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I am finding it very difficult to deal with offshore team at my current company. They often don't respond to emails and/or instant messages regarding work-related issues. If they do respond, it takes them several hours for even simple questions which is a lot of time lost.

I put my manager and their manager in CC on these emails, but management/CEO does nothing about it, so I'm not sure what to do. When I tell my manager that the lack of response is slowing down my progress, they tell me, "it is not your concern what the other team does" (in other words, "do your job"). At this point, I tell them that if I don't receive a response, I will figure it out for myself without getting approval.

The timezone is relatively the same (+3 hours) so it is not entirely the issue.

How should I handle this situation? Should I really email the CEO about the people not responding?

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The timezone is relatively the same (+3 hours) so it is not entirely the issue.

But it is an issue. Don't minimize this.

When you start at say (?) 9am in your time zone it's already 12-noon in theirs. They'd be thinking about lunch (and can they take their lunch period whenever they like ?), so for a large chunk of your morning, they can be out at lunch, maybe in drips and drabs, maybe all together.

When they get back from lunch it's also not an uncommon time for teams to schedule meetings, so they'll maybe be locked in a meeting where they specifically won't be allowed to communicate.

But by the time all that's done, you're probably at lunch.

And then they're going home at 5pm (?) and lo-and-behold it's still 2pm where you are.

So time zone is, IMO, a huge issue here.

There is little natural overlap for communication to occur.

Have you considered that if they need something from your office at 9-am their time they have to wait for you or other people in your locale ? It cuts both ways and I suspect you're not factoring in how it looks from their point of view.

I am finding it very difficult to deal with offshore team at my current company. They often don't respond to emails and/or instant messages regarding work-related issues. If they do respond, it takes them several hours for even simple questions which is a lot of time lost.

Time zone overlap again. When you send an email or IM, they're simply not available for quite natural reasons. When they can reply they will either figure it's pointless replying late or they do reply and you're complaining it's late, but from their point of view they replied ASAP.

Management/CEO does nothing about it,

Is this a real problem ?

Does it cause real problems or are you simply irritated by the apparent lack of response ?

I suspect it causes you very few real problems.

so I'm not sure what to do. Does anyone else have this issue ?

As I mentioned above your colleagues "offshore" (from your narrow viewpoint !) are probably equally frustrated by comms from your locale.

Your use of the term "offshore" does seem to indicate a failure to appreciate that they're a perfectly legitimate part of a global business and you need to accommodate them, not just the other way around.

What can I do? Should I really email the CEO about the people not responding?

You adapt to it.

You have raised the issue. But have you suggested a solution other than what is probably the unrealistic one of expecting the other team to be available on demand to match your schedule ?

That's the problem : expectation.

Your CEO doesn't want to hear about your problem, they want to hear about a realistic solution.

From a comment of yours :

nothing is done. Honestly, it's just really frustrating. At this point, I tell them that if I don't receive a response, I will figure it out for myself without getting approval.

If you require their approval for something then you wait for them.

Presuming the authority to override them will simply create a much bigger set of problems, and ones likely to get you fired.

As the devil in in the detail it's very hard to advise you on a specific plan, but a some basic guidelines :

  • You need to schedule an agreed morning phone meeting with them (as brief as possible !) to discuss issues in your in-box and their in-box that need each other's approval. They, in particular will need this more than you. It may be OK to just have a meeting with one senior person who can speak for them. "Hi Sam, have you anything you need from me urgently ?", than kind of tone.

  • Again, before they leave at 5pm schedule another brief "anything to do urgently" meeting between you and probably the most senior member of the team out their.

  • These meetings also create a chance for you to maintain a sense of direct contact between you and foster a sense of connection and team between you all. 15 minutes kept as informal as possible max.

  • There may be a need on both sides (not just theirs) to arrange for someone with authority to make decisions to be available out-of-hours (i.e. as that applies per locale). Anything absolutely urgent needs to be dealt with through those people. This may entail giving additional payments to some people. It should be used sparingly - it's an emergency, not just I forgot something so I'll annoy Bob now.

  • Alternatively you may need to get each other and management to agree on devolving authority for urgent decisions to each-other's offices. This can pose issues and I do not recommend it.

  • You need to keep an eye on that clock - theirs ! You need to start respecting what it means in practical terms.

  • Just because you send an IM does not mean they're available instantly.

  • You must remember that none of this is probably their fault - they will have issues with this too. You need to need to find out what their issues are and factor them in - work with them as part of a team to find the solution that works best for all of you.

  • It would almost certainly be a good idea to have a face-to-face sit down with their team or team leads to get an understanding of your normal schedules and see if any rearrangement (on both sides !) is possible to better facilitate comms. You may both need to plan work around the timezone issue, not just expect something that won't happen naturally.

  • A very radical suggestion which would be very difficult to implement, and would certainly require money to be spent, might be to see if agreement can be reached to get their work hours to be shifted to properly overlap the main office. Note, that this is very tricky and unlikely to happen.

But above all you have to start thinking of them as team members and peers, not the cause of the problem. The cause of this problem is, IMO, just the clock and a lack of planning by people on all sides.

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This can be a bad problem and is usually because they have no incentive to respond in a timely fashion.

It's actually a procedural problem and not a lot a normal worker can do except keep management cc'd on everything in order to cover themselves.

The usual resolution is pretty simple. There should be a person who's responsibility it is to facilitate communication between the teams. All correspondence however small should be sent to this person to distribute and/or follow up on, anything ongoing should have them cc'd at least.

So for example if I want to know if a team overseas has a ps2 mouse, I would ask the go between, who may or may not be their manager, cc'ing the team. This person would notice there is no reply and follow up without my having to cc'ing all concerned and their managers periodically. It makes it less efficient in theory with all this going on, but much better in practical terms.

If possible it's preferable to cut out the need for personal contact at all. If you have tasks that regularly need an update on, you can get remote access to an overseas machine or folder fairly easily through whoever is admin. It's common for widely dispersed teams to use dropbox or something similar to achieve the same thing. Even better is an intranet with everything secured and available according to its hierarchical security structure.

  • @Kilisi There is one delegate but I need response on an hourly basis since my job requires constant feedback from them (maybe once every two or three hours) – John61590 Nov 12 '17 at 7:17
  • @John61590 in that case communications are very poorly organised, actually needing feedback every few hours from a colleague in another timezone is incredibly bad planning on behalf of your superiors. The solution outlined above mitigates against these sorts of problems, which is why it is widely used. – Kilisi Nov 12 '17 at 20:29
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    I work in a few countries and need instant access to stuff overseas sometimes. I handle this by having remote access to servers and sometimes individual pc's. This may work for you if it's updated files you need to see rather than a person. Some of my people use dropbox or something similar for the same reason. This means they're not dependent on contacting the actual person. – Kilisi Nov 12 '17 at 20:32
  • Going the same direction Kilisi is going. Take a look at the oDesk solution. It's only a partial solution, but in combination with the other suggestions, it could help a little. It automatically maintained a diary of the work of the contractor (that could be amended manually) along with screenshots taken at intervals. The contractor would just push a button whenever he started or ended work for a particular client to enable/disable screen-sharing. Take a look at this pdf which explains it (sorry, it's a pdf) mba.danielwatrous.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/… – Stephan Branczyk Nov 13 '17 at 1:51
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There are many excellent points in existing answers. This is intended as a addition to them.

Even without the time zone complication, there will be times when the person who should answer a question is in a meeting, out sick, at lunch etc. and it takes longer for someone else to find out the answer.

There are two situations to consider. One is when you are working on a absolute top priority project that must not be delayed for any reason. In that case, work with your manager to make adjustments, such as shifting both your time and the time of a dedicated colleague at the other location so that you are working the same hours and neither has meetings to get in the way.

In the more normal situation, you need to work with the delays. Keep a to-do-sometime list of tasks that need to be done, but it does not matter exactly when. Each time you are waiting for an answer, do the next task on that list. That way, the time will not be wasted.

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I work daily with offshore teams that have a 12 hour time difference. Certainly that affects all planning and we had to adapt to the idea that things would not get responded to as quickly as they were when we were all in one location. So the very first thing to do is to make you sure plan extra time in all project timelines to account for time zone delays.

Next when people are not collocated, it is often easier to blow off the person who is offshore (you are offshore to them) when you have a person right in front of your face asking urgently for something. You need to accept that you are going to be lower priority unless you make the priority and the deadline for response clear. However, if everything you send them says it is high priority and must be responded to in an hour, then of course they are going to know you are not serious. Save urgent escalations for actually urgent issues not normal time zone delays.

Another thing to consider is that other cultures handle things differently. When we first started to work with people in another country, we found it frustrating that they were much more likely to have to go through a chain of people before a response could be sent. It simply takes more time to get several people in a management chain to sign off on something.

And remember, they are often busy doing something else when your IM or email comes in. It is easy not to notice an email when you are concentrating on something else.

We found the best way to deal with offshore communications was to bring some of them onshore for a few weeks to see how we worked and, more importantly, to make personal connections to them. It sounds expensive, but it was far cheaper than continuing to be unable to communicate effectively.

Even if you can't bring people to your office for a few weeks, you can start to build a relationship with them. Ask about their children, when they have a holiday, find out what it is called and ask what they did. Congratulate them on any work successes. The more positive interactions you have with people the better they are going to respond to your requests.

Make sure you are sending IMs and emails to the right person. It might work better if you go through their management rather than directly to the developers.

I might also consider setting up a meeting with their manager to discuss the best way to communicate and set priorities. Don't say that you think they are ignoring you. Say that the current methods don't seems to be working optimally and what methods would they think would be best to use. Then listen to them. Consider that in some cultures, they are more inclined to hint than to directly state an objection. So pay careful attention to the way the meeting goes.

And by no means skip them if you need their input. Delays due to offshoring are part of the price of offshoring. Your company needs to accept that. It appears that your management might have accepted that and you personally have not.

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What can I do?

When writing emails or IM's, it is better to include as much information/questions as possible when sending them. This way you avoid having back and forth replies asking for follow ups that take time.

In other words, try including as much questions or issues when sending a single message, so when they reply you will get as much answers as possible with minimal clarifications or follow-ups required. This will make your communication more efficient.

Now, usually issues have to be fixed as soon as possible, so waiting until you have more issues or questions to ask on a single message may not entirely solve this problem. Another approach you can take is to call them via skype, whatsapp, etc. (or even phone if you/the company can afford such long distance calls), so you can address the issues promptly without having email delay. Phone calls or face-to-face talks are way more effective and efficient when dealing with workplace issues or questions.

These suggestions may help you overcome this situation and make your communication more fluid. However, this does not solve their reluctance (if any) to reply promptly.

This is something that, given it continues to be a problem, you should raise with management. They can then decide what can be done to solve or minimize this communication issue. If you do escalate it, try to refrain from blaming the offshore team for this; instead mention that the communication is not as efficient as you think it could be. If/when management starts investigating this issue, they may or may not conclude that the delay comes from their side, but you kept it professional by not pointing fingers.

Edit: As someone mentioned in comments, including your manager on those mails as CC could also help you have a paper trail to back up your claim, as "evidence" that the delay may come from their side of the team. Again, keeping it professional and without pointing fingers. Hope you can solve this problem, good luck.

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    If you have offshore teams you should be able to afford such long-distance calls, otherwise somebody didn't calculate the cost of offshore teams right. – Simon Nov 11 '17 at 6:44
  • @Simon Our office manager asked to get a landline phone from the offshore team but no response. So we don't have an office phone number at work unfortunately. – John61590 Nov 12 '17 at 7:24
  • @DarkCygnus I tried calling them all on Skype but no one responded. Granted it was 1-2 hours after work end though so a little bad timing. – John61590 Nov 12 '17 at 7:28
  • @John61590 well, you should do so whenever they are also in working hours so there is a chance that they will answer. Coordination is key here. – DarkCygnus Nov 13 '17 at 18:35

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