How to Deal With a Slacker

A very good question was posed at the forums: how to deal with a slacker:

“I am a student enrolled in a game design degree program. About 7 months ago a very good friend of mine and myself took it upon ourselves to create a game concept. Things since then have progressed to the point where we have begun creating a demo for the game in which we could use to pitch the idea to potential publishers/developers.

Problem: We have a team of now 10 people comprised of artists, programmers, designers who all work very hard…and an individual brought on to assist in project management to support my friend and myself in managing the project and its time as well as its limited resources. However, the individual we recruited to assist in our project management has produced little results. The individual has now been on board for 5 of the 7 months and has never produced a single document, even though claiming that he has been working on “stuff”.

Long story short, It’s to the point where myself and some other project leads are ready to let him go from the project, however one of the project leads still has faith that our project manager will step up and start producing work and supporting the Project Leads.

Any suggestions on ways to “Motivate” him?”

Short Answer:
If you are sure that the guy cannot finish the tasks you give to him, then get rid of the slacker

That’s pretty much it. It doesn’t make sense to keep people who cannot finish anything in the team. I remember working with one guy who was constantly saying how many hours he has done for the project. When I tried to find out what exactly he had done – he couldn’t give me a proper answer. At some point he left the project, and that’s the last I’ve seen of him.

Often there’s emotional reasons why you might keep somebody in the project: you think it “feels bad to let somebody go”. There’s one thing to consider. Others will feel bad if you let the guy continue. You cannot put one slacker higher than others: you must also think the rest of the team.

I would also like to point out that one shouldn’t judge (or say that somebody is a slacker without clear “evidence”). A slacker constantly keeps saying that he will do something, but he never gets anything done. If you think you have a slacker in the team, then (before firing him) you might consider making it really clear for him what he needs to do. Perhaps you haven’t been clear enough for him to perform optimally – so don’t make the mistake to fire somebody based on what you feel. Make it clear that you have a project that must progress, and that he needs to help with the project (and give specific tasks) – or your paths must go to different direction.

Whatever you are going to do, make sure you don’t let one guy to ruin your project. Make sure people get the stuff done what you expect from them – and make darn sure they know what you expect from them.

Feel free to comment the slacker issue at the forums.

Juuso Hietalahti