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I currently receive from my boss projects and tasks with very ambitious deadlines.

At the same time I receive tasks from other sources. For example middle of last week a colleague received a problem to solve. I knew that as I was in cc. It was a very urgent and important problem - every day we didn't solve it, meant that new issues that needed to be solved manually appeared and their manual solving takes a lot of time. The coworker started his vacation on Monday. I had a day off on Friday. So I came to the office on Monday and discovered he didn't solve the problem or even write me an email what he did in this respect. The problem lays in his area of responsibility - I need more time to solve it as I don't have the background knowledge and don't know the people that need to be involved.

So yesterday after spending a whole Monday and Tuesday trying to solve the problem the colleague "left me", I wrote my boss an email (he's travelling) - "Just for your information. We've been experiencing problems with B since middle of last week. [Coworker] left without solving it, so I've been working on that intensively since yesterday". I meant it as a CYA ("cover your ass") - if I'm to work on the issue, I won't have time to deal with "my" projects.

I've received a very harsh reply that I should never escalate such things and that's not the company culture and that we will need to talk about it.

That's not the first time the situation develops like this. However, when I don't say anything, my boss is surprised I didn't do much on "my" projects.

That's why I'm curious if my way of sharing information with my boss is too much. In what situations should information about your tasks be shared with your manager?


Just a few remarks since I have the feeling several people misunderstood my post:

  • the coworker and I have the same boss

  • the coworker's task he left me is one that that have serious negative consequences for the whole unit. Everybody knows that the problem needs to be fixed as quickly as possible. That's why boss's criticism wasn't that I took care of that. It was that I "escalated" it.

  • when I tell my boss other people's lack of action stops me - but I don't take over their tasks, he sends me very harsh responses telling me not to escalate. What's actually the very point of this post. Not the fact that I started to work on that - he did expect me to.

closed as too broad by gnat, Michael Grubey, OldPadawan, gazzz0x2z, scaaahu Jun 29 '18 at 9:42

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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That's not the first time the situation develops like this. However, when I don't say anything, my boss is surprised I didn't do much on "my" projects.

As he should be, because the problem isn't that you don't have time to do your assigned tasks. The problem is you're taking on other people's tasks without being asked to do so.

There's a difference between taking the initiative and insubordination, and I think your boss is being very clear about which side he feels you're on.

In future, if you're worried about a task not getting finished which was never formally assigned to you, the correct course would be to email your boss about it before you drop your assigned work to deal with that other thing.

For example, on the Monday, you should have emailed your boss:

Hey Boss, I was cc'd on an email about Task X, which seems pretty important. I noticed it hasn't been fixed yet and Bob - who was point on this task - is now away for the next few days. How should we handle this?

Let your boss decide if you should jump over to Task X or remain on your current project. Give him this choice before you jump over to Task X for two days. Then, if he says don't worry about it, then don't worry about it. Whatever comes, it will be your boss's decision, and you've successfully CYA'd.

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    I'm my coworker's official replacement and the problem, if it continues, has huge consequences for me - means hours of additional manual work for me. So your comment isn't really helpful. – user87133 Jun 27 '18 at 15:27
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    @european333 I'm sorry you feel that way, but based on what you've said, your boss is fairly clearly indicating he doesn't want you switching tasks without telling him. The problem isn't what you're telling him, it's when you're telling him. The obvious solution is to tell him first and then do as directed. – Steve-O Jun 27 '18 at 16:24
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    No, based on what he said, he doesn't want me to contact him with this info. There's nothing in his message to suggest he wants me to contact him sooner. – user87133 Jun 27 '18 at 16:26
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    @european333 I have to agree with Steve-O here. I was in a similar situation where I was assigned a piece of work, then also assigned some other tasks. My supervisor was surprised when I hadn't gotten as much done as they knew I was capable of on my deliverable. So we sat down and had a conversation. I told my supervisor very nicely I only have so much time in the day and here is how I am prioritizing my work. I then asked them if that was how they wanted it prioritized. – SaggingRufus Jun 27 '18 at 17:02
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    @SaggingRufus, your situation is incomparable to mine however. Because I've already had many discussions on prioritising my tasks. And the conclusion was always: do everything, don't escalate. I understand that everybody projects their experiences on posts on here a bit, but in my post there's really absolutely nothing to suggest that he wanted me to get back to him earlier. He didn't want me to contact him AT ALL. That's the problem. It has been told me several times that I shouldn't escalate. Not that I should consult the prioritisation of my tasks. – user87133 Jun 27 '18 at 17:22
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Your boss is upset about the "escalation". What does that mean? It means he didn't interpret your email as a status update. You said:

Just for your information. We've been experiencing problems with B since middle of last week. [Coworker] left without solving it, so I've been working on that intensively since yesterday

This reads like a complaint to your boss about your coworker. You want your boss to be aware that your coworker didn't do his job right. Under this interpretation, it's understandable why your boss would be upset that you are throwing your coworker under the bus. He wants you to work it out as a team.

If your intent is to provide an update on the B problems, then you say:

The problems with B are still happening. I am working hard on them, have made xyz progress, and expect a resolution by Wednesday.

If your intent is to notify your boss that you will be late on your other assignment, well, day 2 out of 10 is maybe too soon for that. If not, the message needs to be more clear. Request priorities.

Boss, I know the B problems are really important, so I'm focusing on fixing them. This means that I will not have time to do a good job on assignment C in the 2 days that remain. Would you prefer that I send up a draft on Friday, or take an extra week to do it better, or defer my B work to next week?

Finally, it sounds like you have one or two concrete examples of situations where boss's "do not escalate" feedback is unclear. Have a sit down with your boss, explain that you are trying to absorb and implement his feedback, and that you'd like his help by talking through these examples.

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There is a polish proverb "Not my circus, Not my monkeys".
Being in CC don't mean you are in any way responsible for the task that e-mail contain (if not stated). You are merely aware of the task.
If you think task is not complete it's also not your responsibility. It's only your deduction that the task is not completed. As you stated you didn't had any information. Maybe your colleague decides he just need to write to IT to unblock proxy and that this will solve the case.

The real problem is not that you inform (or not) your boss about your progress. The problem is that you don't do your job.

By taking this job without his knowledge or approval you're stepping into his position. Again without full knowledge (I assume you don't have meeting where you all share progress on your tasks).

IF that additional task is stopping YOU from finishing then you INFORM your boss about this. It's HIS job to assign jobs for you and your colleagues.

If your boss do nothing and you cannot finish your task you already have CYA by sending above email.

In short: Do your job, if you finish it and there is other things to do ASK if it should be done and if it should be done by YOU.