• I am a teamlead of a team of developers. I am one of several directs of my boss (all of which are similarly to me - devs, devops etc.).
  • As part of my job, I regularly support sales projects with, well, sales. Estimating efforts in the area of my expertise, designing solutions, etc.
  • I handle only very few of those projects myself during delivery (neither myself nor my team members will usually be involved), simply because we're "full".


  • Recently, all our teams are more or less fully planned out. Every new project has to be squeezed in very tightly.
  • I have no staff to do a new project, my directs are completely busy.
  • Someone needs to decide how to staff said projects.

I think I am not the correct person to do so. I can only decide and plan for my own guys. I neither can nor want to plan the work of people in other teams (obviously...). So, normally I would hand the problem over to my boss. Unfortunately, he ... does not decide either.

I may send him a mail like "Hey boss, project xyz needs some people of skill xyz; can you handle that please". And he will send me back a mail "Sure, use Alice and Bob.".

Alice and Bob are not "my" colleagues. I know them, and I know that they are busy as well (my boss basically always answers with Alice and Bob and Charly - a handfull of go-to names). As a good(sic) manager, I then have the impulse to solve this problem by phoning around in the company etc.; but I am slowly getting fed up with that. On the one hand, I simply don't have the time (and my boss knows that perfectly well). On the other hand, I don't know enough about their plans anyways, so it is very in-efficient. On the third hand, it just annoys everybody, basically.

So, I can either let it stand as that, and see the drama unfold (unstaffed projects or overstaffed people). But aside from the fact that I just don't view this as "right", as I was involved at the sales stage, this does in the end fall back to me, at least in the form of giant stress.

The alternative was, in the past, that I escalated to my boss's boss. This worked well - boss-boss is very good at managing this stuff, and always finds a good solution since he has a very much larger overview. Interestingly, he always finds a solution within the domain of people of my boss. This is also starting to get stressfull to me - I fear that I may develop the image of the guy always escalating past my boss, and since the problems always then fall down in my direction again, it seems like ... well, idiots at work.


How can I friendly but firmly change this? If I just say "no time", he will say "ok, I have no time either". If I say "yeah, but Alice and Bob are planned for ABC as far as I know" nothing good comes from it either. And so on. He will not escalate to his boss.

I am looking for a strategy for myself to get out of this situation; either by talking to the boss (which I acknowledge is hard for you to make suggestions for), or for how to act myself in contact with everyone involved.

I do not wish to quit or change my position within the company.


1 Answer 1


How can I friendly but firmly change this?

By clearly demonstrating, to all involved parties, the current status and impact of incoming requests.

So, in situations like this:

I may send him a mail like "Hey boss, project xyz needs some people of skill xyz; can you handle that please". And he will send me back a mail "Sure, use Alice and Bob.".

Forward the email to Alice and Bob, while copying your boss. As they reply that they don't have time/have other assignments, reply to your boss with something like this:

"Hey boss, since the resources aren't available right now, I'm putting this task on wait state at least until they have free time. If you want us to work on it, please negotiate with their line manager."

Your responsibility is with your projects and your resources. Everything else should be handled through the proper 'chain of command' - and, in that case, it's you boss' responsibility to negotiate.

  • 1
    Excellent approach. Demonstrate the need.
    – Neo
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 16:31

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