5 Red Flags Your Developer Needs Help

Developer Coding Closeup

Managing a developer and assessing their performance can be challenging, especially for managers that are not tech-savvy. Regardless of your knowledge level, communicating your project vision and getting a developer to translate it into a functional code is crucial for success. When problems arise during projects, how do you know if it’s a gap of your technical understanding or your developer’s? Do all of your projects have setbacks and rework? How can you assess if your developer needs help or is not the right experience level for the job?

To help answer those questions, here are 5 red flags your developer needs help:


Bargaining occurs when you ask your developer to do something and they suggest to do something else to simplify or shorten your request. While sometimes this may be a good thing, a consistent trend of this behavior can also be a sign that their skill level is not high enough to complete the original request. Bargaining is a workaround for when someone is not comfortable or feels incapable of doing what is being asked. Thus, they come up with alternate solutions they know are easier or aligned with their experience level. 

Constant Bugs

We have all heard it — every system has bugs and once one thing is fixed something else breaks. If your system is robust and working with clear, logical code then bugs should not happen often. Developers should check their solutions in a sandbox or local environment to flush any potential issues before the change is released in production. There might be a gap in knowledge or sloppy work practices, so when bugs occur don’t ask for a solution only. Instead, figure out why it happened to begin with and create a best practices workflow for quality assurance. 

Inaccurate Estimates

Providing an estimate of how long a project will take is important for scheduling and determining developer bandwidth. A knowledgeable developer will be accurate in communicating the hours and steps necessary to complete a task. After analyzing the system and reviewing the existing code, they should be able to provide a scope of work (SOW). The SOW should include detailed steps on what actions they will take in the system to complete the project. 

Misaligned Requirements

Ever feel like your message isn’t getting through? Communication is critical for a coding project. Augmenting or adding code to a system requires a clear understanding of the expected outcome. If results are often way off from project objectives then your developer may not have enough technical experience or clear comprehension of the business requirement to complete the tasks. Consequently, they may not be taking enough time to work through the best solution. If your developer is not asking thoughtful questions or able to reiterate the project requirements to you, this is another red flag. 

Missing Deadlines

Missing a deadline happens even when people have the best intentions. There are unexpected issues, client fires to put out, and dreaded sick days. Is your developer always late though? Being late on projects can sometimes be a sign of inaccurate estimates. If the developer is not able to see what is affected upstream and downstream in a system, timelines can extend. Additionally, if they are not coming to you ahead of time to communicate delays or potential setbacks, a project can go completely off course. 

So, what do you do? If you see these red flags starting to occur, offer training, a new process of communicating expectations, or provide a realistic skills-to-needs assessment to determine if your employee is a match for your business goals. Good developers are hard to find and guiding someone to their full potential can have lasting benefits to your organization. On the other hand, always trust your gut. Working on software projects isn’t easy, but it should feel progressive and have a consistent forward trajectory. 

Lauren Craton