I'm the main software developer on one of the products for our company, my coworker 'Bob' is in another department but works with the product I build in some capacity (non-technical).

The situation is yesterday after closing time, I was still working and was approached by Bob about a request the CEO had made for him to do, but Bob had no idea if it was even possible. The request to me seemed to be something that was possible but would require discovery time and I wasn't sure if we actually had a solution for it in place.

While I was semi-confident in how to answer, I was tentative to tell Bob. Bob has a history of going over peoples heads to managers and 'exaggerating' details to shift any blame from Bob to another. This actually happened to me a couple months back, so I know it isn't just rumor.

So with that context set, what would be an effective way of handling this answering to Bob? Chances are if the CEO pushes back, Bob will throw me under the proverbial 'bus'. Not saying my CEO is unreasonable that more development time might be needed to provide the correct solution, more how to handle a coworker like Bob.

Feels like a trap, I either refuse to venture an answer, and then I'm labeled as non-compliant, or I venture an answer (that may or may not be correct), and perhaps get undeserved blame. What I did was to give my answer, stressing that discovery time was needed and I wasn't saying 'no'. But have been second guessing since...

  • 1
    You may want to consider emailng the CEO on "Bob's" request. Give the CEO the answer and CC Bob on the email.
    – Neo
    Commented May 31, 2018 at 17:44
  • Considered opening a direct line to the CEO, hesitated though because Bob probably is expected to know this answer on his own and not have to crowdsource it from a developer. Wasn't sure how that would play out.
    – JoeCo
    Commented May 31, 2018 at 17:55

3 Answers 3


Given that this was after closing time, and you were not 100% sure of the extent of this, a polite and constructive answer could have been:

This sounds like something we might be able to do, but I will have to take some time to analyze what you propose and come up with a course of action. If you want I can give it a look first thing tomorrow, and check back with you when I have time to give you a proper answer.

If you fear that there can be some blame shifting, or label you as non-compliant, I suggest you also leave a paper trail (i.e.: email or similar), where you make it clear that you are helping Bob. You could also consider including the CEO so he is up to date as well of your support to this coworker.

As this request evolves, you might consider involving your CEO in a more direct way (in a meeting perhaps, as others suggest, or with more detailed emails). This will further prevent any blame shifting that may happen to you.

  • 1
    but I will have to take some time to analyze what you propose and come up with a course of action. --this... Also, a suggestion I have for this answer is to not give him a timeframe for the response. (Not commit to giving him answer the next day)
    – Neo
    Commented May 31, 2018 at 17:43
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    @Neo good suggestion, perhaps rephrasing one part as "and check back with you when I can to ..." will have a similar effect of not committing to give the answer the next day, but be polite to say that you will start working on it the next day.
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented May 31, 2018 at 17:46
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    I'd be careful; I worked with Bob a long time ago, and Bob may well take the first phrase of your answer and tell the CEO "DarkCygnus said it's no problem". (Seriously, I have worked with enough people who would do just this...) Commented May 31, 2018 at 17:46
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    @user1008090 we don't know if your Bob is the same as this Bob. Besides, that is where the Paper Trail part comes to save from any possible misinterpretations
    – DarkCygnus
    Commented May 31, 2018 at 17:47
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    Paper trail is always a good idea.
    – Neo
    Commented May 31, 2018 at 17:48

Schedule a meeting the next day with your boss, Bob and possibility his boss. Frame it as requirements gathering.

Answer Bob with "Great idea. Lets get a meeting tomorrow so we can discuss in more detail. I really can't give an answer at this instant". Then schedule the meeting as Bob won't. This also leaves a paper trail that you're responding to Bob.


I would tell Bob by that time of the day I was not able to think properly about the request, and would book a meeting with him, and some chaperones.

Or would probably tell him I did not know how to do it, and let him prey on someone else.

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