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I am a developer that is managing a small group. All members of this group, including myself are working remote. One member of this group that we'll call "Bob" is having trouble and very slow to respond. As an example I will ping him in the morning and not get a response until 9PM. Another example is that he was having trouble getting our application running locally and he didn't say he was having issues for 3 days.

It is early in the project and no one else has experience working with "Bob", yet my own boss is asking me for reports on the individual team members. Already my boss is concerned about "Bob". Any good ideas or metrics on when to be concerned about a subordinate and to what extent? I'd also like to know any methods to help get "Bob" engaged without needing to fire/punish him.

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    Ping them in the morning and not get a reply until 9pm? If that's true, I would ask if they were sick, and if so, why he didn't report it to you. Be a manager and tell that person if he does it again, that you would recommend firing him. – dan-klasson May 18 '16 at 14:54
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    When to be concerned about a subordinate or employee? I think it's when you ping the employee in the morning and only get a response by 9pm. – undefined May 18 '16 at 15:01
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    Threatening to fire / punish him is a bit harsh if you haven't spoken with him about it already. I would say, just have a word with him and explain that you need timely responses to your emails and that issues that are causing potential delays (such as not being able to get the application running!) need to be flagged ASAP. – colmde May 18 '16 at 15:28
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    Just to be sure you're all on the same time zone right? – Dan May 18 '16 at 19:02
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    @GustavoMP I dare say that not doing any actual work for 3 days also counts. To be honest OP, without a valid reason this kind of behaviour should be grounds for immediate dismissal, not efforts to improve (non-existing) performance. – Lilienthal May 19 '16 at 7:12
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You will need to communicate your concerns to Bob, and sooner rather than later.

I'm assuming that you guys have certain hours when you're supposed to be online, and working. At any point during that time you should be able to contact this guy and get a reply within a reasonable time frame.

The next time he fails to respond in a timely manner, call him. You should be able to get a hold of him and ask him why he isn't replying. Explain to him that his delays in replying are unacceptable, and something which is worrying the rest of the team.

Also try imposing tighter deadlines on him. If you know a task should only take a day to complete, ask for an update the following morning. Express your expectations, and make sure to follow up. In other words put some pressure on this guy to shape up.

If, however, Bob simply does not improve, and continues to be an unreliable employee you may consider installing tracking software on his machine. It's perfectly normal for a company to keep track of what's being done with its hardware. Maybe you guys should keep track of Bob's internet history and times when he is active on his work machine. If it doesn't match what expected results, then you know that he is being dishonest, and should probably get rid of him.

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    Two phrases to use: "I've been asked to talk with you about ..." - Be intentionally vague. Let him know it's an issue noticed above you. Don't let him know how high above you. Second: "Core Hours" - If Bob is used to contracting, and working his own hours, he may not understand that being employed as part of a team requires your attendance during certain hours. Make this clear. Present it matter-of-fact, not as a topic for discussion. – Wesley Long May 18 '16 at 16:41
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    @WesleyLong Why hide behind a vague statement like that? OP is the manager, he doesn't need an excuse to talk about a report's performance. That's called managing. – Lilienthal May 19 '16 at 7:13
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    @WesleyLong Anyone who can't deal with constructive feedback in the workplace needs to adjust their mindset. Receiving and responding to feedback is a critical skill for any form of employment. This isn't a conflict and we're not talking about a playground here but about managing functional adults. – Lilienthal May 19 '16 at 16:58
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    @Lilienthal - I don't know where "playground" came into the discussion. Using psychology in management is (at least I thought) a given. It's also pretty basic strategy: If you anticipate a conflict or a potential conflict, you need to choose the terms to your advantage as best you can. If everyone were "functional adults," about 2/3rds of this site wouldn't exist. – Wesley Long May 19 '16 at 17:17
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    @Lilienthal - at no point did I mention treating anyone like children. This isn't about mindgames. It's about keeping the issue from becoming personal. If the issue becomes personal, and not objective, then the actual issue becomes nothing but a proxy for a personal conflict. I try to avoid the personal conflict entirely. – Wesley Long May 19 '16 at 17:32

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