I've been working as a software developer for some years, and one of the situations I've consistently run into is this: I will be given an assignment, will work on the assignment and/or research its requirements more deeply, and will ultimately end up at a point where I need to ask my boss how he/she wants something done. Or even if the question isn't for further orders, if you will, it may be for credentials to a VM, a software license for a new IDE, critical background information about something other people have discussed, or anything else that I really need to ask him/her about.

However it will often take some time before I get a response, and I often end up eventually even trying to ask a second time. At that point, I try to keep my head down and not be pushy or annoying about it, but am still a little bit nervous about it.

The issue is that, when I run into something like this, by the time I find out about it, it is often either barring or coming close to barring the way forward. I either can't progress or can only progress very little on the given assignment until the response is given. At this point, due to a delay in hearing back, I'm kind of stalled in terms of productivity. When this happens, it is generally very difficult - and possibly even disallowed - to try to switch to a completely different assignment in the meantime.

What is the best way to handle this? Again, it delays productivity, but it's hard to switch to something else, and by the time I see the need for this information, it's too late to ask before it becomes a delay. (One example is when I've been working with the code for a certain amount of time, and through investigating it in depth, have noticed a particular case that was completely unexpected and isn't clearly defined in terms of the requirements.) It is not as simple as just reading the requirements carefully.

The objective is to be productive. What's the best way to handle and even hopefully avoid these situations?


3 Answers 3


First, this is just the nature of the beast, it will always happen and it happens in every industry. Ever see a bunch of guys on a road crew leaning on their shovels? Either something broke, or they're waiting for equipment and/or materials to arrive. You can't escape the fact that this is going to happen.

So, all you can do is limit it's effects.

  • Remember that before a deadline, you're raising an issue, after the deadline, you're making excuses
  • If your team doesn't have codes for severity of issues, start one. They should have two properties: Urgency and impact with high urgency high impact addressed first, down the chain to low urgency, low impact.
  • As issues get closer to jeopardizing the deadline, raise their urgency and impact.
  • Keep informing management to these statuses.
  • Have other work to do. You may not be able to do other projects, but there is likely some maintenance you can do, or training. Fill the dead time with busywork and learning opportunities.
  • Keep communication open. NEVER let management get hit with a surprise.

It sounds like your manager is a very busy person with limited time to address your issues. Don't hesitate to ask again. Sometimes it's the only way to get busy people to make time for you. When you get some one-on-one time, bring this up in the conversation. Do they mind if you follow-up and ask again? What is a reasonable amount of time? If something is pressing, should you indicate that in your request?

Many organizations and teams should probably try to address these problems without taking the manager's time. People are reluctant to document and delegate. I like managers who are willing to do some of the grunt work, but not at the expense of being available when I need them.


Look up SPIKE in agile. Once you get assigned a task, estimate it (as a spike) and schedule a follow up meeting right there and then.

Then, go work on you assignment keeping the follow up meeting in your radar. Do your research/investigation within the estimated (spike) time, then attend the meeting and bring your updates + get the boss's feedback.


Day 1: Assignment is to build screen X that has function Y and looks like Z. Estimate the pre work of Y and Z, then schedule a follow up meeting.

Day X (meeting day): I have done Y/2 and Z/2. Ask your boss if you are on the right track. Schedule a new meeting and continue working on it.


With this process, you always end up with a regular follow up meetings and no longer need to wait.

  • The issue is the lack of communication from the boss, taking it up to eleven by asking for a regular meeting is unlikely to be useful. If the manager could bother attending those regular meetings, he would much easily bother responding to the OP in the first place.
    – Masked Man
    Feb 17, 2018 at 5:50
  • If OP follows this and boss is satisfied to NOT attend the meeting, then do what the boss wants or find another job.
    – Sandra K
    Feb 17, 2018 at 16:17

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