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I work in R&D company. I have a colleague (name him B) who was given a relatively hard and tedious task with somewhat unclear requirements. He was doing his best to accomplish it, even working on the weekends and once even spent a night in the office. However, he failed. More specifically, he came up with his solution which was not accepted by some high-level bosses. Now the lead of our team is crazy about the outcome and talks trash behind the back of this colleague ("He is hard to work with..", "He is stupid", "I don't see how is it possible to fail such a task").

I talked a lot with B while he was working on the task, and he was complaining a lot about the lack of support, unclear target etc. So, I know all the background and do feel like I need to intervene and say a word. Should I do it?

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    Well almost definitely no, but what do you mean by "intervene and say a word?" What are you planning to say and to who?
    – InBedded16
    Jun 13, 2023 at 14:13
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    @InBedded16 to a boss. Something like "the task was unclear, this guy made his best, etc."
    – user43283
    Jun 13, 2023 at 14:14
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    From my perspective this guy is being framed as a scapegoat. And this is unfair taking into account that he did put effort into the task he was given.
    – user43283
    Jun 13, 2023 at 14:17
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    While not an answer, if you're ever at a job and are thinking "Should I do it?" in regards to something that is not your responsibility or duty, always consider "Is this worth getting fired over?"... To take your own words and rearrange them slightly, you're asking "Should I intervene on behalf of a guy being framed as a scapegoat by some high-level bosses?"
    – David S
    Jun 13, 2023 at 17:24
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    I would say that this depends somewhat on the culture in the specific company. Some places encourage open communication and are likely to be receptive to a quiet word on the side with a manager. In other places it may be professional suicide (leave that job quickly if you can). There may be environments in which it would backfire -- bringing more negative attention to this coworker.
    – Basya
    Jun 15, 2023 at 10:00

3 Answers 3

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I'm going to give a different answer to those above - but I'm going to predicate it with this could be a CLM - a Career Limiting Move.

I tend to be very disagreeable and if I think something smells, I will quite happily let management know. I personally believe in the old maxim of 'All Evil needs to flourish is for good men to stand by and do nothing' - And if you think one of your colleagues is getting unfairly treated, then you should stand up and say something.

Whether or not it achieves the result you want is a different question - however in line with my above personal belief is that in the long run, if you do what is right - eventually it works out. I've had periods of time in my career where perhaps being quiet and sucking up to management would have been the quicker path to advancement - but that isn't who I am.

I've still advanced and usually when I get there, it's with more respect and office clout because people know that I'm a person of integrity.

In short: If you think a wrong has been done, then you should do something about it. Just be aware that the outcome you seek and the outcome you get aren't always the same - but if you do what you know to be right, eventually you will be rewarded.

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    There is no evidence to suggest that doing what you know to be right will lead to an eventual reward. Could just lead to you being fired. Maybe when you're homeless you can pat yourself on the back for doing "what was right". Jun 14, 2023 at 16:20
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    @GregoryCurrie - you can believe that if you like, I believe differently. Short-term you might be homeless, but if you retain your personal integrity, eventually you will be rewarded. Jun 14, 2023 at 20:04
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    I agree with the idea of speaking up. I agree that there is an element of risk. Some of that risk can be mitigated by choosing very carefully how to address the issue. It can be addressed very delicately (for example, by speaking to someone at a higher level (but as low as possible -- I'd suggest the team lead himself except that the description in the question leaves me with the impression that he will not be receptive),
    – Basya
    Jun 15, 2023 at 9:54
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    and approaching him with something like "I have a concern I'd like to discuss", and ease into the issue. Then discuss it in an open but non-judgmental way ("I'm not sure that the team lead had the chance to be fully aware of the challenges that J. Doe was facing on that task.)
    – Basya
    Jun 15, 2023 at 9:55
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    That manager has behaved really unprofessionally, talking badly about someone behind their backs. I would speak up, if it backfires, I would not regret it much. Could've been you in that position. That doesn't mean you have to be aggressive about it.
    – bytepusher
    Jun 15, 2023 at 21:54
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No, I would not say anything unless asked. Your knowledge of B's process and work flow is not "knowing all the background," and unless you have reason to believe the team lead is incompetent I would trust his evaluation of your colleague's performance. There is no reason why a boss would listen to you about this over the team lead.

That being said, it is troubling that the team lead is talking about B like that behind his back. Unless this is the norm for your company's culture, that would be a valid concern to bring up to a boss.

And separately, if you feel as though an employee is being unsupported and set up to fail in a project, you may want to bring that up as a concern during a check-in or yearly review.

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The culture of your company does not seem to foster team work and mentoring.

If the manager/staff claim to believe that the task was not difficult/challenging then perhaps they do not appreciate that. It's very easy to dismiss how something is perceived to be trivial or easy. Not everyone has the same experience or skill set. Effort should never be diminished or played down.

An idea approach from a manager could be "Here's this task I'd like you to complete. I realise that it's challenging and that you've not done this kind of thing before or it is a little different. Take some time to think about it and start when you're ready. If something is unclear or you need guidance or help, let me know. "

Equally I would have said the same kind of thing (above) if I was a team lead.. in an organisation you want people to succeed not fail..Collaboration is a good path to learning and sharing knowledge.

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    also, people tend to think all the solutions are obvious, until they sit down and figure out why all the obvious stuff doesnt work. Experienced managers should be aware of this, but often aren't
    – Benjamin
    Jun 14, 2023 at 12:20

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