and want her gone. If this is the case and she is hired anyway, expect lots of resentment.

Last time I did such opinion polling in similar circumstances the colleagues were unanimous and their opinion sounded very much like "kill it with fire"... it made the firing decision a lot easier!

Also if Kim gets her way by using what are basically bitching tactics, this gives a terrible message to the staff. They will all think "if she gets her way like this, why shouldn't I?" and next thing you know, the whole staff will behave like her.

So, to answer your question: talk about it with your colleagues, and ensure everyone raises the issue and gets the toxic candidate fired.

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I'd absolutely bring this up. You sound as if you're at the point of "it's either them or me". Management needs to hear your input on this, and if they are unwilling to do something about it, I think your only recourse is to look for a new job. If you are uncomfortable having this type of discussion, maybe you should put it on paper first and hand deliver your thoughts to your manager. Coming from someone that has had to speak the truth about a co-worker like this, it's not that bad once you get it out. I've always had good results from telling my company the concerns I have, you may not get exactly what you want, but your manager may be able to provide a different way to look at the situation. Whatever you do, don't start to bad mouth Kim in open-air or talking behind her back, this will more than likely backfire and come back negatively on you. Keep these talks directly between you and your manager, and let your manager bring in others into the conversation as needed.

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