I started this job about 7 months ago and since being here I can't help but notice that the senior developers on the team spend a huge amount of their day browsing the internet or doing other things around the office that has nothing to do with development.

The owner is very social and does encourage a relaxed atmosphere, allowing us to play a board game during the day, gets lunch for everyone a couple times a month, and those sorts of things. I enjoy this a lot but when people return to their desks, they certainly are not being productive at all.

The development team reports directly to the owner and the owner doesn't know anything about software development. In our very infrequent meetings the senior developers will say they're working on something, but between meetings will make very little (if any) progress. The owner is completely oblivious to how long development tasks should take to complete and it seems to me that he is being taken advantage of.

The company is quite small, less than 10 people, and close knit, i'm worried that bringing this up might create an environment of hostility towards myself.

How can I / Should I inform the owner that I think he is being taken advantage of without creating a hostile environment?

  • @Chad As phrased that seems like a duplicate. If this question was rewritten to emphasize the "senior" bit rather than just slacking coworkers in genral, then I think it would be a separate question.
    – asteri
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 19:59
  • This doesn't seem like a duplicate of the question that it was marked as a duplicate of. This one is about handling an overly relaxed work environment while that one is asking about dealing with a coworker who isn't doing his job.
    – Brian
    Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 13:42
  • @Brian - In both cases the problem stated is that the coworkers are not doing their job. It is the same problem this one just has it happening with multiple people. Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 14:22
  • @Chad It's happening with multiple senior people which changes my options for handling the situation a bit. I edited the question to emphasize that. Not sure if marking as duplicate has a negative impact but I'm fine with it if majority is in agreement.
    – Mat
    Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 14:26
  • 2
    Hi Mat, Welcome to The Workplace! Your question being marked as a duplicate does not mean that it's a bad question, just that we already have an answer on our site. Linking "duplicate" questions like this when they're not identical is useful because it provides multiple paths to find the answer. Do any of the answers to the linked question answer the question you need answered? If so, great! If not, you can either edit your question to clarify what exactly you're looking for and why the other answers don't help, or start from scratch with a new question.
    – yoozer8
    Commented Apr 1, 2014 at 17:28

4 Answers 4


It seems that the owner and other employees are content with the relaxed and slow-paced atmosphere. I don't recommend calling anyone out for not working hard enough. What you see as the employees taking advantage of the owner may simply be that their vision of the company is more comfortable, and less competitive, than you prefer.

Rather, use the other employees' shortcomings to impress the owner with your own abilities. If the owner is used to everyone making small amounts of progress between meetings, work to make a lot of progress between meetings, and show off what you've done. In addition to getting credit for your own abilities, you'll likely inspire the others to work harder to avoid looking bad in comparison.

If you feel that a tight-knit, slow-pace environment doesn't appeal to you as much as much as a fast-paced environment, you should start looking elsewhere. Be sure to ask questions about the work environment of any prospective employer to be certain that they encourage an environment with a pace and work ethic that are appropriate for you.

If you do decide to leave, you should be fine mentioning that you're looking for a faster-paced environment, but don't imply that the company needs to change, and definitely don't point fingers. Your reason for leaving is a matter of your taste, and the others at the company have as much right to prefer their current environment as you have to prefer a more competitive one.

  • @StephanKolassa Agreed.
    – Brian
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 17:41
  • 3
    Why the downvote? If you have a suggestion or concern, I'd like to hear it so I can consider changing my answer accordingly.
    – Brian
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 17:42
  • @Chad Of the three answers so far, mine is the only one that actually suggests doing something (that's what the whole second paragraph is about). If you think that actions should be taken that aren't covered in the existing answers, I encourage you to write an answer. Even if you agree with an existing answer, adding your own advice to the discussion can be insightful.
    – Brian
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 18:03
  • @Chad After rereading the last part of the question, I realize that I only answered "I'm not sure what the best way to approach the issue is. Should I take my chances and approach the owner?" and not "Or just start looking for something else? Also, if I did end up leaving without addressing the issue, would it be appropriate to address the issue as the reason I'm leaving?". Is that what you were referring to? I'll add to my answer to address those questions. I do appreciate your feedback.
    – Brian
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 18:20
  • @Chad Thanks, I added another sentence to the first paragraph to address that.
    – Brian
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 18:45

I'm not sure what you can do that will make all the parties "happy" but here are some things to consider:

  1. The owner may know more about the down-time than you think, but allows it to go on anyway. It's a compromise. Maybe these devs could make more money elsewhere, but take less because they don't put in as many productive hours.
  2. Don't cover for any one. If the owner asks you directly, it is in your best interest to tell the truth. You could ask the others how they're able to get away with so much slacking off. The answer may be in consideration #1.
  3. Make sure this doesn't affect your productivity. If you're constantly having to wait on others to get around to things, you need to let them know that "I didn't have time or was doing something else" is not going to be acceptable. They need to know they can't slack off so much it puts you in a bind. You have things to get done as well.

Other than this, I don't recommend saying anything until you know all the facts from all parties. You were brought in for a reason, so get your work done. If you get put into a position of authority/team leader, that would be the time to put everyone on notice. Again, the owner may know more than you think.


Before you do anything I think you need to determine whether there is an actual "issue" here or not.

The situation seems to be: small company, laid back owner, has been in business for at least several years and is obviously capable of making payroll. Dev team isn't doing much and owner is apparently unconcerned.

Some businesses simply aren't destined to grow. The owner is happy with the way things currently are and has become complacent. This sounds like that type of situation.

Now, the "issue" you are talking about is simply that dev isn't making progress. Unfortunately, that's not your call. Point is: if the other devs are pretty tight with the owner then it will be unlikely that whatever you do will improve things. Which means you have a choice: enjoy the "vacation" so to speak or move on to a faster paced environment.


I would try to create an open environment, where people should share their weaknesses & strengths. Once everyone feels comfortable and open with each other, bring your idea to the table, (not pointing anyone in particular).

As it stands, everyone has got their own way of working. If you feel they don't work as team, you can open up those issues in the form of Story or examples.

I have seen this kind of issues with most of the small size companies.

If you are responsible, or you think you can make a difference to the company, try to do the following so that you don't burn any bridges:

  1. Take them out for some group games once a week.
  2. Take them out for drink
  3. Have a family outings (depends how much you can afford)

Even after doing all these doesn't make them open, than be straight communicator, tell them what they need to do.

  • 1
    Hi Anil, welcome to The Workplace. Your answer may be spot-on but I think it lacks a bit in addressing the how part. Would you mind expanding on how to approach what you suggest in an edit? I assume that will see much appreciation from the community.
    – CMW
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 18:32

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