You are a worker, your boss is a manager. You're supposed to do the work, your boss is supposed to manage the work that you do.
Picking priorities when there's too much work is a manager's job. Talk to your manager and have him decide which job is the most pressing.
This is a newer issue and it could be considered severe, and this customer is very vocal and copies my manager on emails to get faster help.
Does your manager actually involve himself with the emails? Or does he not engage the customer about the emails?
- If he does engage (or he asked the customer to put him in CC), then he's implicitly telling you that this is the task you should be focusing on. If you feel worried about leaving the other task open because of that, all you should do is alert your manager of that, e.g. a simple mail:
I'll have a look at [customer's problem] first. I'll put [other task] on hold until then.
This forces your manager to either agree (implicitly or explicitly) or disagree (explicitly, at which point he becomes responsible for choosing which task you should do).
- If the manager does not involve himself with the customer's email; then the customer is simply adding him as a passive-aggressive way of getting you to give their problem priority. It's a veiled threat: "If you don't handle this adequately, I will take this up with your superior."
- Note that it could also be much more innocent. Some people have a habit of putting everyone and their mother in CC. But in either case, you shouldn't really decide if the work is urgent or not based on who has been CC'ed.
However, it is difficult to work on this because my more experienced colleague that could help is out of the office much of the time.
The availability of employees is a management decision. If you're faced with a problem that you either can't solve, or it would take too long because of inexperience; mention to your manager that you'd like to involve [experienced collague] with the issue.
If the manager agrees (or even acquiesces), that means that the delay on the task is not your responsibility (since management has signed off on it).
If the manager in any way opposes waiting until the experienced colleague is available, explain to him why you feel unable to handle the task (e.g. needing training or a sitdown with the experienced colleague to ask questions).
Another customer's system isn't live yet, but he has been waiting a very long time for assistance. He almost never talks to my manager so I don't feel as pressured to work on it.
Slight shift: it's possible that the customer himself isn't as pressed for time (compared to the other customer).
but he deserves to get his system working due to the wait time alone.
That's not really your call to make. You're not in charge of the contract between the customer and your company.
If there is an issue whereby this customer is being neglected, you can raise the issue to management. At that point, the issue (and responsibility) is out of your hands. If management fails to address the issue, that is their failure.
No one can help with this because the employee that built it left the company, although I don't know how long it will take to deploy the new system.
As I said before, the availability of employees is a management decision. If they failed to have the ex-employee do a proper documentation handover to a colleague, then that is a management failure.
Based on the current situation, there are many options here:
- You do the work. Management concedes that you're not adequately trained for this and therefore gives you leeway (extra time) to finish the task.
- You do the work, after receiving the needed training (which management should schedule for you).
- Management hires a temporary external resource (consultant) with experience in the field, in order to finish the project on time.
What is not acceptable is that you are assigned the task, without the proper experience or documentation, and are expected to deliver it on time in full.
That's is simply not realistic, and I would (personally) seriously reconsider working for a company that pushes work on their employees this way.
Is there a method I could use to determine what to work on first?
Somewhat facetiously; it's a one step process:
- Ask your manager, who is responsible for your work scheduling and priorities.