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I'll try to keep the introduction very brief and elaborate further down. I work as a senior cloud engineer and our boss manages 4-5 teams of 3-6 people. My colleague - also a senior cloud engineer - works in another team and our boss wants only us two, to work on a medium size project. Support of another operating system. However, to me, it seems this colleague is very very green. Like.. Far below what I would expect even an junior to be, and meeting the deadline is impossible as it stands. I have three short questions, and could ask them separately if need be.

  • What do I tell myself?
    • I am fairly patient but working with someone, who seems to fail tasks someone with 1 year in CS should easily do is very tough. I notice myself getting very frustrated. Should I just take a timeout get some air? Also us having the same pay and grade iirks me a tiny bit. But I would not care at all, if I did not have to work with him.
    • It grinds my gears that I have to do 99.9% of the work, and can not assign him even the smallest task in fear of him messing up. It seems if I do not micromanage him, he sits on his ass doing nothing.
  • What do I tell my boss
    • My plan is to keep it very factual. We will not be able to meet the deadline, and working with him causes me a lot of frustration. I want to ask my boss if he wants me to babysit this person, or just get the project working, however this seems very unprofessional.
  • What do I tell my colleague
    • We have a fairly good tone. My grievances is having to work with him, not him as a person.

Short story: I gave him a brief overview of our current production line. Which he nodded and said yes yes as I explained. I also gave him this in writing. As he is not familiar with our pipeline despite having worked here a year. Nor did he have the permissions to access anything. I truly wondered what he had been doing for a whole year, but kept that to myself.. Then, I asked if he could complete a small part of the project. This included setting up a very crude testing environment locally. I outlined in great detail the steps to do this, with step to step instructions, and commands to run. I also said I would check in with him in two weeks (A senior could do this in minutes) and if he had any questions feel free to ask me. We have offices next to one another, and I always have an open door policy. Fast forward two weeks, he has not been able to follow the tutorial and had begun messing directly on our production server??? He tried to put random files in random places, and hoped somehow our pipeline would magically execute and run his code??? Also even menial tasks such as copying and pasting code was done incorrectly and seemed also to be unable to understand simple YAML code? When I was finally able to steer him to the tutorial, it took 6 hours for him to complete the 7 steps in it. He complained there was too much text in the tutorial (it was about 500 words..) Even small things as "having to run the program as root" was hard to grasp. He also seems very keen on "me screen sharing" and just doing the work while he watches. He says he learns a lot from it..

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    Give your boss an estimate to deliver the thing single handed, and then another estimate 50% higher factoring in the cost of bringing the other guy up to speed and micromanaging him. If your boss is fine with the larger estimate then it's not your problem any more.
    – numenor
    Feb 9 at 14:52
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    Your boss needs to know that this person has a very low velocity, and that it is counterproductive for you to work with him. Feb 10 at 14:58

3 Answers 3

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What do I tell myself?

It seems that you already told yourself a lot, you've identified that this individual's performance isn't what you expect, and while it's frustrating to have to deal with them, it's up to you to deal with the situation in your own mind. This (probably) wasn't the first time you've had to work with a colleague not pulling their weight, and it probably won't be the last.

What do I tell my boss?

In my experience, telling your boss that your colleague is ineffective is not always the best plan, a lot of the time I find they either already know, or don't care.

You can have a 1:1 with your boss in regards to the project itself, and say that with the current (combined) skill-set you'll likely not finish the project in time. If they ask why, you can then say that you're the only one familiar with tools and skills x, y, and z.

Your boss' main concern is the project getting done and let them figure out how to adjust the team to hit that goal.

What do I tell my colleague?

Nothing, unless you're truly out to help them. It's your boss' job to manage performance on the team, and it's not your job to make your colleague's performance better, unless you're formally mentoring them.

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  • English is not my first language so sorry for any nuances in language. I've worked with people with skills lower than mine, even perhaps 90% to 10%. In this case however. I find my colleagues might be actually harmful to the completion of the problem. Given how he casually went into our production server and started making changes. I do not -- currently -- see him making any meaningful contributions. Feb 9 at 18:02
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    I think it may be good to get clarification from your boss whether your coworker's performance is any of your responsibility. If not, then just keep your boss up to date with progress of the work, and have a paper trail (in a non-accusatory way) of what happens at work. Things such as "installed XYZ, fixed issue relating to ABC, reverted change made by [coworker], etc.". It is up to your boss to make the determination that someone is not pulling their weight. Of course if they're making serious mistakes (like deleting database backups), then it's prudent to inform your boss.
    – Matthew
    Feb 9 at 19:39
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Exactly what do you want out of any action you take?

If you want to warn your manager that an estimated time is likely to slip, then simply say so.

If you want to advise why two staff are inadequate for your project, I'd suggest diplomatic language about how your colleague's skill level is mismatched with the needs of the project. It may come as no surprise to him.

Your manager may also already have two underlying agendas in relation to your colleague.

Firstly, he may be allocating him to various people for the purposes of training and improving his productivity, and so he isn't necessarily expecting a trainee to make a significant contribution in the meantime.

Secondly, he may already be aware of your colleague's technical weakness, but is giving him a good chance and placing him with a variety of staff to see if he fits in anywhere. If he fits in nowhere, he may eventually depart.

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If it's causing problems for you then tell your manager that you think the chap is operating on false pretences. Be prepared to job search if the manager doesn't take you seriously immediately AND do something about it.

To me this looks like a person who is not competent for their role which I wouldn't care about until it affects my role. Your manager is there to make sure you are happy and productive, if they don't do that, sack them and find one that does.

Always remember you do NOT have a problem with your colleague, they're just fudging their way through for a paycheque like almost everyone. You only have a problem with their fudging making you look incompetent or otherwise negatively impacting on your role. Which is a managers role to sort out.

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