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Ask HN: My coworker doesn't work. Does it make sense for me to say anything?
73 points by drooby 5 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 112 comments
My coworker has barely worked for over a year now. No joke and no exaggeration. Every single day they seem to find a way to not do anything - either in some excuse or obfuscation. The worst part is that this person is a higher title than me and probably gets paid more than me.

My manager seems to be slightly aware of this but I'm not sure by how much exactly. It's obviously quite frustrating on many different levels. Is there any scenario in which this makes sense for me to mention something to my manager or should I just keep my mouth shut?

> "Is there any scenario in which this makes sense for me to mention something to my manager or should I just keep my mouth shut?"

The only thing you should bring up to your manager is if the person is not meeting their commitments in a way that impacts you meeting your own commitments; you do want the responsibility for that to land where it should. Even then, do it in a non-accusatory way.

Beyond that, it's just plain none of your business. You don't know their circumstances; maybe they're genuinely slacking, maybe they have family issues, maybe they're having physical or mental health problems, maybe they're fighting burnout/boreout, etc. I have been in this industry long enough to see quite a few people go through bad patches in their life. Consider that, someday, it might be you struggling to recover and hoping your co-workers will give you the breathing room you need.

You also don't know what, if anything, the manager is doing to address the problem nor are you entitled to. If you want to be in the business of dealing with that kind of issue, become a manager yourself.

There is a saying that goes, "the fastest way to demotivate a good employee is to allow them to watch you tolerate a bad one"

Not all managers are aware of this.

Everything you say is true, however, I have also witnessed first hand this sort of thing drain a company of talent.

It's only after everyone else leaves and maybe you leave yourself where you start to question whether watching the whole company lose it's talent was worth being polite.

There is a difference between a bad employee who is harmful to the team and one who is not doing anything and is harmless, albeit not adding any value. Good managers get rid of bad employees and try to work out with potentially good employees that happen to have a rough time. Sometimes it doesn't work out and you need to part ways, but sometimes it does. I've seen it more than once a great employee having depression and really struggling. That's when they need the support of their manager the most.

I wish I could upvote you 100. This is exactly the kind of thing I witnessed in real life. It was absolutely sad.

Been there. literally used to keep a running list of the excuses from a coworker on my team. totally demotivating for the rest of us busting our butts. I was young and didnt call it out. Guess i thought our manager would notice. Maybe they did but they didn't do anything. I didnt stick around.

Indeed. I'd never heard the saying but have definitely experienced it first-hand more times than I care to remember.

I have to ask, have your bad employees not resulted in issues for others?

People seem to be misunderstanding, this isn't about being scared to tattle or something. No one is saying keep quiet while someone harms the team...

What they're saying is: Your feedback should be based on harm, not just a gut feeling. I've never seen a team where someone could do 0 work and not create actionable blockages of work that you'd be able to bring up.


And honestly, part of me is starting to wonder if that's the issue... if you're on a team where someone also on that team (not an individual contributor) can do 0 work and not block anyone and not affect any deliverables, then that sounds like a fundamentally dysfunctional org.

The problem isn't even your manager tolerating them, the role shouldn't exist. That kind of org tends to bleed talent as people realize it's not rarely an isolated issue and they're part of a pretty dysfunctional system.

Also "the fastest way to demotivate a good employee is to allow them to watch you reward a bad one"

This happens more frequently and anybody rewarded is automatically assumed to be better regardless of their contributions.


> Beyond that, it's just plain none of your business

What if someone was embezzling money from the firm? Where do you draw the line?

> You also don't know what, if anything, the manager is doing to address the problem nor are you entitled to. If you want to be in the business of dealing with that kind of issue, become a manager yourself.

Most managers would expect junior team members to speak out. If it's being addressed, the manager will likely tell you that he or she is aware and its being addressed.

> Where do you draw the line?

Embezzling money.

And no, this is not an opening for some roundabout logic implying slacking off is the same as embezzling wages... you can't come up for a non-harmful explanation for embezzling money: the word literally means "steal or misappropriate".

You can effortlessly do the same for someone slacking, as the comment you replied to did.

> Most managers would expect junior team members to speak out. If it's being addressed, the manager will likely tell you that he or she is aware and its being addressed.

Most managers would expect you to share in terms of how it affects you, not some vague air of "they don't do anything":

So not: "I feel like they always have excuses for doing nothing"

Instead: "I needed X, Y and Z on separate instances from this coworker and was unable to get that"

(Or specific to excuses: "I expected X, didn't get X and they gave excuse Y")

It a good practice to do that anyways since it protects you from potential alienation and/or embarrassment if it turns out your idea of "them doing nothing" is dead wrong.

> And no, this is not an opening for some roundabout logic implying slacking off is the same as embezzling wages... you can't come up for a non-harmful explanation for embezzling money: the word literally means "steal or misappropriate".

If I pay someone $100 to come clean my house and they take my money and don't clean my house, its no different than if they came into my house and stole $100. It's legally different, but there's harm being done and I consider it theft. It's not complicated.

In regards to slacking, there's no expectation that someone is working 100% of the time and no reasonable person would expect that someone is working 100% of the time. But a reasonable person would expect that they work some of the time, perhaps a reasonable amount based on the work of their peers.

> Most managers would expect you to share in terms of how it affects you, not some vague air of "they don't do anything":

I've been a manager and worked with lots of managers. I strongly disagree and this is not what I've seen. They want to have more information about efficiency and happiness on the team that they're managing. And they certainly want to know if someone is not working... at all... for over a year...

You can tell them and if they say "don't care", so be it. But a reasonable manager would want to know. I don't know if you've ever been in a managerial role, but I suggest you have a talk with superiors about this hypothetical and get their opinion on it.

> If I pay someone $100 to come clean my house and they take my money and don't clean my house

The difference is it's your house and the scope of work is completely defined by you. It's not complicated.

- If they don't clean because they're sick, you're the one they tell.

- If they didn't clean because they were busy unclogging the toilet, you're the one who should know.

- If they didn't clean because they're waiting on a mold removal treatment, you're the one who should know.

You rarely have the whole picture in a work environment between HR, layers of supervisors, differing titles with differing scope of work....


And to the rest of your comment, I'm a tech lead with direct reports. I cannot imagine what kind of manager you have to be dealing with for them to take exception with quality insights such as "I keep getting blocked on X by Y" vs vague claims of "doing nothing and obfuscating".

After all, the end result is strictly better for everyone involved:

- you now have something actionable to bring to the "slacking" coworker, HR, and/or their skip level

- the blocked coworker has now communicated the fact they were blocked and you can work on recovery from that

- you can better establish patterns if this is an intermittent problem...

Sometimes bringing form to intangibles is a big part of your job, but if we're saying someone is literally doing nothing for a year... in any half-functional organization that should result in tangible, actionable blockages.

> And to the rest of your comment, I'm a tech lead with direct reports.

Oof, so you'd be cool with people on your team not working?

> I cannot imagine what kind of manager you have to be dealing with for them to take exception with quality insights such as "I keep getting blocked on X by Y" vs vague claims of "doing nothing and obfuscating".

I like to work on teams that are effective where things get done. It is incredibly demoralizing working with sub-par team members, not even to mention people that go out of their way to not do work. I wouldn't want to work on such a team and I wouldn't want to manage such a team. It builds a toxic environment. My worst times in my career where was when I was on a team that was not really doing anything and no one was working.

I guess I'm just more communicative. I would want junior people on my team to feel comfortable to bring up any issues or things that they notice. Because I know if you have even one toxic member on your team, one that doesn't pull their weight or put in any effort, it can ruin the whole team and eventually the organization if those people are allowed to stay.

> Oof, so you'd be cool with people on your team not working?

Oof, so you work at places where people have 0 deliverables for a year?

Because on my teams people have deliverables. Is that what's hanging you up? Where I work they'll block things if they're doing 0 work.

If the deliverable is overseen by me I'll do my job and look into why it's not happening, and if the deliverable is due to a team member and never materializes, I'm saying that's something to bubble up.

> I like to work on teams that are effective where things get done.

If you say so... doesn't

> I guess I'm just more communicative.

I'm about effective communication.

If someone misses a single deliverable their first thought (hopefully) isn't going to be "this person has been slacking!". By the time someone has that thought damage is being done.

If instead they bring the deliverable up to me and I know they also missed a deliverable due to someone else... or they tend to miss deliverables related to X feature... or they missed the deliverable because of Y obligation...

Now we can have _effective conversations_.

I can find out if the person needs help learning how to work on X feature.

I can communicate there was a prior obligation so that we're not getting to the "this person is slacking!" conclusion

I can communicate a forming pattern before any one person comes to that conclusion too.


People should feel comfortable bringing up opinions. I wouldn't berate someone for saying someone else is slacking.

But this is HN and someone is asking for advice: I gave advice that keeps OP from alienating themselves for no reason and still doesn't hurt their manager's ability to be an effective manager.

It's important they don't sandbag their manager to avoid possible embarrassment, but 3 comments deep here I think I've stablished how any competent manager would have as good or better outcomes with this form of feedback...

> If I pay someone $100 to come clean my house and they take my money and don't clean my house, its no different than if they came into my house and stole $100.

It is not OP's house though. He is just another employee, so it's none of his business to worry about this. Your argument sounds just like an excuse to morally justify snitching on co-workers.

If someone paid me to clean their house and the person I'm with starts stealing, I I would not be okay with it either. I would say something if I saw someone getting pick-pocketed or call the police if someone is being mugged. Theft is theft and its wrong. If I have a chance to easily address an injustice I will certainly consider it. This moral relativism has really gone overboard.

You're selling your work. If what you sell doesn't cost as much as you asked for it, then you will lose ability to sell it, eventually. It's not a theft, it's how market works and it doesn't work in any other way.

> maybe they have family issues, maybe they're having physical or mental health problems

then they should quit! stealing time, value, money from the company and its fellow employees isn't right. It's shitty behavior and nobody should defend it.

But - the most accurate model for what other people will do is electricity - they will follow the path of least resistance. That's all the "manager" is doing. If you make too many problems, getting rid of you might be easier than dealing with those problems!

maybe they're fighting burnout/boreout

Guilty. I could easily be this person’s coworker. I do try to make sure I’m not blocking anyone, but overall, I am definitely in a rough patch that I’m slowly fighting through. Not being on my A-game has also led to a modicum of depression. It’s not roses on the other side either if the OP wants put themselves in these shoes.

Yes keep your mouth shut. I have the opposite problem of doing too much but people who get bothered about other people's laziness are my pet peeve. Unless you are a manager, managing people is not your responsibility. If you do well and offer your support to get them to where they need to be, you are doing your best, take the nice paycheck home and enjoy!

I have no idea what people are going through or what they bring to the team or what political crap is at play. If you are not managing people then you are getting paid for your labor, that's it. It is a manager's responsibility to evaluate what value their employees bring. Heck, maybe the lazy guy is there for morale! Lol. And if the manager doesn't care the he has his own manager. Maybe having X number of people in his team is good for politics and budget and so long as the guy isn't a liabilit he is left alone.

Do you want to be responsible for the guy offin'g himself after he quits, gets divorced, maybe wife is dealing with cancer? People are very messy, let people managers manage people and us techies focus our passions.

Basically don't police your coworkers for the sake of your company.

The only time you should step in is to literally save someone from being actively harmed.

E.g. Hateful comments by some coworker, etc.

> Basically don't police your coworkers for the sake of your company.

Exactly, don't start a culture of surveillance by peers, that's what the KGB or the Stasi did to sow distrust and fear in societies...

Yeah, or when they are causing harm to you or your work (endanger your career/living).

How would he be responsible for the guy offing himself? This sounds a bit like manipulation. If OP is getting pissed of about it to the point where he wants to leave, he should definitely say something to his manager. You shouldn’t just bottle this shit up and let it keep angering you every day. As long as OP tells the truth there isn’t any problem. The only difficulty is in /not/ coming off as a jealous co-worker who is just out to hurt people. The guy has been fucking himself and his team over by not working and it needs to stop.

Slackers are the number one reason I do not enjoy corporate America anymore. I don’t care if you are not able to perform and need help or produce crap, as long as you put in the effort and try to pull your weight.

In my decade of experience I have witnessed people, technical people, who magically manage to just not do anything at all, ever. They jump from initiative to initiative without producing anything, and somehow still manage to get some credit with management.

Paradoxically, I find these people more among “tech lead” and managers roles, where their leverage is much higher and they could be having massive positive impact in the organization. I am acutely aware of how incredibly effective a tech lead or manager can be by providing the right context to a team in need even without directly contributing. Here I am not talking about this profile, I am talking about people who have no freaking clue, they are literally leeches who go from meeting to meeting pretending to make some insightful observation, then leave and repeat. The organization is too messy and they can move “faster than they can shoot them”.

The solution in my experience tends to be to go in small startups that are not run by mentally unstable founders: you’ll get paid less but typically people with zero/negative productivity won’t be found there, there’s not enough bureaucracy to support their façade. They’ll start coming once the headcount surpasses 200 or so.

Could you write from your experience the methods to identify those types of people? Would be a useful guide.

Eg needing a month to move one ticket from one queue to another. Because only this guy has the permissions to do so, but 5 other guys are blocked.

That's why you name the blockers in your standup.

"and they could be having massive positive impact in the organization"

That's adorable.

Startups do not pay less. I'm bringing in $300k as a developer in Ohio. Individual contributor.

In my experience, they do pay less for senior roles, especially the ones below 200 people who don’t suffer from politics mentioned in my original post.

I’m paid $1.2M as IC at a FAANG, not in Bay Area or NYC. To get a similar compensation I would have to get very, very lucky at a growing startup. Instead here I entered through the front door last year and got basically that comp (experienced some mild stock growth so far as a nice bonus).

I will concede the argument that a person might not need that much, but I’d rather milk it until it lasts and get a $300k job when I’ll have no alternatives. I’m actually kind of hoping it will stop so the opportunity cost of doing something else, more interesting, will be less steep to pay :-)

This is insanity -- you get paid $1.2M as an IC?! How? Is this total comp?

Total comp with some mild stock appreciation. My entry offer was $950k+ when I joined last year. https://levels.fyi has several data points similar to mine, look at the L6/L7 IC tracks at most FAANG.

I feel we are going a bit off topic here, but I’ll say that you have to deal with a lot of frustrating situations in these large organizations, so it tends to wear you out. Startups, in my experience, are more fun if you are a person who thrives off being productive. Still to this day, I look fondly at my “early startup employee” phase, I have never been able to be so fulfilled in my professional life ever since, despite my compensation going up 10X+ from those days.

Plus, a lot of people on HN routinely and proudly state how they would never want to work for companies like Meta or Google for ethical reasons, so there’s that too.

"some mild stock appreciation".. quite an understatement. $250k (annual) appreciation in a year. Whew.

My perspective is skewed by several friends who made it HUGE by joining unicorns at the right time.

My network is literally filled with senior developers who are earning $5M+ a year from the successful IPOs of 2020/2021, most after having been there less than 3 years. Crazy stuff.

From that perspective, a FAANG growing 30% yoy looks like a risk-free rate of return :-)

> My network is literally filled with senior developers who are earning $5M+ a year from the successful IPOs

Most people here disdain stock options as worthless. And I guess for the most part they are with a few happy exceptions.

How early an employee do you have to be to get that kind of return?

For the great unicorns, not that early. If you join as a senior engineer it’s relatively easy to get 250-400k in equity per year, so you just need to wait for the company to do 10X in order to make $3-5M a year. The math is different from the stock options you mention, we are talking about joining very late in the game, once the companies are already in the unicorn status. By that stage they don’t even give options anymore, just illiquid RSUs. The people who joined really early of course won the lottery and you have rank and file employees sitting on high 8 figures.

There are some interesting numbers here: https://iporegrets.com/

I know several people from AirBnB, Doordash, Snowflake who all joined around 2018 and made bank.

I was an early employee at a smaller startup that is still illiquid and my stock options (fully exercised) are worth $6M. They could still all go to $0.

Just by looking at myself and my immediate network, I wouldn’t say playing the startup game is necessarily like a lottery, the odds are better (but note that I still chose FAANG lately, as mentioned above). YMMV.

That's funny with your use of L I figured you'd be at Google and that that tracks with my experience at FB but no one calls it meta except people at meta so I guess I'm just saying that tracks lol

> Startups do not pay less.

Depends on which startups. Making the statement of "Startups do not pay less.", in reference to someone stating their experience to the opposite, comes across a bit, err, stiff.

Several thoughts:

1. The best way for a manager to tell who is/isn't doing good work is to ask their teammates. If you cover for someone lousy (which may sometimes be the reasonable thing to do, especially if it's a fairly bullshit job) you kind of forfeit the right to complain about being on a lousy team, as bad teammates will eventually drive away good ones.

2. In a lot of places, firing someone takes ages; if you express concerns to this person's manager and they say, "Thanks for the feedback" without asking questions, that's probably what's going on. It's also possible that the person is working through something (divorce? health problem?) and the manager feels like they just need time to get back on track. Either way, once you say, "Hey, I have concerns about Joe, he doesn't seem to get much done," you've done your part.

3. Beware the people saying "Talk to the person directly, not their manager". They may take it as a wake-up call, or they may take it as an attack. I would not do this unless a) you're confident that everyone on the team agrees with you about this person, and b) you feel that you are socially adept enough to deliver the message in a way that will not be counter-productive.

If you feel this impacts you directly - you have to do more work, or there aren't raises in the budget b/c of their comp - I suggest addressing it directly. Focus on the impact and work delivered, rather than whether they are working or not.

Best to understand, however, there may be undesirable consequences. You might get them fired, or you might get yourself put in the doghouse b/c this person is the manager's sister in law.

But if there is unfairness in compensation, and it bothers you, address it. You may have quite a bit of leverage if you're holding the productivity line up, but you may shoot yourself (or your colleague) in the foot. My rec would be to focus on the impact of your work compared to your expectations.

Comp should be fair. I would not accept a situation where I feel I'm being treated unfairly.

(Now, if this colleague is not giving you more work, is not in the way of a raise or promo, and is not a bad person... you definitely don't owe the company any "efficiency gains" conversations. Let that person milk the situation, if it doesn't impact you!)

I'd set up a 1:1 to discuss strategies for falling through the cracks yourself.

I had a co-worker at Google who would go fishing in the middle of the day, and that was before the pandemic. Sweet gig.

I want this guy as a mentor.

Don't use "Office Space" as a true-life example.

"Damn it feels good to be a gangsta..." booming in the office corridor.

Who catches fish in the middle of the day?

> either in some excuse or obfuscation.

I had a coworker like this. Not only would he not get anything done but at standup he would say clear BS to our manager who seemed to not understand it was BS. The BS was the thing that really got under my skin. Because his BS seemed to pass the test with the manager but was such elementary BS to the other engineers.

Finally one day I flipped out and called him out directly and wrote a long lengthy email to the managers. In my head I thought maybe this is what high performance teams do, like Apple and Microsoft, and I needed to step up.

I lost the job, and I still have regret three years later.

And it was my fault. Getting angry was very dumb.

I don't know what the right move is, but I had to create this account to urge you not to do what I did. I picked that battle and it was a mistake.

Let me add, in his defense, he was nice and didn't get in the way, and I had no idea what was going on in his situation. For all I know he went on to be a star employee (I have no idea). I screwed up.

Why did you lose your job? Was it because of the way you confronted the coworker?

I can’t help but feeling so much empathy for you, if I had a company I would love those kind of things to bubble up my way from other employees. These (coworkers not pulling their weight and management being oblivious to it) are the kind of things smart people quit for.

Everybody should be looking out for the health of the organization, the culture should belong to everybody. Most comments here are simply “mind your business”. So sad.

Talk to the colleague first not the manager if you do go down this route. But tbh you don’t know what they’re going through. And it’s also not your business, just do the work.

I had a colleague who would do little for months and didn’t mind it. In fact, because he would mind his own business I liked him more than my other colleagues.

I think you should mind your own business, unless for some reason this is your business, ie if you’re the manager.

Unless their inaction is directly affecting your ability to adequately handle your responsibilities, I would mind my own business.

I would definitely agree. I know the difference between people who do nothing and don't effect me versus people who do nothing and I pick up the slack. It depends who you are in the chain.

Don't mess with the guy unless its directly harming you. Screwing with his employment is screwing with his life directly and it should not be undertaken lightly. I say this as a person who has been on both sides of this issue.

Two stories from my life: A guy tried to get me fired for years because his wife thought I was "cute." I had never met either of these people at the time the harassment started. When I found out what was going on, I was very unkind to him.

The only time I've ever tried to get someone fired-- this individual was only working about 3 hours a day (he was supposedly managing a remote team at night), and then the only thing he was doing was doing was renaming files and namespaces which broke a product that was in production and caused several emergencies. He fancied himself as an Architect and mostly considered himself to be above writing code. So each morning you'd come in and find all the code moved around.

I pulled his commits and their timestamps and was able to prove he simply had never committed anything later than a 3 hours window in the afternoon--and-- that all of his commits for months had just been renaming files, etc. The team he was supposedly managing said they hadn't heard from him in months.

That's not what got him fired though-- he eventually was laid off because he decided to take his team to Hooters for a celebratory dinner-- on the companies money. It took them a few months to get all their ducks in a row, but when there was a round of layoffs he was first on everyone's list to go.

Nope. Stay out of it. There are more bad things that can happen, than good things, if you choose to speak out about it. And at the end of the day, your situation vis-a-vis your employment is between you and your employer and nobody else factors in.

Example: If you want more money, ask for it. If they refuse, it isn't "because of the money they're wasting on this guy", it's because they don't perceive your value as justifying it. That perception may be right or wrong, but it is what it is.

You're getting paid, you're doing your work (presumably), this other person and their actions (or lack thereof) are really irrelevant to you unless they are somehow having a direct impact on your work. IF they are making commitments to do certain things and then failing to deliver AND that in turn is making you look bad, THEN it might make sense to call this out to management; IF you can document the situation.

More likely, if it is directly impacting you, or your innate desire for "fairness" is piqued that strongly, the thing to do would be to just leave and go work somewhere else with better management.

I disagree, with the caveat that I prefer working on a team versus a group of individuals. Taking a sports metaphor, if one of my teammates isn't carrying their weight, it harms the entire team and puts our objectives at risk.

I have been in situations where it's every individual for themselves, and agree with your advice in those. I also quickly left those roles to find a team that works together to achieve common objectives that are more impactful than I could achieve on my own. Hurt the team, and I am going to say something (first to the IC directly, then to the manager). If the manager doesn't care about making the team better, then they don't care about the same things that I do, and I will move.

I actually agree with you, to the extent that I agree that the sports team metaphor is applicable. It just happens that I don't find sports teams to be a good metaphor for the kinds of teams one usually (IME) finds in the corporate world. But yes, in the specific case where an under-performing individual is hurting the team in a way that is ultimately hurting the other individuals on the team, then it does make more sense to call them out. No disagreement there.

I had a report like this

he talked a good game during standups/planning meetings, but was never able to answer anything concretely because he never actually did anything (due to the perfect mix of incompetence and laziness)

I spent months on this guy: helping him break down simple tasks into trivial tasks, sending him documentation to help him out with those tasks, then directly pairing with him out with those tasks, and even doing it bits with him watching when he frequently got "stuck"

immediately after I stopped he went back to doing bullshitting and doing nothing

after I while I figured out his strategy is to argue, obfuscate and make it so difficult to work with him such that his co-workers get fed up and do his work for him (simply because it's easier than dealing with him)

I've had repeated conversations with him saying that his performance isn't up to scratch (with examples A, B, C, D, E, F, G ...), but after 18 months of trying to get support from my manager to do something about him I've thrown in the towel instead and quit

Just to look at a slightly different perspective, is it possible you're just not aware of the work they're doing? (especially since you mentioned they're a higher level)

Perhaps there's a breakdown in communication, I've been on both ends of that myself. They could be helping a different team / org, prototyping, or working on a large refactor.

Yes, a full year is a lot for that, but not outside the realm of possibility (I have 'went dark' for months at a time refactoring some legacy black-box before, or doing out-there prototyping for a layer that may not account to anything in production).

That said, my productivity has gone to 25% - 50% since the pandemic started (home with the kids is not the best environment for deep thinking), so this could very well be about me :)

Focus on what you need to get done. Saying bad things about others is more of a negative reflection on you than others.

It sounds like you’re frustrated on something of the lines of ‘fairness’. I’d take some time to figure out what you want and what it takes to get that. (Not just I want money), instead things along the lines of (I want to work on a team that is cohesive, I want to be valued[and maybe that is by money], etc)

Say nothing. It shouldn't matter to you what they are or are not doing. You do work, you get paid. That's all that's relevant to you.

I do understand why you find this frustrating, of course – most people would. But I can't see anything good coming out of you bringing this up – how would you even go about doing that?

The good that could happen: comp increase, or promotion. Or even just making sure their manager is aware that the entire dept productivity is on OP (makes their leverage obvious). Or, if the expectations are low, OP could de-stress and kick back at work, improving their life.

Possible bad: gets the other person fired. Puts a target on OPs back.

Point being, this will fester if it isn't addressed. Fairness is important, as are concrete expectations.

The good that could happen: comp increase, or promotion.

The odds of that happening are approximately 0. More likely the "slacker" guy is allowed to get away with it because of nepotism or some other factor, and calling him out with result in negative consequences for the OP. Very, very little good usually comes out of speaking up about stuff like this.

First, let’s acknowledge that “odds approaching 0” is your opinion. I happen to have a different one.

Second, for some people, fairness is important. If OP is one of those people, they may prefer knowing if their employer shares those values. If they don’t, then OP may want to know with certainty so they can work elsewhere.

First, let’s acknowledge that “odds approaching 0” is your opinion. I happen to have a different one.

Sure, no problem. I tend to roll with the belief that essentially everything posted here is "just somebody's opinion" (with few rare exceptions) and I've grown away from bothering to preface everything with "in my opinion" or "IME" or whatever. I consider that to be assumed.

The "which is more likely" principle applies: is it more likely you will get a raise, or that the manager gets it? You were being a busybody, but the manager was doing their assigned work.

There are also many other possible outcomes.

Even if it's less likely that the manager would side with OP, it doesn't mean "approaches 0", as you stated previously.

Additionally, even if the manager doesn't address it, it could end up being a positive. Instead of "which is more likely", what really matters is the value of the outcome. I'm the kind of person that I would rather know whether my manager cares at all, so even the worst case outcome (getting fired) would be beneficial because I don't want to work with a group of people who can't rely on each other.

"Which is more likely?" is a hint that one choice obviously has probability near 1, and the other as near zero as makes no difference.

So in this made up scale, "more likely" means "absolutely definitely without any evidence"?

It means anything you like. Wishful thinking can take you anywhere in all fantasyland.

It’s not that hard to bring up. I get asked “how’s it going with Joe?” I respond: “not good. He doesn’t seem to do any work, barely understands the project, and makes Jane fill out his reports because he had no clue.” These sorts of chats can be a real laugh when you’re near FIRE.

This question is an awesome rorschach blot for the answerers ethics and morality.

I've worked with people that had answers regarding this all over the place.

My answer would be that it depends on context.

You could qualify "doesn't work" with all kinds of qualifiers, that they might or might not do, such as take credit for your your work, take credit for others work, interfere, steal, harass, block, distract, etc.

You could also specify a counter party for each of those: coworkers, management, the company, vendors, customers, or the public.

For example, do they steal money, property, or time from the company, coworkers, or customers?

In my experience the people you work with will have all kinds of different answers, that are sometimes surprising.

Some people never say anything to management or their coworkers, even if the culprit was stealing property from customers or the company, and only draw the line if it was them personally.

As a meta answer, we could try to construct levels of morality necessary for different levels of cooperation and trust to be achieved.

Anyway, if your coworker doesn't take credit for your work, steal, interfere, harass, or otherwise block anything, then you are more in a case of thinking about the relative fairness of the situation. Recognize that and put it aside. It's not useful to you.

If you end up in a situation where it's impacting your ability to get a significant objective done, then it's material and you should focus on practical ways to work around them, for example by working with other people or making it so they aren't in the decision path.

Tons of comments saying it’s none of your business. I disagree.

If you care, you can’t stop caring. You’ll drive yourself nuts watching this coworker continue to be a drag on the company. Either find a new job or swing for the fences and try to make the company better.

I want people at my company who give a damn. If a coworker slacking off is pissing you off, it shows me that you actually care about the company, the product/clients and progress.

If you “mind your own business”, it shows me that you just care about your paycheck.

The questions I’d be asking myself in your position is what is it about the company workflow / accountability structure that allows this to happen? Research better options, put together some ideas. Find out if you like problem solving at that organizational level. If you don’t, then maybe find a new job. If you do, then tactfully look for someone who is successful at the company and seems to share your passion for getting stuff done, even if they’re a level or two above you.

You can try to pitch your ideas to them and it’ll be apparent pretty quickly if they think you’re a godsend or a troublemaker. The Socratic method can be useful, asking questions like: “Why don’t we track individual progress?” Or “Why don’t we use [method from your research] here?”. It’s a less hostile way to approach the problem through curiosity and people will send you political signals like: “Oh, I tried that before and Bob put his foot down.” Or, “Wow, you sound just like Sally. I bet she’d like to talk to you about that.” Sometimes these problems are political rather than organizational.

Even just asking questions to your superiors shows that you care and will probably get you some bonus points, unless you’re at a really crappy company where everyone is doing their best to skate by and those who aren’t skating by are persecuted.

The most aggressive approach that might work is anonymizing them and simply saying: “I really want this company to achieve [company goal] and I’m worried that we’re not all working efficiently enough to make that happen.” Or, “I’m really needing more support from [other department] in order to deliver on [your commitment].” You might be asked for details and names, which is kind of a point of no return. Action will probably be taken towards you or them.

Anyway, there’s a chance you ruffle some feathers, but there’s also a chance you draw some positive attention.

Or you can keep your head down like others are suggesting, but the fact that you care this much, I doubt you’ll be able to continue to do it without stifling your own ambition to make the company better, and why would you want to do that?

No! Fuck "the man" (company). Don't snitch on your coworkers.

Is he a "coworker" if he isn't working?

Your manager almost certainly knows more about the situation than you think. In any case, dealing with it is what they're paid to do, so let them.

Management inaction to address performance is endemic in larger companies. It shows you how very hard it is to get fired at most places. There are companies that attempt to counter this, but usually that ends up getting the company an ugly reputation.

I think the first issue you need to address is your frustration. It is definitely caused by unreasonable expectation of "a salary must always reflect a value a person brings". It would be great if that is true, but in reality it often isn't.

Once you fix this it would be a lot easier to decide what to do. I have heard starting a comic line with that kind of man as one of the characters may be extremely fulfilling and benefitial for the rest of us :-)

Mention it. I’ve done this before with various do-nothings who manage to pawn off their work on others. The last guy I complained about was a do-nothing PM / scrum master who would dial in from his kid’s soccer games, not contribute ever, and make others fill out his TPS reports on a regular basis. The guy is still there but at least I don’t have to deal with him.

Unless it’s having a knock-on effect on your work I would keep it to yourself. It’s not as bad as a Spanish civil servant who didn’t turn up to work for 6 years and no-one noticed. He spent his time reading philosophy. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-35557725.amp

There are different ways to look at this.

It can indeed be demoralizing to see coworkers slack of all the time, when others are busting their asses off.

However – before mentioning this to a manager, you should contemplate if anything good can come out of it. There is a non-zero possibility that nothing good would come out of it.

If it is the case that he’s slacking off, his manager should notice that after a few weeks/month. And if the manager doesn’t notice – what does that say about the company…?

If I were you I would focus on the bigger picture. Are there other, good coworkers? Are your tasks fulfilling? If the bigger picture is fine, maybe you should just turn a blind eye to this. And if the bigger picture is not fine, maybe it’s time for you to go on to new adventures.

How do you know they aren't providing value to the company? Do you watch them every second of the day to confirm? Unless it's your job to supervise them, it sounds like you are the one not doing work if so.

If they're failing to deliver things that affect you directly, then bring that up as feedback. Otherwise leave them be - not your circus, not your monkey.

Never criticize. It will never work or be beneficial at all. No point even going to your manager. It's not your problem and you haven't been asked to help. Furthermore, it's your manager's job to fix this and they too aren't doing their job. When you criticize you will be criticize them as well.

I've been in your position many times. The big problem arrives is when incompetent and useless coworkers start unloading their work onto you. I have been in this situation many times as well. The best advice here is to never lie. Never 'cover'/lie for said coworkers.

Oh another rule, never let any coworkers know how much work you do. You arent just avoiding bragging, tons of benefits down this line. Could be the case of what's happening here.

You want to go mano a mano with this person?

If you call them out, it will thread through the company, and will eventually land back on your lap. And you will have to deal with a bunch of scrutiny.

Keep your head down, and call out when this person is blocking you. Other than that, let it slide. It could end up being bad for you if it goes wrong.

How do you know?

Honest question. There's no detail in your question, so, how do you know this guy isn't waking up at 3am where he's at his most productive and does double the work you do? And then wastes time at the office because of silly punchcard rules?

Is your work not being tracked? It should be obvious to management who is doing work and who is not. If it is not, try to get better transparency into what is going on. Maybe you can run a report every month showing what is going on. Don't talk about the person - talk about the work.

Whatever you do, don't just sit there and take it.

Had a coworker who did work, but the work was actually detrimental to what the team was doing. It would have been better if they did nothing.

I didn't say anything. When I got back from a vacation, I had been moved off the team.

Apparently while I was gone, this guy's main talent, being a jailhouse lawyer, helped him to shift blame on to me when a problem came up that he caused. I wasn't there at the time, and the manager was inexperienced.

Later, the manager apologized, but it was too late by then.

My question to you is: how do you know he is doing nothing? Are you working with him and end up doing everything yourself? Or you simply “see” him relaxing all the time? I know people that seems alway on a break and yet deliver more than most!

I am not sure I agree with all the other posters saying it isn't your business and say nothing. Most of the posters here are actively working to automate millions of people out of work and disrupt industries to non-existence. Disrupt your office and automate your coworker to the unemployment line.

In your story there is a potential for you to make more money. In that sense: it is your business to do something.

Meddle away, play politics and try to come out ahead. In one scenario, nothing changes. In another, you might even be able to take this other person's job, grab a promotion. Play it another way maybe you work a lot less and get more money. There are a lot of angles where you come out ahead.

If your conscience bothers you, think about it this way. When you apply for a job and get hired, you took that job away the next best option. The fact that this coworker of yours has the job doesn't change the calculus, you have as much right to their job and pay as they do. So take it from them by outcompeting them. We live in a capitalist society. The fact that this person has a job is no safety net. Go take it from them.

Well of course no you don't say anything, but more important that that, look at what your situation here is.

You live in one of the best off places on the planet, at the best point in time to live there, in one of the most advantaged professions to be in at that time, and you are looking at this person who you work with and think you work harder than, and you're thinking "they're a slacker and they probably get paid more than me".

I mean without even discussing the snitching thing, you've just gotta drop that attitude. You're never going to be happy with an attitude like that. Life is good. Enjoy!

The best advice I ever got is “Don’t borrow trouble.”

If it’s not affecting you then leave it alone.

Is no one considering the fact that this "slacker" is in a place of seniority over OP?

How could one possibly aspire to climb the ladder when the person above you is unlikely to ever move up another rung?

If slacker never gets promoted, due to their lack of performance, what chance does OP have? Or should OP find a better paying job elsewhere where this is not the case?

I am not advocating for snitching here, but let's consider it from that vantage point at least.

Not enough info to give any detailed recommendations, as different situations warrant different things.

Having said that, I think the safest advice is to make sure your work is correctly being attributed to yourself (i.e., they aren't taking credit for your work) and advocate for a raise for yourself as you normally would, just with more confidence. Clearly advocate for yourself and the work you are clearly doing and let management put the puzzle pieces together on their own.

I think it also depends a lot on who OP’s employer is, and their view of them.

I may give a different answer depending on if it’s a casino dev shop or a legit publicly funded research lab...

I once compiled a load of data that I consistently close more tickets, close more story points, commit more lines of code, more number of commits, etc compared to my coworkers with the same or similar title. I was laid off a few weeks later because my "goals were not the same as the company's". If you want to keep your job, don't bring it up. If you think you deserve better, find a new employer.

Wow. But why would your manager do that though? Were you working unreasonably hard, so much so that others couldn't keep up and it made them look bad? Did they dislike something about your attitude? I want to understand their perspective on why they jettisoned a high-performing employee.

I did get feedback that working hard all the time was disenfranchising to the rest of the team. Much of the team did in fact play video games and browse the internet at work. I think the decision was well above my manager. The story is a lot longer but it probably doesn't add much.

It depends how’s your relation with your manager. If you are on the friendly side then you can pretty much say anything.

Keep track of the what goes on and document it. It can then be used to blackmail your manager for higher pay or taken to his management so you can move up the ranks. Tech is a ruthless industry, you have been treated like a cog all you life now is your chance to be a cog that moves other cogs. Read Machiavelli.


Do you have stock options and/or is it a small company where the success of the team may have a significant impact on the ability of the company to promote you in the future?

If either of those is the case, I think there may be reason to escalate as it does impact your future.

it’s just a job lol go get another one with a competent team if it really bothers you.

unless you have a significant ownership in what you’re doing, just myob and do what you were hired to do. your manager can deal with the consequences of holding deadweight - if you’re an IC just focus on your work. if that person blocks your work or causes you to miss a deadline, then bring it up. otherwise just do what you (you) were hired to do as your job.

That guy can be you in a few years. Or you can become the manager and get fired anyway.

Nope, keep your mouth shut. Almost impossible to spin it in a way that doesn’t hurt you. I did this once, because it was very negatively impacting me as well. Wasn’t a total disaster, but did more harm than good anyway.

It depends.

Depends on country(culture), company(culture), team(culture), and the managers opinion on these type of things, as well as her/his maturity in role and life.

only if and about it affecting you directly in delivering your tasks.

maybe also if you feel you can fit some of their tasks into your role and do it better.... (and want that)

It's not your responsibility unless you and your co-workers work together on projects.

Hey OP mind your own business.


Is it affecting you? Do you have to pick up slack for this person, or are your departmental goals being hindered? If not, why do you care?

I got someone fired once. He didn't do anything, the few things he would do he would mangle up, and he was seriously holding back departmental goals. The boss wanted to fire him but didn't have the nerve, so I helped him find the nerve. Immediately after, I took up a project he was in charge of and turned it into a real boon for the team, it built out the department basically and took it from being a liability to helping improve products substantially.

It's a delicate thing though. Are you ruining someone's life? If they don't care enough should you care? Will coworkers stop trusting you? Does your boss care about it, and if not, will saying something blow up in your face? Is your product bullshit? Does your org have a culture of performing well, taking pride in it, encouragement and adequate compensation?

Again, to reiterate, if it's got nothing to do with you, mind your own business, but if it affects you directly, then weigh the potential outcomes.

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