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My friend, a non-technical manager, has a software developer employee who was hired 5 months ago and is still on probation (6 months probation). The employee was given a task with estimate for 4 months to complete.

This new employee kept promising everything was going fine, but at the end of the 4 months delivered absolutely nothing. This is not the only issue, their attitude was very poor, they work remotely and sometimes come to office, their communication skills are very poor, written specially. They won't reply to messages for hours. This is only a summary, their technical skills are not of a senior developer as reported by rest of team members.

My friend the manager has spoken to HR team, but they said to give this employee some easy tasks for a month to check if they are able to complete these, hoping they will fail. This needs to be done in a month and this employee needs to be made aware of the warning and where things are going. My friend informally has done this previously with this employee but now HR wants it done again formally.

Now my friend is really confused as she suspects that this employee may behave better for a month but after probation they may turn back to previous dysfunctional state.

So, what's the easiest way to convince HR to sack a dysfunctional software developer?

Edit: One thing I missed to add is that, software development is such a creative job, it's not as easy as giving someone some admin work and then judge them based on that. Also to provide them straight forward tasks and them having completing them would not solve the problem completely as they may act as they had been acting on difficult tasks and my friend would be back with square one with more difficulties than now.

  • Possible duplicate of What can I do to make a coworker's lack of effort more visible? – gnat Feb 26 at 21:04
  • @gnat, not related – Developer Feb 26 at 22:58
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    Six months probation period, and he's given a task estimated at four months? How on earth is there any hope to evaluate the new employee? Missing estimates by a factor of two or three is very common even for very capable and experienced developers. He should have been given much shorter tasks from the beginning, then progressively more complex ones if he does well. – abl Feb 27 at 1:11
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    This sounds like a case of poor management on the part of your friend. Building upon what @abl commented above, it sounds like this particular hire has been set up for failure since the beginning. We need to know how working remotely/in office sometimes is a negative attribute. Nebulous concepts such as "poor attitude" and "communication skills" are hardly concrete enough to form an opinion. Are messages expected to be responded to within a certain time frame? Perhaps they like to focus on tasks and respond later. Everything here points to poor management. – Malisbad Feb 27 at 2:58
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    OP : In the end your friend will be the one to judge if the "small tasks" are done correctly or not. So he can give them to his employee and he'll be the one to decide if he's redeemed himself at the end of the month, not HR. @Peter Paff Because everyone is english, I guess ? – Echox Feb 28 at 16:10
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So, what's the easiest way to convince HR to sack a dysfunctional software developer ?

At this point it may not happen in the desired time span. Her best friend now is documentation.

Document every task, the agreed upon time-line, and the results at the end. With documentation to back her up, it will be much harder for HR to dismiss her claims.

Also, whatever formal process HR wants to do, do it. She will need to play by the HR rules if this new hire is indeed useless.

Note: Based on your question, I assumed your friend cannot fire this employee without HR approval.

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    +1 And this should have been done from the beginning - giving small tasks, getting rapid feedback and correcting poor outcomes. A four month task, relying on promises without examining any actual work is a ludicrous way to bring someone new and unproven into the company. And if going that length of time without checkins is considered acceptable, then the company's problems are much deeper than one substandard employee. – Julia Hayward Feb 26 at 19:57
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    My boss documented the most worthless employee of all time for more than a year before they finally sacked him. I also had an under performer I managed and got this same drill. I documented etc., then we ended up laying him off. It is really a difficult process, but as a manager it is an important skill and you will probably bring it up in every interview you do after this job as one of those difficult situations you had. – Bill Leeper Feb 27 at 23:35
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HR has a set of rules that they have to follow to minimize fallback on the company. They are looking at the possibility of paying unemployment and other factors and how to go about leaving the company with as little risk as possible. This may not happen in the time span you are looking. In the meantime, document, document, document.

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[...] at the end of 4 months delivered absolutely nothing.

See, the actual problem lies with your friend or whoever was that dev's lead / manager.

They should have ( multiple times ) requested deliveries of the progress.

So, what's the easiest way to convince HR to sack a dysfunctional software developer?

I assume there was a delivery deadline set.

The developer missed this, now it's time to invoke the clauses in the contract dealing with this eventuality.

If there are no clauses dealing with "not delivering work results on time and as instructed", there may be things in the probation paragraphs.

In any case, your friend needs to involve her superiors and then it's up to them...

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This is a tricky one, especially for the non-technical manager. Here would be my plan of action.

  1. Find some screen tracking software, there was a StackExchange question just this week about the this and this situation would be ideal. This ensures the employee is working when they say they are.
  2. Have some of the technical people on the team, assuming this is a team of people, 'pair program' with this individual. They could potentially record these sessions. Have the employees doing this keep a journal, and make sure they are forcing the programmer in question to lead, not just follow.
  3. Establish regular deliverables and stick to that plan. Not just the next few months, but all the time. Think agile, they should be completing small incremental tasks every few days. Log the tasks, level of effort identified by the other team members, and how long it took to finish them.
  4. Lastly unless this 'remote' employee is really remote, like another city/country, require that they finish their probation period 'in office'.

Honestly, this is a probationary period, HR shouldn't really care why you are asking to relieve them. Just say they are not working out, it's a probationary period cut them loose. If they balk, push back, it's a probationary period, you don't need a reason, it's just not working out.

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Easiest way to sack a developer who is on probation but isn't performing

A Personal/Performance Improvement Plan is the normal precursor to a firing.

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    Normally, sure. But the employee’s probation period hasn’t ended yet, which usually means the employee can be let go with maybe two week’s notice and no reason needs yo be given. It works the other way as well. – dandan78 Feb 27 at 10:10
  • Yup, that really is the simplest way to do it; just don't extend an offer after the probation period expires. You ought to post that a s an answer (+1) – Mawg Feb 27 at 10:12
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My friend, a non-technical manager, has a software developer employee who was hired 5 months ago and is still on probation (6 months probation). The employee was given a task with an estimate for 4 months to complete.

Your friend should collect all the documentation associated with this task as it will be used to justify their recommendation to fire the employee in question. The last 4 months can be used as a starting point, the manager can use the next 3 weeks, as the final nail in the coffin. Your friend can then use the outcome of the next 3 weeks to justify firing the employee in question. I would hope your friend did document their communication, between the employee and them, over the course of 4 months. 21 days is more than enough time, to determine if the employee will improve, or if they should be simply be let go.

This is not the only issue, their attitude was very poor, they work remotely and sometimes come to the office, their communication skills are very poor, written specially.

Your friend needs to document these issues. Your friend needs to collect every instance of when they documented that this employee's communication was poor. Hopefully, your friend actually did communicate that their (the employee's) communication was poor, to the employee. If your friend did not do that, then they cannot old the lack of communication, against the employee.

Your friend should immediately remove the privilege of working remotely. The employee does not appear like they can handle that responsibility. Your friend should be prepared to take the privilege away from anyone that does not meet a reasonable quantifiable work metric.

They won't reply to messages for hours. This is only a summary, their technical skills are not of a senior developer as reported by rest of team members.

Your friend needs to document every message that was not replied to within a reasonable amount of time. Your friend should be prepared to use the same metric against any of the other team members. Your friend should collect that information, and show that this particular team member doesn't respond for "x amount of time" longer than any other member of your team.

This needs to be done in a month and this employee needs to be made aware of the warning and where things are going. My friend informally has done this previously with this employee but now HR wants it done again formally.

The suggestions I provided can be worked into a performance work plan, that can be easily reviewed, in the amount of time allocated. Your friend should put the employee on notice, that their performance needs to be improved, and provide specific areas that can be addressed. Your friend needs to provide this work plan and tell the employee how much they must improve in each area, or otherwise, the recommendation will be to release the employee.

All of my recommendations can be implemented today (they really needed to be implemented yesterday). The performance plan can be issued today. Informing the employee, what your friend's current recommendation would be today, should also be shared. The entire point of being forthcoming is to document their final recommendation in a month.

One thing I missed to add is that, software development is such a creative job, it's not as easy as giving someone some admin work and then judge them based on that. Also to provide them straight forward tasks and them having completed them would not solve the problem completely as they may act as they had been acting on difficult tasks and my friend would be back with square one with more difficulties than now.

Your friend needs to come up some way to measure the performance of this employee based on their daily tasks. Your friend does this for everyone else on their team, it isn't difficult to measure the performance of somebody in a position like the described employee, it will just take some considerable amount of work and effort on the part of your friend.

So, what's the easiest way to convince HR to sack a dysfunctional software developer?

Your friend needs to find every single instance, they believe is a reasonable and justifiable reason, to fire the employee in question. If this documentation does not exist, your friend will be unable to justify firing the employee in question more than likely.

I would sort of agree with other users, the current situation might easily be solved, by simply NOT offering a permanent job after the probation period ends.

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