New networking hire's lazy habits pull down the team

Is the new hire inept or lazy? The networking staff attempts to salvage a bad situation

New networking hire's lazy habits pull down the team
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Ever had to deal with an IT team member who didn’t pull their weight? Here’s my experience.

We had an open position in the networking team to fill. A junior co-worker knew of a person he’d worked with in the past. A phone interview was conducted, and we invited the candidate in for a face-to-face meeting. 

He did OK in the interview process, having some experience in routers and firewalls, and was hired as a network engineer, level 1. I was selected to train him on the processes we used, documentation standards, and backing up the systems. He took notes, asked questions, and seemed to be getting with the program.

The problems begin

However, barely a month later our team started comparing notes. We discovered we had all helped him deploy a firewall at different locations. When the migration failed on the first firewall he deployed by himself, we discovered that he still hadn’t figured out how to do the task that multiple people had walked him through.

On that occasion, he asked me to come and take a look at the firewall with him. I recognized the problem: He had literally copied line-for-line a configuration from the previous firewall he’d installed with my help. He had not changed the name of the device or any of the addresses from the other site to make it work for this location. I tried to work with him to correct the problems, but he still wasn’t grasping why it wouldn’t work. It was nearly lunch time, and I told him to go take his break. While he was gone, I started over by recreating the config and migrated the firewall myself.

Up to this point, I was starting to doubt my teaching methods. My manager and I decided I’d spend a little more one-on-one time with him to get him up to speed. I helped him set up the next firewall, using a more specific template and coaching each step of the way. That site deployed as expected, and I thought we’d made progress.

Fast-forward six months. He seemed to have made progress and was deemed ready to try again on his own. He flew to a site to migrate the firewall and some switching equipment. Before he left, I coached him on what to expect, who he would be working with, and the time it should take him to do the migration. He even bragged that he had all of his configuration work done and it would be a breeze. I felt—and hoped—that his confidence was encouraging.

When he arrived on site, he emailed to check in, and then we didn’t hear from him again until three hours before his flight home. He had a problem: None of the IP phones were working and the firewall wouldn’t allow any users to access the internet. Not wanting him to miss his flight, the local contact and I started working to fix it while he was in the air. We finally finished late that evening.

The poor guy still wasn’t getting it! When confronted about it, he was bewildered as to why all the hard work he had put in didn’t go well.

From bad to worse

At this point the rest of the team, with our manager’s approval, decided to put him back to work on the basics, such as fixing bad cables, tracing wires, setting up phones, and making DNS changes. He did OK at these jobs as long as the tasks didn’t require long-term concentration, and the upside was he kept the low-priority tickets cleaned out of our help desk queue.

He had been at the company almost nine months when our team started comparing notes again and found another pattern: He repeatedly fell asleep on the job. Even the boss knew about his groggy habits.

It went downhill even faster from there. I started to notice he sat with headphones on a lot, facing his desk drawer. Another coworker that shared a cubicle wall told me he’d caught him watching movies on his phone during work hours.

The boss had finally had enough of him slacking off, and requested a web surfing report to try to confirm if he was watching movies in the office on his computer. To our surprise, we found out he was doing remote support for a side job from his desk, sometimes for most of the day.

The boss immediately went to HR, and he was terminated that week. We all breathed a collective sigh of relief.

While cleaning up his desk, we discovered that he had wired in a phone-charging cable through the back of the desk so he could charge his phone while it was in the drawer—and, apparently, watch movies. You have to wonder what would have happened if he’d put half that amount of effort into working as he did avoiding work, or did one job at a time.