Please bear with the long post, I want to provide context and background to clarify the question.
I am working as the Principal Engineer in a fast-paced and high-stakes software company. We're the Pioneer team in the Philippines that started in 2019. Since the Pandemic hit in March 2020, 99% of the employees started working from home. The team is quite small (around 5-6 people), led by a Senior Engineer. I joined this team in June 2020 from another team I previously led. Most of them have been working together since Nov 2019.
Our hierarchy of positions are as follows:
- Principal Engineer
- Senior Engineer
- Software Engineer
I am a big supporter of the importance of mental health and I personally have battled crippling anxiety for many years (this will be relevant later in the post).
One of our members ("Mary") and I started in the same week (Nov 2019). She is a Software Engineer. When I joined the team in June 2020, I noticed:
- During our daily zoom meetings, she's been absent from the calls 99% of the time.
- Always offline, or always missing-in-action.
- Delayed Replies to Slack Messages (Hours apart).
- She was not being assigned any tasks.
I never questioned it, since, at that time, I didn't hold any leadership positions in the team and just focused on my task. It was mentioned in passing that she was occupied by some personal errands (i.e. moving houses, getting internet connectivity, etc.).
However, our Director recently announced that I would be co-leading the team. He specifically asked me to monitor Mary's progress on her tasks since he noticed from metric reports that Mary hasn't had any real progress for some time now.
I reached out to the Senior Engineer to ask about Mary's situation and found out Mary has been dealing with issues. The Senior Engineer didn't specify what types of issues Mary has been dealing with for privacy reasons and advised me to talk to her directly to get the details. The Senior Engineer also forwarded an old email that our Manager sent to Mary, asking why she wasn't attending any of the required scrum calls. She Responded:
Mary: Apologies for being offline yesterday. Power was out until afternoon and internet was down from my end all night. I'll try to make up for it today. I keep forgetting the meetings out of habit. I also can't seem to shake off why I am avoiding people. Let me try harder and commit starting tomorrow.
After that, I reached out to Mary via zoom and she disclosed that she was dealing with the issues below, although I've had some doubts about her reasons:
- Burn Out - I checked her historical tasks from 2019-2020 and found that she hasn't been working on much. It's only a handful and most are still pending.
- Moved apartments - I knew this happened back in June 2020, but it's been 6 months since.
- Marital Issues - She didn't share any other information on this.
I also found out that she just came back from a two-week sabbatical and was just getting back to the motions of the workplace. I agree that martial issues is a serious issue and can negatively affect someone's work performance. However, I have serious doubts and my gut tells me she may be malingering and making it look worse than it actually is.
Issues and Action Taken
With the given situation above, and giving her the benefit of the doubt, here's some of how our discussion went:
- With Mary's permission, I provided some personal advice on how to overcome these issues as I also experienced (and still experience) some mental health problems.
- Also provided her with some resources such as online mental health counseling from a professional therapist, which is a company benefit.
- We both agreed that we will have a one-on-one zoom call daily (or as needed), so I can guide her on how to proceed with her tasks, in the hopes that it will lighten her workload and would get her going.
- Offered her additional paid time off to deal with the issues, which she declined.
Many weeks have passed and she hasn't been attending the calls and has been extremely slow in managing her tasks. Her responses to emails and messages have been few and far apart. I am getting the heat from our Director for delays in timelines.
My Questions would be:
- How do I know if her issues are real or if she's malingering?
- Are there any other ways I can help Mary get over this, without sacrificing the quality of deliverables?
- Should I let Management know? I'm afraid they'll be even worse at handling this and might fire her for performance reasons. We're in Asia and there's not really much protection for employees who have mental health issues.
I'm conflicted because I realize that she's having personal issues and don't want to seem insensitive but on the other hand, we still have to do our jobs, even at the bare minimum.
I've also looked at other SO Workplace questions:
But it seems the suggestions there have already been done.
Any advice is welcome.