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How do you Deal with an Underperforming engineer?

  • Post published:September 17, 2021

How to know that you’re an underperforming engineer? As a tech lead, how do you handle an underperforming engineer in the team? How to deal with that inefficient subordinate?

This read is all about dealing with problem programmers!

The IT industry is booming, the number of people that are pursuing careers as engineers growing too. The competition is tough, it’s cutthroat so an underperforming engineer is discarded. You either eat or be eaten!

“What do I do with my underperforming engineer?” If you’re a manager, this is the question that you would mostly hear from your team leads.

Underperforming engineer

I work as a tech writer at vteams. I co-author write-ups with some engineers. Oftentimes I hear their team leads yelling at them for screwing up code lines. Recently I bumped into a business analyst who designed some faulty prototypes. He claimed that the design was made keeping the client’s requirements in mind but, later it came to light that nothing was tested and reviewed but deployed directly.

The irony here is that the BA is not a junior level analyst, he holds a senior degree in business analyst positions. Did he do it on purpose? OK smarty but that was a wrong attempt!

So, you tell us how to find a solution to such issues?

Successful team

How ba-a-a-ad can it be?

You have a team of 5 developers. Two of them are quite slow. Despite giving complete guidance, they spend more time on finishing the tasks. The other two are irregular. They seldom deliver timely reports. And the remaining one is better than the others but you can’t rely on him too.

Puzzled, right? How does one handle people like this?

Successful team management is an ART!

How do you deal with an underperforming engineer?

Similar to programming, team management is a skill that takes plenty of time before you are an expert. You can presume from the above example that they are not so skilled. Apart from micro-managing them, a brief morning standup meeting could work.

First, you learn where they are stuck and face problems. It makes them learn from their mistakes and perform better the next time.

Second, you foster healthy competition between them. You can do that by assigning them specific tasks to measure efficiency.

Third, you actively check on their performances, slowly creating some competitive natural pressure so that they stay more focused.

Finally, start connecting them with resources that are best at their development jobs. They can shadow them to learn something good. Simply say to them “Adam is really good at what he’s working on, I thought why not connect you with him so that he helps you out today?”

Manage dedicated development team

Poor performance can’t be accepted! It’s disappointing, frustrating, tedious, and it can weaken your team’s performance. So, what else can be done to help an underperforming engineer?

Oftentimes managers don’t deal with his problems directly; they adjust that underperforming engineer in another department. This is how they think they can make amends. But, you don’t do that! We suggest you step forward, make changes to the problem, and invest in their growth.

Even Einstein was once rejected by the University of Bern. Many said that he got rejected because his Theory of Relativity was less Physics, more art!

But, his story teaches one lesson: if you have passion for something and faith in yourself you can make history.

How often do you follow up with your employees?

It may not seem obvious to you, but many managers fail to follow up. vteams suggests that you follow up with your employee to check if he’s really learned something. Take action if you don’t see any improvements in his work. But, if he has made a positive change, reward him in front of his team. This is the best way to boost someones’ confidence.

think creative

Underperforming Engineer: Case Study

Sofia Niaz leads a five-member team at vteams Lahore center. She recruited Ijaz as a photographer/videographer. His job was to cover internal gatherings and hold the promotion of our business in the form of videos/pictures. Sofia noticed that he lacked severe creativity.

Initially, she had him do what was necessary for him to do. But with time, she started giving him suggestions that could help improve our content. She realized that she was investing much in him and less in others. “I had to come up with a better plan. Says Sofia”

She started by giving Ijaz a weekly action plan. She would take 10 minutes out on Monday mornings to explain to Ijaz the ideas. Ijaz would note the pointers and act accordingly. Within a month or so, Ijaz started creating that plan himself. “I knew this would happen, I saw something in him, this is why I didn’t give up on him.”

Moral of the story: Man’s gotta go what a man’s gotta do!