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Summary: I have been hired as solo developer on a project. My boss asked me to find another developer, and my ex-coworker got hired. Now I want them off the project because of bad work ethic.


It's been one week now and I still don't know what the right thing for me to do is. Here is the situation. A non-techie person hires me to build his own custom software. At first, I am just the one who built the initial project from scratch (this is actually a complex project that calls one of the worlds' well known companies' API), but the goal is to have a small team compose of frontend, backend and a lead software developer. After a few weeks of work, he decided to increase my salary since he noticed that I have the work ethic and dedication. Few days after he called me and told me it's time to hire new developer for frontend so I can focus on more complicated tasks, so he started searching in online jobs platform. Now, I have a former colleague, and I know he has the skills so I recommend him to my employer. Without hesitation, the employer hires him. The first two weeks was smooth. But after that, I began to sense that the new hire is no longer working to the tasks assigned to him. He just ignored my code reviews, and upon checking there's no commit in source control repository from him for more that two weeks. In first week he just created many tasks and pushed it. The code he writes actually is not working and few of them are irrelevant.

I message him in our team chat platform directly but he is not responding. I know he reads my messages but he just ignore it as well my code review in Jira platform.

I sensed that this new hire is not serious in this job. Now I regret because I am the one who recommend him to my employer. I wanted my employer to just fire him. But I am not sure if it is the right thing to do. How to tell to the employer that I regret recommending this new hire? We are using agile platform (Jira board) to manage our project, and his tasks is blocking other tasks that slowing down our output. I also found out that he is working in another software company.

What's the best way to tell the new hire that I am disappointed without hurting his feelings?

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  • 2
    Why would you recommend somebody like that in the first place ?
    – Laurent S.
    Jun 2 at 5:50
  • 13
    @LaurentS.: OP did not mention how long they had been their former colleague. People change. Also, I somewhat infer (but it's a guess) that there is remote work involved here (due only spotting the lack of work after two weeks and only mentioning chat, not IRL, conversations). Some people just really don't handle remote working very well or professionally, even though their ethic while at the office may be better. I'm not delving into the reasons why that could be, but I can think of plenty reasons, and not all of them an irredeemable character issue.
    – Flater
    Jun 2 at 8:30
  • 3
    Sounds like your friend has quit, was there a contract?
    – Kilisi
    Jun 2 at 9:31
  • 34
    If he's not responding on the chat platform, have you tried contacting him by email and telephone? I feel there might be some possible intermediary steps between "my coworker ignored a message in a chat platform" and "let's fire him"
    – Stef
    Jun 2 at 12:25
  • 1
    What did you try to speak live to this colleague? One doesn't talk about firing someone only if a few messages were not replied to, first of all you should find out what's going on with this person.
    – puck
    Jun 4 at 5:02
65

Separate the two problems

It seems you have made two "mistakes" and are trying to mitigate between the two, making it a lot more difficult than it has to be.

  1. Made a bad recommendation
  2. The new hire is not up-to-par

The first problem is actually not a big problem. Admit the recommendation was a mistake. People make mistakes, and the best way to fix it is to reveal it and deal with it. The longer you hide the problem, the worse it will get. The new hire will not magically get better.

The second problem will be easy to address once you get past the personal shame in the initial mistake. When you own up to the first problem, and recognize that the only way forward is to deal with it openly, then this step comes naturally. Let your boss know what is happening, that you are unable to see any work done in two weeks, and unable to contact him. Bring your manager on board and in the loop of a serious performance issue and address that problem head on.

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  • 9
    +1 @rai To simplify further: "What would you do with a person conducting themselves that way, had you not recommended them?" The answer to that is known. Simply keep that course of action; additional, cursory factors (having vouched for the person / having formerly thought that this person was a worthy ally) indeed need to be addressed / resolved, but they are the way smaller challenge here.
    – Levente
    Jun 2 at 2:50
  • 2
    Agreed, except that I would switch (1) and (2). That is, before 'giving up' the new hire and seeing the recommendation as a mistake, first address their underperformance and see whether there is a chance of improvement.
    – Theo Tiger
    Jun 2 at 7:28
  • @TheoTiger after re-reading the answer, the line about giving up the employee was more fitting as a subjective comment, which is a distraction. I've completely removed that line so the 2 items should read better with less subjectivity.
    – Nelson
    Jun 2 at 7:31
  • 3
    One thing, this is not a situation where you "admit it was a mistake". You just say "it turns out Steve is useless, so I let him go". It's totally commonplace that new freelancers are hopeless, drift off, or have no clue. It's a non-issue. Nobody will remember 30 seconds later.
    – Fattie
    Jun 2 at 11:08
  • There might be a third mistake, being new to leadership. Jun 5 at 0:38
18

What's the best way to tell the new hire that I am disappointed in [new hire I found]

As prompt as possible. In standard architecture it seems that you either manager of the employee, or you work under the same manager. It is unclear from your post what is the arrangement.

Contact your manager for help because your coworker is inaccessible. If you are the manager of the employee, you will be told to either manage them or fire. If you are not their manager, your manager will help you deal with it (either by managing employee or by firing them)

You are not responsible for the performance of the employee. Maybe they were good and professional, but circumstances changed. It happens, don't worry too much about feeling responsible

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  • I'm the lead developer and under same manager which is the owner itself
    – rai
    Jun 2 at 1:50
  • 11
    @rai, Don't let the terminology confuse you. Have the owner contact him and ask him what's up. Use the owner as the go-between. If he ignores the owner also, or if he can't explain why he hasn't been taking this job seriously, then the owner will most likely fire him. It's ultimately the owner's decision whether he should be fired or not. Jun 2 at 4:36
3

You are wildly overthinking things.

In the type of software situation given in this actual question: It's totally commonplace that a new employee does not work out. Just tell Boss

Things did not work out with Steve, he's not a hard worker and is no good on this app. We should let him go.

It's a total non-issue. Boss will just say "ok".

Fortunately you're worrying about nothing - no issue here.

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  • 8
    The OP should be worrying about getting a reputation for giving bad advice to management. If the OP recommended a previous co-worker based on personal knowledge and then "wants them fired" two weeks later, that says something how their mind works!
    – alephzero
    Jun 2 at 12:03
  • 1
    I just don't see it, aleph. In this sort of situation freelancers come and go. indeed, The OP is using wildly hyperbolic over the top language like "WANTS! THEM! FIRED!" as if the thing under discussion is some massive corporate move of CTOs and CFOs which is breaking news on the TV financial channels. It's a total non-issue. I wouldn't even tell the boss I'd let them go, I'd just say (if even asked) "oh, that guy was useless, I let him go and we didn't bother paying him for the first week - since he didn't show up anyway"
    – Fattie
    Jun 2 at 12:17
  • 1
    Your "email" provides nothing but vague accusations with absolutely no proof... you've provided no feedback for a month+ since the guy was hired and now with 2 sentences you want to fire him? Why would anyone take this seriously? I would start to question your competence, not the other guy.
    – JeffC
    Jun 3 at 2:15
2

First off, it doesn't sound like you hired your former co-worker by yourself. I'm assuming, like most companies, you probably had at least a couple people interview and the owner hire him because it doesn't sound like you have the power to hire anyone. So, it's not your fault.

Second, I'm also assuming that your former co-worker wasn't as irresponsible as he seems to be now when you worked together previously. Things happen... who knows what is going on in this guys life... whatever the situation, it's not your fault.

Before we get started on next steps, understand that you should NOT make recommendations at this point unless asked. Think of it like your job is to deliver only the facts on what has been happening since he was hired. Try to stay emotionless. Your boss gets to make the conclusions. It sounds like the guy has been working there for about 4-6 weeks... if you go in and tell your boss to fire him right after you just told him for the first time about the issues you've been having, that is going to come across as a really, really drastic step.

I would start with an email or a conversation with your boss/the owner. Tell him what you told us in your question. Go get specifics... lots of data. You talk about no commits since X date, get that date. Get total commits, get lines of code, etc. Get the same info on yourself and any other devs on your team (it sounds like there may not be any others, so express a reasonable expectation of commits/lines of code per week or whatever). Tell him about his lack of responses to your code review comments. Tell him about his lack of responses to your communications attempts. Paint him a picture of his work, work ethic, responsiveness, etc. Express your concern that he doesn't seem to be contributing as you would have expected. Express your concern about his lack of responses to you and you worry that maybe he's ignoring communication attempts from other teams or team members, etc.

A good manager will trust that you are telling the truth about your side of the events but will want to get the other person's side also. You should want that to happen too. Present the facts without conclusion or recommendation and then let your boss take care of the rest.

1

It sounds like the primary issue is communication, i.e. this person is not responding to your attempts to communicate, according to your expectations.

There could be two reasons:

  1. Your communications are not getting through.
  2. Your expectations about the timeliness of a response is not shared.

If someone completely disappears from a conversation, it could be that they are just inconsiderate/unprofessional. It could also be that they are in a coma, jail, etc.

Or, it could be that they don't realize that you need a response right away. If they are working as a freelancer, chances are they are balancing their commitments to this project with others. It is possible that they have not prioritized according to your expectation.

I think your first step should be to inform them that you assumed that they would be more responsive, and attempt to establish common ground on what that means. If you can't get a response to that message, then there is nothing else to do but recommend that they be taken off the project. If you can reach an agreement, and they continue to fall short of (now shared) expectations, then you should recommend that they be taken off the project.

0

The other guy is acting unprofessionally. The first time he ignored a code review you should have dealt with it and if he didn't respond within 1 day it was time to boot him. Those making excuses for him are (probably) looking at it from the perspective of a corporate environment where the company can afford to have people goofing off for months. Every hour this guy is employed is costing your employer money that could've gone into getting you someone else who actually works & it's delaying how fast the project will be completed.

Your boss might ask for a detailed explanation of how 'Steve' failed. But don't sweat it. You will be able to give reasons if asked. The main thing is you want to avoid getting into this situation over and over again. So getting rid of the next 'Steve' earlier is better than later.

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  • @JeffC From OP's description they are working in an environment where the other guy only has ONE thing to work on and he's new on the job. I've seen cases where new guys were allowed to flounder for 3 months when they should have been fired within 2 weeks (of them ignoring communication). It's part of a pattern. Every situation is different. I'm only talking about OP's scenario.
    – HenryM
    Jun 4 at 14:46
  • "I'm only talking about OP's scenario" ...so am I...
    – JeffC
    Jun 4 at 15:09
  • Since my first comment was deleted for some reason... It's unprofessional to fire someone for a "first offense", which was not responding to a code review >>for a single day<<. That's just plain ridiculous. I'm not saying this is the same thing... but what if your boss sent you an email that you accidentally missed, waited a day, and then fired you because you didn't respond within a day... do you not see how ridiculous your suggestion is?
    – JeffC
    Jun 5 at 2:07

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