I'm a team leader and I have a developer subordinate who is incompetent.
They joined the company about six months ago and have failed in every single task given. At first, I thought it was simply an issue of getting used to our way of working, to adjusting to our domain and tech stack, but over time I discovered the employee didn't grasp even the simplest concepts of software development. They have many years of experience with different companies and it is beyond me how a person with such credentials could be such a bad performer.
Of course, I addressed my observations with them. Over the last five months, we've spoken many times, discussed the problems, suggested ways to improve, and made plans on what tasks to start working on.
My hope was that I either find some type of tasks that they could do okay, or that the developer would improve their skills. Unfortunately, neither happened, and four weeks ago I told the employee I was putting them on a personal improvement plan. I did this with no official paperwork, as the developer was on probation anyway. My company mandates a probation period of six months for all new employees.
Four weeks forward and there's been no change. Actually, it's now even worse - my developer disrespects working hours more often, does not follow instructions and reports almost no work progress at daily stand-up meetings. Looking in retrospect, the number of completed tasks for their whole stay can be counted on my fingers.
Therefore, I made the decision to fire the developer. As a team lead I can't hire or fire people directly, I do this through my boss - so after updating her on the situation, I got her okay, but was also asked for the amount of notice period that should be given. This is where my dilemma is.
According to contract, employees are not owed any notice while they are still on probation. I would be okay with an exception, but for an employee who has actually put in effort in their job. To me and to my team this engineer is worse than useless - in fact work is slower with them on board, because we have to spend time helping them out, getting nothing in return. So if we give out a notice period, this person will just occupy office space, probably using their time to browse job sites. I don't feel we should be losing company money on this.
On the other hand, I feel just kicking them on the street at the beginning of December isn't the right thing and that I'm so keen on firing them mostly because I feel taken advantage of. I feel this person thought I wasn't serious and wouldn't fire them. I don't want to be evil, but I also don't have any tasks I can give the developer during their notice period - there's nothing they can complete in a week or two's time (we are absolutely not giving them a longer notice).
What I ultimately did was prepare a list of what the person had still to finish (not much), and let my manager know my team had no further work for them. I told her no notice period was needed from my standpoint, but deferred the final decision to her.
I'm new at leading teams, and my questions are:
- Does a person have to "deserve" their notice period or should it be always given, simply because this is "the right thing to do" or so you don't burn any bridges?
- How do you get a person to understand you're serious about taking action regarding their poor performance, so they improve (or seek another job they'd be a better fit for) instead of getting fired?
- How do you decide (and at what point) that a person is not good, rather than simply not used to a new job, so you can take action to get them off the team?