I have recently got position of software development team leader. This is my first time handling a team of 6 members. A few members of the team were my colleagues before becoming their team leader. I have observed that some members do not have simple tendency to stop and wait till dependent task of other members are finished and integrated. What they want is to leave office on time, no matter what happens. They do not feel any responsibility for their task. Some of those members are old colleagues who are still not taking any task seriously, even if project deployment is due in a few days.

Please guide me how to handle this team? Am I doing something wrong? Usually I do not go harsh on anyone. I fear due to a couple of members, all other members will start behaving the same.

The company offers comp-off for extra work time.

What if a task is assigned to a member, 8 hours are allocated to finish it (including buffer). I could see that member is passing their time on their mobile the whole time and at the end of the day comes with excuses like, it is very tough, it won't be possible to finish the task today. I know the given task will not take more than 4 hours and the member has skills to achieve it.

A few of our tasks are related to data fetching API and some are web development. When both tasks are ready, the web page needs to be integrated with API, and in some cases data might need to be modified to accommodate the web design. This is integration which depends on both colleagues.

  • 7
    Do you pay for the overtime? If not, why is it employees who have to adjust work time, and not the expectations be lowered?
    – Aida Paul
    Commented Oct 17, 2023 at 18:40
  • 2
    I'm not sure I understand why they need to wait for these other tasks to get integrated. Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 2:26
  • 1
    our company do offer Complementary off for extra work
    – AM5
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 2:50
  • You mentioned your subordinates were your colleagues, and although you don't focus on this, I would recommend reading pieces like this hbr.org/2020/09/… (also see related articles at bottom of page). For example, you mention that you don't 'go harsh on anyone', which ties to the idea of radical candor "— the ability to address the problem at hand, even if the feedback is harsh (as long as it comes from a place of caring)." Good luck!
    – A.S
    Commented Nov 2, 2023 at 15:36
  • You should consider rewording your title. A good headline will attract better answers. Try something like "As a newly promoted software team lead, how do I motivate and inspire my team?" Commented Nov 2, 2023 at 19:59

9 Answers 9


How to handle team?

  • Set realistic deadlines.
  • Regularly speak with with your team members to see how far along they are, what may be blocking progress, and determine if deadlines need to be adjusted.

Employees leaving at their scheduled time is normal behavior that you need to accept.


Are you paying for overtime?

If not.. If they stay late one day, are they allowed to leave early the next day so that they do not work more then their 40 hours a week?

If the answer to both of these is 'no'.

It sounds like you have some employees who are not willing to be taken advantage of by exploitative business practices.

You can fix this by either:

  1. paying overtime.

  2. allowing workers flexible work hours as long as they get their 40 done and are there for your core business hours.

  3. Do a better job at planning out work/ assigning work so that you are not assigning people more work then they can do in the time that they have. It's not their fault that the schedule compresses 80 hours of work in 40 hours of time. Additionally the overall architecture/module design sounds bad. Design interfaces between the separate modules with unit tests to ensure compatibility to the module.

    • For example design the interface between Steve/Johns parts so Steve can make their module without a working example from John... Preferable with a stub + test that will check that Steve's module works as intended as long as John's module conforms to the interface.
  • company do offer comp-ff for extra work. i can say that members can be seen doing non productive work during task time, ends up with unfinished tasks
    – AM5
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 2:56
  • @AM5 "old colleagues who are still not taking any task seriously" Which means that they have seen the company continue do a bad job of scheduling projects... Underbudgeted and overpromised. They know that the project had 1/2 the time that it should have to get completed... Company continues to pretend to make realistic deadlines... they will continue to pretend that it will be done on time.
    – Questor
    Commented Oct 18, 2023 at 14:20

I see two problems:

  • If you assign tasks and set deadlines, that is an external motivation. Someone else wants that done. People will have zero intrinsic motivation to actually get it done.

  • You see that people aren't working and you let them.

For the first point, when you have tasks, ask your team how long it will take. If they tell you it will take 8 hours, they will feel bound by it. Because now it is their promise and their pride in their ability to do the job that is on the line. Please note that this need to be freely given. As soon as you say something like "ah, don't you think you can do it faster", it goes back to being your estimate, that they do not feel bound by.

And for the second point... telling your team member to get off their private phone and work is literally your job. Take them to the side, tell them that you see that their task isn't done, but they aren't working on it either. That is what they get paid for. Ask them to please work on their task instead of looking at their phone. Don't make threats though. If they don't stop this behaviour, talk to the manager. Ask them what to do. Because making any threats of consequences that you cannot back up is bad for your standing. You will be the "unfun" person anyway, that comes with being supervisor, but make sure you are the unfun guy that keeps their word. Nothing is more pathetic than an unfun guy that makes hollow threats.

Your problem has nothing to do with overtime. Your people should work during work time. If they don't, no amount of more time where people look at their phones will help your project.


As the team lead you get to set the expectations for your team.

However all employees can compare your expectations and their total benefits package against other employers in your area. Good employees have options - if they don't feel they are being compensated adequately they can choose to either ignore your expectations and/or start looking for a new job. In short if they don't care about keeping their current job you will find it difficult to mandate change.

Depending what studies you read, there is a number of hours that is sustainable - i.e. that people can continue to contribute at their maximum effort. In the short term you can spike to hit a deadline, however constantly pushing people to work long hours is detrimental, i.e. that in the long run they produce less output (than if you simply maintained a reasonable output level). Further people have lives and make plans to do things after work so asking them to work late (especially if there is no notice) will impact them.

Part of your job is sequencing the work so that your entire team can contribute their effort during normal business hours. If you find that team members are idle (blocked on another task) you need to improve your planning so that doesn't happen. If you are unable to meet the deadline set by management you need to ask for more resources and/or push back on the deadline/scope. Note: You may delegate the planning action to the team - however the responsibility to ensure that the planning is effective stays with you.


Accept the status quo.

People leaving on time is perfectly normal. Work resumes again the next morning. There's no lost time in between.

In terms of employees playing on their phones, it's not untypical that standard work days far exceed the mental work time that developers are capable of.

This is because most routine and mechanical aspects of programming have been purged from the occupation by tools, and good developers are efficient at avoiding the further creation of deadweight activities, so that what is left is often a hardcore of difficult and varying work.

There may also be the potential that your staff are becoming worn out in general, or are starting to impose a pacing that is more suitable to relentless effort. This may occur because there is never any downtime between projects or appreciation for work done, only endless demands and deadlines.

Consider that a person with good physical fitness can certainly run a marathon in a few hours, but they can't run a marathon every day, and probably not even once a week.

Once you're talking about something that must be done 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, even walking becomes too much for the average body. At best, an army of selected and highly drilled youths, with all their other needs catered for, might manage to sustain a slow walk, for perhaps a number of weeks.

Similarly, developers have extremely fit minds for coping with the cognitive burdens of development, but the performance that is clearly possible sometimes in a day, is not the same performance that is possible every day.


Here is how you handle this.

You let the project run its course. It might miss the deadline.

Then you hold a retrospective and find how the team feels about it. Judging from your workplace culture I'm guessing you won't get much as they may be reluctant to speak up.

Either way you learn from this and for your next project either:

  • take on less work (learn how to say no)


  • hire more staff

In my experience, managing development teams for various companies, there are two ways of doing it.

  1. Do it strictly, everything is by the clock, start time, finish time and breaks are strictly dictated. In this atrocious scenario, you need to pay them overtime. Gather them together and discuss what rate they would need to stay back.
  2. The way I managed them was that I was easy and treated them like family.
    1. I did not care when they took a break or how long it was, as long as they met their deadlines.
    2. I would let them happily take time off for family issues such as taking kids to school or to the doctor.
    3. I let them work from home, when they had a good reason (even before covid).
    4. Out of the 7, I told them I needed at least one to start at opening time (when clients started working) and one to be present at finish time (at the end of the 8 hour day). They discussed amongst themselves who it would be.
    5. I let them take their leave when they wanted to. The proviso was that I needed one of them to be at work all the time, in case support needed them. So they had to organise between themselves who that person would be.
    6. They all stayed back by themselves, automatically to finish what they were working on, because it was more efficient for them.
    7. They all met their deadlines (except when it was out of their control).

Leave the office on time? What? How dare they do that!

It's a travesty that these people should want to leave and handle other responsibilities and commitments. Those children and elders that need care at home can take care of themselves. Those night school classes that they've paid for to improve their lives -- ah, they're not so important either. And folks can get along just fine without meals and sleep.

I wrote this to make a point that your expectations are not realistic. You might do a better job at curbing the cell phone use in the office. Beyond that, I'm getting a "workaholic" vibe about you from your question above that you don't have the right to impose on everyone else. As a team lead, you need to help set correct expectations for your superiors without making the assumption that everyone can work at the same pace as you. Incorrect expectations cause stress, and quality issues.


I have observed that some members do not have simple tendency to stop and wait till dependent task of other members are finished and integrated. What they want is to leave office on time, no matter what happens. [...] even if project deployment is due in a few days.

Honestly, if they have to wait until they can continue and can't do anything about that, I think it's actually unfair to expect them work overtime for that. It's not their fault they couldn't continue. Why should they get punished because somebody else hasn't finished their task yet? If it were me, I'd also not want to work overtime when I was forced to sit around until someone else was done.

To me, it sounds like there's a serious problem with the planning of work. How can you be a few days from a deployment (which from your text sounds like a big deal) and still have people that can't continue working until other tasks are done? It's your job as the team lead to make sure everyone has work to do (and actually does it) and is able to do it.

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