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There is a one of my team members who is constantly distracted by personal communication (phone calls, messages). That started a couple of weeks ago and obviously affects his productivity.

I tried asking some general questions (whether everything is OK, if he needs any help or time off, etc.) as I did not want to be intrusive and the answer was always negative, i.e. he preferred not to share any details.

I am a tech person and since we're a small company we don't have HR to consult with or ask them to take care of that.

How can I approach this issue? Should I keep trying to talk to him to get more details? Try something else?

UPDATE 1: we do not have "no personal phone" policy and I personally do not have any problem with somebody making a personal call during work hours as long as it does not affect others or productivity.

  • Are you this employee's manager or is he in any other capacity reporting to you? Does your work depend on his work? – Niko1978 Jun 19 at 8:51
  • @Niko1978 I am tech lead and a manager. I'd say teams work depends on him – Asahi Jun 19 at 8:53
  • Do you have an objective way of "measuring" the productivity of the team member? – GittingGud Jun 19 at 9:11
  • @GittingGud every task is being estimated by the person going to perform it and then start and end time is logged using ticket tracking system. – Asahi Jun 19 at 9:14
  • @Asahi And the team member in question is not meeting their own deadlines or just sets time estimates with a lot of down time included? – GittingGud Jun 19 at 9:18
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That started a couple of weeks ago and obviously affects his productivity.

In your comments you indicate that you are this person's manager. A such, you owe it to him to understand what is going on and point out the affect on his productivity.

Talk to him privately. Mention that you have seen his productivity decline and that it appears to coincide with a significant change in the volume of personal calls.

Make sure that you convey that you don't want to intrude, but that you are concerned about the decrease in productivity. Ask if there is anything you can do.

If he still doesn't want to talk about it, say that it's okay, but you'd like to get together again in a couple of weeks to discuss if his productivity has improved or not, and schedule the meeting.

In short, focus on the productivity not the phone calls (since you don't have any policy against personal phone calls). Try to see help him see that the change occurred a couple of weeks ago, that you noticed, and that his decreased productivity was noticed. Sometimes that's all you'll need to do.

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Be polite but straight about this.

Don't ask about his personal life (because that's his issue to deal with (if he has an issue)). Ask about his productivity and point out that it doesn't look as though he's producing work to the same amount or quality as the rest of the team.

Offer to help in his project work. If he doesn't wish to work to the same standards as the rest of the team, this it's his decision about where to go from there.

  • "doesn't look productive" is kind of a gotcha specially in development, so I'd probably have some data at hand to prove the performance decline. If there isn't any maybe figuring that out would be the actual problem to tackle. – lucasgcb Jun 19 at 10:06
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    @lucasgcb from comments, it appears that each team member estimates and works on their own work items. If one person's estimates are consistently higher than others for similar work (or over-runs estimates consistently), then there's your data right there. – Snow Jun 19 at 10:14
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Meet up with the employee in private, and be more direct about what you've noticed:

I see you on your phone a lot these days, but we have enough work to get on with and you aren't meeting your deadlines. I feel like your phone is a distraction to you, is there any reason why you need to use it so often?

It is normal not to use personal phones at work. Don't feel bad about being straightforward. If he doesn't let you know about the situation, you should mention this to your boss, as it is unfair to other employees.

  • @GittingGud If he gets benefits - being able to use phone during work, and others do not, then he is being unfair to the team. Either way, I've edited it so it is more in line with what was discussed in the comments. – Tryb Ghost Jun 19 at 9:26
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    I'd personally not bring up the phone and keep the conversation factual, the problem is the productivity. What you can do instead of accusing is offer yourself to help if there's anything out of the ordinary - if they say no then you are to expect improvement and if they say yes you listen to them and comply if the situation is sensible. Also I see no reason to ever have this sort of conversation on breaks. – lucasgcb Jun 19 at 10:19
  • @lucasgcb The idea is that it is far away from working environment, which means that colleagues next to him won't over hear it and are likely to be minding their own business on a break. But it depends on the structure of the workplace. It is also to make it more casual than make it seem like a major issue. – Tryb Ghost Jun 19 at 11:09
  • That makes a lot more sense. I've suggested an edit to generalize it a bit. – lucasgcb Jun 19 at 11:14

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