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One of our more senior workers is very comfortable at work. So much so that a lot of very small mistakes are being made that when they cascade turn into pretty big issues.

Other workers are starting to get a bit angry or annoyed since this one worker is causing more work for everybody. He has been talked to about this and it doesn't really change anything.

Are there any constructive ways to tell this person they need to be less comfortable and a bit more conservative?

To clarify, I think if a person needed to make a big change that could have a big impact to a lot of people. Usually there would be some levels of anxiety involved. It varies based on person. An overly comfortable person is cavalier. A uncomfortable or conservative one would still be worried even when they are pretty sure they did it right. They're the type that would double check their work. This worker is cavalier.

  • What industry is involved here? If it's software development there are various process-related changes that could be made that would make 'cavalier' people less likely to submit bad code, and 'conservative' people worry less about submitting code. Things like continuous integration testing, test-driven development, etc.. – aroth Aug 3 '14 at 3:46
  • @aroth, it's not development but just general IT. We do have change control in place but these tend to be smaller mistakes. Not very many major ones it's just that there are so many and a more careful person would likely catch them before wrapping up. – Biff Aug 3 '14 at 4:11
  • What is the process for change management – Brandin Aug 3 '14 at 10:05
  • @Brandin you put in a change ticket and it goes through a process to approve it. It doesn't really mean much because they approve pretty much everything – Biff Aug 3 '14 at 20:14
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I really don't care how comfortable he is, as long as he doesn't make mistakes. The point is, he is making mistakes.

Each of you needs to call him up on each one of his mistakes and have him fix them. Make a point of cc:'ing the manager on each of his mistakes and the impact of that mistake on your time. Eventually, the senior worker will figure out that he has a problem with everybody, and that he needs to have more respect for his work and for other people's time.

If he is still cavalier/oblivious about it, then this means that he is not feeling your pain. Set his butt (figuratively) on fire and don't think twice about it.

  • Folks have already started that but it doesn't really seem to help. Manager has had talks with him about it but it doesn't seem to change much. – Biff Aug 3 '14 at 1:58
  • I agree with making the communication public. However, I would wager that the most likely outcome is that the senior worker ultimately leaves. Unfortunately it's not going to happen over night. – NotMe Aug 3 '14 at 2:21
  • @ChrisLively It depends. If his ego takes a hit, he'll probably leave. But then,he'll be quite consci0us that on his next, he can't afford to do what he is doing and coast. On the other hand, if he adjusts his attitude and pays attention to what he is doing, he won't have to go through the trouble of changing jobs :) – Vietnhi Phuvan Aug 3 '14 at 4:13
  • @Ruff you are going to take the pressure up a notch. in fact,you might even have to nail him. You all have to make him feel the pressure, from every side. Set his butt on fire. – Vietnhi Phuvan Aug 3 '14 at 4:25
  • @VietnhiPhuvan is right. You need to tell the poor worker and your/their manager about these mistakes and keep on doing so. It's poor management to let things get to the state that they're already in so your manager may be a bit of an idiot, but as long as you keep the pressure on they will need to do something to resolve the issues this person is causing. Eventually they will need to shape up or ship out. – Rob Moir Aug 3 '14 at 18:51
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A managers primary job is to remove obstacles to their subordinates ability to successfully complete their assigned tasks. If one of those subordinates is hindering the team, then the manager should attempt to reform the employee and, barring that, remove them from the equation.

If the manager is incapable of, or unwilling to, take the necessary steps then there really isn't a whole lot you can do other than to continue letting the manager know the problem exists. At some point even a somewhat lousy manager will recognize the issue and finally take action.

  • Is there any better way than just letting the guy know he's messing up out in public like Vietnhi Phuvan recommended. Maybe going to him and explaining it. I mean there's always a chance there's a tough life event we aren't aware of. – Biff Aug 3 '14 at 2:22
  • @Biff: You are essentially asking what words you could use in order to effect change in a fellow coworker. While at the same time stating that the manager has already attempted to address the issues directly with them with no result. The answer is: There are none. If there's a "tough life" situation then that is a private matter and not your concern. I think Vietnhi's answer is the only viable approach. This type of issue is exactly what the manager should be taking care of. – NotMe Aug 3 '14 at 2:49
  • Is there any better way than just letting the guy know he's messing up out in public like Vietnhi Phuvan recommended -- I'm not convinced that Vietnhi did say to do it in public. The suggestion was that as people on a team discover a mistake this person has made, they then notify the problem worker and CC their manager. That is not a public flogging. It's no different to what would happen naturally in a well-organised bug tracking system that knew who owned/checked in which piece of work and tracked faults in the overall project back to the checked-in piece of work that caused them. – Rob Moir Aug 3 '14 at 18:56
  • @RobM: My "public" categorization essentially meant that you aren't talking to the manager behind the coworkers back. In other words, the coworker is well aware that you are telling the manager that his/her work is substandard. – NotMe Aug 4 '14 at 18:16
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This is partially a behavior problem, but largely a process problem. Often as people become more senior, their understanding of the big picture improves while their ability to concentrate closely on detail weakens. Contrariwise, for less senior people, they may have great ability to concentrate but do not know where to focus attention.

The solution to both these problems is to have changes reviewed before they go into production. Code changes should be reviewed in two ways: via automated testing, and via manual review.

Configuration changes to production systems should always be done by a pair of people working from a prepared and validated script. Working from the script, one person enters commands and a second person reviews the entered command and gives approval before the command is executed.

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