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I am in a new job for a few months now. I just recently finished all my training projects and I'm now waiting for new instructions on how to proceed. The colleague responsible for training me has been very busy over the last days and has kept postponing our meeting for new instructions to 'tomorrow' for a few days now.

Last Friday, I told this colleague that if I didn't have a task assigned to me by Monday, I'd have nothing left on my to-do list and that I'd have to resort to finding myself things to learn online to keep myself semi-busy. At least two others in the team are aware of my idling as well, as I specifically told them I was idling.

But so far no one was able to give me new instructions so I kept myself busy with self-learning over the last days.

Today I am going to have a regular 4 eye meeting with my manager, and I feel like there won't be a way of getting around telling him that I have been idling for quite a few days now. But I don't want to cause any discomfort in the healthy nature of my team.

So how could I inform my manager of my idling when he asks what I have been working on over the last week, without making my colleagues look bad, or at least as little as possible?

Clarifications from comments

  • My manager is not the one who gives me tasks and won't be as long as I'm being trained. I have no idea how it's continuing after that. But for now there is a specific coworker responsible for my training.

  • I specifically said I'm idling to at least two of my co-workers. To the responsible colleague I even said already last Friday: "If you don't assign me a task by Monday, I won't have anything left on my to-do list and will have to find e-learning training to keep myself semi-busy".

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You should have two goals:

  • Tell your boss the truth
  • Not make your colleagues look bad

In this case it seems those two goals conflict and you cannot do anything on your own to resolve that.

So your next best goals should be

  • Tell your boss the truth
  • Don't give the impression you blamed your coworkers

So make sure you mention two things: you tried to get work. Your colleague tried to give you work. But due to their amount of work they did not succeed. You already have a next meeting set up and hopefully, this time it will work out. You were learning on your own as you had discussed with your colleague. Remove any words from your vocabulary that place blame or seek fault. It does not matter whose fault it is. If your boss wants to put blame, make sure that it's your boss alone who does that.

What will that do? It will show your boss that you were active. It will show your boss that your tried to succeed. It will also tell your boss that your coworker wasn't just lazy, they were working and busy and tried their best but just had too much work on their plate. It will also show that despite the high workload, you and your colleague worked out a fallback plan. That might not be great, but it's better than nothing.

The logical next step is that the boss will talk to your coworker and say "I heard you had too much work to do last week, we need to talk about priorities". That's okay. Priorities shift all the time. That is an easy discussion to have with a boss.

A practical example:

The senior did not give me enough work and by Monday I was idling

This placed the fault squarely with the senior. The boss will go to the senior and say "X said you did not give him enough work. Why?". There will be finger-pointing and blaming people. Because that's how it started, stating whose fault it supposedly was.

I worked on my project. Meetings with the senior to update the project plan had to be postponed because he was busy with a different project. By Friday I ran out of work for my project. As discussed with the senior, as a fallback plan I'm now learning more about technology X on my own

Now your boss can blame the senior for not getting his priorities straight. Maybe he will. But that is not on you. You did not point any fingers. You just reported the truth. Things happened (passive), you presented no target for blame or finger-pointing.

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