There is this guy in my company who is very nice, always in a good mood, quite hardworking and has all the amiable qualities that you can think of but he is not really good at his job. I am inclined to think that he is rather poor at his job.

Me and my team lead are currently working on a project, the code freeze for which is on monday. The project is very important which is one of the reasons why it got assigned to us. On thursday night, my team lead called me to try and come early on friday so we can finish all the pending tasks. We were rather swamped with work on friday. Well, we finished everything nicely.

Now about this guy I mentioned above, on thursday, there was a bug found in some code he had written that needed to be fixed urgently. He sought my help on it and I did help him. We have a proper code review system in place and he asked me to review his code. While reviewing I found too many simple issues in his code which I pointed out to him and he said he would fix them. Well, thursday was over and I left for the day.

On friday morning, I saw a mail from him sent at 1 AM in the night saying that he is on leave for one week starting friday. He had done all the changes I suggested and updated the code review. He also sent me a final patch requesting me to commit the changes for him. I think he was working till 1 AM to finish his task and I feel truly sorry for him.

However, after applying his patch to the code, I found that the changes didn't compile, the unittests he had written were not running. All this probably because his own copy of code was really old. He didn't add anyone as moderator on his review, so no one could really edit his review. Even after the changes, his code had too many issues and I can't really commit such poor code. We have a policy of closing code reviews before the code is committed, and his review is going to hang around till he is back.

However, given the urgency of his own bug, I fixed the code myself, created a new review and got it reviewed from someone else and committed it. This was a bit difficult as some of the files that he was changing were also being changed by me and like I said earlier, I was swamped with my own work on friday. I was rather frustrated on his passing the responsibility to me without even asking me once and that too on a really busy day for me, although he was not aware of this.

And in all the frustration, I sent him a strongly worded reply highlighting all his mistakes and saying that I can't really commit his changes as such. On my team lead's suggestion, I even included his manager in the mail. I informed him that I had done the fix however. Late at night I saw a concise "Thank You" from him. And now I am feeling all guilty.

So questions: Was I wrong in sending a rather harsh reply. Did I do something wrong by including his manager. That would make him look bad. I wouldn't have cared a bit if he was some lazy, insincere jerk who never made an effort to do anything properly. But he is a really nice, hardworking person and I certainly don't want him to be scared of asking me for help in the future. Is there something I can do to make him understand my own difficulties without sounding like the person who starts listing his own problems the moment you ask them for help. Should I apologize about something.

  • 3
    However, given the urgency of his own bug, I fixed the code myself, created a new review and got it reviewed from someone else and committed it. - Is this the standard procedure of what to do in that situation, and is it documented so that everyone knows you basically had to work extra to clean up your colleague's mess?
    – Brandin
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 10:30
  • 4
    As a general rule, nobody should do urgent and important work on Thursday evening if they are leaving on Friday, because no matter how competent or incompetent, the outcome was to be expected. Of course your colleague should have told you at the time of the code review.
    – gnasher729
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 10:56
  • @Brandin Well, not every situation has a standard procedure to follow :) And whatever else, I would certainly have ensured that the bug gets fixed, if not by me then by someone else. And all those who should know do know that I did the work.
    – Holden
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 17:26

4 Answers 4


He left without finishing, and you had to clean up after him. As in seriously clean up, on top of the other things that you had to get done. Because he hadn't cleaned up after himself.

Yes, your email may have been harsh but then, the truth was pretty harsh. He'll get over it and so will his manager, assuming that this sort of thing does not happen too often.

I expect that you are as good at receiving as you are good at dishing it out and that some day, you will wind up at the receiving end of well founded, forceful criticism from a colleague or manager and take that criticism without a whimper.

If you want, send him a note saying that you are sorry that you were harsh on him but you never expected to have to do so much cleanup after he passed his code on to you. And at the same time that you had a tight deadline that you had to meet.

Let the story end there, at this point.

  • Thanks, I have followed your advice and let the story end there. To be honest, it's not even bothering me anymore and when I think about it now, I really just presented the facts in my email. I could have been a bit more humble but maybe too much bending is not always good :) I personally wouldn't think bad about someone sending me such a reply in a similar situation.
    – Holden
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 17:35
  • 1
    @Holden There is a balance between being tactful and being blunt. If being tactful creates in my judgement the possibility that there will be a miscommunication because people hear what they want to hear, I opt for being blunt. Unless my being blunt will cause the other party to jump off the ledge. In which case, I am coming in person to pick up that Liar's Club award :) The blunt fact is that he let you down, and you had to pick up his ball and carry it across the finish line by yourself. With no help from him. Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 21:00

There is a difference between what you do and how you do it.

I think you were correct in what you did. Your co-worker prevented you from getting your work done so you found a way around that by fixing his code. You went through the proper channels to get it reviewed. You included your team lead, your co-worker, and his manager in communicating what happened. All these are perfectly normal things to do, and shows that you can fix issues that come up.

You can improve how you did that by changing how you word your email. It isn't your job to judge your co-worker. In fact, it might make you look petty to put the blame on him (even if it was his fault). I think the right thing to do would have been to sound neutral and just explain the facts (eg. Code didn't compile, I fixed it, etc). It sounds like your team lead is already sympathetic to your issue, so I wouldn't worry about it too much.

  • 8
    I agree with this. Never send harshly worded emails. People will have more respect for you, including the person you're chastising. Never send an email when you're that frustrated. Trust me, I understand it's hard. Hell, right now I'm dealing with a guy who doesn't do his job, schedules meetings with me and doesn't show up, and doesn't respond to my emails. I don't blow up because if I do I'd lose credibility and respect from my peers.
    – zfrisch
    Commented Jun 20, 2015 at 17:42
  • I agree as well, I will remember that advice about not sending mails when frustrated. I know this answer got more votes but I am still going to accept the second answer, sorry just my preference :)
    – Holden
    Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 17:28
  • @zfrisch Taking someone apart piece by piece makes a greater impression on that someone and their management when you are methodical and passionless about it. Holden expressed his frustration but I don't think he is anywhere as bad as I am. In fact, I think he is pretty decent and generous in the way he did it. I'd rather have someone like Holden giving me a clear piece of his mind and letting go than someone like me, who would take the brand new surgical knives out of their boxes. Commented Jun 22, 2015 at 21:12

Firstly in my opinion your reply was about good. The thing is you should react faster instead of waiting until bomb blows up. You mentioned that there were some minor mistakes before. You could just ask your colleague how is he felling about the job and if the typical working hours are sufficient for him to make his work done. Maybe take a step more and mention to your manager what you observed about new employee.

Secondly if it's to late and your colleague put you into difficult spot and you are frustrated, try to calm your mind first. Remember that sending mail to him and adding manager will not only present problems of your colleague but also will show how did you cope with it, what is your emotional level - the response should be at neutral level. In this situation you need to be as objective as you can be. Maybe ask someone not involved about suggestion how to write constructive reply.

Lastly we are all professionals, so when you reply keep that in mind and don't let emotions take over.


Your colleague behavior wasn't ideal. You said some harsh words. Now you feel bad.

When he rejoins next week I suggest you apologise and explain how things happened for you. That you were in a bad mood when writing that email (yes, you can tell him your problems) and you are sorry for saying those words while altered.

That should take care of the problem with your colleague (assuming he is a reasonable guy). About including his manager, it is a similar problem: you can't unsay it. As you seem to be concerned about misinterpreting you, you can send him a follow-up email clarifying that you are concerned about him misinterpreting that email you wrote in a bad mood, when he is hardworking, nice, etc. and that you apologised to him for your harsh words.

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