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I have been working at my company for over a year now, I started as a Junior-Mid level programmer, in the beginning I was assigned to a "tutor" to understand his work so HE could take vacations since HR was almost forcing him to it.

This co-worker was always distant and never explained anything concrete to me, I didn't directly went for my superior at the time but he already new about his social skills. After a few months of trying to approach him I started helping others people in other projects so I could do something, even so, I was almost always without tasks to do mainly because everybody thought that I was working for someone else, while in reality I wasn't work with anyone, nevertheless I kept asking to my robot-co-worker from time to time with no positive result.

2 months ago or so another co-worker left the company, and my boss re assigned me to take her place with another "tutor" assigned. This new tutor was and is far better from the robot-one, but he is most of the time busy and, once again, I'm not handling too much work once again, most of the time I have nothing to do.

I'll probably leave the company in the short term anyway and I know that some mistakes were done by me too, I could had being more insistent while asking people for work but the reality is that I expected that they hired me for something, not to look for more work. With that's said I started at the company after moving from another country, even if I'am mother-tongue I had to speak and understand a language that I hadn't practice in a while in a workplace environment (10 years or so).

Even if the busy-tutor is far more easy going and better at communicate he still thinks (like everybody else I suppose) that I work with other people; I'm saying this mainly because every time he has something to give me to do, he explicitly and politely ask if I have available time.

So, for the question:

What would be a correct approach or the right foot in a new job that could avoid this kind of situations ? Should I report directly to the boss if the co-worker doesn't cooperate ?

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I think you had bad luck. This is not a common situation, most companies hire someone with a clear plan of work for them.

Should I report directly to the boss if the co-worker doesn't cooperate ?

Yes, approach your manager, it is their role to keep you productive and earning your pay.

  • Thanks for the answer ! To go a little further, what conditions would you consider that has to be fulfilled before reporting the co-worker ? In another words: How many time asking for work would you think is enough to say this guy is uncooperative ? – Emiliano Oct 4 '17 at 13:44
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    Do not say he is uncooperative, just tell your manager you have nothing to do and let your manager sort it out. If the manager asks, just say you haven't been assigned anything to do. – Kilisi Oct 4 '17 at 19:22
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    Don't make it about the co-worker, at least directly. "I feel like I'm not able to put my best foot forward with my current projects. Is there some way we can get x to split off some work load for me? That way I can help him wrap up loose ends and get some experience with the system". Always try to put a positive spin on things. That makes you look professional, gets the point across and may point out a shortcoming in the other guy at the same time. – SliderBlackrose Oct 5 '17 at 13:20
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Tell your next boss or tutor that you are happiest and most successful when you have a full (but not overflowing) in-basket.

The idea is that you have the task you're currently working on and a list of 5 or 6 tasks that you'll work on next. If someone approaches you with a new task, add it to the list and tell them you'll work on it as soon as you can.

When the task list gets too short (maybe only 2 or 3 left) you should approach your boss or tutor and ask for more.

Don't wait for the list to get empty, since it may take time for someone to find new tasks for you.

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