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I have a coworker that works in a different department than me that I frequently consult with to perform my duties. For example if I need something changed on the server, they are the one I need to contact. The issue is, I find them very difficult to work with.

For example if I request something, they'll ask "why do you need to do that". After I explain my reasoning, they either don't fulfill the request and then don't say anything or do it and respond in a condescending way like "There." While I don't try to act like I know how to do their job, when I explain why I need something done, I feel they don't listen to my reasoning and try to do things their own way or respond flippantly like "Sure, let me just <sarcastic retort>." Worse is when they make a change themselves without informing the developers (because it doesn't concern us) which makes my job more difficult.

I find this frustrating because I don't want to minimize requests with this person, but I often cannot perform my duties without doing so. Furthermore, they are experts in their domain (more so than the other people in the department IMO) so I want to avoid actions that will cause them to get reprimanded or lose their job. My primary concern is the friction between us, rather than their position. On the other hand, I don't want to seem like the type of person who acts like they know more than the expert or makes frivolous/dumb requests.

How do I resolve this?

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"respond in a condescending way like There." - Carrying out your request and then responding "there." actually sounds like a pretty good outcome. Of course, tone of voice when he says "there" can be read different ways, but remember that this person's job is probably not exactly "customer service". – Brandin Mar 2 at 16:54
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Also consider it may be the way you ask that prompts the tone of the response. – StingyJack Mar 2 at 18:02
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Do they have the authority to reject a change? At my firm, there's a change advisory board to approve changes. If they approve it, the server guys do it. If they have any objections to it, they should go to the CAB meeting and raise their concerns there. – corsiKa Mar 2 at 20:04
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Regardless of whatever else might be going on between you, it's their job to ask you why you wanna do X. The server is their baby, they're responsible for it. And who knows - maybe they know a better way of doing X... which is half the reason why we work with other people in the first place :) – rath Mar 3 at 11:03
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Typical BOFH throwback from the turn of the century. You just have to develop some rapport with this man-child and make him explain himself-- until you get a helpticket system to depersonalize such interactions. – teego1967 Mar 3 at 11:26

Always try to be civil with this person. I would also try to avoid approaching them in person, and communicate by e-mail instead. There are several reasons:

  • You don't want this person to do something other than what you requested and blame you
  • You don't want this conflict escalating and being blamed of "giving other people work", etc.
  • You want proof if your projects are hurt by his not following your instructions, or ignoring your requests

Remember that you don't need to "like" or "get along" with a person in order to be able to professionally interact with them, and get the job done. Unpleasant, but what can you do?

Last but not least, if this person's attitude and lack of professionalism continues to escalate you may consider taking it up with your manager. Ask for a meeting with you boss and get straight to the point:

"Hey boss, I have a concern about dealing with X from IT. As you know, a lot of my projects depend on his cooperation, but he is typically very unprofessional when I request a change in the system. I have a whole list of e-mails between us which illustrate his attitude toward my requests. I honestly think our team's work is suffering due to his unwillingness to cooperate with us.

At that point your boss can decide how to proceed.

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+1, very good advice. – Richard U Mar 2 at 16:38
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I know I can come across as rude, aloof, put-off and bothered when interrupted. Email is a nice buffer and creates a paper trail of when the request was made along with the response/resolution. Probably some other tracking system would be preferred, but you make due with what you have. – JeffO Mar 2 at 17:05
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@JeffO Email is nice because you can (and should) always CC both your boss and their boss if you have a difficult person to deal with in another team. It's amazing how compliant people can be when they know it's more visible than just two people. – Jane S Mar 3 at 7:48
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CC your boss and their boss should be used with care. You don't want to spam people around too much. It's also a bit unfriendly – Dmitry Grigoryev Mar 3 at 14:05

First, stay calm when working with this person. Second, realize that this person's job is probably to weed out frivolous requests.

I worked in IT (various parts) for a long time, and I can tell you hands down, rule one, the person asking the questions, as a matter of policy is NEVER right.

An example:

Can you increase my mail box storage?

First, you need to explain why. Second, some thought has to go into resource usage on the servers. Third, support issues, will the level one guys know what to do with your larger mailbox. Fourth, policy check, are there rules out there that say you can't without so an so's permission and do I have that permission. Fifth, time frame, can I get this done. Sixth, is this the right thing to do, or is it better to teach you/tell you how to delete some of your emails.

This can come across as a harsh list of questions. Why do you need it? Let me check and see if we have the space. I need to tell Bill, on site, about the change in our next meeting and see what he says. Did you get Janet's permission for an increase and where is that form? By the way, it's gonna take me about 4 weeks to increase this quota right now, you might be better off just deleting some of these 6 year old emails I see. Like this one here, it's a 500 meg video of a cat wearing a hat. Do you really need to keep that video?

This can be even more "harsh", when there is a general policy. Email boxes for Level 3 employees should be no larger the 2048 Megs. So you ask and I say No.

A partial fix

Remember that they are just doing their job. It may seem like a bunch of nonsense reasons to you, but it's really not. As an IT person sometimes your job is to just say no. And some times, a lot of times really, you either can't give a justification because it's against company policy to talk about that stuff, or you don't want to because it's going to take days (literally) to explain why the answer is just No.

I am a developer by trade, but I have very close ties to IT (started there) and I can tell you right now there are some very clear things you can do.

  1. Justify your request. Can you increase the RAM in VPS05 to 2048 Megs, we need some extra room while compiling.
  2. Put the request in writing.
  3. LISTEN to their reasoning. Ask why they did something a certain way. For example, I asked for extra ram why did you add extra swap instead? Answer: Because RAM is tight on that host right now and you only need it for compiling. It's better if that's a little slower then us having to take down the compiling box and move it to a different host.
  4. Make sure your requests are sane If they need prior approval, get it before you ask. Are you asking for more then they have?
  5. ASK FOR HELP!!! Don't tell them what to do. Instead tell them your problem. Ask them what can be done. Our compiler is dying because were running our of RAM. What can we do to correct this problem.
  6. Understand that a small change to their large and complex system is probably not that small. Be willing to be flexible and work around it.

From your question, to me, it sounds like you're the one being unprofessional. You expect them to do something because you ask them to. That's not their job. Unless you are over them in the "chain of command" then you need to change. Ask for help. They are there to help. They are not your personal "geek squad".

In the 8 years I have been a developer I have never told IT I need something. EVER! I tell them my problem, I listen to their feedback. I add my own.

Request: The new version of Visual Studio is running slow on my Dev box. I think it would work better if I had some extra RAM. Is there anything we can do?

Response: Sure, we could add more RAM. We could get you a new box, I have some newer laptops coming in next month, we could set one aside for you, if you think you could get Dave to sign off. Why don't I have Jane come look at it later today and see of there is anything she can do, configuration wise to hold you over for a month.

Request: I need more RAM for visual studio.

Response: No, you don't your box meets the minimum system requirements.

Same thing, worded differently, different outcomes.

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Yes, seriously @rr-. Because you may THINK you know what is the problem you have while you only see symptoms. You don't go to your doctor saying "I have Spanish Flu, give me an antibiotic", you go to your doctor saying "I have X, Y and Z symptoms, what should I do?". And that is because you may be wrong identifying the core problem, or there is a more optimal solution to your problem rather the one you think is good. (I see this coming off a bit aggressive but it is not, English is not my first language) – STT LCU Mar 3 at 8:59
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@user47479, yep ask what can be done, don't demand a mouse pad. There are policies for mouse pad distribution. Seriously. There are. Maybe it's eaiser for them to give you a new mouse then a mouse pad. Maybe tehy have a box of 7,000 mice and no spare mouse pads. – coteyr Mar 3 at 9:50
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There is no reason at all for an IT professional to ever be flippant, dismissive, or rude to the people that interact with them. – teego1967 Mar 3 at 11:20
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@teego1967 True enough. That does go both ways though. If someone makes a request without justification, this is also quite rude. Presumably the IT professional knows what they are doing and has a decent view on what variables come into play for a request. Having an attitude of "Just get this done, because I need it and I say that I need it" is not constructive. Doing as suggested and explaining what the problem is will let them draw their own conclusion, perhaps there is a much better solution that you didn't even think of. – Cronax Mar 3 at 11:47
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I'm giving this a -1 because it basically reads as though you are making excuses for being rude and uncoperative. Whilst there may be valid reasons why you need to ask more questions when someone comes with a request, the way that the person in the OPs question is acting is not OK or professional. It is not OK to be flippant and rude to your fellow coworkers. – Mark Henderson Mar 3 at 14:00

Why don't you simply talk to him?

I see two issues here:

  • you may not be the right person making these requests

  • you may not understand the impact of your request, no matter how small the request.

If he has an issue ask him why it is an issue. Ask him if you are missing any details. Either he is being a complete jerk (I doubt that), you are bumbling the requests, or somewhere in the middle. It is probably somewhere in the middle and he has low confidence in you and doesn't want negative impact on his job. You need to learn more about what you are requesting and its impact and the only way to do that is to ask.

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And sometimes people are simply a-holes – AndreiROM Mar 2 at 16:46
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@AndreiROM - Yes. And I have found that asking the assholes questions about their feedback gets them to more of a human level. If not then it just annoys them and makes them think - shit better just do this or this dude is going to be up in my business for 20 minutes. – blankip Mar 2 at 18:01

Find someone else to ask, talk to your manager about this, or consider that maybe they're right and you really are approaching the problem from the wrong direction and/or should be learning to do more of this yourself.

Pick one or more as apporopriate. If in doubt, ask you manager how to proceed. That's one of the things managers are there for.

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There is a very simple solution, follow the chain of command, explain to your manager what you need, they request IT assistance to look into it. The issue gets solved with no ruffled feathers. If your company is not doing this now, they should be. It's one of the managers major roles to be acting as a buffer between his/her team and the rest of the World both internal and external.

As an IT (which is one of my roles) I put off any staff member who requests pretty much anything. They should be talking to their boss and getting it ok'd first. At the very least the request should be to their boss by email cc'ing me. They have no business asking me to do anything.

Then once I see approval, I go ahead and either action it, or give a different resolution or whatever. If it's just to me, I'll either tell them to talk to their boss, slap a makeshift solution together to shut them up, or just ignore it.

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