Our division is a small offshore development-only unit (not more than 25 members) but we develop many projects. Our main focus is development. Developers are grouped under Project Leaders, and they in turn report to a Project Manager.

I'm stuck with the most lamest Project Leader. Our team has 4 developers under this one guy, and we handle 4 projects. Some of his characteristics are:

  • Doesn't contribute anything during design/coding
  • Doesn't do any managerial tasks (such as getting us read-only access to servers, or getting us software to be installed, filling out forms, etc)
  • Doesn't do any co-ordination work (such as giving instructions to QA team regarding requirements, co-ordinating with middleware team for deployment, etc)
  • Doesn't respond to client emails, just forwards it back to us. In case he responds, he messes up things because he is not involved in the projects for too long
  • Doesn't attend conference calls. Even in the rare case he does, he has nothing to contribute
  • Doesn't troubleshoot any issue (doesn't even care to see the logs) in developer's absence
  • DOES stock trading/researching from morning to evening
  • DOES involve himself in success parties/calls for our projects
  • DOES demand rating 1 for himself

Overall, his title is "Project Leader" but he is not at all involved with the project. We developers do everything including the full grunt of design, development, co-ordination and support activities.

He is quite vocal about it too. He says it is not his responsibility, and his full existence is to get work done from others. I can agree this, but as a Developer my work is to develop and deliver (heck we have so much development work), but I can't do support and co-ordination at the same time, sitting in phone calls and internal chat rooms and sending/receiving emails. I have explicitly said him that "I will do coding, you do support" but he just said he won't. In fact, during our last meeting when deciding about a new project - he explicitly said "Make sure it has no dependency on me". What can I say?

He has been in the company for too long, nearly everyone who joined with him are in much higher ranks. He has been given this promotion recently just because of this one fact. The Project Manager too knows very well, but he is a new person and is afraid to act against a "veteran".

I've tried a lot of things, like trying to talk with him about this ("I do coding, you do support"), talking with the PM, touting him in emails, etc. But he doesn't nudge. I'm not low enough to report this to higher management in US - but anyway they won't understand what's going on here. Due to his "communication" skills, they have a big impression of him. What do I do? Any traps that I can lay?

Edit: More info: My growth is locked to his. Only if he becomes a manager and makes some way, I can fill up his place and become the Leader. But the whole problem is that he is content to just sit around without any aspirations, while we ambitiously do all his work without getting anything in return.

  • 1
    What does "•DOES demand rating 1 for himself" mean exactly? I would not assist this person more then I had to do my job. Honestly I would rather get the information myself from the horses mouth then relay on him feeding me information.
    – Ramhound
    Aug 4 '11 at 13:01
  • 1
    Is he trying to get fired? Is he depressed?
    – wleao
    Aug 5 '11 at 14:30
  • 1
    Now thats what I call delegating! On the other hand, he sounds like he's out of your hair. That could be a good thing. Aug 5 '11 at 18:28
  • 1
    Another good question for area51.stackexchange.com/proposals/30887/… ? Aug 5 '11 at 18:59

I feel for you. Sounds like this guy is a perfect employee. Well in the eyes or his superiors. He probably spends most of his time telling them how great things are progressing, producing fancy pie charts and reports, making pointless Gantt charts that have nothing to do with what your doing, but keeps the bosses happy. A classic middle manager whos only interested in moving up and not with those who help him get there.

As far as traps go, I'm not sure. What I can suggest is you slowly take things over from him and get him from below in order to get him from above. If not already you need to get your peers following your lead (if they don't already) over his. It's probably going to be more work for you.

For everything that he doesn't do. You start taking control. Try to establish that close relationship with the customer so they come to you rather than anyone else. If you don't feel comfortable talking to management higher up than this guy, let your customers do the talking for you when they start dropping your name in during discussions with your management.

This is a hard one however your company is not so big that this kind of behaviour will go un-noticed. Just keep plugging away, staying positive. Try not to be to direct in negative comments against this guy, but dont shy away from what you are contributing as well.

Good luck.

  • 4
    'gnatt' charts, is that a deliberate typo? :)
    – Benjol
    Aug 5 '11 at 8:27
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    Upvote to you for understanding his prototype perfectly. Yes, this is exactly the thing that I've been doing so far. Clients address their emails directly to me. He is not even included anymore in most of our mail and phone conversations. Our whole team is bearing the grunt directly. But problem is, in spite of doing all his work - I can't advance even equal to his level. Either we all get a promotion and he enjoys even more "free salary" (which will take a long time), or we all stay in the same place. He is a leech who's not allowing any progress to happen, and that's making me frustrated.
    – Subhas
    Aug 5 '11 at 8:39
  • may i know the 'ending' or 'sequel' to this 'story'? what happened afterwards, now that it's already around 10 years from the first posting
    – kate
    Feb 23 at 9:32

I would start first thing by creating a weekly status report to your project leader. It can as simple as an email sent on Friday afternoon. In this email you will compile your accomplishments for the past week (build, bugs or features added, etc.). Also, list the things you are currently working on and things that are planned. This will give him visibility into what you are doing.

Take on as much as you can and document all of it in the weekly status update. As a person on his team that is your duty. You may not like him or think that he not doing his job but you can always do your job! As a developer it is your duty to grow and advance. Don't let bad management rob that from you.

After a few weeks of reports you can begin to talk about the status reports. You will be amazed at the number of people that will want to contribute and/or receive this email. Trust me here: this works! You don't want to lie in your status update and don't sugarcoat things. You don't want to be all "this will never work" and "he never does anything" either. Save these emails as the list grows.

You can bet your life that your project leader will take repsonsbility for the status updates. It sounds right up his alley. Howwever, people will take interest. When people take interest they will notice you and the effort. You will come out ahead because of it: recognition, promotion, etc.

I am not making this stuff up. It is not a trick. You cannot control what your boss does so don't even try. Never sink to "laying a trap" or getting even...it is beneath you. Just do your job and do it well but do it publicly and with great enthusiasm. You will not be in that position for long.


If you have a problem with who you're working for, one option is to work for someone else. Perhaps it's possible to transfer to a different group in the same company. If enough of the people on your team vote with their feet, the problem will start to solve itself.

If you stay, you'll need to be careful. I'm sure you're trying to do the right thing and help the company, but if you squawk too loudly you run the risk of damaging your own reputation. Other managers might not be eager to have you work for them if you have a reputation for complaining.

You'll be better off building up your own reputation than tearing down your manager's. If he's so hands-off, that may be an opportunity for you to assume more leadership responsibilities. Make sure that you document and get recognition for what you do, but try to present yourself to him as being helpful rather than threatening. "I know you've got a lot on your plate with all these projects, and I'm already doing this, that, and the other thing. I feel like it might help you out if I took on more leadership responsibilities for my project."

Also, don't forget that the view from above may be very different. Here's a guy who seems to be successfully managing a bunch of different projects, after all. If the customers are happy and the unit is making money, what's not to like?

  • You're right too. I can't transfer to any other team saying that I don't like my Leader (sounds like squabbling). So I'm staying and shouldering almost all of his responsibilities and making myself visible too. But the whole problem is, my growth is locked to his. For me to become a Leader, he has to become a Manager. But he can't because he has nothing to justify. He is content to just sit around without any aspirations while we do all his work. But I can't grow unless he grows. At the end of the day, all my hard work is of no use.
    – Subhas
    Aug 5 '11 at 13:55
  • @RDX... if he's so useless and upper management becomes aware, he should get canned, not promoted.
    – CaffGeek
    Aug 5 '11 at 17:48

Your teammates need to give yourselves the credit for the success. Make sure you are in the guidelines of your organization about job responsibilities and following the letter of the law. Managers may not be required to do support. Your manager has done nothing to encourage you to cooperate with him. Don't do his job. If you require decisions made by the manager, do not continue with the task until he responds. Document with email. Another option is for you to start interacting with people outside of your group without the manager. Word will get around he is useless.

He can threaten to get people fired, but that requires him to work.

  • +1 for pointing out that there is little reason to do the boss' job. Aug 5 '11 at 19:15

One of the biggest misconceptions about getting ahead in the workplace that I see is that people of high achievement expect to get promoted if they do a good job fulfilling their responsibilities. This is quite rational and very logical. The truth of course is that "promotion" in the literal sense of the word rarely happens. Most of the time, people are simply given a more accurate title in recognition of the work they are already doing.

In other words, if you believe you could be a better Team Leader, then step up and be the better team leader. Eventually the organization should catch up with you and ultimately realize when it comes time to find a new team leader that they already have one on their team. Then it will just be a function of "making it official."

The trick of course is obtaining the recognition from the rest of the organization that you are effective, reliable and a capable leader, while not undermining your superiors, or being insubordinate. The way to do that is through good, consistent and solid communication. And if the proper communication channel does not exist for you, then you need to create it.

For example, does your company have a blog on its intranet? If so, blog about the successes on your team. Post your status updates to the blog. Or create a blog for you to share this information on and alert the company that it is there if people are interested. Create a private twitter account for yourself at work and encourage coworkers to follow you.

Once the communication channel is there, use it the way a good project leader should. Tell people about updates to the schedule. Share meeting notes and minutes. Celebrate the successes of people on your team, not just your own. Share news and information of interest from outside the company (e.g. I read this great article today about a competitor, etc). Take the initiative to solve problems on/for your team. In other words, be the person you wish your team leader was and telegraph yourself into the rest of the organization as much as possible to increase everyone's awareness of the vital role you play.

Don't wait for your company to fix the problem of a bad manager. Chances are they won't, or can't. Remember that it is always easier to promote someone than it is to fire them. Therefore, rise above. Be the better person. If you want to win, eventually you have to stop drafting off the people in front of you and start passing them.

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