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A marketing/PR manager below me has one employee (let's call him John) that has been constantly unreliable. They agree on something, let's say "John, post this on instagram today" and he flat out doesn't.

They have an arranged schedule of posts, and he simply doesn't post anything. On other occassions, John seems super hyped and interested in the project, even so that he proactively comes up with new ideas and improves existing processes. This comes in stages and it feels very "bipolar". We are working remotely, so maybe this unrealiability goes with the fact that you don't "sit your time out" in the office and work.

HR interviews show that nothing is off, when I personnaly spoke to him, he seemed very invested in the project and one time even called me to tell me about his new ideas he had and future plans for the project.

To top it off, he logs twice the time as other employees in the same team. When confronted with this, he simply says that the work really takes him this long.

What would you do in the same situation? I feel like something's weird here, but can't put my finger on it.

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    Do they have an incentive to log that many hours? Do they get paid hourly? – nvoigt Nov 14 '20 at 9:18
  • What is "this"? Is it a graphic he is producing or something that is already produced? – Matthew Gaiser Nov 14 '20 at 9:19
  • @nvoigt, yes. They are paid by the our. – Kamil Nov 14 '20 at 10:53
  • @MatthewGaiser, "this" might be a social media post, a graphic design, reply to a fan, many things. – Kamil Nov 14 '20 at 10:54
  • @Kilisi, so what is the best practice in this case? – Kamil Nov 14 '20 at 10:54
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Micromanage him for a day

Normally micromanagement is bad, but I think it could add some troubleshooting value here. I have three initial ideas for what his problem could be.

  1. He is disorganized, so just forgot everything that the meeting decided.
  2. He is a perfectionist in one way or another, so is spending a lot of time perfecting his work to the point that he never submits it.
  3. He sucks at the execution. Ideas, improvements, and plans are often a lot easier for some people than actually doing the work. Interest doesn't make someone capable of handling the nuts and bolts.

GrumpyYoungMan has a 4th idea: It could be burnout or a mental health issue. The "extra hours" thing is a known indicator of that as the person goes into a death spiral of putting in more hours to try to make up for their lack of productivity.

It could be something completely different. There is an absence of information here. Pick a day where deliverables are due and tasks need to be completed and see what their day to day workflow is like.

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  • Doesn't have to be complete micromanagement, but at the very least ask him to show you his intermediate results. (That should make it easy to distinguish between something who's plain lazy as opposed to merely slower than expected or a perfectionist. – Llewellyn Nov 14 '20 at 17:32
  • It could also be 4) burnout or a mental health issue. The "extra hours" thing is a known indicator of that as the person goes into a death spiral of putting in more hours to try to make up for their lack of productivity. – GrumpyYoungMan Nov 16 '20 at 3:56
  • @GrumpyYoungMan added to the answer. – Matthew Gaiser Nov 16 '20 at 4:02
  • @GrumpyYoungMan Ha! I didn't read all of the other answers and came to the same conclusion. Sounds more like an exhausted person who's getting addle brained, with the occasional flash of clarity (probably after a good night's sleep / time away from the problem). – Edwin Buck Nov 16 '20 at 5:41
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Maybe he's properly overworked.

An employee that's been working too many hours for long periods of time tends to not be as effective as a well rested employee. They will get side-tracked by all of their pending requests for their time. They'll be too tired to correctly refocus on tasks in a proper priority. They'll be proverbially walking around in a fog, until they get those brief moments of clarity where it all comes together.

In short, their work will be erratic.

Tell the employee his work is suffering; but, you trust he's the right person for the job. Indicate that if he hasn't taken vacation in a while, he needs to take some some soon, to recharge. Be serious that you wish him to disconnect during vacation. Tell him you need him for the long run, and if that means only 8 hour days for the next five weeks, you'd rather have him for less time at his best than more time suffering as you see him doing so now.

Avoid labeling it as "bipolar" because in reality, many jobs seem to be short bursts of success as much of the work to achieve results takes time before the results become apparent. Unless you have others who routinely achieve more in less time, also be careful not to measure him against his best past performance. Maybe he's getting measured against his best performance, and everyone can't be at their best 100% of the time.

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To top it off, he logs twice the time as other employees in the same team. When confronted with this, he simply says that the work really takes him this long.

This person is requesting for twice salary as other employees but not generating more in returns. The return in investment is at least 2 times worse than everybody else. What are you waiting for? Ask the manager to find a replacement.

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