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5 types of phonies to clear away from your projects

Keep out

Source: jppi

When you are looking for someone to add to your team or you have somebody “forced” into it, you want to make sure that you can depend on that person. Although some will hide very well the fact that they are not productive or simply do not have the required competence, there are some signs you can use to spot those people.

Keep in mind that these signs assumes it’s with someone you do not know. If it happens with someone you know and trust, it may very well not apply. Also, it’s important to note that theses different examples are taken from real experience, nothing is fake!

1. The one that doesn’t get anything done

That one may seem obvious at first, but what’s tricky here is that they will camouflage the fact that they did not do the job. Typical excuses will be: I wasn’t properly briefed, I needed something from someone else, I didn’t have time, etc.

The trick here is to test them with small tasks here and there, tasks that you know without a doubt that they have all necessary assets & time to do, and see if they do it without having to tell them 3-4 times.

2. The one that estimates unknown work

This one could be spotted even before you add someone to your team. The one that estimates the work, and has no idea what the work is nor does he seem to show any interest in knowing what it is either . You think it can’t happen? Oh yes it does! Luckily, this is easy to spot, and should be a deal breaker right away. Heck, I’ve even come across a whole agency who sent out estimates of projects that were still unknown!

Here is an example taken from a real-life experience: The PM got into contact with a Front-end developer freelancer for his project so he could ask for an initial estimate. He sent a JPG of the new layout for an existing web page by mail explaining that a page already exists and should be changed to the new design. The freelancer replies that he hasn’t looked at the design but it should take 3h… how can he possibly know? Well guess what, it did not turn out too well the freelancer since he didn’t know what he was doing and someone else had to pick up the work.

3. “Don’t worry answer”

This one is my favorite (although less favorite phony): the confident “Don’t worry about anything” team member. The first thing you want to do when you hear this is…worry 🙂

Don’t get me wrong, a colleague can tell you not to worry, and well….don’t worry! This particular case is for when the team member does not answer questions like “are you almost done” or “how much time do you need”, or anything similar to that. Since they don’t actually know what they are doing and cannot truly answer, they will tell you not to worry so you go away.

So if you ask questions and receive that answer, ask your questions again, make sure you get your answers. You may quickly notice that he cannot answer or the answer will not make sense.


In case you do not know, CTRL-TAB (or CMD-TAB on MAC) is a shortcut to quickly switch between opened applications. Useful if you want to be productive or….if you want to switch back to Facebook when someone walks by.

If you have a feeling that your colleague’s windows changes every time you arrive at their desk, then use a little stealth to have a look at their screen before you start talking to them and they notice you. You may find out that they don’t actually work half of the time.

5. The cow-boy

I’ve had old colleagues calling them that, but it’s basically someone who can do the job very well, but he’s in it for his own personal gain, so he does what he wants, how he wants. What will typically happen with those team members is that you will receive something different from what you asked for because they thought it was ‘cooler’, or they will gold-plate your project just to try out a new framework, and you’ll be left with a dead budget.

They may be very competent, but they are very unreliable, so be careful with those. What’s really tricky is that since they are good and they are testing new technology or work differently, they create a dependency towards them since others may not be able to pick-up their work (play in their code for example). You have to make sure they are watched closely.

In conclusion

If you are lucky enough to spot them before they are added to your team, then simply select someone else. If you are stuck with this team member, than confronting them, or changing resource may be your best option.

Another trick, if you have the luxury of being able to do that, is to have these people do mini-tests before they join the team. For example, a developer could have to develop a simple login to have access to a secured page, and then you can have a look at the code. It’s a real eye-opener and can filter 90-95% of candidates before you add them to your project. Really!

One thing is for sure, don’t wait to act or to prevent, these people can have disastrous effects on your projects.

Have you ever been stuck with a phony? Share your story!