I'm trying to write an article about computer programmers who often do not meet their deadline and are not committed to the contract deadline or due dates.

So, what is the best word or adjective for someone who does not meet the deadline for delivery?

Is the following correct?

Programmer's renege is real!

  • You’re late! The code freeze was at noon today.
    – Jim
    Mar 20 '20 at 18:29
  • 1
    What did you find for renege in the dictionary?
    – GEdgar
    Mar 20 '20 at 22:18
  • 1
    I'm a programmer and wouldn't know what you were talking about if you said "Programmer's renege is real!"
    – Kevin
    Mar 21 '20 at 0:12
  • @Kevin that's why I'm trying to find best adjective. Mar 21 '20 at 2:07
  • (1) You could improve this question by clarifying what you want to say. (Famous notional academic exchange: “I don’t believe in homework.” → “But homework is real!”) You have said three times that you want a word for a person who does not meet their deadline, but then your sample sentence doesn’t align with that.  (2) And you tagged your question [verbs]. What does your question have to do with verbs?  (3) If you’re willing to consider a two-word phrase for the situation, then consider “schedule slip” (or “schedule slippage”).
    – Scott
    Mar 21 '20 at 2:26

Behind deadline

The problem here, is not really ‘the programmers’ but ‘the person managing them’.

Programmers are by nature people who love to delve into problems and fix and fiddle about with things.

Generally they are not malicious in this but instead need someone to ‘tell them when to stop!’ - so that the software release can Actually Go Out - at some point.

The other thing that goes on, is that delving into problems often Uncovers Other Deeper Problems - which may even be organisational, business-wide or anyway, more complex or serious in nature - leaving us with - a ball of spaghetti!

So I would call them ‘unmanaged tinkerers’.

If you Reaaally feel they are malicious, then how about:

  • System laggards
  • Tardy system fixers
  • Programmatic philanderers
  • Programming wastrels
  • Meddling meanderers
  • Lazy programmers

But if you truly want to get them to hurry up, stop criticising them, and instead set rewards - and praise Johnny, Fred, and Jane who get mentioned and special thanks for ‘being on deadline’.

Otherwise - you are ‘feeding the problem’ - not ‘the solution’.



Programmers who don't meet their (boss's) deadlines are unreliable.

  • adjective: an unreliable programmer
  • noun: programmer's unreliability

It all depends whether the deadline is a hard or soft one. If it's a hard deadline, 90% done is the same as 0% done since it can't be delivered. If it's a soft deadline, the work can be finished and submitted later.

  • adjective: an slow programmer
  • noun: programmer's slowness

Other words can be used: late/lateness, tardy/tardiness, unpunctual/unpunctuality although they can mean arriving late to work rather than submitting work late.


laggard (Collins)

a person who lags behind

Use case:

… Mr. Flaherty told reporters Tuesday that all sides agreed to the deadline and an extension for laggard projects simply wouldn't be fair.
("Flaherty refuses to extend stimulus deadline for laggards," The Globe and Mail,)

  • I also like "laggard". "Sloth" would work too. "He is a slow moving, tree dwelling, programming sloth." (Perhaps too wordy and a bit harsh, but it expresses the sentiment.)
    – Packard
    Mar 20 '20 at 14:18

I'd use the compound noun "deadline offender" as it seems fairly weell self-defined and as, also, it a communicates formally the idea of infraction to a rule, or of infringement to a convention, to an agreement.

  • 1
    @DecapitatedSoul I'm not sure whether I should take that as approving or on the contrary as a slightly negative critical remark but I do think that in the process of writing text with the purpose of setting out the conditions about providing programming products some sort of formality is necessary, although in the case that the OP is considering, the writing of an article, if it is of the sort of those that appear in magazines, the use of terms of this type and as well less formal terms can be used to advantage.
    – LPH
    Mar 20 '20 at 19:38

I might use the term "chronic procrastinators" or the alliterative "procrastinating programmers."

  • There are procrastinators who leave things till the last possible moment, then work all night and get it done on time. Universities are full of them. So it doesn't really imply late completion.
    – Stuart F
    Sep 13 at 13:18

A less derogatory term for somebody who ignores externally-imposed constraints is “ivory tower”:

Cambridge English Dictionary:

    To live or be in an ivory tower is not to know about or to want to avoid the ordinary and unpleasant things that happen in people's lives:

    • Academics sitting in ivory towers have no understanding of what is important for ordinary people.
    A state of privileged seclusion or separation from the facts and practicalities of the real world.
    ‘the ivory tower of academia’
American Heritage Dictionary:
    A place or attitude of retreat, especially preoccupation with lofty, remote, or intellectual considerations rather than practical everyday life.

I couldn’t find a definition that gave any part of speech other than noun, but it would probably be understood if used as an adjective:

These ivory towers programmers want to get their software perfect, and don’t recognize the concept of “good enough to ship”.

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