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My boss has asked me to keep an eye on a colleague, who is working with me on a project. He wants me to report to him after 2 weeks what I think about how he is doing his job.

Even if I think he could do better at his job, for example, be more devoted, I am still apprehensive if I should say this to my boss.

Any advice on how I should respond to my boss?

  • 5
    It's a trap! (tm) – Ghanima Dec 1 '16 at 0:49
  • I don't want to "rat" on anyone, this is why I asked the question. I wanted to understand if it's a part of the job or no, and how to respond to such a task. – CoalaArmy Dec 1 '16 at 15:00
  • Most likely he/she is being asked to do the same about you... – Rex Dec 7 '16 at 19:37
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This is a challenging question. As a coworker, you should be trying to help the new colleague become comfortable with the new responsibilities and integrate into the team. But your boss has also tasked you with an important role of evaluating and judging another member of the team, which could cause tension and impair the team formation effort. This is an important task, and needs to be performed well. Your boss should be able to observe and evaluate the new employee, and has the responsibility to perform that role. That said, you may have unique or superior skills in some area, or the boss may want to know how well the team is coalescing. You could approach this from a positive perspective and help the new colleague develop a training plan to more quickly adapt to the new team and new responsibilities. You could ask your boss to clarify what they want, and if you are uncomfortable with the role, ask the boss why and what information they seek.

  • 1
    To add more details : we are working on a website, and well, yes, I have superior skills on the technology used. I already worked with him in pair about a half a year ago, after this he worked with another colleague, so he is not new. It's just on the previous projects he also didn't perform very well. I think he want to take an informed decision about having a discussion with him or even fire him. This taken in to consideration I don't want to help on firing him. – CoalaArmy Nov 30 '16 at 19:53
  • @CoalaArmy, you gotta do what you gotta do. In above response "You could ask your boss to clarify what they want," is the key sentence. Help your friend out, and monitor him closely (see how fast he learns after a year!) and document things very carefully. – AleX_ Nov 30 '16 at 20:25
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    Always err on the side of team-building and collaboration, you gain more karma that way. I have been a contributor, team lead, mentor, and manager, and have found that a positive approach, and honesty are valuable qualities. Try to be fair and unbiased. – ChuckCottrill Dec 1 '16 at 5:24
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Be honest and fair.

The alternative is to guess what the boss thinks, then to guess what you need to say, so the boss does what you guess the boss should do. That won't achieve anything other than possibly losing the boss's trust.

5

(Note: I was in IT management from 1995-2012, after which I decided to return to being a worker bee.)

"Empowerment" is generally a euphemism for "abdication of management responsibility." And "keep an eye on" implies a type of observation associated with toddlers who might get into trouble.

Stay objective. A general rule for objectivity when reporting on people and their activities is the avoidance of anything for which there is no useful "unit of measure." You can say these things about your colleague:

  • Comes to work on time.

  • Is available during the workday.

  • Sticks to the assigned task (assuming that you understand what it is).

  • Gets job done (assuming there is a due date).

  • Follows measurable processes, such as keeping source code committed to the repo, or keeping documents in the approved, secure environment.

You should avoid providing subjective assessments unless you are widely thought to be an expert within the company. Tell the boss that you can only provide facts; their importance and relevance are a matter for management.

2

If this is what your boss wants, it becomes part of your responsibilities. Try to track performance in objective terms and don't get into making a judgement on someone devotion. You can be devoted, but poorly trained which prevents things from getting done.

In the future, try to get your boss to be more specific about what to look for and what the expectations are. No point is saying the person is getting all her work done when you don't know what is expected.

  • 5
    Why is it part of his responsibilities to evaluate a peer's performance? That's clearly the manager's job. – smith Nov 30 '16 at 22:25
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    @smith, because the task has been delegated to him - most likely because the manager does not have the technical knowledge to evaluate. Lots of companies seek peer evaluations even in formal eval systems. So no it is not clearly just the managers job, it may be the managers job to determine if actions are to be taken and to counsel the person if performance is lacking, but he can always assign someone the task to give input. – HLGEM Nov 30 '16 at 22:50
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    The subtext to the poster's question is that the poster may be uncomfortable being delegated that duty, but the poster also needs to clearly communicate to the manager their reluctance. Many developers just do not want that responsibility. – ChuckCottrill Dec 1 '16 at 5:17
  • @HlGEM: I do not think a manager can really delegate the task of evaluating someone's future in the company to a subordinate. In the formal eval systems you mention they are mainly for improvements and not what the OP describes. – smith Dec 1 '16 at 18:39
  • The company I work for does peer evaluations as the inputs to the formal evaluation done by the manager. It is not the only company I have worked for that does that. I have also seen non-supervisory subordinates asked to provide inputs (or volunteer information) on performance many, many times. I have seen those inputs contribute to firing someone or prevent someone from being fired. It is common to ask more experienced people in the same technical field to give input about junior people especially if the line manager with the responsibility for acting on those inputs is not technical. – HLGEM Dec 1 '16 at 21:02
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Though I think it is incredibly irresponsible of a manager to ask this of a subordinate, I will give this as advice if he presses the issue:

Report only on things you have the ability to subjectively evaluate. Can I report that he is diligent and dedicated? No. That's more opinion. Can I report that he is able to adequately understand the technology used on the project and use/create code without my direct interaction? Yes.

  • 3
    Do you mean "objectively" evaluate instead of "subjectively"? – aleppke Dec 2 '16 at 22:06
  • @aleppke Indeed I did. Teach me to comment at lunch. ^_^ – SliderBlackrose Jan 17 '17 at 13:37

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