20

Bob is a rather new employee that was hired as a junior to maintain some older applications (mostly SQL support, a little of front end development).

Since Bob's activity does not cover 100% working time and to avoid being bored, our small team has collaborated with Bob by working together on various tasks (Bob "soft committed" since the main priority was the things he was hired for).

About a year ago, Bob requested to be transferred to our team because he was bored and did not like what he was doing. He was promised a transfer in a few months, but a year has passed and nothing really changed.

So far our team's activity has been quite chaotic due to working in parallel to multiple projects in various phases with no clear priorities. Next month, we will have a product owner and work using the Scrum framework and the team will also include Bob.

However, in the meantime I have noticed the following about Bob:

  • complained on several occasions that he hates working on one of the maintenance projects
  • began abusing remote work by being less reachable than before
  • delivers less than before

All these make me think that Bob will soon leave the company, significantly disrupting the future team activity (~ 25% less team capacity).

My dilemma: should I inform the future PO about this or should I wait until the resignation? Normally, an employee leaves after 20 working days, but it is typically replaced after months, so the expected deliveries coming from our team will surely become impossible to reach.

Question: Should I inform my future product owner that there a good chance that a team member will leave the company soon?


The alleged duplicate is similar, but the context is different since I was not told in confidence (this would automatically trigger for me not telling anything due to confidence) and in my case, the colleague shows what I interpreted as imminent leaving predictors.

  • 27
    you do not know your co-worker's financial situation. are you willing to risk devastating their financial situation, up to and including possible homelessness, for the sake of a product owner's convenience? – dn3s Sep 16 at 4:54
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    @Jack if i walk past a house and happen to see something interesting in the window and continued walking, it would be inappropriate to call that spying. if i saw into someone's window, and went and found an interested party who would benefit from that information at the occupant's expense, that becomes a malicious act. – dn3s Sep 16 at 5:13
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    @dn3s But if you peeked through the window, saw someone making a bomb and told the police, you would be a Hero. Lets stay away from the emotionally charged analogies. – Shadowzee Sep 16 at 5:58
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    Bob is bored because of lack of work and you're saying his departure will disrupt activity by 25%? Are you sure you guys are utilizing the human resource properly? – Hanky Panky Sep 16 at 9:03
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    Some of the best advice for everyone in life is "mind your own business". – Apologize and reinstate Monica Sep 16 at 19:48
164

Would you want a co-worker to alert management if they suspected you were leaving?

The problem here is that you could really damage someone's career by precipitating his termination before he finds another job. Sadly, the job market is extremely harsh and "red-flags" any candidate who happens to be unemployed.

It's just work, let it go, what's the worst that can happen? a project deadline slip? It's not worth it to hurt a colleague over that.

  • 2
    OK, This is actually my intention, but I was also curios what the community has to say. Currently the market (IT / programmers more specifically) is very good for the employees, so any decent programmers will quickly get a decent job in the city we are located. – Alexei Sep 14 at 19:43
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    @Alexei just curious as to your mindset... if it turned out this person had been taking care of their sick, elderly parents during the time you have been judging their work performance as poor, had to pay for some expensive operations and was thus short on cash (couldn't be out of a job for even two weeks), would you then compensate this person? Or would you just shrug and say, "oh well, I miscalculated, tough for him!"? – Chan-Ho Suh Sep 14 at 21:04
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    Agreed with this comment. I had something similar happen to me once - in my case I was trying to leave, interviewed with a company who was a client of my employer (I didn't realise this at the time). Didn't get the job, the company informed my employer who threatened to fire me on the spot as I hadn't passed my probationary period. My work environment was pretty bad before but from then on it became toxic. There is no reason to tell your employer and it will give this employee even more of an incentive to leave - not being able to trust people. – user25730 Sep 16 at 1:31
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    I feel this answer helps me the most. It is hard to describe the whole context, but AFAIK the company has never fired anyway due to this kind of reasons (I heard about a single case after stealing some equipment). According to the local law you have to officially "warn" an employee before firing and develop a plan to try to make the work relation work before actually firing him/her. Also, you cannot just fire someone and let it go immediately - about 20 working days must pass before the contract ends, also allowing for reduced hours for the employee to be able to find another job. – Alexei Sep 16 at 5:07
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    God bless you, and more importantly, No SnITcHiNG – HelloWorld Sep 16 at 15:43
110

None of what you've stated is empirical evidence that Bob is planning on leaving.

Additionally, none of this is your business.

Should you inform the future PO that Bob may be leaving soon? No.

  • 39
    Regarding "none of this is your business" ... according to the question, "Bob... [became] less reachable than before" seems to indicate Bob's behavior impacts the team. Perhaps this issue could be addressed disjoint from Bob potentially leaving. – user25792 Sep 15 at 17:46
  • It's not a sure thing and I don't necessarily disagree with the notion that the OP shouldn't get involved but as a matter of fact all of the behaviours listed are in fact empirical evidence of low engagement / low job satisfaction and that means turnover is more likely. – Relaxed Sep 16 at 0:27
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    "None this is your business", having a team with 25% reduction in available developer resources is very much his business, both at personal level (I mean, a team is a social unit too, not just a work unit) and at professional level. Further, what he has observed are his own observations and not something he has been told in confidence, so someone might say it's his moral obligation towards the company to report them. OTOH it would be nasty towards Bob, so it's not black and white, and I might incline to agree with your conclusion. But the reasoning is wrong. – hyde Sep 16 at 7:55
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    I think a nice compromise would be to notify his PO or higher-ups that his performance has declined and that he mentioned earlier that he would like to change his position inside the company. This would indicate that yes, the team is suffering from reduced performance by the employee, but that the reason is probably management not moving him out of a position he indicated not liking multiple times. This could benefit both Bob and the team. – Tom Doodler Sep 16 at 13:27
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    @Mars, any one of your coworkers could leave at any time for any reason. They all have a right to seek greener pastures. If your boss takes that out on you, that's a good reason for you to seek greener pastures too. – Seth R Sep 17 at 2:07
38

About an year ago, Bob requested to be transferred to our team because he was bored and did not like what he was doing. He was promised to be transferred in a few months, but a year has passed and nothing really changed.

This is the only thing you are sure of: For a year Bob has wanted to switch jobs, he was promised a switch, but nothing happened. Since Bob worked in his job for some unstated period of time before asking to switch, you should be concerned that Bob is now starting the process of looking outside the company.

Next month, we will have a product owner and work using Scrum framework and the team will also include Bob.

That is yet another promise, that after a year of waiting Bob might not 100% believe.

However, in the mean time I have noticed the following about Bob:

  • complained on several occasions that he hates working on one of the maintenance projects
  • began abusing remote work by being less reachable than before
  • delivers less then before
  • while working together on a task, I have noticed a CV file being recently modified on his computer

Don't focus on the last bullet. The first three should have concerned you. Bob has been bored for a year. So he complained, his productivity dropped off, and Bob stayed away from the office. As a bonus the remote working makes it even easier to schedule interviews.

Is Bob going to leave? No idea. Has Bob already decided to leave at the first decent job offer? No idea.

Your approach with Bob is to figure out away to make sure knows this most recent promise isn't another empty promise. Take a concrete action the next workday to get the move started. Switch his workspace to join the team. Switch his priorities to be 75% new team 25% old team. Don't do something that makes him nervous: don't identify his replacement; That is for later.

If it is too late, then it is too late. Your concern shouldn't be what to tell the new product owner. Your priority should be how to encourage a current employee to stay.

  • 13
    and the updated resume may well have been on request from someone in HR who's looking to place him as a consultant with a customer... – jwenting Sep 16 at 6:30
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    "Your concern shouldn't be what to tell the new product owner. Your priority should be how to encourage a current employee to stay." This, so much this – Turtle1363 Sep 16 at 19:20
30

Honestly, I think you're asking the wrong question entirely. If Bob's work and knowledge are valued in the company at all, you need to look at the bigger picture and not just in the context of your team.

Bob was promised a transfer, the company failed to deliver. Perhaps his patience is exhausted and he's looking to move to another company that follows through on its commitments, values, and respects its employees.

Outright informing a superior or team lead that Bob is looking for another job put's him in a negative light, ultimately placing the blame on him and opening him up to immediate termination. As others have pointed out it is questionable behavior on your part

Approaching a superior or team lead and saying that we may lose Bob, an important part of the team, because the company didn't follow through on its promise of a transfer puts things in an entirely different light. It also opens up opportunities for the company to address the underlying issues and allows the company to resolve them if they chose to.

So what is your goal here?

9

All these make me think that Bob will soon leave the company

You only think that. You don't know. Probably Bob doesn't even know himself, due to him being assigned a new project soon:

Next month, we will have a product owner and work using Scrum framework and the team will also include Bob.

This sounds a lot more professional than before. If the project is interesting and well-managed, there is reason to think that Bob will be motivated and engaged again. From what you have told us, motivation seems to be his only problem.

In any case, none of that is your business. You are not the future product owner, you are not the team leader and you are not Bob.

Levelling suspicions against team members and spying on their computer are both actions that turn your expectations of them leaving into a self-fulfilling prophecy – at best.

  • "none of that is your business" is just not so. If something is going to impact someones work significantly, it is very much their business. Also, the question is not about breach of confidence, but about OPs own observations and thinking (employees are allowed and encouraged to think for themselves in most work places I know). So it not a "none of your business" case, it is a case of difficult dilemma they need to make a decision on (even if best desicison might be, "ignore and see what comes"). – hyde Sep 16 at 8:00
3

You should always be prepared for new hires. People can leave your team for many reasons, some suddenly and beyond your control. Your responsibility to the product owner isn't necessarily a particular set of people but the resources to deliver.

From your question, I don't see where you've simply asked Bob what's up. It's certainly not unusual to hate working on a certain part of a project. You say "abusing" because he's "less reachable", but you don't explain that. Some work environments "abuse" employees by making them constantly connected and distracted so they can't get work done (and from your brief description, that fits this situation).

You say he delivers "less than before", but that's a curious statement. You didn't say "doesn't deliver what he's assigned" or anything like that. It sounds like a weasely way to mischaracterize his work by implying that it's bad although it doesn't actually mean that. You seem to forget that Bob "soft committed" to working with you although he's not on your team. You call him a "new employee" but he's been there at least a year. Who's really abusing whom here? This doesn't add up.

You also said:

So far our team's activity has been quite chaotic due to working in parallel to multiple projects in various phases with no clear priorities.

It sure sounds like the problem is the work environment. Who would be motivated to deliver anything if that's the situation? One day you're working on this, and the next day you have to shelve it to work on something else that you know you won't be allowed to complete. I'm pretty sure I might be "less reachable" simply so I can get work done while avoiding the chaos.

How is Bob the problem here?

1

Going to propose the social route here:

Talk to Bob.

If you have any kind of personal relationship with Bob, then just have a word with him.

Hey, so this is a confidential conversation as your friend, but the other day I noticed your CV on the PC...Are you thinking of leaving?

Then, if they say yes:

I understand how you feel and will be sad when you leave! I won't stop you, but I'd like to ask that if you do decide things, try to buy as much time for the team as you can. You know we will hurt without you!

No guesswork, no endangering someone's livelihood. Just an actual human conversation.

  • 2
    I wouldn't go this route at all. There's way too much a "I've been spying on you" plus "I've already decided you're quitting". If you are actually concerned that you're going to lose an employee you value but admittedly you've not treated as well as you should, be honest and own the mistake. "Bob, I know you didn't get to come over to the X project even though we promised you would. We really didn't do right by you on that, and would like to make sure you're in the Y group project that starts next month, doing something specific he wants to do, if you still want to do that." – Joe McMahon Sep 17 at 3:07
  • @JoeMcMahon The point was to NOT just decide things on ones own. I edited it the post, hopefully it's clearer now. As for owning the mistake... OP doesn't appear to be responsible here, so how should OP own the mistake? – Mars Sep 17 at 4:03
  • If OP had that kind of power, it seems like OP probably would have done so already – Mars Sep 17 at 4:03
  • Allow me to rephrase then -- if OP can't say this, and is interested in Bob staying, then something more like "Hey Bob, we're starting project Y next month and I've heard they want you to do a thing you want to do. I know you're tired of X; Y should be a lot better. We should know for sure on date how it's supposed to work. You should check with project Y manager; they can tell you more." Still don't say anything about the CV, and let him say "I'm not gonna stay" or not -- and then respect his privacy either way. – Joe McMahon Sep 17 at 23:19
  • @JoeMcMahon Sorry I'm not seeing what that conversation would accomplish--it sounds like stuff Bob is already aware of and OP isn't in a position to entice Bob. If the CV thing really bugs you, you can just say "My gut it telling me...* or something along those lines. Personally, I think being called out ("I SAW your CV already") increases the chances that Bob will have an honest conversation (without actually knowing anything about Bob's personality) – Mars Sep 18 at 0:18

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