The kicker was that Jerry may have been a slacker, but he was a conniving slacker. When he first joined the team we were all oblivious and felt we were just helping the new guy. He would work his way around the team, asking for help – but never successively asking the same person.
Plus, Jerry was charming in a weird way – like a lost puppy type of charm. The one lady on the team took a real liking to him and would actually write code for him and troubleshoot his sloppy code. I even found myself writing code for him because it was faster than explaining everything.
Eventually, though, John and I had enough. When Jerry would saunter into either one of our cubes he would receive the same cold shoulder answer.
“Sorry man, I’m swamped. You’ll have to figure it out yourself.”
Jerry, however, would still find other developers to help him. This frustrated me to no end.
The day before the fateful team meeting, I plopped down in his cube. He took off his headphones and smiled.
“Glad you stopped by, I need help fixing this bug.” But there was no code on his screen, only some Orc battle in progress.
I said, “Doesn’t look like you are debugging Jerry.”
“Oh, I was just taking a break trying to clear my head.” He started to switch his screen over to the code editor and I stopped him.
“Jerry, I’m not here to do your work for you. I think you are wasting people’s time because your attention is on gaming and not on work.”
Then I felt bad. Because he had a hurt look on his face.
He said, “I only ask for help because I need it. I don’t pick up things as fast as you and John. And I don’t play games all day long, only when I need to give my mind some down time.”
“But Jerry,” I said, “You spend more time than you realize on gaming. Did you ever think if you put less effort into slaying Orcs and spent more time writing code it wouldn’t be so difficult?”
He looked down and said, “Yeah, you are probably right. I appreciate your honesty.”
I must say, I felt pretty good about myself. Here I thought I was helping a wayward developer get back on track.
Later that afternoon I saw Jerry in the sympathetic lady’s cube where she was helping fix his bug. The little rat had just been playing me – telling me what I wanted to hear so I’d leave his cube.
This is all how I ended up in the team meeting, blurting out exactly how I felt about Jerry. I lost control of the difference between verbalizing and thinking right when Chuck announced that Jerry was being promoted to senior developer.
I did my best to recover. “Uh, I was just thinking out loud about something else….Congratulations Jerry.”
But everyone was either thinking the same thing or just didn’t care. And I can tell you that the work ethic of the team just imploded after Jerry was rewarded for being a slacker.
Was Chuck really that blind? I dropped by his office that evening to confront him. He had his back turned to me when I walked in and my jaw dropped when I saw his computer screen.
I turned around, walked out and began my job search.