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I am working on a project with a team of three (my team lead, me and one of my peer). My team lead is very experienced in the field and vastly knowledgeable. He is very dedicated and committed to the work and very effectively distributed work among the three. If we had any problem, I consulted with him and he managed to solve the problem with ease. I had no problems working in this team for three months.

But suddenly, he contracted Covid and was out of office for one month (his whole family was quarantined). During this time, my peer and I had the manage all the work. My peer is slightly less experienced, so he had difficulty handling critical task, so the task was distributed 70%-30% (70% was me). I was burned out and literally overloaded with tasks. I sometimes contacted over phone to discuss the progress but he was not in shape to talk about anything. I was hoping he gets alright.

His quarantine period got over and now he was starting to come to office. He got slightly lethargic and was not in best of his health which was understandable. He didn't work too much for the initial period and all the work was done by me and my peer (but at least we are lucky to have his presence). But as time progressed, we noticed a slight change in attitude. He became lethargic and was not fully committed to work. He developed a bitterness in the way he spoke and sometimes he seems to zone out. He didn't work as he used to do before he contracted Covid. The work distribution was imbalanced (almost 50%-35%-15%, 50% being me). He always throws work at us saying "you are grown up now and can handle task yourself. You don't need help from me. I am busy with other task" but he is not doing anything. Even if we ask for some help or need some clarification, he becomes snarky and say that this is so simple and we can't even solve on our own.

I tried to talk it off (politely and not straightforward) but he always brush it off and say that I don't need to bother about him and focus on the work. I can't complain as it would seems like I am sabotaging my team. He is way older and senior than me, so I am in no position to argue or confront face-to-face.

It's been four months. I was hoping he would recover from this but it seems he is not. How should I proceed?

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    Do you still feel burned out now that you handle 50% of the workload ? Commented Jul 31, 2022 at 18:19
  • So far, overall, does the performance of your team still look good to the manager ? Does you team meet all the deadlines and deliver high quality products ? Is the manager still happy with your team performance ? Commented Jul 31, 2022 at 18:23
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    Long COVID is a real thing, and there is - as far as I'm aware - no definite knowledge on how long recovery will take, or if full recovery is (always) possible. Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 9:14
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    In support of @MarkRotteveel's comment; be very aware that if you proactively address this, you may find yourself criticizing a coworker for a medical condition they suffer from, which is liable to land you in rather hot water. Consider very carefully if this is the road you want to be going down. What are you trying to get out of this?
    – Flater
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 10:53
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    this would benefit from a country tag, as how to treat seniority is a highly cultural question.
    – Benjamin
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 12:33

5 Answers 5

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From reading your question it seems that your issue is not the lacking performance of your coworker but you being overworked as a result of this.

I wouldn't complain about your coworker, who is in a tough spot himself and for whatever reasons can't perform the same as before Covid but instead frame this about you. Complaining about well respected senior coworkers will not make you look good.

If you're still feeling burned out and you can't reduce your workload on your own. I would recommend going to your manager and explain that your workload is currently too high and that you can't keep up this level of work. Then they will probably want to know why your workload increased and you can then explain that you now have taken on responsibilities and tasks that were previously done by your coworker. That way you can explain the whole situation without accusations. Then management can then take action like postponing deadlines or adding additional people to the project.

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Either stop worrying about it or talk to your boss.

This question is exactly the same if it's about any peer of yours whose performance you have a problem with. If it impacts your career you should probably speak up. If not, you should probably leave it alone.

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Surprised nobody honed in on this:

If we had any problem, I consulted with him and he managed to solve the problem with ease. I had no problems working in this team for three months.

Well, yeah, if he does your work for you, why would you have any problems?

While you focus on covid, consider there is another contributing cause. It's not uncommon for senior devs to be enthusiastic about new junior devs for the first few months. Then after it turns out they are less capable than expected, senior devs get disgruntled. This happens a lot. So this is actually another likely cause.

While you may have been happy, very likely he was not actually happy. It may even be possible he wanted to see you start shouldering more of the burden but then covid happened, he was out, and you had to learn how to do that the hard way. Now you are bitter since you've found out how it feels to have someone on the team not pulling his weight.

The work distribution was imbalanced (almost 50%-35%-15%, 50% being me). He always throws work at us saying "you are grown up now and can handle task yourself. You don't need help from me. I am busy with other task" but he is not doing anything. Even if we ask for some help or need some clarification, he becomes snarky and say that this is so simple and we can't even solve on our own.

Well, I'm guessing he's not the 15%, but even if he is, you're missing something here. As your team lead, he actually does a lot of work that is not visible to you. Very likely the reason you even have work that is spec'ed or meets requirements etc is because of this guy.

You're not gonna like this advice, but I'd focus on being a good right hand man to him. Because at the end of the day, he obviously has been providing a lot more value to the company. You can rise with him if he gets back into top performance. Dragging him down will only make your team and company suffer in the end. You aren't going to have any major victory here. Any gains you make will be short-term and fleeting.

If you don't like having a colleague that is underperforming (the 3rd person), I would let your lead know this. Have him fix the situation. That is actually his job; the amount of help he is supposed to give you, on the other hand, is very subjective. Maybe the company can hire a 4th person. As I said, you can work with him or make everyone worse off.

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    This is absolutely the best approach. If coworkers can find a way to help each other succeed without constantly "keeping score" of who is doing the most work, it will elevate the team (and it's reputation in the org) far beyond the commonplace Machiavellian mosh-pit of petty egos.
    – teego1967
    Commented Aug 1, 2022 at 23:44
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"..and say that I don't need to bother about him and focus on the work."

in combination with:

"He is way older and senior than me, so I am in no position to argue or confront face-to-face."

should lead to the conclusion that you wouldn't do yourself a favor in bringing this up. Give your lead some time to get back to his previous performance. A lot of medical issues, including Covid, can take its toll on the ones affected and may lead to post-infection syndromes such as fatigue, lethargy and the like.

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I would suggest reframing the problem since being your senior, his performance or commitment is not really your concern. The workload on you has clearly increased. If this is causing you problems then speak to him from this perspective. Are you being required to work too many hours? Are you being put on tasks that are too difficult for you? It's perfectly reasonable for you to bring up these issues with the senior person. The senior guy should discuss how illness is impacting his work with his superiors. Simply expecting juniors to cover for you is irresponsible and unsustainable (people will eventually quit).

The ideal solution to this problem is the company simply reduce scope or extend timelines. People overestimate the importance of the work they do. The goals for the team were likely set based on what the team can deliver and may even be higher than other similar teams. Not based on what would would be life or death for the company.

If your manager and their manager are unreceptive to this then you can either suck it up, simply refuse to do the extra work or go elsewhere (with last two likely being similar)

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