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I'm the team lead at a small software development firm and we have one other developer that I share an office with. I am not their boss, but my responsibilities involve managing their tasks and making sure the companies software is being developed to the best of my abilities. This colleague is very curious about everything that goes on, some examples are:

  • Prying into the details of meetings I attended (how'd it go? is everything okay? You were in the CEO's office for a while, is my job okay? etc)
  • Becoming frustrated that certain events throughout the day weren't shared with them immediately, details that will be shared but, I've decided are best communicated at the proper times (when we have down time or perhaps first thing next day)
  • If I have a lunch meeting with our boss or bosses my colleague is hurt that they weren't invited. Mind you this colleague is not left out of all meetings, but there are quite a few that don't involve them.

In the past I've explained that some of my responsibilities include updating higher ups on status, capabilities or putting out fires and it doesn't make sense to have anyone else attend these short meetings. At one point our mutual direct boss and even the CEO reiterated the same. With this said I have reiterated expectations for their role to them and that I need them completely focused on the tasks I've given them and not to worry about things outside of their control.

I'm torn between the approach of deflecting the questions that are not any of their business and taking a more direct approach of telling them that it's not appropriate for them to be asking about private meetings. Both approaches result in varying levels of pouting and whining, and operating at half capacity until the next day when they come in refreshed. I really do care about people and want to give them good constructive feedback to help them get to the place they want to be at, but it doesn't seem to go anywhere in this case. It's inevitable that we are going to hire more people and chances are they are going to be more experienced and/or better equipped than my colleague, so I am trying to look out for them and get them on a path that will make them competitive and not end up at the bottom of the barrel.

I've worked with other people at other companies and have never run into this. When a manager would enter the room to speak to a specific person, everyone continued doing their work, they had stuff to do and they focused on doing it, whereas this person doesn't have the diligence to focus on the specifics of their job. In the past I've brought up specific scenario's which result in them complying, but having a passive aggressive attitude towards a situation next time it happens.

I'm wondering how I can handle a person like this and maybe in the process how I can convince them to change their attitude and help them save their job. At the end of the day we're a small team trying to do big things while having a good time and we'd prefer to grow an existing employee rather than cutting our losses.

Additional Notes:

I'd love to extend more responsibility to them, but the truth is that they are not demonstrating that they can handle their current responsibilities at a level that suggests they are ready to move up. Historically, conversations about how they can improve seem fruitful after the conversation, but the behaviors never seem to change.

I think they hold a certain perspective of how they think or want things to work and they either don't have the experience to back up that perspective or don't have the expertise or diligence to make it happen.

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    What's the problem here? I'm partial to WWII posters, and 'keep yer mouth shut' is a common theme. Print one, pin it, and point at the poster any time your dev steps out of line. Better still, tell their boss and keep silent yourself. Don't feed the trolls. – Deer Hunter Jan 22 '16 at 20:11
  • Is the developer a senior? How big is the team that you lead that he is on? Where does the rest of the team sit? – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jan 22 '16 at 20:46
  • A junior, it was 3 of us (including me) we are down to just me and the other developer. – Fred Stevens Jan 22 '16 at 20:47
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    Someone needs to explain to your coworker that: "Paranoia ... and some times you annoy people who were your friends to the point that they become out to get you." – Dan Neely Jan 23 '16 at 1:27
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    They are anxious about job security and feel that some things are going on "behind the scenes" that may have implications and are being kept from them.. Sounds like they are distracted by that anxiety ("didn't have the diligence" to get down to the detail of their job) – seventyeightist Jan 26 '16 at 20:06
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Well, one phrase which I've heard over and over again is that People Never Change. Not really, at any rate.

The fact is that very few people have what it takes to:

  1. Accept constructive criticism.
  2. Fully and honestly admit their fault
  3. Successfully make changes in their lives in order to overcome their limitations/challenges
  4. Profit

Let's face it, we can all point to some aspects of our lives in which we act more like this:

  1. We are faced with an uncomfortable truth. Maybe we try to remain calm about it with the speaker, but really, we feel outraged, and more than a little righteous fury.
  2. We pretend to listen and take the criticism in, while actually trying to argue our points, and make excuses for ourselves.
  3. After said conversation we justify our actions to ourselves, or conversely either make it all someone else's fault, or somehow convince ourselves that it's just who we are and that's that
  4. Continue on as before, only now we hold a grudge toward the person who pointed out our flaws, and maybe we're a little more self conscious about not appearing to act that way

Does this second scenario seem to more or less describe your interactions with this employee?

The person you're describing sounds to me like an insecure person, who is obviously not very good at their job, while having quite an inflated sense of self-importance.

As their not-quite-but-really-boss it's your job to keep this person focused on their task while not letting him distract you from yours.

The reason I say this is because you seem a little too invested into whether this doofus succeeds in your organization. The fact is that we must all make our own destinies, and while some guidance is always useful, you've already tried to communicate that he needs to make changes in his attitude and (un)professional behavior, but he has ignored you, going so far as to be incredibly childish and difficult to deal with.

At this point your responsibility shifts from trying to make him understand your point of view to getting the job done. Stop molly-coddling this guy and give it to him as it is.

Question: Prying into the details of meetings I attended (how'd it go? is everything okay? You were in the CEO's office for a while, is my job okay? etc)
Response: I'm sorry, but managerial meetings are private for a reason. Rather than concern yourself with that you should focus on your code. How is project X going? Are you meeting your deadlines?

The beauty of this approach is that you're letting him know he's crossed a line and also putting him on the spot. If he's not exactly a top performer (as you seem to be implying), then he probably won't feel comfortable offering an impromptu progress report. If he comes to associate attracting your attention with getting quizzed on his progress he will learn to shut up about these things.

Becoming frustrated that certain events throughout the day weren't shared with them immediately, details that will be shared but, I've decided are best communicated at the proper times (when we have down time or perhaps first thing next day)

Again, shift the focus to his own work and deadlines. Let him pout all he wants. If his productivity drops then that's his problem, not yours. You can call him on why he's under-performing at that point.

If I have a lunch meeting with our boss or bosses my colleague is hurt that they weren't invited. Mind you this colleague is not left out of all meetings, but there are quite a few that don't involve them.

This is crossing so many lines it's mind blowing. Put this guy back in his place.

I'm sorry [name here], but who and how I spend my lunch is none of your business. / our meeting was for managers only.

At the end of the day you have to go with your gut feeling: he is not demonstrating responsibility.

You've given him the chance to improve, you've given advice. In other words you've already been the boss most of us wish we had. Now it's time to be the boss who simply gets the job done, and let this guy dig his own hole if that's all he's capable of doing.

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    You described this individual perfectly The person you're describing sounds to me like an insecure person, who is obviously not very good at their job, while having quite an inflated sense of self-importance. And thank you for your insight into the individual issues I listed. – Fred Stevens Jan 22 '16 at 20:49
  • @FredStevens - Glad to be of service. These sort of people are difficult to deal with because on one level you sort of feel sorry for them and try to help. In my own experience I've found that at one point a threshold will be passed when my sympathy turns to either loathing, or complete indifference. Since you're in a position of leadership you still have to deal with him somewhat, but adopting a sterner attitude should get the message across. Good luck! – AndreiROM Jan 22 '16 at 20:53
  • I wonder why this is "crossing the line", the whole idea of "boss" and "not boss" is from the 50s, and should be abolished in favour of impromptu meetings where everyone is equal and you create a consensus which you bring forward to the other parts of the organization. -- You never know what gems another person might see in the details that you missed when doing a "few eyes" meeting. – paul23 May 24 at 10:48
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It seems that this developer thinks he is your peer rather than a team member of a team that you lead. With this in mind you can see how someone might feel slighted and left out when you are invited to meetings that they are not about projects you are both working on. One reason the developer might think he is at a peer level with you include the fact that you share an office, presumably away from the rest of the team.

I think that the proper course of action would be to talk with the developer's (and presumably your) manager and get them to have a discussion about his and your role on the team. Being that you are not his boss it is not really appropriate for you to initiate this conversation. It may be that your manager will want you to handle the conversation or at least be involved but they should at least be given a heads up and the opportunity to address the problem.

Another thing that would probably help is if he were relocated to be with the rest of the team. This would remove your comings and goings from being so obvious to him. With out having it be so obvious and in his face that you are away from your desk in meetings he is not invited to, he will be able to focus more on his work. I suspect this alone will take care of most of the problem to the point that it would no longer be a burden on you to deal with his questions every time you come and go.

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I'd love to extend more responsibility to them, but the truth is that they are not demonstrating that they can handle their current responsibilities

Is it possible this person is paranoid about their job, so that's why they ask so many questions about their status in the company? I mean, "You were in the CEO's office for a while, is my job okay?" Is a pretty good sign.

Suggest they do their job and let you do yours as the best way to keep their position in the company.

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