I really hate to judge people, but the new sysadmin that was hired by the company that I work is really bad at work. When my boss hired him, he already knew that this new guy didn't know too much about AWS. His first task was really simple, which is he just needs to read the documentation about the AWS and learn how it works. When he received his first real task that was to config a server to send email, he spent 2 days in this task and couldn't get it complete.

After that, he was assigned to map all resources from our AWS account. But, instead of asking the people of the company who was responsible for each instance, he just starts to shut down instances! This was tremendously irresponsible.

And again, when he received a job to set up an EC2 instance and integrate with an RDS resource he spent 2 days again and couldn't get the work done until 3 developers help him with the task.

As I said, I didn't want to judge him, but, in my humble opinion, there is no condition that our company could stand with this sysadmin. How I could say this to my boss?

  • 2
    If his mishaps are as visible as you say (shutting down running instances? really?) then this should take care of itself eventually. Just let him do his thing, sit back, and enjoy the show. That said, it would be irresponsible to not offer him support if you have the knowledge and time to do so.
    – rath
    Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 14:27
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    @rath sit back and enjoy the show? There's nothing honorable in taking pleasure in someone else's misfortune. This person appears to be unqualified for this position, but I personally would take no pleasure in being witness to it.
    – joeqwerty
    Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 14:29
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    I would question why any of that is the role of a sysadmin in the first place. When dealing with AWS it really should be up to the developers of the system to handle all of that with the admin just monitoring to ensure compliance or dealing with security/role changes as needed.
    – Joe W
    Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 17:17
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    " just read the documentation about the AWS and learn how it works"... have you ever actually looked at the AWS documentation? I'm a very experienced dev and I had to do some "simple" work with AWS, and the documentation is a maze. Nothing with AWS is "simple".
    – DaveG
    Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 13:39
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    @EJoshuaS that's a terrible attitude. If you notice something wrong at work you have a moral obligation to speak up. I'd never hire someone for my team who clearly isn't thinking about the big picture and doesn't care about the organization.
    – ChatGPT
    Commented Mar 26, 2019 at 4:04

7 Answers 7


For a new hire being assigned to work with an unknown technology, I think that you - that is your company, your boss and you as well - are overestimating what can reasonably be expected to be picked up by a new hire in a very short time, and that you should have helped him more.

If "he should have asked" then "he probably didn't ask because it clearly was expected of him to figure things out on his own".

If you like him personally, I would suggest you in a one-on-one ask him how you can help him getting a better grasp of these things instead of just letting him dig his hole deeper.


These are very visible failures. There is no way your managers are not seeing them. Let them assess the situation and make the decision. They are very unlikely to appreciate you explaining the obvious or interjecting your own interpretations and assessments. There is also the possibility that the hiring manager saw something of potential in this under-qualified sysadmin. That's their prerogative.

Your job in this situation is:

  • Survive. Don't let these failures bring you down.
  • Assist. Show you can be useful helping this new worker get up to speed.

That's it. Leave the managing to the managers.


You need to view this entirely through the lens of your own work

  1. If it doesn't impact your work at all, leave it alone.
  2. If it DOES impact your work, approach the guy directly, describe to him exactly (and factually) what happened and what the impact was. Don't blame, don't judge, don't complain, but state clearly what needs to happen in the future so that you can do your work. Offer to help if that's reasonable and applicable.
  3. If that doesn't work, approach your own manager. "hey, boss I'm falling behind on project XYZ since our AWS instance was down for two days last week. I really need this up and running, can you you help make this happen?" Again, don't judge, don't blame, don't complain, just stick with what's blocking you and that you need help getting the block removed. That's a manager's job!

This is fairly prescriptive approach, but there is a lot of reasoning behind it.

  1. It's not your job to assess and deal with performance issues. In order to do this, you need to have full visibility to all what's happening, which you typically don't have, so your conclusions are likely to be wrong or incomplete. That's a manager's job. There is nothing wrong with helping out and supporting, but too many people trying to do the same job gets messy really quickly.
  2. I don't think the "radical candor" approach applies here. I have seen Kim Scott speaking and this approach is primarily designed as a management tool and it's less useful in peer to peer interactions.
  3. Focusing on the actual (measurable) effects on your work, takes the whole emotional & blaming aspect out of the discussion. It also allows to define and track and "objective" metric on whether things are improving or not.
  4. You give management the tools and information that they need to deal with the problem (which they have to) but keep your own involvement to a minimum, focusing only the data-based constructive part of it.

As a quite fresh sysadmin, I feel like I have to say my 2 cents. It might be possible your company is asking him too much regarding his experience/knowledge. Is he new in the field? Does he have a mentor?

I've been in situation where I know I have taken much more time than a "regular" sysadmin because I was learning. I might have done mistakes , but I had people I could talk to about it. Share my doubts, ask advises.

If that person just got in that job with barely no explanation, then I would understand her first couple of months are going roughly. Assist them. Bringing them down won't help you :)

PS: if that person has 25 years experience, then that might not be the reason. No matter what, don't be the guy who is like "buh boss he's reaaaally bad".


One point I want to stick on in this:

he already knew that this new guy didn't know too much about AWS

This is important, in my view. Very broadly speaking, if you hire someone where it is up front clear that they're not comfortable with what they're doing then you're going to have growing pains.

Is that to say everything going on is purely because he's not familiar with the tech? I'm not sure. But what is clear, is it seems that someone has been hired to do a job that they aren't prepared for or maybe not qualified to do? But they might have some tangential skill that links to the job?

So pile on these variables: New tech, new people, new company, new polices, new environment, new processes, new clients, new deadlines.

It makes sense to me why tasks cannot be delivered on time. the System Administrator is learning as he goes.

SIDE NOTE, JUST OPINION: ... and in some ways we can't judge that too hard. Companies work with the resources they have available to them. Sometimes it means hiring someone who is willing to do the job rather than not hiring.

It's not ideal, but all I can say is there will be growing pains.


Is this admin compromising any defined expectations for environment availability. Is there any estimate for the work being done that is not accounted for in a daily standup for the team? Transparency is the key to exposing dysfunction. If dysfunction isn't made clear in every meeting, work toward making it so. How do you know the work done is poor? Work to make expectations transparent, for everyone in general, serious dysfunction should become glaring and indefensible. Tattling is bad, enhancing transparency is always the answer.


If you see someone doing something wrong at the workplace, you have a moral obligation to speak up. If you were the new hire and you were doing things wrong, would you prefer if people kept quiet to your face and (cowardly) told your boss instead? Or would you prefer if people gave you the capacity building feedback that helps ensure your success?

You don’t have to be a manager to tell someone, “you shouldn’t have done A because of X, Y, and Z” or “that isn’t how we work around here, next time do xxx”. How in the world is letting these things fester for days or week any better for anyone than telling him what he's doing wrong?

  • Fix problems while they are small.
  • Take ownership of problems.
  • Have the courage to speak honestly with candor.

These are the values of a great workplace.

What's stopping you from taking this guy to lunch and telling him everything you're thinking about his performance? That would be a start. Your duty isn't to keep your head down and "survive"; it's to build a great company. If people are hurting your organization you should stand up and stay something. So first, take him aside and compassionately let him everything that's on your mind about this performance. He needs to hear it. Tell him the way he's going about things isn't how we work around here. Give him plenty of time to respond.

By not speaking up, you're making things worse than they need to be. Be humble. Be helpful. Do it immediately. Do it in person.

You may be surprised at how effective straight talk can be in improving relationships and solving problems when it comes from the right place.

The "new hire" is portrayed as a bozo, so I think people's natural reaction is to suppress empathy and compassion for him. But what if that bozo was you, your wife or brother, or a good friend? Maybe the guy got hired because there wasn't enough budget for a more senior person, but the manager thought with a bit more time and help from the team he should gain competency. Why deny him that opportunity?

How I could say this to my boss?

What's so hard about just saying it? If things don't improve by all means talk to your boss or his boss or whoever else on your team needs to know. I don't understand these people who say, "leave the managing to the managers". At my organization, anyone can weigh in on anything--regardless of their role. The worst thing you can do is not say anything and to just allow the company to waste more time and more money because someone failed to hire a star for this role. You don't need "hard" power to influence people. You have more power over this situation than you realize. Use you influencing power to step up and do the right thing. If you were the owner of this organization, how would you want the team to behave in this situation?

resources: See Kim Scott's book, "Radical Candor", or just watch her talk here.

  • reason for downvote appreciated! Let's discuss it.
    – ChatGPT
    Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 17:28
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    I think what you have suggested in the first paragraph would work at all. The only person who should so that is the admin's manager.
    – Simon B
    Commented Mar 23, 2019 at 20:33
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    Hi @SimonB If I was your manager and you brought this issue to me, I'd probably start by saying: "if he's doing things wrong, tell him, not me. I don't know how to config an email server or the best way to map AWS resources. If you think he's doing things in a bad way, please discuss it with him so that he gains the capacity building context which he needs to be successful. Be a team. You're both adults so talk it out. Wouldn't you be much more appreciative if you were the new hire and someone told you how you could improve instead of undermining your success by going to your boss?
    – ChatGPT
    Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 1:10
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    I don't understand the downvotes. Yes, the manager should be kept in the loop (a good manager would also have regular feedback meetings with his employees to make sure the new hire is performing well, even more so since he lacked some skills). But I don't see why trying to first help the new hire by having a talk about how things are going is seen as bad. If nothing improves in a couple of weeks, then yes have a more serious talk with your manager. But asking the new hire "Hey, can we have lunch to talk a bit ? I can see you're struggling and want to help" shouldn't be a bad impulse.
    – MlleMei
    Commented Mar 24, 2019 at 16:43
  • Let us continue this discussion in chat.
    – lucasgcb
    Commented Apr 4, 2019 at 11:56

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