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How to deal with an underperforming employee

Feelings aside
Underperformance
Company Culture
Firing
Career Path
Feedback
Hiring

6 December, 2017

Benjamin struggles to fill a scrum master position, so offers it to an underperforming Software Manager, who he thinks he will perform better in the new role.

Problem

A few years ago, I was the VP of Engineering at a computer software company with about 100 employees. I needed to fill the position of scrum master and struggled to find an adequate person.

Actions taken

I then considered a software manager on my team, called John. John was underperforming in his role. Even though he was authoritative in the sense he was giving clear directions to his team, he wasn't holding his staff accountable for deadlines or for the quality of their work. He seemed to be more interested in being friends with them than in being their manager. Since a scrum master is closer to a coach than to a manager, I thought that this change of position would be appropriate. However, John's change of position was a bad idea. He was an underperforming software manager and became an underperforming scrum master. I changed his role for the wrong reasons. I was struggling to find a scrum manager and I had an emotional link with John that prevented me from letting him go directly. But in fact, John was simply not a good fit for the company.

Lessons learned

I have left that company now, but John still works there. He's not a scrum master anymore but a tech lead, and I think he's quite unhappy. Looking back, I think that the best solution would have been to make him realize that he was not happy with the culture of the company in general and to have let him go. I could have given him a good severance package and some good recommendations so he could easily find a job in another company.


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