I started a new job as a Java developer nearly 3 months ago. A new coworker "Bobert" started three weeks after I did. I'll try keep the story to a minimum, both for brevity and relative anonymity.

We have a very small group of developers in our office. Relevant cast of characters:

  • Rusty: team lead, helping me and Bobert get up to speed on our projects
  • Scooter: next most senior dev at 4 years with company, does not work with Bobert
  • Me: new, working with Bobert
  • Bobert: new, working with me
  • Joe: Our non-technical manager, basically just a figurehead who approves timesheets, relies on other people to determine if our work is up to par

The company has a probation period of 3 months, at the end of which the company decides whether or not you stay. I haven't gone through this quite yet, but I hear that typically this is a formality. The people responsible for hiring him no longer work for the company. (Scooter is the only other person who was present for Bobert's interview, and said he would have not hired Bobert if it was up to him.)

Scooter, me, and another dev in the office have all privately (to each other) expressed our doubts and concerns about Bobert's behavior/work ethic. Concrete examples of this include:

  • He and I had training for a particular system one morning, and needed to submit a couple forms afterwards to gain access. I did so and got my login that afternoon; it's been three weeks and he's still not in the system. He needs access in order to work on his assigned task on my project.
  • Asking me for help with extremely basic Java issues - think "how do I use a command line argument". For any of his questions, I either immediately knew the solution because it was so simple, or I did a quick search on the error and figured out his mistake within five minutes.
  • Acting unprofessional (personal space invader, or my personal favorite, the sing-song voice: "~someone knocked on our door, who could it beee~"). I mention this both because it is simply poor conduct, and because several of us have been made seriously uncomfortable because of his behavior, to the point of not wanting to be alone in the office with him.

Bobert does not seem to pick up on hints: Scooter and I both heavily implied for a week that Bobert really ought to get in to work on time, but he continued coming in an hour past core hours until Rusty told him directly there might be consequences if he did not change that.

Rusty, while he knows generally what Bobert is supposed to be doing, does not keep tabs on a day-to-day basis. Bobert has been spending the past three weeks working on a single file program. He asked me for help multiple times along the way and showed us the code last week, so I know that the program he "wrote" is an example downloaded straight from Oracle's web site (two weeks) with write-to-file capability added (one week, for what could have been found in a few minutes searching Stack Overflow). Rusty just said "ok, good progress, thanks for the update".

The final piece of information - why I am posting this - is that due to circumstances Scooter and I are the only developers who will be giving inputs to Joe at the end of Bobert's probation. As mentioned before, Scooter has said he would not have hired Bobert, and I know he just doesn't like him, so I doubt that feedback will be positive.

My Question:

My honest opinion of Bobert's work and potential is not positive. Assuming I will be asked for input, I feel uncomfortable having this much influence, as a relatively new hire myself. As much as I don't like the guy, I would still feel bad if I caused him to be fired - especially if I never gave him a fair shot to fix the problem. But then again... I'm no manager, so maybe it's presumptuous to even worry about it?

In light of this, should I:

  1. Tell Bobert that I think he needs to shape up
  2. Tell Rusty (who will not be talking to Joe) that I think Bobert needs to shape up
  3. Say nothing, and if/when Joe asks, tell him I think Bobert is incompetent citing these (and other) examples
  4. Say nothing, and if/when Joe asks, be vague and say I guess he can do some things, or something equally weak
  5. Something else?

(I have searched the site, but I haven't found anything that looks like a duplicate yet. Namely, other questions do not address what to do if you have direct influence for firings but are still a peer and not manager.)

closed as primarily opinion-based by The Wandering Dev Manager, gnat, Rory Alsop, Chris E, IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 3 '16 at 17:01

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

up vote 16 down vote accepted

Your input will not cause Bobert to be fired. It will be part of a body of evidence that will tip the scales one way or another. All you can do - when asked - is be honest with your appraisal, and answer only the questions that your manager asks you. I think it's unlikely that your manager will ask outright if you would hire Bobert, because that would never be within your remit anyway.

  • 2
    This is pretty much what I was going to say... I'd also add, don't answer only the questions your manager asks you. Tell your manager everything you have just told us, being careful to frame it in a 'I don't want to cause trouble, but this is what I've noticed' conversation. Don't feel about Bobert losing his job, it sounds like he bumbled through the interview process with little coding experience. Your employer probably doesn't want to educate him, and you shouldn't have to either. – Maybe_Factor Aug 3 '16 at 4:18
  • That makes me feel alot better !! Sticking to observables and letting management decide as is their job not mine. (Although, this place is poorly managed, the dev team has significant input into hiring decisions since management doesn't really know what skills we need.. more like they cast the "yes" votes but management can veto) – cowoerker Aug 3 '16 at 10:58
  • @Maybe_Factor I'm pretty sure that is exactly what happened.. shortly after he started, he asked me how I thought I did on the "basic Java skills" interview quiz because he wasn't sure if he passed.. outlook has not improved significantly since, ha – cowoerker Aug 3 '16 at 11:02
  • I would add, document when he is not performing and it affects or delays your work. If you have to delay your work to fix his, then make sure your manager knows you have switched priorities and what will be delayed and why. – HLGEM Aug 3 '16 at 21:51
  • I have seen too many times through the years when non-technical managers actually have no idea the person is failing (some of these people are good at taking credit) because the competent people kept fixing their junk in order to meet the deadline and then working overtime to do their own assignments. Sometimes you need to let people fail. – HLGEM Aug 3 '16 at 21:57

Leave it alone. If your co-worker isn't delivering, management will notice and take appropriate action. That action should start by trying to help them shape up rather than shipping them out.

You aren't their manager. This isn't your decision or your responsibility. Unless you are asked, your opinion is not needed ... and giving it risks your acquiring a reputation of being hard to work with, which you definitely do not want.

If your work is specifically being delayed by something the co-worker should have delivered but hasn't, it's fair to say that to your manager. And only that. Keep it to the fact; your opinion about why they haven't delivered is irrelevant.

Be prepared to be asked to help overcome the bottleneck; be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

  • This is the best solution in my experience, it's only your problem if you make it so. – Kilisi Aug 3 '16 at 5:52
  • Sounds to me like the OP will be asked for his opinion about the co-worker, so won't really be able to leave it alone – colmde Aug 3 '16 at 8:16
  • @Kilisi I would like that, but we are meant to work together and I asked this question assuming I will be asked for my opinion. Maybe his probation period is also a formality and nothing will happen, in which case I guess I didn't have any input after all...! but if I do, I want to know how to approach the situation. – cowoerker Aug 3 '16 at 10:48
  • Facts. Stick to facts unless explicitly asked for opinions. – keshlam Aug 3 '16 at 11:45

Don't sweat it.

If your manager is asking you for an honest opinion about a coworker then give it. What that manager does with the information is up to them.

The visible issues, such as constantly arriving late etc, are absolutely being watched. Further the fact he's not able to see his assigned tasks ought to be something your manager is aware of. If for some reason management doesn't have visibility into those things then you probably don't want to work there anyway.

  • Don't sweat it. I think that this is pretty bad advice, honestly. One should be quite careful in how they go about giving negative feedback about a coworker to other coworkers. – enderland Aug 3 '16 at 2:33
  • Thanks, I did find this helpful as I have some anxiety over the situation. You're right, this place is terribly managed, but the work isn't bad and I'm early in my career, so I'm planning to stick it out for a bit for the experience. – cowoerker Aug 3 '16 at 10:46
  • @enderland: context is everything. The OP described a situation that would result in him having to give a private review about a coworker to the manager. He shouldn't have any anxiety over this. – NotMe Aug 3 '16 at 14:12

As a member of the team, it's not your role to attempt to manage the team. It's your role to do your best to get the team's work done, and to work as well as you can with "Bobert" and/or anyone else who is assigned to work with you. Period.

You are entitled to discuss your concerns about other team members ... and let me very strongly emphasize this ... "only with your manager."

You should feel free to speak with your manager, once, about anything. But, the decision is not yours. Issues such as the lack of login credentials (yup, always a bugaboo ...) are, again, something for your manager to take up with the appropriate departments.

(Heh... you think management is 'easy?')

Not everybody gets along with everybody. Sometimes the relationship is olive oil; sometimes it's sandpaper; sometimes it's a stuck-fast nut. But, that's leadership's responsibility to deal with, as they see fit.

I would also encourage you to not participate in these discussions with your co-workers, if they pertain to other co-workers. No matter how strongly you may share in their opinions, keep your mouth shut. (Say... you were just going to step aside and get another cup of coffee, weren't you? "So if you will please excuse me ...") Turn around, walk away, and leave them to their gossip.

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