I have a person in my project team who's unreliable. He says he will do something by Friday, then when I ask him about it on Friday, I hear: "Sorry, didn't have time".

We've had many discussions about the need to signal it if something comes up, so that we can align on the priorities. I signaled that otherwise I expect him to do things we aligned on by the time we aligned on.

He's not reporting to me but he's from a vendor who we are working with and I am the project lead responsible for the project success. Although he's a contractor, he's been with the company for a long period of time and when I joined and was expected to improve the performance he wasn't happy about that, which he was very vocal about it.

Now I asked him to invite me to a meeting. The meeting was on a topic I'm accountable for. Since the topic is important I wanted to be there. He explicitly confirmed that he would invite me.

Now I ping him about the status and learn that... The meeting has just taken place. 

I'm in two minds about how strong my reaction should be. On the one hand, it's a small thing. Everyone can forget. On the other hand, he didn't forget, he explained: "Oh, I thought somebody else is responsible", although I explicitly asked him to invite me. I needed to reschedule a meeting during which we were to present our results since according to what I learnt from the participants they haven't reached any conclusions. 

  • The implications of this could be very different depending on how much authority you're supposed to have over this person. How to best approach it is also going to vary based on how much personal influence this person has with other people in the company. We could really use some more information here.
    – Ben Barden
    Jun 4 at 15:52
  • Additionally important is whether or not he has any unique skills that you do not have access to elsewhere, and how solid his productivity is overall.
    – Ben Barden
    Jun 4 at 15:53
  • @user48252358 okay... so this stuff does vary from company to company. How much power do you actually have, here? What options are actually available to you?
    – Ben Barden
    Jun 4 at 17:05
  • 1
    @user48252358, You said that you are not his manager. Is it true that only his manager can let him go ? More importantly, can he complete his technical tasks, which are specifically assigned to him, on time with good/acceptable quality ? Jun 4 at 17:05
  • You say he doesn't report to you, and doesn't even work for the same employer. Establishing accountability is key to suggesting improvements. Not following through on commitments is bad form, but there are conceivable reasons why, e.g. someone above you (from his perspective) has told him that he is not accountable to you and shouldn't allow your concerns to interfere with other priorities. In which case, his lame excuses could be the result of him being forced into an awkward position and trying to avoid open conflict or bad feelings.
    – jiheison
    Jun 6 at 20:32

Bring it up to your management team or whomever is responsible for their contract.

You're responsible for the success of a project, and if the person you're working with isn't bringing you into the loop or is boxing you out of those kind of important conversations, then it makes your job a lot harder to determine if the project is on track or if it's successful.

What's important to recognize is that everyone here should be a team player and should be motivated for the end goal. If someone isn't, and they're consistently and demonstrably not trying to be a team player, then the best thing to do is to put them on the bench and get someone else who will.


As lead you should give him some feedback. In the future, don't count on him to setup meetings.

As lead you need to address his performance issues, one of which is not inviting you. At the very least, you need to have a 1 on 1 chat. Explain the consequences for the team because he didn't do this, what to do next time.

Because I wasn't in the meeting I had to call a 2nd meeting with everyone who just attended yours. We had to go over the same thing again, which wasted everyone's time. A 1 hour meeting with 5 people is a five-hour meeting. Please add me to any meeting you have moving forward.

He's proven to be unreliable, so next time call meetings yourself.

I joined and was expected to improve the performance he wasn't happy about that, which he was very vocal about it.

And this suggest that this may be the latest in a string of issues with this person. He's a member of your team, you need to set performance expectations and enforce them, and talk to his company if he's not meeting them. Remember, there are plenty of consequences besides firing you can enforce.


What is the alternative that is better?

This is a key part of how I make decisions. Is there an alternative that overall, with all its advantages and tradeoffs, that puts me in a better position than before?

  1. You could just tag him as unreliable and act accordingly. I have had co-workers who didn't do things, so I put check-ins in my calendar to deal with it. I have also just done their work for them if required (usually something not all that important like a role description). Is this fair? No, but I lack any other means to have it addressed in less time.

  2. You could speak to him. Now, unreliable people often have a hard time changing, but this is only fair to them. Schedule a meeting on "key concerns" and instead of the smaller chats, have a more formal discussion about

  3. You could speak to his manager Someone manages them and it is their responsibility to resolve these issues.

These are basically the three options available. What you need to consider now are the potential consequences of these three options. What if he is terminated? Would he take a long time to replace? How would that impact your project? How would your complaints be received by his employer? Does he have key relationships in the company that could make things difficult for you? Can you fire him? Can you swap him out for someone else?

I would personally just go through his calendar periodically and invite myself to relevant meetings while scheduling regular check ins with him to interrogate him, but I like solutions that give me control and otherwise cause minimal change. This would be my use of option 1.

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