32

My team, A, has set up everything for team B to work with. They can change texts, values, basic colors. The only thing they can't change is general layout or complicated styling. They can ask my team, team A for that.

It so happens to be that my team fell apart last year and I am now 'unofficially' part of team C, doing a lot of work for them. Team B asks for my assistance 1-2 times a week, but it's usually small things.

However, every once in a while Team B asks me to do stuff I know for sure they could be doing themselves. What they do is they make a list of things that need to be done, include one thing they can't change themselves, and make me do the full list.

Frankly, I'm too busy for this and I do not have any interest in doing this either. I want to send back a reply that I've done task x, but that I left y and z for team B to do by themselves. What is a polite way to say that they can do this themselves, without sounding like a snob?

A while back I replied:

Hi B, your team has enough html skills to edit these objects, so please assign this task to someone in your team.

And my coworked later commented that he thought I was being snobby and should just do the work. (please note we are on the same level, just in different teams. Our managers barely speak each other.)

  • 4
    If you have similar questions regarding workplace politics/dynamics/communications in the future, please keep Workplace SE in mind. It is possibly the best place to seek advice on these sort of topics. Similar questions have been answered there, and you may find some interesting info. – AndreiROM Jan 29 '18 at 14:03
  • 2
    @WernerCD If only my company was that organised ;) Officially my job is to not help them at all, but their manager asked my manager for 'a couple' of hours a week. – Summer Jan 29 '18 at 14:46
  • 1
    @JaneDoe1337 Are you tracking the time spent and do you have a definition of "a couple hours a week"? 2 hours? 8 hours? 15? Do tasks A,B,C,D...Z fall within that "couple of hours"? Does only task A,B (which you are actually "Needed" for) fall within that time-frame and others take more than a "couple"? Are these tasks affecting your other deliverables? Questions like these always drive me to ask a dozen other questions :) – WernerCD Jan 29 '18 at 15:16
  • 3
    What does your manager say about it? A quick chat at the coffee corner may just fix this situation in less than 5 minutes. – Mast Jan 29 '18 at 16:56
  • 1
    "And my coworker later commented that he thought I was being snobby and should just do the work." Cool, that's his opinion. Yours, however, is different. And given that he's just a coworker, not your manager, I'd take it as just that: an opinion. – walen Jan 30 '18 at 13:17
36

Hi B, your team has enough html skills to edit these objects, so please assign this task to someone in your team.

Although the intentions of your e-mail are good, it's maybe a bit too direct, and lacking some context.

If I had written such a message, I'd have pointed out that:

  • I have my own, other work to do. Maybe something like 'I am busy implementing something magical for team C now'.
  • Emphasize that you're willing to help, but that you really can't spend the time to do everything for them. So, instead of saying 'you can do this yourself', emphasize that you've fixed A and B for them and that you believe they now can do X and Y themselves.

I do not have any interest in doing this either.

Don't show this in your e-mails. That's likely the part that people call snobby. Your message should get across that you're unable to do those tasks because of time, not that you're unwilling to do them because it's uninteresting.

I think another problem is that your assignment to team C is unofficial. Point this out to your manager. Mention that your work for team C is in danger of being compromised because team B is asking you to do stuff they can do themselves. Just explain it like you did here, that they send you a list of which only one or two tasks really need your help, but that they expect you to do everything.

Only once your manager knows, and team B keeps up their behavior of asking for more of your time than necessary, you can also take the passive-aggressive approach of cc-ing your manager on the polite e-mails. This will build a record for your manager to show how often it is happening and might provoke him to have a talk with team B's manager. It will also show team B that you're serious about not having the time to help them with every little thing.

9

Decline to do it, Offer to support them

Firstly, it's important to note that communication appears to be at an all-time low for team B/yourself. Just receiving a task-list without prior discussion, has already missed the step where they discuss their needs with you and agree on what tasks you can take/what they can achieve themselves. This is a longer-term issue that should be looked at - as it will cut out a lot of the problems here.

The issue Team B is likely taking with your email is that it shirks responsibility for the tasks - and sounds like you are not willing to contribute outside the exact-specification of your role. Moreover, saying they already have the skills suggests they do this out of laziness. It's likely they actually do it from seeing this as an area you still have ownership of.

While you shouldn't start accepting their work to appease them - it clear does have an impact on your ability to perform your main responsibilities - you need to work on a hand-over process to bring them up to speed.

I'd recommend you reply back with breakdown of what is required for each task they have given you (as should be normal when estimating the time required to do so). For the tasks you disagree with, you should suggest that it will make more sense for them to take responsibility - but that you will be there to support them in doing so.

For example:

Regarding [Task], I think it should be possible for this to be achieved with the existing features provided in [System]. I'm more than happy to come and help, but in the future I think these changes will be easier to make from your side directly. If you'd like me to show you how to do this, or have any questions regarding it - just let me know and we can set some time aside to work on this together.

The key thing is you are not leaving them out to dry, but also not taking on the task as a long-term commitment. The aim is to hand-over these tasks to Team B, supporting them in doing so and showing that while you care - it will be easier for them as well if they can make the changes directly.

(Note: most people prefer to be able to do the work themselves; it's rare people send tasks because that just dont want to do it).

  • 1
    Yeah I see that 'not interested in doing it' seems odd, but I meant more from a work-task perspective. I want to finish the work for Team C first, and then if I have time I can look in to Team B's work. But doing a 6 hour task that doesn't 'belong' on my task list doesn't seem to be in my interest. Thanks for your suggestions! – Summer Jan 29 '18 at 11:53
  • 1
    @JaneDoe1337 Absolutely, I wasn't suggesting you meant it to sound like that. But people will read emails in the worst possible way; and although what you were saying is true (you can't be expected to do all this work on top of your work, especially when they are capable) - I just wanted to highlight why they seem to have taken it so badly. Again, not suggesting for a second you actually are trying to shirk responsibility/not contributing fully. – Bilkokuya Jan 29 '18 at 13:33
6

This is what managers are for. This is their job.

If there is a task you don't think belongs on your list, talk to your manager. Your own manager only. Do what your own manager tells you. They are the only one who can set your priorities.

In order to not waste your managers time, talk about types of tasks rather than specific tasks. Also be ready to answer questions about how much time you use on these tasks.

It is possible your manager will say "Just do it", in which case you do. Or they may say "Don't do it", in which case you don't.

What other managers or employees think is not relevant. Just say "According to [My manager], that is not my task. Talk to them." Repeat "Talk to them, not me" as many times as necessary.

  • This is spot-on about what a manager's job is. In fact, I would take it a step further and say that while direct communication between members of two separate "teams" can be a valuable thing, in this case, it should have been Team B's manager who brought the list of tasks to the OP's manager, who would then work with the Team C manager (and the OP himself) to work out the relative priorities of everything that's on the OP's plate. There's no way the OP should have to coordinate the activities of three teams -- that's why they have managers, and presumably the person that they report to. – Dave Tweed Jan 30 '18 at 15:43
5

I feel the problem is your response is too 'personal'.

When you say....

"your team has enough html skills to edit these objects, so please assign this task to someone in your team."

.... it sounds like you feel the work is beneath you, and that they should do it simply because they can. When you think about it, the CEO of a fortune 500 company can take out the trash, but he doesn't have to. This response is meeting with argument because it seems like it is about what you don't personally want to do.

If the task is definitely is not the responsibility of your team then instead try something like:

Sorry, this task doesn't fall within the remit of this team.

They cannot reasonably argue with that. You're not saying you don't want to do it, you're saying that the company doesn't expect you to do it.

For clarity, I am not suggesting that you should be aloof or impersonal at all times, simply in instances like this where a business-like response answers the question once and for all without giving any room for criticism.

5

First of all you should clear up with your and their manager on who is officially responsible for the easier tasks. And if possible communicate this to both teams.

Right now it's obvious that the things team B can't do have to be done by team A (or whoever actually CAN do it). But it seems like it's not clear for everyone who should do the easier things. Sure they CAN do it, but why should they?

If you both get told that team B should do it, you can from then on just point out that it's their responsibility and that you would "appreciate" it if they would also adhere to that agreement.

If the request gets ignored and you need to figure out yourselves who should do what it becomes a bit trickier. Then you could say something like:

Hi B,

I'm sorry but now that I'm in team C (do they know this?) I have a lot of other work to do which takes priority for me. Since I saw you're unable to do x I tried to make a bit of time to handle that but I really don't have the time to handle all the other items on that list. I hope you find someone in team A that can make some time to do the rest.

Kind regards,

There's no need to explicitly say that they "can" do the rest. This is already implicit by saying you did x because they cannot do that part. It also makes it clear that if they still want to push it onto you, they'll have to somehow convice you that it should take priority at which point you can redirect it to your/their manager to prevent internal disputes.

1

I would make a list situations you are willing to on tasks. If the request doesn't fall within those situations, then politely refuse the request with the reason that you are busy with work from Team C, and you believe they can accomplish it within their own team.

If they complain that they are truly unable to accomplish that task without your help, then you are open to pointing them in the right direction, but you cannot do it yourself.

What this does is puts a clear definition on the tasks you are willing to take on, so it will be more difficult to argue against it.

1

After the follow up questions in the comment section of the question for clarifications:

  • You are "authorized" a "couple hours" a week between "Your" manager and "Their" manager
  • Tasks A,B in list are within the time-frame allotted (as previous runs have gone)...
  • Tasks C,D,..,Z in list are NOT within time-frame allotted.
  • This list and tasks are in project Amal...
  • You have deliverables with your time allotted in project Breadbasket and project Cornucopia.

The key to your answer is in the included information above.

Thank you for asking for my assistance in Project Amal. I'm always more than happy to help.

As such, I will work on tasks A & B which will allow you and your team to continue with tasks C through Z.

As much as I'd like to help with C through Z, my current schedule - as arranged by Manager John and Manager Jane - doesn't give me the bandwidth. The projects Breadbasket and Cornucopia are my priorities after task A & B are completed.

If they come back with any further questions about "Why can't you do C through Z?" the answer is simple:

Unfortunately, I'm unable to help with that request at this time. My manager John has authorized me 2 hours this week on project Amal in coordination with your manager Jane. Any further time devoted to project Amal will affect the time frame of Breakbasket and Cornucopia.

If you are unhappy with this, please feel free to have our managers work together on a schedule more conducive to the needs of the company.

Personally, I wouldn't have any issues being more forthright (I'll pass my allotted time with those extra tasks and John will need to authorize more time.) but sometimes you have to dance around the topic to not offend sensibilities.

Side Note/Discussion points:

I wouldn't feel bad about saying "I'm too good for that" - in not those exact words.

I'm a programmer that gets paid $x/hour. Other tasks in the company are covered by people that get paid 1/2 to 1/3rd that rate - or less.

Can I hand code HTML, CSS, fix printer issues, trouble shoot virus problems, etc? Of course (not all programmers can mind you)... but I'm fully tasked and have deadlines. The company can also pay a fraction of what I cost to fix html and printers. They also have junior programmers that are paid less for the same reasons.

I'm not "too good" to do it... but I'm more valuable elsewhere.

There's a fine line between those two statements.

At my last job, I was more than willing to fix printers and debug broken computers when our PC Tech got fired... but it made me lag behind our other developers - making me less valuable in the long run - and it affected all of our deliverable elsewhere.

You can "slum it" with the lower level tasks if needed. You can also say "That's a bad investment of company resources". There are right times for both statements.

Personally? I'd bring up these points to management (I have 10 years of experience and get paid x... wouldn't you rather have the college graduate who gets paid x/3 to take care of those tasks?).

It's up to them to decide if you are worth it there or not.

  • I like the general idea here, but why wait until they have questions to explain why you didn't complete the remaining tasks, instead of just including that in the first email? – Em C Jan 29 '18 at 16:55
  • @EmC So many options, I had to pick one (or write a novel). I guess, now that I think about it, I'm going under the idea that I wouldn't even start on A & B without first communicating that those are all I am authorized and have time for... So let me try to concisely expand on that. – WernerCD Jan 29 '18 at 16:59
0

Just very nicely and happily chirp that you are more than happy to help them!

However, (you now put on a sad face worthy of an Academy Award) you have a number of things that need to get done (you are not obligated to share what it is that needs to get done unless it is (of course) your manager.)

Continue to look sad until they walk out of your cubicle, then toss their file on to your (secret) reject pile, and let it sit there until it rots...after all, your managers barely speak to each other, and your manager will probably give you a promotion because you made his/her priorities your priorities.

When they come into your cubicle screaming that they missed their deadline because you failed to help them "achieve their lofty goals." You will put on your Academy Award distraught act, and inform them that you are inundated with work, and that you will try better next time (not!).

After a while, you will gain the reputation of being someone of high ideals, and meaning well (almost ready for sainthood), but just too busy to help anyone. >:)

0

In my own company I would just say that they have the ability to do this themselves, and that I am available to show them how if they do not know the steps.

Generally this enough. You don't have to mention that you are too busy. They should get the idea. If they push back, you just tell them that the feature was designed so that they could edit it themselves. It follows that they can and should edit it themselves. Not give the task to others, and especially not you unless your supervisor approves.

I would write something like:

Hi A,

I believe that B,C,D and E can be managed by your team. The tools should be available and simple to use. If you are not familiar with them, I can come by later today and show your team how to use them. I will be working on F as soon as possible as it is not covered by the available toolset.

Best Regards, G

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.