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For a long time now, one of my team members has been much less productive than I'd expect someone in his role to be. He seems to waste a lot of time with non-work related things. I've brought his poor performance up many times but he just nods and ignores the feedback. If we ask him about the status of his work he just gives us a random excuse.

I discussed this problem with a fellow manager who recommended that I make it more difficult for him to slack off by moving him to a different desk closer to the manager's office. His screen would then be in view of the manager or people walking past. I can freely assign desks but feel that it would be insulting to move this team member for no other reason than his work style.

Is this a good approach? Or is there a better way to handle this situation?

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    Are you managing this person/team? What makes you think that he's slacking off? Do you have anything pointing towards him wasting time or is he just not performing at the level you'd expect? – Lilienthal Jun 23 '16 at 9:05
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    What Lilienthal said. Some people seem to work 12 hours per day, and produce nothing. Some others are never at their workplace, and have a lot of stuff done at the end of the day(I don't know how they do, but I measured it). If you just check if the person seems to work, it's a very bad measure. If you check the output, OTOH, then you can go further – gazzz0x2z Jun 23 '16 at 9:13
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    @gazzz0x2z Exactly what I was getting at. When bringing up low performance with an employee the main focus should also be on output, not behaviour. – Lilienthal Jun 23 '16 at 9:16
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    @Lilienthal he said "If we ask about the work, he will just tell some bla-bla reason to excuse." I suppose it is because the output is low ? – Gautier C Jun 23 '16 at 9:33
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    If you've repeatedly told them they are underperforming and nothing has changed, perhaps you should consider firing them. – dyeje Jun 23 '16 at 15:14
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Moving a problem does not guarantee fixing the problem.

What you are proposing is a creative solution to a common problem in the workplace. As such there is no guarantee that this will be a silver bullet to the problem. It can easily result in nothing, or worse if the employee responds poorly to being relocated could start poisoning the workplace.

Challenges to this approach

What if he asks why am I being moved? You would need to be able to give a good reason for it. You could choose to move several people if you want camouflage your intent, but at that point you might as well go all out and see if there is a full way of reorganizing the cubicle/office assignments to better optimize the team. As someone who has been through two major cubicle reorgs when pitched correctly and done correctly can be beneficial.

He could be the type of person who as gazzz0x2z pointed out can look like he is putting in 12 hours a day and yet produce nothing. If this is the case he will still appear to be working hard, but will still not be contributing anything of value.

Go for it

Despite the challenges and the real chance that it will not go as planned, it is still a creative idea and it is up to you decide whether or not to attempt it. It is much nicer when you can get an employee to contribute rather than having to fire and replace them. The only modification I would make to your plan is to see if there is a way to expand it to see if doing a much larger cubicle/office reorg would benefit the team.

"A darkness carried in the heart can not be cured by moving the body from one place to another." Lennier - Babylon 5

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No.

Putting him in a place where everyone can see his screen is tanatamount to an open-office arrangement. And in spite of the fact that open-offices are in vogue, they reduce productivity and, ironically, create distance amongst coworkers.

Employees in cubicles receive 29% more interruptions than those in private offices, finds research from the University of California, Irvine. And employees who are interrupted frequently report 9% higher rates of exhaustion.

While cubicles are a fact of life for many workers, open offices increase the number of interruptions tenfold and therefore amplify the exhaustion factor.

At the last magazine I worked for, everyone had offices. We’d pop into each other’s offices, at first to ask a question or work out some problem, and soon, because nobody could hear us, we’d transition into long and personal conversations. Many people there became close, treasured friends, and awesome collaborators.

But out in the open? It’s far harder to get to know coworkers—and that personal connection is important. "Serendipity" isn’t a matter of matched-up ideas. It’s a matter of knowing how another person thinks. That’s the kind of stuff you learn by getting personal, and that’s not something I want to do out in the open.


If you need to discipline this coworker, put him on a performance plan, or even fire him, then do so. But if you aspire to have this person make meaningful contributions to your team, then please, do not put a dunce cap on him so that everyone can see his screen. That reeks of grammar school and is counter-productive for the reasons I've articulated.

  • If he is interrupted frequently from slacking maybe he will get more work done. – Myles Jun 23 '16 at 13:27

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