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hired programmer does lots of 'other' work instead of being focused on what he's paid to do

I wasn't quite sure I was going to enter this message on this site but figured it has something to do with IT stuff.

I am a network tech that works for a company doing IT work. I have recommended another tech that does IT work but also does programming and is good at it. The company that I work for hired him to work on a database.

The project which was supposed to be finished by now is about a year behind schedule. The company wants to fire this person and find someone else. I want to give this person one more chance but…here is where my problem is.

when he works, he gets lots done but his cell phone and his laptop email take away from his productivity greatly. Lots of answered calls during his time at the company. Because of that, we get charged a full hour of work when actually, he’s spent ‘maybe’ 20 minutes of good quality ‘focused’ work

I thought about approaching him on this issue but have held off because it wasn’t me that he’s sending the bills to (yes, he charges in 1 hour increments and there is no reduction for that ‘non-productive’ time).

So what can I do to improve the productivity without making him mad or should we just cut our losses and find another programmer? Yes, he is a friend.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated
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JohnBusiness Consultant (Owner)
Most Valuable Expert 2012
Expert of the Year 2018
If you can set up goals and be confident of how much time it will take, then have a conversation, be honest about the fact his "non-work" is getting in the way of work, set out the goals with time frames to be me, and explain that it is necessary to meet the time frames to remain in the job.

I work for myself and am very aware of getting the job done in an efficient manner so that I do not overbill. I would not have work if I overbilled.
As a friend it might be helpful to give him a heads up in the info you are telling him is true. Most companies to have policies about excess personal time, and if by chance any of his contracts are government related he could be in legal trouble for mischarging time. Does the company really have proof of his 'time wasting' or are you making an assumption of your experience around him? If the company has proof and is already ready to fire him there is probably nothing to be done unless with this information he is able to approach management to let them know he is aware of the effect his personal time is having on the business and will stop mixing personal time with company time. If you are assuming based off of what you observe you may also be incorrect. The person make have already spoken with a manger or HR to confirm that as long as the task is complete within the charged hour and for example he is waiting for a software update they may be allowing him to fill his time as he pleases. I think that is up to every employee of every company to make up time used for personal time, which I do myself. Again, most companies have policies on this and some even restrict personal cell phone usage completely. Some companies also restrict time related to a personal business if he is answering calls for a side business he may have.
Most Valuable Expert 2015
Distinguished Expert 2018
You'll have to face him and make him understand - friend or not - that he cannot at the same time service a 50%+ hot-line while programming concentrated on an overdue project. He will have to choose; skip one or another, work split time on the project some hours per day and charge for these only, or cut his hourly charge to 1/3.

As he hasn't realized this already by himself, indicates that he probably never will, thus my guess is that you can just as well start looking for a replacement now.

Jim Dettman (EE MVE)President / Owner
Fellow 2019
Most Valuable Expert 2017
<<So what can I do to improve the productivity without making him mad or should we just cut our losses and find another programmer? Yes, he is a friend.>>

 Cut your losses.

 If the calls and e-mail's he's fielding are not part of his job, and he has been made aware of it already, then gone.   Especially given the fact that he's charging for that time.

 I would add that you should not feel guilty about this; it's his fault, not yours.

 It is totally unethical for someone in a professional role to be charging for things they should not be.   Even if he was not charging, he's also doing damage to the company by wasting time.   That's hard to quantify of course, be he's costing them money by not getting the job done.

I rather agree with "cut your losses".  It's a first, knee-jerk reaction based on lots of experience.

That said, it's worth considering whether this is an issue of perception or "framework".  
The "framework" in this case is that the worker is being paid on an hourly basis.  As far as the mechanics go, that seems to be correct from what you've described.
Strictly speaking, if a person is paid by the hour then you might think that your company is being cheated.

Consider if this were a fixed-price job or that the tasks were fixed-price.  (Fixed time at an hourly rate is the same thing).
Then the price would be whatever it is and the phone calls, etc. wouldn't matter as long as the delivery dates and quality were met.
I don't say this as an apologist but, since you said that he does produce a lot then it's simply a "what if" to ponder.
A question to ask is: "If this were a fixed-price job, would the trade of money for output ratio be the same or would it be much higher?  If, on a fixed-price basis it would be much higher then you can feel more confident that you're being cheated.  But, if the fixed-price output would end up costing about the same then there may be nothing to complain about.

I'm trying to get you to think outside the box and consider if there's a real problem or one that's only perceived.
It's very easy to get trapped into not liking someone else's work habits when you already have an idea of what work habits "should be".  This has nothing to do with money.

Like John Hurst, I work for myself.  And I do charge an hourly rate for the most part - particularly when I'm on site.  I notice that full-time employees spend time chatting, web browsing, etc. - things that I wouldn't allow myself to do.
Full time on-site contractors end up acting like everyone else around them so are much like employees.  I don't think it's "natural" to hound the contractors in our midst while letting the employees operate to different standards.  That would be too much supervisory work really.  This suggests a scale:
Full-time on site contractors will act like everyone else regarding personal time "wasted".
"In and out" contractors are more likely to come in, do the work and get out without much chatting, etc.  And, their rates may well reflect that.

One model might say:
The average worker needs to earn a living.
Full-time employees are paid less per hour while earning a living.
Part-time workers (contractors) are paid more per hour because of overhead including down time in order to earn a living.
(Otherwise they'd be doing something else).
So you benefit by using contractors even though they charge more per hour because when they're done, they're gone.
And, you lose by using full-time employees because they don't always have their nose to the grindstone.
Obviously this varies with the company, habits and supervision.

To summarize:
- If the company is getting value for the money then there's no problem.
- If the company isn't getting good value for the money then there is a problem and the solution in a case like this would be:
1) Does the worker understand the expectations?  It appears not - but really??
2) Is the worker able to meet the expectations?  Probably but I don't know his situation.
3) Is the worker willing to meet the expectations? Possibly not.

One possibility would be:
He really does understand.
He is able.
He's not willing.
So, in this case, fire him because the company isn't getting good value and there's no cure for it.
But there are obvious variations in the answers.....


Wow, the responses are excellent!! Thank all of you for responding. That helps us (me) out greatly. I wasn't quite sure if I should ask this type of question on this site but obviously, I'm glad I did.