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There is a senior software developer who has been at my company for a few years, who I don't feel lives up to what is expected of a senior developer - I think that he's out of his depth.

My company has published guidelines on what it expects from the various levels of seniority, and upon reviewing this and looking at this developer, I can see that he's falling short on several attributes, sometimes in a major way.

This developer has, at best, the technical skill and knowledge of a mid-level developer, and gives very shallow code reviews. Alongside this, one of the company's requirements for a senior developer is to be able to effectively advise junior developers on technical issues. I've worked with him before (as a junior dev), and I've also seen him interact with other junior devs, and not once have I seen any real effort to assist juniors. Even when the questions pertain to the senior dev's supposed area of expertise, the response coming back is usually along the lines of:

I don't know, google it.

He also puts off other people's requests until the last minute (or doesn't do them at all), meaning development can sometimes be held up waiting for him.

Ultimately this developer seems to do the bare minimum he can get away with in all aspects of his job, which is my opinion is very unprofessional for a senior dev. He hasn't yet been promoted and is not given much real responsibility, so I don't think I'm the only one aware of this. But I don't think the current situation of leaving him in a role to which he's probably not (yet) suited is good.

My concern is firstly whether (as a junior/mid-level dev) I should raise this at all or if I'm being too judgemental, and if I should raise it, what the best way of doing it is, i.e. without causing a scandal. I think this developer is overwhelmed and out of his depth, but isn't saying anything because he doesn't want that to be revealed. One issue is that (I believe) he is fairly well-liked, and so can probably get away with more. I know it's not my job or even my business to go advising him on what to do (it should be his line manager), but I want to at least raise it in a constructive way.

Edit

I feel like the intent of my question may be getting misunderstood. I'm not trying to throw anyone under the bus, or take anyone's job etc. Rather, I can see someone who, to me, looks like they're out of their depth and struggling in a position that they're not (yet) suited for, and I don't know whether I should raise it so that they can either get the help they need instead of stubbornly sticking it out until something goes badly wrong. To be honest, the negative responses to this question have given me a taste of what other people's response will be, so I'll leave well enough alone. It's not my responsibility.

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    You are lacking of a lot of information about his own side. Does he have the time to help (company requirement mean nothing if he doesn't have the time to apply it)? Did he get the raise he expected (you don't have motivation to do "more" if your management doesn't respect you). Have you just talked to him? There always at least two sides of a story.
    – Bebs
    Sep 28 '20 at 9:14
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    Why is this your problem to try to fix in the first place? Are you hoping to take his job? Sep 28 '20 at 9:17
  • @Bebs do you have any suggestions on how I might do that in a constructive and inoffensive way?
    – Touchdown
    Sep 28 '20 at 9:17
  • @TymoteuszPaul not at all, but when I see someone clearly struggling I don't just want to sit there and ignore it, especially when it can cause problems for others who may be expecting a higher level of performance and professionalism.
    – Touchdown
    Sep 28 '20 at 9:19
  • I recently learned that "they" nowadays can also refer to a singular person of non-specified gender instead to a group of people. However I still think (and I suspect many other people as well) it looks/reads quite odd and confusing. If the person in question is actually just a "normal" male or female, why not just use "he" or "she" instead of 'they"? Sep 28 '20 at 9:25
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I know it's not my job or even my business to go advising them on what to do (it should be their line manager), but I want to at least raise it in a constructive way.

As you say it's not your job, it doesn't directly affect you, and in all likelihood you will come off as petty when trying to raise those concerns so it's likely best to leave it alone.

If his supposed lack of performance will start affecting your work then you can raise it up the chain of command, but until then the smart money is on staying out of it, as clearly the way the senior works is fine enough with those directly affect. Or maybe it isn't, but again, as this doesn't directly affect you, you wouldn't know.

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Yeah, you're headed for the falls without a paddle if you make a move here.

"Just google it" has been around as a response in decades. We used to be less kind ways of saying things like RTFM or GIYF (Read The F***ING Manual and Google Is Your Friend) respectively. This is normal.

Nobody is 100% of their job 100% of the time, not him, and not you.
It sounds like you don't know this person very well, and you may be making some big leaps. Your criticisms could describe me as well.

HOWEVER, in my case

  • We have had severe cuts in staff
  • I have enough work on my plate to keep me busy for the next year
  • Senior management keeps redirecting my efforts
  • I don't always have time to respond to people when I have dozens of them requesting my time. LITERALLY Dozens.
  • I keep getting pulled off to do small, but emergency projects.

Just a sample of reasons that could be on his plate as well.

Either way, this is a management concern, not yours. Go to management, and they may see it as bad form at best, or worse, see you as a disruption. Pick a fight with this guy and you might learn just how much he does know, and how he can apply it. Again, citing myself as an example, I had three people try to throw me under the bus at different times. Two of them left the company as an alternative to being fired, the third got demoted, because they mistook being busy and overloaded with being lazy and incompetent.

Of those, one got in trouble with HR because another manager heard this guy complaining about me. TRUE STORY.

Keep your eyes open, your mouth shut, your nose clean and out of other people's business, and you'll be okay.

TLDR: As a junior, Leave it be, do your job, and don't be concerned with anything that does not directly affect you. Anything else will come back to bite you hard.

Here's a practical result of that

Today, I just made a rookie mistake, which has already been forgotten. If I were the type to point out the foibles of others, you can be sure it would have been held against me.

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As everyone has said, it would be totally inappropriate if you "raised this issue".

Some thoughts,

  1. Software is very much a "help yourself, figure it out yourself" talent

Reading between the lines, an impression is that you're asking a lot of how-to questions. In short: don't. It will basically "mark" you as "forever a junior".

  1. In software (like playing guitar or driving a car) everyone "thinks they are really good, and better than the other person"

It's literally a cliché that "I'm a new junior programmer, and I feel one of the senior programmers is no good".

It has been asked 100s of times on this site, in various ways.

As in team sports (think your favorite cricket, football or US football team) there are various ways for one player to be "more important and get more money" - dealing with clients, steady hands, product understanding, etc.

So,

".. if I should raise it .. without causing a scandal."

You may be unfortunately off-track here.

It won't cause a scandal in any way. Rather, in almost all situations, unfortunately it will "mark" you as a junior who can't focus on their job.

"I'm a new junior programmer, and I feel one of the senior programmers is no good" is really a cliché of software. If you "raised" the issue, really the likely response from others would just be rolling-their-eyes - and that's the best possible outcome.

Because this question has been asked so often on here, inevitably someone points out "If you're so much better than seniors in your group, that is nothing but good news for you, look to earn more more quickly!!" Really that's the situation.

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