I was put in charge of a non-trivial project that requires me and another medior/senior engineer, I don't think it matters but we are talking about embedded systems. I was explicitly defined as the lead of this project and thus have both authority and responsibility for it; however, I do not have the authority to have some sort of performance review of this person later. This person has shown in the past to not have particularly good skills when it comes to writing design docs or communicating ideas.

We are going through a - limited - number of design docs and exploratory work. So far, everything this person has produced is extremely limited in depth and comments about expanding, detailing, and improving the produced documents, or better, the exploratory work, have gone practically unheard or resulted in an extremely limited improvement. I feel like I have to force details/work/problem-solving out of this person and I'm afraid I'm getting some kind of reverse delegation or weaponized incompetency behavior.

The only strategy I have at the moment is to continuously request syncs/check-ups, to use this moments to "force" more information out of this person. I have the feeling that, if I would never contact this person, I would be completely ghosted. This is the first time I find myself in this position so I'd like to hear the opinion of somebody else about what I could or should do.

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    I have no reason to believe that this is the case from what you've written, but have you considered that the other engineer might feel like you've assigned all the "dog work" to them while keeping the more interesting work for yourself? Was there any discussion about equitable division of the required work before it was assigned?
    – brhans
    Nov 3, 2022 at 16:15
  • For this particular task we have distinct duties that were actually pointed by the higher ups, so that's a no. To be totally honest the dog work belongs to me Nov 3, 2022 at 19:21
  • Are you considered peers outside of this effort? I'm not familiar with the term 'medior' but it seems to be borrowed from another language, perhaps. It means 'medium-level expertise', correct?
    – JimmyJames
    Nov 3, 2022 at 21:03
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    Have you considered talking to him in a friendly way about his lack of responses? E.g. "Hey buddy, what's up? I've noticed you haven't been replying to my questions about xyz. Is everything okay?" and "I wanted to have a quick check up about the project. How do you feel it's going? ... I've got a feeling you might prefer to be doing something else - is that anywhere near accurate?". Answers to such conversationally probing questions might shed some light to a more agreeable solution. Nov 3, 2022 at 21:53
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    FWIW “quiet quitting” isn’t really a thing; it means doing your job without unreasonable expectations on top.
    – Reid
    Nov 3, 2022 at 22:29

1 Answer 1


The first question I would ask is this:

"What is your colleague actually good at?"

I'll use myself as an example, I have a number of skills that I'm very good at and other areas where I'm less competent. In my team, there are other people who are stronger in those areas that I'm weak on - consequently, I tend not to be tasked with things that fall within those areas.

If you know that your colleague is weak in an area of the project, yet you assign them work in that area - it seems to me that you are setting yourself up for Failure.

So my first port of call would be to identify the skills they have (as you mentioned they are a senior Engineer, so should have some skills) and try to assign tasks that are more strongly suited to their skillset.

That's the Carrot part of this answer, now for the stick part.

In the same breath as above, I'm inferring that the stage of the project that you are currently in is one where their deficiencies are most glaring. If they are giving you a cold shoulder and not actively participating in the project, then that isn't cool. This may be a scenario where you need to raise it with whoever manages your team and ask them for guidance on how best to get the desired work-output from your colleague.

You may need to simply set deadlines and deliverables and then when they aren't met, ensure that this is noted to management. Note, if you intend to do this, you need to make sure your work is absolutely pristine.

I would start with the carrot first though - try and find something they are good at and get them to handle those tasks.

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    Agree about putting the person in its area of expertise, the design docs and exploratory work he's doing cover his area of expertise, and me doing that work would be a waste of time, I'm already busy with other parts of the project, so I'm not sure I can do much else here, information needs to be shared and documents need to be produced for later review. About the stick part, I've indeed started better defining what are the expected deliverables of every single task, but they are getting completely ignored, i.e. I'm not even getting a reply or a comment about what I write. Nov 3, 2022 at 10:02
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    I think I'll try to leave a papertrail in case later review by the higher-ups needs to happen, thanks for your input TheDemonLord Nov 3, 2022 at 10:46

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