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Time to fire?!

I work as a consultant to a fortune 500 company.  Although in this market I may be permanent with them shortly.  I've been with this client 2 1/2 years, longer than the "Permanent" software developers on staff.

Our team consists of three people (including me) who design and write code mostly, one PM who writes code maybe 20% of the time, one DBA who writes some DB code.

There is one guy who works on PLC hardware and keeps mostly to himself.  There is one "developer" who cannot write code to save her life and mostly plops controls and sets properties and does a half-*** job at that.  And one "Support specialist" who is turning into a world-class jerk.  This guy used to be a "documentation specialist" but never did much work and what he did stunk so the group hired a real documentation specialist (who is doing a bang-up job).

Today he spent 1 hour grousing about being moved into a smaller cubicle and trying to convince the other people being moved that the PM is a "Nazi".  This while one of the core team and the PM are away in Singapore working 18 hour days implementing the beta of our MES system.  He talks about being better off dead and how his life sucks and how he suffers from every disease known to humanity.  This is a guy who takes off twice a week for his hypochondria treatment.

My question is, is this common?  Do a lot of you work in teams where one or more members need to be terminated, preferably yesterday?  The three P/As are going to confront the PM when he gets back from Singapore and demand he fire the incompenent programmer and the jerk support specialist.

Wednesday, November 7, 2001

As a student, I realize that my opinion is not really entirely valid here, however, I'd still like to point out a few things: For one, if he does so little, then what do you lose by firing him? It's not like he's your top code-producer that you'd be dumping ;) Two, some of Joel's articles focus on managing programmers, and much of that is keeping them happy and unbothered. How is listening to this guy's bitching helping their productivity?

Beyond that, there's the basic principle of the thing: you do NOT want to work with that guy. If its possible at all to do without him (even behind schedule and with difficulty) I'd get rid of him, if it were my choice.

As an almost-related anecdote, I worked last summer in a retail store where one of our associates was being disrespectful to the managers and had a history of it. He was fired on the spot. Note that it's hard to find qualified people; this particular store (true it's only one out of a chain of 220+) actually did have a very very good set of people, and finding replacements on that level is hard. We were a bit shorthanded at the time. It's better to just dump the jerk, imho.

Mike Swieton
Wednesday, November 7, 2001

It's not that easy to get someone fired at a Fortune 500 company unless there is a major ethical problem.  It’s easier than it used to be but not easy.  You may have to wait for a layoff/downsize.  In the meantime you need to talk ”professionally” with your manager.  I’ll bet he already knows the score, as does every other manager this person has worked for.  This guy will probably get dumped on manager after manager until he gets the SOB who with straightens him out, fires him, or puts him at the top of the downsize list.

These guys float around and if you are a manager, sooner or later someone will dump them on you.  It’s happened to me several times.  The whiner/incompetents are the worst.  The whiner/very-competent can be almost as unpleasant but they produce.  The less competent folks are easier to deal with particularly if they want to improve.

Terry Kearns
Wednesday, November 7, 2001

Both of these sound like a failure in management.

If you have a failing member of a team then that needs to be addressed, there are all sorts of reasons why someone in a particular job isn't doing well and that often leads to a general deterioration in their whole life at times it gets so bad that they suffer some kind of breakdown.

As soon as the manager detects that someone is failing remedial action has to be started.  Part of that remedial action should be to discover the heart of the problem.  If its someone that is having technical problems doing their job and training doesn't help, and pairing doesn't help then they may need to change radically their job.  If this means starting a disciplinary procedure then sobeit.  Managers create problems for everyone by not starting disciplinary action soon enough (they also create them by applying disciplinary procedures when it isn't relevant).

If the problem is a complete breakdown in the individual's relationship with the organisation then the only way forward may be to pay them off.  But to get to that position with an employee is a failure of the management and not necessairly the individual.

They may have been employed in the first place for an entirely different job, been made promises of this or that, moved into a job where they haven't the required skills and haven't been given adequate support and training. Resentment can build over time  so that in the end it can equate to sabotage.

Groups of workers can also socially exclude difficult individuals which only exacerbates bad situations. 

So if it has got that bad I'd be asking questions of the Project Manager as to whether they need some remedial action of their own as well as dealing with the individuals involved.

Simon Lucy
Thursday, November 8, 2001

This is the kind of stuff that Fortune 500 companies are made of.  You live with it for some time, then you move on to start your own company and promise yourself you won't let this happen in your backyard.

Happens all the time!
Thursday, November 8, 2001

This problem seems to be too common - I
changed two places and in both there were people
who deserves to get shot, yes, preferably
yesterday. They're absolutely dumb about
software development, it's only C/C++/Java
syntax that somehow scratched their heads
during the collage years and the way they
think and code is a disaster (well, for me, at least).
I'd be dead to be be possible to throw out those
morons, but not. Not even team leaders can
handle firing them (It took a month or so to two
team leaders to fire some idiot destroying every
single item he was able to touch) ! This
damn "company policy" places together good
and bad (ballast)developers and after all people
dnd projects suffer. Till now, there's nothing we
can do about it, unfortunately, but I'm
dreaming about the day I'll grow up :) and will be
able to make such a decisions or at least to have
a voice. Well, the first idiot I'm catching will get the
punishment for all others I was sitting next the
years before !

Evgeny Goldin
Tuesday, November 20, 2001

Happens all the time! Thats true.
When you are passionate about your work (which is a good thing) its possible to get really pissed about a set of circumstances that you feel are to the detriment of the efforts you are making. Sometimes it can be just a clash of egos.
When this happens its time to sit back, have a good long thought about the whole thing...and if its not worth it ...move on.
Become a more political animal (if you choose) not just consumed with whats right and whats wrong, but more whats better for you and whats not. Take the long term view.

Tony McConnell
Saturday, November 24, 2001

Tony, you're right.
I'm telling the same to myself all the time recently. I can't change any rules the company around me plays ( even if I pissed off about the whole anarchy ) so I study to play by it's rules and keep myself insane ;) And it doesn't worth leaving so I stay and I learn to be more political person..

Do you happen to be a relative of the Steve McConnel ? Best greeting to the man, if yes.

Goldin Evgeny
Saturday, November 24, 2001

Of course, I meant "keep myself sane"

Goldin Evgeny
Saturday, November 24, 2001

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