Challenging structure when faced with an underperforming employee.

Simon Cohen

Software Engineering manager at Spotify



I had heard that one of my direct reports was underperforming and working on a side project for the company. He was not focused on his tasks and was not delivering as he should for his team. We had no visibility on his work. Although some people wanted his contract to be terminated, I managed to instead get him on a performance improvement plan. He had been part of another team before and was productive there. Moreover, it was the first time I heard about issues with his performance on the new team. So, it was right and fair to see how we could turn his performance around.

Actions taken

How could he have been working on a side project when almost no one knew about it? I noticed that his previous team was much more structured, so I decided to bring back transparency, accountability and structure to this team with the help of a senior engineer. We used stand-ups to know what's happening on a daily basis and Trello boards for better planning, and short feedback cycles were implemented. After about two weeks, I could already see a lot of improvement, and eventually, the situation turned around.

Lessons learned

Different people have different needs in terms of work environments. When someone is not performing, it's good to challenge yourself, and the organization, first, especially if the individual was performing before. It's also your role to provide the correct structure for your engineers to perform.

Be notified about next articles from Simon Cohen

Simon Cohen

Software Engineering manager at Spotify

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyEngineering ManagementPerformance MetricsLeadership TrainingPerformance ReviewsFeedback TechniquesTechnical ExpertiseTeam & Project Management

Connect and Learn with the Best Eng Leaders

We will send you a weekly newsletter with new mentors, circles, peer groups, content, webinars,bounties and free events.


HomeCircles1-on-1 MentorshipBounties

© 2024 Plato. All rights reserved

LoginSign up