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So I have been at my current company for about 5 years. Nearly 6 months ago I got promoted to be team lead of the team I have been a part of since I started. In the time I have been with the company, the team has grown from ~8 people to now over 30 through a combination of internal and external hires.

I am a team lead so my job is to assign tasks, solve problems, and talk to management and customers. I can’t hire or fire people, but my manager was a previous team lead and manages everyone on my team from an HR perspective.

I have one team member who has been with the company (but not my team) longer than I have, and has some invaluable technical skills. The problem is this person is not motivated at all, and has made clear they are not interested in salary growth or promotions. This person used to work for a different team with a different manager who had a much lower expectations of performance and communication. On my team this person likes to “make their own hours” (i.e. work when no one is around to know if they are working), and will leave things in a broken state for weeks or months, always promising to “get it working” and then taking hours worth of training, or ship production configuration with no testing, then just leave for the day and have others clean up their mess.

At this point this person is costing my team a lot of rework and starting to give us a bad reputation across the broader organization. My manager and I are looking into putting them on a PIP, but in the meantime I still have to task them. Yesterday at 0930 I sent this person an email asking for some work to be done by COB (Close of Business), or let me know by 1400 if that was not possible. I got an email at 1800 that night (after they had left for the day at 1530) that “this can’t be done by COB today” and now there is some consternation from a project lead (understandably).

Should I continue to give this person tasks? My team is stretched thin right now (we have 4 hires lined up before EOY (End Of Year)), so it’s hard to let someone with that skill set “wander” from project to project just charging their time, but it’s also a lot on my team and me to keep giving them tasks that get ignored.

What would be a professional and effective approach to this situation? I still have to hand tasks and projects still have to be completed.

TL;DR I have a member of my team who chronically does not complete their assignments. How can I handle this professionally and effectively without compromising the rest of the team and the projects at hand?

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    Done, took an edit to your post to make the question answerable and on-topic. Feel free to adjust it if I missed anything. – DarkCygnus Sep 29 at 18:13
  • @DarkCygnus you hit the nail on the head. Thank you! – agentroadkill Sep 29 at 18:14
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    Sounds like he needs a PIP – Mawg says reinstate Monica Sep 30 at 8:44
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    What do "COB" and "EOY" mean ? – breversa Oct 1 at 8:53
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    @breversa “Close Of Business” and “End Of Year”. Edited question to include definitions – agentroadkill Oct 1 at 11:49
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In general, there are people who are not interested in gaining promotions, being noticed in the company or growing salary. This can be normal, they just want to get by, doing their job, like before retirement, this is not necessarily a bad thing.

But the first red flag here is the performance, so this must be addressed ASAP, since it's impacting not only your team, but the company as the whole.

Well, in your situation, I would advise on a few things:

  • Excluding your team member is not a good thing to do, even then that person is slacking and not delivering. I would suggest talking with him/her in private and getting to the bottom of this, why you don't want to be a team member, contribute to a company and so on.
  • Can that person do something at all, meaning you could try to assign him trivial/easier tasks and see it from there.
  • If that behaviour persists, the only option left on the table is for that person to go, either to other team or from the company.

First, I would talk, try to assign him the easier tasks, and when and only when, when all options are exhausted, I would push with HR to let him go.

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  • Good first answer. Welcome to The Workplace :) feel free to take the tour and read the help center to start to get to know your way around here – DarkCygnus Sep 29 at 18:17
  • +1 It's important to note that for some people, work is a very low priority. Also important to note that sometimes we need these people in the workplace. But, conversely, as the answer addresses, it's important to get on top of performance related issues. – Gregory Currie Sep 30 at 4:16
  • What if the team member is not motivated because the tasks are to simpler? Giving even simpler tasks will then not make it better. – Bernhard Sep 30 at 19:39
  • @Bernhard Hopefully the talk in the private will reveal it if that is the only or main reason for never getting any work done. However, I've worked with 'not motivated if it's not challenging' people before, and usually that looks like leaving simple/boring tasks undone, lax on paperwork and process, etc, but actually producing good work when something of high complexity and urgency arises (for example, they would often be the first one jumping in and cleaning up when someone else leaves production in a broken state!) – Meg Oct 2 at 14:40
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Should I keep giving this person tasking like the rest of my team, or should I back off and let them settle at their own level and eventually let HR take care of it?

As the leader, you are directly responsible for getting projects done. Apparently, you have no responsibility for hiring or firing people though, so you have to play with the cards you are dealt.

Thus, you need to find something for this person to do that will help the projects, not hinder them.

Meanwhile work with their manager and HR to find a new role (and hopefully team) for this person that is better suited to their abilities. That may be somewhere in your company, or may be somewhere else.

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You need to continue to task the team member but also build contingencies around their (failure to) work.

If possible, this means that you should not give them time critical work. Instead, you should give them work which you would like to get done, but can safely reassign if it is not completed.

Give the team member clear targets and check in with them to discuss progress on a regular basis. Document your interactions and refer to this documentation if and when you discuss the issue with your manager.

The gold standard is to set SMART targets:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Any target fitting these criteria will be unambiguous and should be easy for you, the team member, and management to understand whether they have been met or not.

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Use this as an excuse to put them on a PIP right now.

So, the employee was given clear instructions with a task they were to perform, and a time by which they were to notify you if they couldn’t. They then failed to meet these requirements, which could have been met simply by sending you an email by the appointed time.

You mentioned that you and your manager were looking into putting them into a Performance Improvement Plan. I would suggest that it might be time for you to stop looking, and start implementing. Tell your manager what happened, and ask him that you think that this employee should be put on a PIP ASAP, and request your manager to book a meeting with the three of you, so that the two of you can discuss it with him and your team-mate can sign the necessary paperwork.

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