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As a Senior Software Development Manager, I am in a sticky situation with an employee who was brought into the company as a research trainee (without any interviews) but later moved into my project stating that his training was successful (again no interviews). The dev was just "given" to my team when we were asking for additional developers.

My leads and manager have been complaining that they are not able to get any work done with this developer. Often, they are fixing additional mess created by the dev. They are at a point where they don't want to assign anything to this dev.

Here's the meat of the story - My boss is the one who brought this developer into this company. Basically this developer is my boss' wife's youngest sibling.

I have met casually with my boss and said him in a very normal tone that my team is spending a lot of time coaching him. I think he gets the clue, but is not willing to adress this situation other than saying - "Yes, when anyone starts we need to coach and train". It is been 8 months, but it is creating more friction and stress in the team. One bad apple, may be!?

So, the question - what am I supposed to do here? I am stuck between my team and my boss.

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    What is the meaning of “boss”? If he’s the company owner and the salary comes out of his pocket, fine. If he’s not, then by hiring a useless person your “boss” is effectively stealing from the company.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 1 at 15:10
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    Boss == My direct manager - like a VP for a Senior PM. He does not own the company but he does have a power to influence as his peers are VPs.
    – oneworld
    Jan 1 at 19:11
  • Does your employee handbook mention not being able to work above someone you're related to? Can you speak to your CEO? Can you make an anonymous complaint to your CEO? Does your company have major shareholders? Jan 1 at 22:10
  • Nope, I don't have an official skip level option. I can reach out to the SVP about this, but I am sure that is going to back fire heavily on me. Do I have to get myself shot in the foot because of a small callous or can probably live with a bandaid!?
    – oneworld
    Jan 2 at 17:44

6 Answers 6

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Document everything: tasks assigned, tasks completed, delays, defects and whatever else can show that this person is underperforming.

Simply said, assess and document their performance. You don't want to report hearsay, and if the upper management still decides to keep this person, you will have at least a record of the problem for when the troubles will hit the fan.

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They got the position through nepotism; nothing you can do about that. To keep their job, they need to perform. If they can't, then they're out - but you absolutely need to prove that it's non performance rather than any sour grapes or personal issues.

Treat the employee exactly as you would any other employee; make sure HR is involved, and that any statements can be verified. Put them on a PIP if needed, and if appropriate, fire them.

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    "If they can't, then they're out". The OP's boss can easily ensure that they don't get fired. I don't know how you can say this with any certainty at all. Jan 1 at 16:33
  • In my experience, as long as there is a HR department, the OP has the authority to fire and the OPs boss isn't the CEO, this is the way to go.
    – PeteCon
    Jan 1 at 17:17
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    The OP has about as much authority that is vested in them. The existence of a HR department doesn't change that. In any case, firing a nepotism hire is easily a CLM. Jan 1 at 19:38
  • OPs boss can prevent his mate from being fired. He can’t prevent that it gets known his mate is only there because he’s the bosses pet. “Why is your project late?” “Because I can’t fire bosses pet and replace him with someone useful”.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 11 at 9:15
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A big part of the answer to this question depends on why the employee is failing. Nothing in your question indicates that this employee is malicious or otherwise deliberately failing, so I'm going to assume it's just general incompetence. To some extent, incompetence from an entry level trainee is expected. Everyone is incompetent at the beginning. In general, you need to take the time to train entry level developer up so they are no longer a burden, and that can certainly take a developer months. Your boss likely thinks nothing is wrong.

First order of business is to find out why they are failing. Everything starts from there. Talk to the employee about what happened on their most recent projects, what they are having problems with, and how that can be fixed. If they just need more training (and that means one-on-one code reviews, code walkthroughs, formal training classes on any frameworks you use, etc.) provide it or let your boss know why you can't provide it, and what alternatives there are. If, for example, they had never written a single program before working with you, then they may need extended help that you are unable to provide without more time/budget/manpower. You can document that, what the solutions would require, and your boss can make any decision on the path forward.

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    I Like L.Dutch's answer; you definitely need to document everything. But this (windblade) contains I think a better kernel of the way forward from here. Talk to the employee and help them to succeed. Assign non-critical path pieces of work - maybe something that would take a normal dev 1/2 day. It really doesn't matter how long it takes employee to do this. The critical thing is that you/your devs spend less time than that (1/2 day) managing them. Use decomposition as much as necessary to break it into smaller steps....
    – Justin
    Jan 1 at 18:45
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    .... Make certain you increase the delivery time on the project (because scope creep + training) to account for extra time spend by devs mentoring this person. Document, and advise your boss. Try other roles within your team, e.g. testing. But get them at least half way competent and confident. It may transpire that this person is never going to be a developer, but they're in the door and unlikely to get booted out. Fate decrees that they'll eventually end up in senior management, and it would be better they understood your team and looked back fondly.
    – Justin
    Jan 1 at 18:49
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Best way to deal with the situation in my opinion is to promote this dev out of your team.

Give him a vague but glowing praise and send him up for promotion to another project

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There has only ever been one thing I have ever expected from my bosses: to isolate me from the organisation thus granting me the ability to work on my projects.

If I were a member of your team I would be most happy with - if you can't fire the guy(and you can't) - do one-on-one-s with every member of the team prohibiting them from coaching the guy. Do a one-on-one with the guy telling him to turn only to you. Then be ... limited-ly available.

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  • In many jurisdictions this is called constructive dismissal and is very much illegal
    – scaryclam
    Jan 8 at 14:42
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You need to be more direct when talking to your boss. Tell him what the consequences have been on your team and the team spirit. Give him factual details. Tell the boss that you are at roads end. Tell him that any non-relative employee with this performance should be fired. Don't fear being fired yourself. Would you want to work somewhere if you speak up about nepotism you would be fired?

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    "Would you want to work somewhere if you speak up about nepotism you would be fired?" If I really needed the job...yes Jan 1 at 9:31
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    You were good when you said: "Give them factual details", but then you ruined it by then telling the OP to share their opinion. It's a very stupid move to say that a nepotism hire should be fired. Also, it's important to remember that while YOU may be in some sort of environment where jobs are very easy to acquire, that isn't universally true. Jan 1 at 11:49
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    First thing first, I don't want to run away from a dire situation by leaving to another job. Technically, there's no guarantee that similar issue would not happen elsewhere, so I believe, learning to handle this diplomatically is what I need now, an art of management. Hence need everyone's thought. Well - yes, I need to keep my job until I find another one.
    – oneworld
    Jan 1 at 19:08

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