I am a project manager, for a major project at school. One of my team members had joined the team as a developer, without knowledge of particular languages. The member has spent almost half the project's estimated duration without contributing. All the extra developmental burden has fallen on me, as I am PM and responsible for it. During meetings the member always nods, agrees and accepts to work by a given deadline. But when the deadline comes and goes, there is absolutely no response. I don't mean to bitch, but these are the facts, truly. I spend most of my time almost baby-sitting, by going thru the coding with the member and explaining how to code during one-on-one meetings.

I have tried to give extra time for the member to come upto speed, and spent time trying to train him. All has been almost wasted, because the member either is too busy with other self important work, or too slow to learn or plain simple incompetent or lazy.

Can you give any suggestions as to how I can encourage the member to put solid time and effort into contributing towards the project ?

dropping the member off the team is highly unprofessional, but should I consider it if it becomes too much of time-constraint issue ? or should I keep using reward-only policy ? I am sort of frustrated and don't know how to proceed.

Thank you-Egon.

Well, as suggested, the team member is now preparing slides, writing documentation, and all such secondary work. Thnx folks to help me make up my mind.

  • Now imagine half your team is like that... FML
    – Rafa
    Commented Jul 5, 2012 at 11:14

7 Answers 7


Start writing him up for failure to perform. When you get enough documentation to satisfy HR, fire them.

During meetings the member always nods, agrees and accepts to work by a given deadline

On 03/02/2011, Wally agreed to have doohickey_12 completed by3/7.
3/8: Doohickey_12 not completed. Wally says it will take another week.
3/15: Doohickey_12 not completed. Wally says it will take another week.

Do this for each item Wally is responsible for. In case you forget who Wally is, he is the guy with glasses in the Dilbert comic.

dropping the member off the team is highly unprofessional

No it isn't. They're just wasting your time and energy as well as the employer's money.

If you utterly loathed some other manager, you could make Wally seem like a hero and connive to have the other manager "steal" him away from you. In the business world, there are so many Wallies that Scott Adams doesn't have to look far for humor.

If you are in a situation where you cannot fire the guy, and you can't get rid of him, have him make coffee and go get lunch for the rest of the team.

  • +1 - One of my coworkers recommended I use a spreadsheet to document issues. It's a great suggestion!
    – jmort253
    Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 4:21
  • 8
    +1 - A bad team member will not just be a waste of money, it affects the morale of the entire team.
    – user259
    Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 8:50
  • @Erik is right. That person is creating negative productivity for the entire team.
    – Steven
    Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 16:23

PMBOK says that every problem in a project is a personal fault of a project manager. Let's review your mistakes in the explained scenario. Hope this will help you to change.

All the extra developmental burden has fallen on me, as I am PM and responsible for it

You're responsible for managing, not for development. As soon as you started to do his work you made a severe mistake.

During meetings the member always nods, agrees and accepts to work by a given deadline

Meetings are not for accepting. Meetings are for discussions. Instead of asking him at a meeting you should create a list of tasks, send him by email, and ask for estimates. He should provide deadlines, not you.

explaining how to code during one-on-one meetings

You should not explain. You have to establish quality standards in your team and let him obey them. They have to be in writing, those standards.

the member either is too busy with other self important work, or too slow to learn or plain simple incompetent or lazy

He is neither lazy nor slow. He is smart because he is still in your team and you're still doing baby-sitting. My final advice is to get back to the "ground rules" of your team and review them. Are they explicit? Do they explain motivation of every team member? Do they explain "rewards and penalties" (non-monetary first of all!, read Rewards or Penalties? Or just rewards?)

  • 1
    PMBoK statement is a bit too hard in my opinion. This is exactly the kind of stuff that makes junior PM scared of managing projects. While all you say is true and your advice is good, I'd still say the primary responsible for this is the employee that doesn't contribute. You are right in pointing that it's the PM responsibility to fix it, but the root cause is the employee in this case (case in point : other team members are apparently not behaving wrongly, which would be the case if the PM was consistently bad) Commented Dec 29, 2011 at 8:40

If the developer has agreed a deliverable, you should be holding him to it.

But when the deadline comes and goes, there is absolutely no response.

As soon as he is not delivering, you must escalate the issue. You are responsible for ensuring that the project is delivered on time, and answer to the stakeholders, at present, it sounds like he is major risk to the projects. All agreements of deadlines should documented, and if there is persistent failure to meet these deadlines, the professional thing to do, is to discuss it with him, and if there is no improvement, let him go.

It's commendable that you're pitching in to cover the developers deficiencies, but the concern is that your focus will be more on what he is doing rather than the whole project.


Letting your project go down the drain and you knowing the reason all along, that would be unprofessional.

So unless this project serves in part as a training for your teammember, but I gather from your description that it was not the intention, you will have to act.

So either you accept it, but then you will have to talk to your manager or steerco and ask or more time/budget and/or additional help. You will have to do this anyway if there is no alternative available.

Otherwise, confront the person with the impact of his behaviour on the project, talk to his/her boss about it, and if they don't comply (say within the week if you can hold it that much longer) there is no other option but to let him go.

Do not 'hope' for things to just happen, or to get better. As a project manager you will need to make them happen.


Absolutely nothing unprofessional about letting him go. You are not failing, he is.

Here is another post on this site about Motivating a Team Member on a college project that may help.

  • 2
    I disagree that "you're not failing, he is". If anyone in a team is failing - it's a fault of PM, first and foremost. That's what the project manager is for.
    – yegor256
    Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 6:30
  • 2
    @yegor256 it is not realistic to believe that a project manager (or any person, for that matter) can control another individual. The pm can make the right choices for a project given what they know about the people involved. But the pm can't control other people. Commented Mar 3, 2011 at 14:12

I entirely agree with @Tangurena's point about using a spreadsheet; this has been very useful to me in the past.

In addition to the everyday deadline missing, I would also log any other possible misconduct:

  • Specifically ask him to warn you in advance of overshooting a deadline (25% of the task's duration in advance), and log if he fails to do so.
  • If he attempts to assign even minor blame elsewhere: log, investigate, refute (if possible), and log results.
  • Avoid pettiness, but keep track of small things nonetheless: pettiness makes it seem personal, but sometimes minor things turn out to be larger in impact than expected. Excess entries can be filtered out before the document is used in earnest.

Additionally, if he is doing work elsewhere, is it for other managers? If so, discuss the situation with them to see if they're suffering the same issues. Be warned though, at the extremes this can either end with a new ally, or discovering that he's already laid the groundwork to undermine your actions ("Egon is so unreasonable, and clearly has it in for me personally.").

Final tip: Patience. Remember to give them all the rope they sensibly need to improve or fail, and only pull the noose when necessary and decisive.


I have recently taken over a team of graphic designers and am currently facing a similar challenge with one of my team members. She has repeatedly shown a lack of commitment to the work she is expected to complete in the timelines given to her.

This is how I am tackling it.

Step 1: Since she was already under an informal development plan (read without the intervention from the HR Team) with her previous manager, I did a review of her December Performance Review and the handover provided by the previous manager.

Step 2: I then sat Ms. X and said this is the transition document that I have been given and in the month that I have been here, this is how I view your performance and status in the team. Then I gave her an opportunity to explain the challenges she is facing in understanding the expectations or meeting the timelines. I committed myself to helping her resolve these challenges as long as she commits to working with me. She did.

Step 3: Here came in the mighty excel sheet. I created a docket where i documented the following- - set up her previous year's performance review against each objective. - monthly review against this year's review. She was asked to mark herself against each objective and evaluate where she stood. - quality proofing tracker for each project through the check-ins - designer tracker (timely updates, editorial misses, process misses etc.) - 1:1 agenda (from her) and a summary of what she will be doing. Each Agenda included her own review of what she did with what we expected out of her.

Step 4: Since non of these daily/weekly/monthly check-in worked, I then sat down to write my formal (read- sent to HR) development plan for her. This document was shared with and signed by her in presence of an HR representative. The excel sheet came in handy to provide "evidence" of low performance against expected performance at the company. I was able to pin point exact project, dates, performance issues and her response for the lack of. This document specifically outlined that if this development plan did not work well, she will be fired. (it put the devil's scare in her, but it worked)

Step 5: she has been on the development plan for 3 weeks now. The month long development plan finishes next week, but it looks like she will be getting a great review from me and the HR rep.

Step 6: if her performance dips on quality and efficiency after this development plan, she will be "dropped". There is nothing "unprofessional" about this. One bad apple spoils the rest.

Hope this helps.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.