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I work at a small company and am part of the internal development team (10 of us). Our team structure is as follows:

  • 1 manager
  • 2 testers (1 remote, 1 office based)
  • 6 developers
  • 1 product owner

A tester recently joined our test team after a promotion from another team within the company, which was previously an office-based role. Last year they recently came back from maternity leave to start a family and have her first child, after also moving 4 hours away from our office when she started working remotely.

In the morning, we hold a meeting over Skype where you can hear the child in the background of the call nearly every day. The employee does not seem engaged with the call, and misses key cues. My moral dilemma here, is that essentially I do not believe that the new tester is pulling their weight in this new role, for whatever reason, and that after 8 months of being here, a lot more progress and engagement should have been made than it has. It is a difficult situation to be in as this employee was very good in her previous role, and has been with the company many years, and has a good reputation.

Do I have any right, or would it be any of my business, to mention something about this to my manager?

  • Hi Lacey, welcome to the Workplace! I edited your post slightly to remove a question that is off-topic here. Asking "what are your thoughts" invites a lot of opinion and discussion, and we are really about specific questions and answers. If you want to make any more changes, you are welcome to edit the question yourself. I also encourage you to check out our tour and help center. Good luck! – David K Nov 16 '18 at 14:16
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Performance is a subject for an employee and their manager. On the one hand, you want your team to succeed. On the other hand, this person's home life, and their performance (and how participation in team activities may or may not affect their employment), is essentially none of your business.

Focus on your own work, and when obstacles arise with your work, communicate about them with your manager. Let the manager focus on issues with other employees. There may be extenuating circumstances. This person may have other duties you're not aware of. There may already be a performance improvement plan underway with the other employee. Your perception of them being distracted may reflect that they're working on other tasks and may have nothing to do with the child.

In other words, there's a difference between,

Hey boss, isn't it bad that Sally's kid is crying in the background all the time?

and,

Hey boss, we are struggling to meet this deliverable because there isn't enough bandwidth on the testing team.

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do I have any right, or would it be any of my business, to mention something about this to my manager?

If it's affecting work you should mention it from the angle of timeframes, not the child. Quite a few people become much less efficient when left to their own environment and schedule, not just parents. Not everyone slips into remote work easily.

Your colleague does have a perfectly understandable reason and should be given some leeway on purely moral grounds. But the work does need to be done, so if it's holding things up it needs to be factored in.

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    Indeed - and regarding the stand ups, it's perfectly fine to ask one party to mute their call while they're not actively talking if there's a lot of noise from their side, we do that all the time even with inter-office calls where the other office is particularly noisy, and nobody ever minds. – delinear Nov 16 '18 at 17:07
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You're in a small company, so boundaries between roles are usually more relaxed and informal, and it's tempting to act as an impromptu boss and try to judge and solve this kind of issues by yourself. However, I strongly advise you to not do so.

You should first consider the following:

  • Is your own work performance being impacted by this person?
  • Is she reporting or answering to you in any way?
  • Does the fact that you can hear the child in the background, or that this employee seems a bit unresponsive impacts how well you can understand and participate in meetings?

From what I understand reading your question, all those answers are no. This means you shouldn't bother, and raising the point to your manager might very well work out badly (or more probably not work at all).

If this person is an issue to your own tasks, then report those exact issues to your manager, and let him decide what to do.

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essentially I do not believe that the new tester is pulling their weight in this new role,

Do I have any right, or would it be any of my business, to mention something about this to my manager?

Unless you are the tester's manager, then it is none of your business.

It's up to the tester's manager to deal with the effectiveness of this tester, it's not up to you. And you seem to imply that the manager doesn't notice how much work this tester is doing. You are almost certainly incorrect about that.

You do your work. Let the tester and the manager do their work.

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Let's collect the facts:

  • The Project is not happy with her perfomance
  • There is a impression that she abuses the 'remote working' part of her job
  • It is believed that she can actually a valuable employee
  • There are very practical problems which are the most obvious aspect

I would say:

  • Try to address the practical problems (child crying etc) with her constructively (is the call outside the time when her babysitter arrives? Then potentially shifting the call by 30 minutes could already help)
  • Try to explain to her what is expected (e.g. explain that the alignmen calls are important)
  • Talk to your manager to talk to her manager and suggest solutions e.g. that if she can not handle child + job at the same time, she could get a babysitter for some time during the day. Also part-time work could resolve the problem
  • If situation doesn't improve in a shot time, remove her from the project
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If the product fails you'll all have no job.

That includes you and the new Mom.

Software is as brutal as it gets.

Your simple course of action here is to be specific.

Don't whine in general or philosophical terms about Jane's new baby.

Next time you're on a call and it happens simply state "we can't have background noise while we're working".

Any remote worker knows it's incredibly important to be doubly, triply, quadruply focussed when on calls, since that's the price you pay for the benefits thereof.

In the last say 3 yrs I can think of four folks we had to let go because they couldn't stay focussed in calls. Dogs barking, have to "help the kids for a minute!", "I have to let Courier in!" (Why? who cares about some courier? You're working.) etc etc.

"Do I have any right, or would it be any of my business, to mention something about this to my manager?"

While the call was ongoing you should have just simply stated "We can't have any background noise, at all, during this."

There's no "issue" - could it be you're sort of looking for "an issue"?

Say I came on here and said "Well hell, Biff was really distracted and there was a lot of noise on the call..." What would you say?

Right, you'd just say tell him to cut the noise.

Simple!

Just do it in the phone call when it comes up, not some issue later.

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    Defining how the conference call should be held is the manager's responsibility, not the OPs. The OP should not let this become a personal dispute. If the OP is having trouble hearing, it would be reasonable to ask for less noise on the call, but that is a case of "I am having problems with the noise right now," not "the noise needs to go". – David Thornley Nov 16 '18 at 16:13
  • Sure, that's a great way to phrase it. – Fattie Nov 17 '18 at 3:19

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