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Some background - I joined the company fresh out of college a year ago. My feedbacks till now from my manager and other team members have been quite positive.

After couple of months after I joined another senior coworker came to our team from another team. He is one level senior to me and has been in the company for about 3+ years. He recently quit and is in his notice period as of now.

I was sort of aligned under him about 3-4 months ago. I won't say he is exactly leaving on great terms. I have had issues working with him in the past. Some of the problems with him are-

  1. Creating too much dependency on him. Having code in his personal system only and not checking in to any versioning system unless absolutely necessary.
  2. Doing the "interesting" work by himself and leaving only leftovers for me even when I have clearly proved that I am capable of more challenging work.
  3. He shifted in my team a couple of months after I joined and our company has a very flexible work culture. But his "way" doesn't match with our team in general - coming in 3 hours later than average team time(everyone else comes in between 8-11, he comes in post-lunch, which is the norm in many other teams). He remains away from the seat most of the time till 5 PM and then works till late, which essentially does his work but I have to either keep calling him or waste my time waiting for him.
  4. Missing daily team connects(due to arriving very late) and sometimes even client calls.

He is a good employee in general (was a star employee in his previous team) but his work ways don't match with either of us and I feel that is one of the reasons he quit.

My manager's response has been of frustration with him, and she just looks helpless whenever I mention him. She does push sometimes a bit and he acts all OK but is back in few days. I must guiltily accept I was a bit relieved when he quit.

Now since he entered his notice period he seems to have gone on full-on vacation mode. I am supposed to take over his work. He doesn't seem to be interested in giving any knowledge transfer (KT). He has reduced his work hours to half of the acceptable limit and can be found in the cafeteria most of the time. He cancels planned KT sessions verbally whenever any senior is not around and whatever times he does give most of which is "you already know this" , most of which I don't and looks irritated if I ask him further(Its not technical knowledge which I can learn but business knowledge).

My questions- 1. How to handle the immediate situation of having proper handover as it will affect me in future. 2. How to deal with such situations in the future because I feel they are bound to happen.

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    Having code in his personal system only and not checking in to any versioning system unless absolutely necessary. and you think He is a good employee in general. Nope. Terrible employee. Terrible employee. Terrible employee. – Billy.Bob Aug 30 at 14:21
  • What country is this? How long is their notice period? If it's more than 1 or 2 weeks, terminating the employee for cause may be the best solution. – Julie in Austin Aug 30 at 21:15
  • Can you shift your schedule and stay late with him for two weeks? Is taking your laptop to the cafeteria and working with him a possibility? – jww Sep 1 at 2:46
  • What will become of his personal PC once he leaves? Will he give up the passwords and return it (company property), or will everything on there be lost forever? – Dirk Sep 2 at 13:34
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So the guy has no work ethic, has given up completely, and wants to sit out the clock. Oh dear.

At this point I would go on the offensive. Prepare a list of topics for the KT and keep scheduling meetings with him. CC your manager and +1 in the invitation, so that they're in the loop, but don't invite them to the meetings.

As soon as he cancels a meeting, write to everyone:

Hello all, we've had a few KT meetings cancelled verbally at the last moment. I understand that things do come up and we have to be flexible, but this has happened multiple times now, and is blocking the knowledge transfer process. @LazyGuy, I have renewed the invitation for $date and will confirm with you. If you can't make it, please let me know in writing as soon as possible with an alternative date.

Then go to your manager (and +1 if possible) with what you've told us. The guy is not participating because he doesn't care. At least there won't be any surprises for them when it goes down.

As an alternative tactic I would go to the guys desk unannounced and have a little impromptu session about a KT topic you've picked. No meetings, no arrangements, even if he's in the cafeteria. Just sit next to him with a laptop and a notepad, buy him a coffee, and start asking questions.

When he says you know this already, what he means is you can figure this out on your own but I can't be bothered to show you. You can go over an escalating set of responses:

  • I'd like to go over this with you to make sure my knowledge is up to date.
  • Yes, I could figure this out on my own, but it will take me a lot of time. This is why we have a KT session.
  • I get the feeling you're looking forward to the end of your notice period. The faster we get this done, the less I'm gonna bother you about it.
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    Why not also invite the +1 to the knowledge transfer meetings? It can be justified on the grounds of spreading knowledge, and when he cancels, it inconveniences multiple people, making the problem more obvious. – DaveG Aug 30 at 14:42
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    I agree, this should be escalated as quick as possible. In this case OP's manager is already aware about the problem. Make it their problem to get the best out of it. This probably won't make much of a difference, but at least you gave your manager the chance to do something about the situation. If you don't, you could be getting the blame for the botched handover (who else is left to blame). – Helena Aug 30 at 16:12
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One way of looking at this, is that the guy has effectively been hit by a bus, but with extreme manager-involved effort it may be possible to arrange a "seance" and get answers to some specific questions "from beyond the grave"

In other words, you have an opportunity here to figure out what it is really going to mean to carry projects forward without him. For the most part, you are going to have to figure out how things work on your own by examining the pieces left behind, but in the most extreme sticking points, you and your manager could walk down to the cafeteria and apply enough pressure to get some specific answers. Or get some specific missing piece of code checked in, etc.

In general though, trying to force knowledge transfer from someone who does not want to provide it is not likely to be very productive - they could spend every working minute of their remaining commitment sitting with you, and even from simple disorganization fail to prepare you to actually take over their work.

So if the formal knowledge transfer path looks like it is not working, dig in and start figuring things out on your own. Make a list of what seems to be missing, or utterly undecipherable and discuss it with others who may have insight. Of course CC (or even address it to) the departing person, but don't wait for replies.

When you find specific things that are absolutely missing, escalate the need for those to your manager, and chose those as the spots for the manager to provide specific pressure for an answer.

But recognize that the guy is "already gone" in terms of involvement, and given the mismatch described, that is probably for the best. The remaining staff, not the departing person, need to be in charge of picking up the pieces. That the person is still in theory available to provide answers is an asset, but use that strategically, not as the center of what you need to think of as the recovery effort that it practically is.

This is not to say that you have to entirely abandon the idea of organized knowledge transfer, just that you can't afford to wait for something that may never work to start yielding results. Start in on your own (or ideally make it a whole team effort - in some cases having new people take over subsystems could legitimately be the theme of an entire sprint), it is always possible that apparent momentum and good questions may inspire some useful participation from the departing person. But if it does not, at least you'll be as far down the path of recovery as possible by the time they are entirely gone and no longer under any even theoretical obligation to help.

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It's going to be impossible to "force" this co-worker to cooperate in a meaningful way. I've encountered this problem a couple of times where the person leaving is disgruntled (justifiably) about their career in that workplace, they give notice and mentally check out until the last day. That sounds like what is going on here. At best, the co-worker is going to go through the motions without making an effort to actively transfer the knowledge.

There are two things that will help:

  • Make sure your leadership understands the situation, so that they're not surprised by the inevitable problems that are going to pop-up once this person leaves. Just because you and he are meeting regularly and going through stuff doesn't mean you're going to pick up key pieces. He might choose to not tell you something because you didn't explicitly ask.

  • Try to develop enough rapport with this person that you can at least sympathize with his point of view. It helps to start with some discussion about things in the work which he is proud of and warm-up to open-ended questions before getting to nitty-gritty deals.

If you try to use pressure by, for example, scheduling meetings involving PM's, managers and too many other people in an effort to "shame" him into getting cooperative, that could very easily backfire. These others will quickly lose focus if the details are too intense and just assume that KT is actually happening simply because "there's a meeting". It's easily to BS around a topic with power-point-- but that doesn't fly in an intimate 1-on-1.

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I must guiltly accept I was a bit relieved when he quit.

Don't feel guilty about that. His leaving sounds like a great result all around.

How to handle the immediate situation of having proper handover as it will affect me in future

Raise it with your manager.

You suggest your manager struggles to be firm with the leaving employee. Okay, so if she fails, that's on her.

You suggest it will affect you in the future if a proper handover isn't performed. Okay, but that'll still be the manager's responsibility. Any negative outcome is on her. Remind her that you attempted to perform a handover but that it never came to pass.

Simplification: it's the business's problem not yours. You've done what you can.

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This is your managers problem. Not yours. Go along for the ride and enjoy the drama like a cheap tabloid magazine at a grocery checkout line. This ladies and gentlemen is what I like to call a blank check.

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