I am the supervisor of an IT department in a small but a high-paying company. I supervise 12 employees. There's one that I'm having troubles with lately, he is newly hired and is a great person.

But the problem is that he's somewhat selfish and at the same time, very clever. He's rising up the ranks at an unbelievable speed and I fear that one day, he'll end up being the managing director of the company. I have no problem with that and I am not jealous but he doesn't work at ALL.

What he does is: he sits around the office in various areas and communicates on a regular basis with the top managers. It's like he manipulates them. He's getting along with everybody like a wonder and is liked too. The managing director of the company constantly invites him to his room for chats and drinks, and now even eats with him. This is rare, because the managing director has never done this before and preferred to "keep his distance from low-rank workers".

I must add that he was originally a psychologist but due to limited job potential, he switched to IT and works as a C++ programmer. It's been two months since he started working, and I haven't seen one contribution from him. He's getting paid for virtually NOTHING. He keeps using his tricks on everybody and I even told him once to "Stop messing around and get to work." He just grinned and went back to his room only to pick up the phone for a chat with the vice manager. After all this, I heard that he received a 40K salary increase. This is preposterous! He never does any work, takes naps on a couch, hangs around with the managers and whatnot. I feel very bad that all the other guys work very hard and do the work, and are still on the "ground" after years. While this guy doesn't do anything, and is already rising up the ranks with great speed.

How should I deal with him?

  • 51
    He's "rising up the ranks at an unbelievable speed" and yet you remain his supervisor? What ranks are these?
    – AakashM
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 14:24
  • 5
    He's getting paid a much higher salary than me at this very moment, and even though I am his supervisor. By "ranks" - I mean that he is being somewhat appreciated and liked by everybody, as if he's a family relative. Usually, the average co worker never speaks with the managing director and only does so when he becomes the manager of a particular department which take years to happen. This guy, on the other hand, will inevitably succeed me in a few months time if this keeps going on. And he'll succeed me without doing anything.
    – Thompson
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 14:27
  • 24
    Who gives him his work assignments? (It sounds like it's not you, even though you're his supervisor.) What happens when he doesn't deliver them? Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 16:13
  • 4
    What sort of metrics do you use for your software contributions? For example, if you do code reviews, and he doesn't have any contributions which have been reviewed, that's a fact that can't be covered up by any amount of social manipulation.
    – Brandin
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 19:41
  • 4
    I am not sure I understand this question. I was trying to put the sentences together: He's getting along with everybody like a wonder, and is liked too, he doesn't work at ALL, I feel very bad that all the other guys work very hard, You supervise 12 employees. They never complain? Everybody else tolerates him, but you? This is very hard to believe. Vote to close as "Unclear what you're asking" because I believe there is something missing from this question.
    – Nobody
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 4:17

10 Answers 10


I supervise 12 employees. There's one that I'm having troubles with lately... he doesn't work at ALL.

  1. Define his duties, in writing, and make sure they're measurable.
  2. Sit down with him and have a talk about your expectations and go over his duties.
  3. Make sure you're on the same page (have him sign off on his duties, then give him a copy and put one in his file)
  4. Tell him you'll follow up in (one/two/four) week(s) to verify how he's doing.
  5. Document everything

If there is improvement, then congrats. Keep it up!

If there is no improvement, begin the termination process. Work with HR to ensure you follow all proper procedures. REASON: Do not keep a useless employee; they poison the well and are bad for the other employees.

  • 45
    With this guy, he also needs to give you a daily status of everything he has accomplished that day. If you want to acvoid singling him out, use the agile technique of daily stand up meetings to go over status.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 15:15
  • 4
    With people like these, be very careful at point 1. They will try to make the most trivial things look like quantum physics (and convince management that it was). Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 10:07

This guy is winning the visibility battle at your company - and as his manager, you're responsible for ensuring everyone knows this.

No one outside of immediate coworkers will know what he is doing -- or not doing.

You can feel bad or sorry for yourself or all the people who are doing great work and not being recognized, but at the end of the day, as discussed in the visibility answer I linked above: people's perception of this employees work is that he's great.

As a manager this is your responsibility to change if you want people to know this person's activities. Do you have defined responsibilities or any performance plan? Do you team members have goals? If you don't you need to at least start this process. Does this person even know what you are expecting from him? This is a good question for self reflection.

Second, it's likely you are going to face issues throughout this entire process since this guy already is winning the "war" of visibility to people who are your bosses. You need to be VERY careful to not jump into this situation without recognizing this or you will find yourself in an incredibly problematic situation.

Third, find ways to document employee contributions. This might be:

  • Code reviews
  • Code commit logs
  • Daily status updates (or Agile standups)
  • Defined tasks to work on
  • Regular and documented instruction from you on tasks

If this all doesn't work you now have a clear documented explanation of how this person has not contributed. Then work with your managers and quantify your concerns, explaining your actions (which is why you want this documented) and now they have not helped the situation.


Interesting, I disagreed with all of the other answers. I started to like enderlands until I got to:

As a manager this is your responsibility to change

You will not come out of a pissing contest with this person well. He has the ear of the MD and any attempt to usurp him will come back to haunt you.

The likelihood is in <12 months he will be your boss (or boss's boss). As you can see this has nothing to do with skill or ability and everything to do with fit (which even the Harvard Business Review says is more important than ability in senior roles).

As such your best opportunity is to help facilitate his rise, so you can keep on the right side (and maybe even benefit) when this rising star reaches his peak (I was going to mention the Peter Principle, but twice in one day on workplace is too much).

I've seen it many times (especially in small/medium companies), some people have this ability (the psychology training may help), just don't let it get to you, you'll do yourself more harm (both careerwise and mentally) by trying to fight it.

  • 2
    Absolutely agree! Remember - we hit the same people on the way UP as we hit on the way down, so if he is that good in terms of communication, let him take higher position, with those skills is rather a manger than a programmer.
    – Alexus
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 22:12
  • If you can't fight 'em, join 'em.
    – Zoomzoom
    Commented Jul 2, 2015 at 22:31
  • 10
    It doesn't matter how well someone's "fit" is if they're doing no work. Zero work is zero productivity. If this employee is truly contributing nothing to the company, that's a serious problem that needs to be corrected before it gets any worse. "If you can't fight 'em, join 'em" is the attitude of either a sycophant or fellow sociopath. Neither of those have any place in a functioning business. Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 10:22
  • 5
    This individual never was a programmer. He can program (maybe), but it appears his true talents lie in the more "people oriented" roles. He will end up in management roles soon. If you can, help him get into a sales role. He will absolutely excel in that role and will be of real value to the company.
    – Kent A.
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 12:33

Give him explicit tasks to do. Assign him a code snippet to write, or bug to fix. When he does not, document it. Do it again. When he does not, document it. Then fire him.

  • 4
    Finally a good answer.
    – LnxSlck
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 10:03

Several things that you say lead me to believe that you supervise this person's work but are not his actual manager from a "hire/fire" perspective. If that's actually the case, you need to make your concerns known to his actual personnel-level manager. Have a meeting with that person and lay out your concerns.

It's critical that you bring as much detail as possible into this meeting. You need to provide specific examples of work that he was asked to complete, including date assigned, expected completion date, any dates that you asked for status, etc. You should list specific times that he acted in an insubordinate manner and describe what happened. Take a photo of him napping on the couch, and make sure that it's time/date stamped. etc.

If you don't know how much he's making, do not bring up the salary increase. You want the emphasis to be on your problem with his performance, not with your impression of him as a person. Keep your approach impersonal and analytical.

If you do all of this and don't get the results that you expect, continue documenting any performance issues and presenting them to his boss. Consider asking if he can be transferred to another group because you need to get your work done. If you take these measures and no one listens, you may just need to grin and bear it, but if you take the right approach you may be able to head off the problem before it becomes a larger one.


As an employer I would like to add my two cents.

I can perfectly understand your situation, since I'm not involved and I'm looking at it from outside. You, as one of the people who's actually in this situation will have a more narrow view of this. So will your colleagues, including top managers and CEO.

I wanted to propose you to make a meeting with the top managers and the director to raise awareness of this situation but when I put myself in the spot of one of the managers I would probably be skeptical of what you would have to say. After all - he's such a great guy!

So you have to present them with the truth and numbers don't lie. He's a programmer. Working for more than 2 months? It's expected for programmers to do little to nothing the first week, after that the "catch-up" process should lasts no longer than 2 months to reach full productivity.

Go to your git service ( or take it from your own servers if you don't use something like GitHub/BitBucket etc. ). Print out activity of him and few other employees for comparison.
Does your company uses task management system? I hope it does. Let's see how many tasks have he finished, hours spent on a task etc.

Look at the numbers and his productivity will be bluntly obvious. What then? Fire him? No, as you could see from other answers it might backfire as he might have the ear of the managers.

You mentioned he had a raise. Talk to your top managers and/or director about his productivity and raise the question of removing the raise and scale him back. Try to convince your managers to keep him in the salary of his capabilities only up until he starts to work again. A temporary thing, not a permanent salary cut. If the managers like him they'll be sure he's up to the task and quickly get back to normal - they might agree to see.

Don't worry after that, he seems to be unable to produce any code and seeing how odds are against him - probably leave by himself making some bogus excuse.

NOTE: are you sure he got the raise? 40k is really a lot. It's basically a year salary of a junior programmer in Japan.

But do make sure of following if you consider my advice:

  • Disagree to his requests to take work "home" to work more. It might be a trick to find someone else to do his work for him
  • Make sure he doesn't abuse his fellow developers. Through flattery or empathy he could make them do his work for him
  • Make sure to document everything: git commits, tickets, hours spent on tasks etc. Just how you'd do that with any other employee.

Few more advises:

  • Every time he's taking time off work while he should be working: tell him about it and write it down on a notepad so that he'd see you do that.
  • Talk to your director about him - ask how he likes the new(?) employee. It might signal you of deeper, non-work relationship that they could have: golf together, occasional drinking/playing pool/bowling.
  • Consider looking for another job. If it all backfires, you can always just leave.

But I think it's not too late and you can and should do something about it. It's actually your job to do something about it.


As you have described it, this person is very effective at managing how others perceive him.

I would start documenting carefully his assignments, and lack of delivery. If he is a developer, you should be able to get statistics from your source code control system of his check-ins.

Morning stand-up meetings will make it crystal clear among your team that he's goofing off. This will not address his managing perceptions to managers outside your group.

One book to read is Snakes In Suits. Some of what you've written remind me very much of this book.


Fire him, the sooner the better. Don't deliberate any further. If you have the authority to do it yourself, then do it today.

This may sound harsh, but it's important to get rid of people like this so that you don't have to create rules to control them. Smart, creative people thrive in an environment where they have some autonomy and can exercise their judgement. In trying to control this one troublesome employee, you may end up getting in the way of all of your other hardworking employees. A good employee doesn't need to be managed, only enabled to excel.

I'll quote Jim Collins here: "When you know you need to make a people change, act. The moment you feel the need to tightly manage someone, you've made a hiring mistake." (quotation from his book, Good to Great)

  • 4
    Pretty sure firing someone that everyone else at the company likes without any explanation is going to get someone else fired, and it won't be that employee.
    – enderland
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 15:46
  • @enderland +1 to your comment. I agree: especially without any explanation, this could lead to some trouble with the higher-ups. It does sound like Thompson has good reason to get rid of the employee. Depending on how much authority he has, it may be sufficient to simply let the employee in question go, and explain the reasons for the firing to the higher-ups.
    – Eric Dand
    Commented Jul 3, 2015 at 18:47

I'm not a manager or supervisor by any stretch of the imagination but I would say it's your job to get him to do his work! As in more than just a throw away comment ("Stop messing around and go to work.") sit him down, ask him what he's done in the last couple of weeks and ask some serious questions. You should be keeping an eye on what your employees are doing anyway so this shouldn't be out of the ordinary until he's forced to reveal how little he's accomplished at which point it's up to you to take him to task and let him know he'd better cop on. Do you have the authority to reprimand people (or indeed fire if they don't improve?).

Does your company have a policy on what to do with problem employees?

BTW a 40k increase? Who did you hear this from? (Him?) You don't mention what the currency is, but unless it's Zimbabwean dollars it sounds a lot for a phone call with the boss! I get the feeling either a silly rumour has started or he's having you on...


We all seem to agree on one thing and that is; this matter is far gone and right now he is possibly earning credit for the work being completed under you.

To be fair to the guy, he is a psychologist, so where is the question of this type going under the hood for problem solving; which is the lonely job of most programmers.

Also, to be fair to your colleagues submit a progress review to your Supv & an interim appraisal report of the team to HR immediately.

With appraisal documentations already tabled; lunch with your Supv and present to him that the guy is found as 'not appraise-able' for reasons due from 'other' engagements. Also establish to your Sup. that the guy may even be 'bigger' than him & so best to find him an independent assignment or try him in business development, etc. Sometimes these transfers work out favorably for the company, so why not? During discussions mention the guy honorably - like one would about a war vet; this keeps all options open as events unfold.

And ask your Supv. to start praying.

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