I work for a very small startup software company. Just over a year ago, a close friend of mine joined our team. At the time I was very enthusiastic about working with them, but now after getting to know them in a professional capacity I have learned that the quality of their work is very poor.

I have reached a point where this coworker's poor performance is negatively affecting my day to day and makes me very unhappy. I often find myself having to fix their mistakes just to get my own work done, and once became so frustrated that I spoke with our manager about it. My manager assured me that if their work started to affect our bottom line that we would have to make adjustments. No adjustments have been made that I am aware of. Meanwhile, it has become an office joke that if something is broken, or there is a bug on production, it is automatically assumed to be this coworker's fault - and almost always is.

I accept that it is a managers job to assess if an employee is good enough for the team. I have begrudgingly accepted that perhaps my team does not desire the same level of quality that I do. I have decided that this is enough of an issue for me that I would like to find other work.

I know my manager is going to ask why I am leaving. We are a very small team and have all become good friends. Is it appropriate to say that I am leaving because of a co-workers poor work performance? Is there a tactful, professional, way of saying this? Or would I be better off coming up with a different reason? Could I be grossly mistaken, and am I just being childish about this?

  • 2
    When you talked to your manager did you have a solution or just a rant/complaint? I've found that I get more success when I present solutions to problems not just pointing out problems. The solution to your problem seems simple, Why is this person's code allowed to make it into the build without any review? Suggest to your manager that the "TEAM" review all his code before allowing it into the build. Think of it as training the person. If after a few months the person is still terrible despite the training then you can approach your manager again about the "fit" of this person.
    – Dunk
    Sep 23 '14 at 19:16

For work or life, the answer to the question is "Put blame on the situation, not the person". You have cited the reason clearly, that you are unable to work freely with the amount of errors that you need to edit. Who causes the error is for management to decide. And since all in your organisation, even jokingly, blame that poor fellow, you have a free case, let the management use their imagination.

Do explain the situation, and then quit.

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    +1 For the opening sentence: For work or life, the answer to the question is "Put blame on the situation, not the person". Sep 21 '14 at 18:26
  • +1, but if in the process of you leaving, the manager tries to stop you, listen to any potential counter-offers and make a decision. But don't expect anything like that.
    – durron597
    Sep 22 '14 at 18:08

With all due respect, you are trying to treat the symptoms than the disease. Additionally, the effectiveness of your treatment is questionable. Finding another job because of one of your coworker's poor work might help you escape from your current problem. However, what if you end up with even worse coworkers at your new place?

A better approach might be to figure out why the coworker is performing poorly, and work with him and your manager to fix that. If he doesn't like the work, see if your manager can assign him some other work more suited to his tastes. If the commute is tiring him, figure out if he can move closer, or if he can be offered more flexible timings.

I would look at it as a great opportunity to demonstrate your leadership. Take it up as a challenge to make your coworker productive, and if everything you tried fails, then quit. That way, you and your manager know that you tried fixing the problem rather than just assign blame and escape. Moreover, you don't need to figure out a "professional, tactful way" of stating your reason, because your manager already knows.

The IT industry is a small world. You never know, 3 years later, you might quit your next job and land up with the same manager (or the coworker!) at the third job. Leaving with a good impression would certainly do you no harm.

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    The OP already decided to leave. And if the manager already decided that no action is necessary, this answer won't help. It's not the OPs job to " figure out why the coworker is performing poorly" etc.
    – user8036
    Sep 10 '14 at 6:54
  • This is a well-meant advice, but unfortunately it does not answer the question.
    – prockel
    Sep 10 '14 at 7:03
  • @JanDoggen You are getting into the XY Problem.
    – Masked Man
    Sep 10 '14 at 7:13
  • 1
    @JanDoggen Is this really the appropriate approach to take at the Workplace? It sounds like "The OP already decided to shoot themselves in the foot, our job is to tell them where to aim the gun." Sep 10 '14 at 14:20
  • 2
    OP: I want to commit suicide. What are my options? TW "answers": 1. Poison 2. Hanging 3. Use gun 4. Drown. Happy: Don't commit suicide. Why are you doing this? --> TW "community": Downvote, downvote, downvote. Reason: 1. OP has already decided to die. 2. It doesn't answer the question. 3. It is not our job to figure out why he wants to die.
    – Masked Man
    Sep 10 '14 at 15:44

So you have a co-worker who doesn't care about the quality of their work. That co-worker probably doesn't care that you are leaving because of them and thinks you are stupid and it serves you right if you do. Why wouldn't you concentrate your efforts on getting rid of the co-worker if you don't want to work at the same company?

Your manager already told you how to do it: Demonstrate how it affects the bottom line of your company. Take a stopwatch and every day add up the time that you spent fixing problems caused by that co-worker instead of doing your own work, then inform your manager with the results once a week. You could of course first tell your manager that you thought about leaving, but then decided it would be better to fix the problem.


You need to make it clear to the manager, that you do not want to have to do this person's work and/or fix their problems. Of course the bottom-line isn't affected, you're doing the work for two people.

Let him know you can't keep this up. Personally, I would stop doing it, so the problem can get addressed appropriately.

A lot of this can be affected by how much of a recommendation you made for this person. If you wanted to hire him, maybe it is expected that you clean up after him. In that case, I think everyone should know why you're leaving.


Is it appropriate to say that I am leaving because of a co-workers poor work performance?Is there a tactful, professional, way of saying this?

I would not mention names, I would mention that the team/department/organization/etc... isn't meeting your expectations of quality and improvement. Leave names out, the manager should be able to figure out who/what you're referring to if you've had conversations in the past. If pressed mention incidents that should/could have been prevented. If the manager wishes to follow up(about the incidents) later than that's their call, and they can look into it and draw their own conclusions. Only mention names as an absolute last resort.

Or would I be better off coming up with a different reason?

I'm going with honesty on this one. Just say quality is not meeting your personal expectations and you're not seeing any improvement on the team.

Could I be grossly mistaken, and am I just being childish about this?

Only you can answer that one.

During your conversation try to keep the emotions out of it, and stick to facts. Avoid pointing the finger in any sort of blame game.


I don't think this is the best solution, it is pretty rare that a team becomes good friends as you stated. I have worked on a friendly team, and productivity mostly is higher than expected, especially if everyone likes what they are doing. In your case I see that there is clearly a weak link. In this kind of situations especially if it is a startup that is really weak from person to quite because someone is worse than everyone else.

Think about this, if you leave than this startup can crumble because of this. If you are good and you leave you leave them without a really good workforce and leave them with this weak link. I have seen when this becomes the reason why startups fail.

I think the best solution would be to talk about manager if you could or other could suggest a training course for this coworker, not because he is bad, because you feel that he is not stepping up and everyone want that all are on the same level. You can even gain from this as manager will now see that you can step up and help others, that is a property of leader. You can use this if you later want a raise or promotion.

It is a good quality in life if you solve your problems not run away from them.

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