4

I am working with a colleague who shares information with me on a delayed basis. She's worked on an area which has been assigned to me now. There's no one else whom I can ask about that area except her.

However,

  1. She responds back to me in single sentences, and,
  2. Literally every sentence is communicated with a delay of a couple of hours, sometimes even a day (we both work in the same time zone)
  3. Sometimes she doesn't answer at all. She doesn't give any replies on IM/Email and doesn't pick up my calls

This makes her help practically useless because you cannot discuss something worthwhile with just a single sentence. Moreover, when we do have discussions, she shares the minimum information.

Because of her delays I'm mostly managing without her help and figuring out things by trial and error. I'm not complaining about this. I'll keep doing it till the job is done. However, this slows down the work and there's pressure from my boss to finish up the work faster.

I've already tried speaking to my supervisor about this. He responded that she has a two year old kid and hence she's got no choice but to work for an hour and then be away for an hour or two, repeat. He wants both of us to figure out a way to communicate on our own.

How do you deal with a colleague who isn't sharing information in a timely manner?

10
  • 1
    How do you currently contact her? Email, IM, other tool?
    – DarkCygnus
    Jul 4 '18 at 17:56
  • 1
    How far away from you is she? Does she still work for the company?
    – Erik
    Jul 4 '18 at 18:02
  • If she's not remote, I'd walk over with a list of questions. If she's busy or remote, have you tried to setup a meeting on her calendar and then chatting with her on a Skype call? It's possible she's just busy putting out her own fires. If that doesn't work, then maybe you can push back and ask her to write up some documentation and then onboard you properly. Jul 4 '18 at 19:44
  • 1
    Let me ask what your boss should have: what have you tried so far? Have you had (/tried to have) a frank discussion on the behaviour?
    – Lilienthal
    Jul 4 '18 at 20:01
  • @DarkCygnus I've tried Email + IM + Phone calls. Since she's always working from home, it's not possible to meet her face to face, even though we are both officially in the same office.
    – Mugen
    Jul 5 '18 at 5:11
8

First you have to escalate, because that's actually what a manager's job is - to clear the issues that their reports have so the reports can get the work done.

If your manager is pushing back on you to solve the problem then they are, quite frankly, a rubbish manager.

Given you have a rubbish manager, and that's she's normally remote:

  1. setup a recurring meeting with her every day or two or week for a half hour or an hour. CC your manager on this so he knows what you're doing (optional invite). In this meeting, explicitly note this is a time for you to talk via phone to cover your questions/queries. State it will be for a half hour (or whatever) but might run shorter if there are less queries. You can even let your manager know the lengths of the meetings or imply that as transition moves forward the meetings will be less frequent - this lets him get visibility on how well the knowledge share is going, which is useful to him as a manager. Well, it might be, but he's rubbish, so who knows?

  2. IF a meeting is missed by her escalate up to the manager with a "missed meeting" so he gets visibility as to how often she's unable to help.

AND/OR

  1. There are q&a style company intranets, your company might have one. Gosh, SO sells this stuff too. Use your existing one or ask for one to be setup - then push your questions onto that, flagging her each time. This will let her plow through several questions when she has time, and will also let your manager have visibility on how many questions you have, the answers she provides and the timeliness of the responses.
1
  • This is the best answer. I'm not sure why I didn't choose this earlier. This is definitely the best way to handle these situations where someone is not sharing info. Just create recurrent meetings like 2 times a week and maybe only 30 mins each one. And keep giving updates to the boss about the meeting. Another important note is to push any delays in learning back up to the manager. Delays that are due to her incorrect answers / misleading and wrong info / constantly redirecting me to other people when she's the owner for that area and then asking me to teach her what I learn.
    – Mugen
    Oct 10 at 16:41
5

Point out to your manager that the lateness of the replies is having an impact on your own work, to the extent that you're not able to work as quickly and efficiently as you might be able to.

If your manager is ok with the time that things are taking, then just accept it. If you're left without work for periods of time because you're waiting for information, then ask for other work to do - you having more responsibility should improve your own career.

If other people are complaining about how late things are, then refer them to your manager. It sounds as though you're gradually learning the things that help you in your work, so this problem should hopefully diminish over time.

If your manager isn't ok with the work being delayed, then it's your manager's job to address the problem.

1
  • 2
    I like this, although the OP has edited the question and is now explicit that the shoddy manager has delegated to OP, and OP has delegated to us
    – bharal
    Jul 5 '18 at 8:46
4

I'm going to take a somewhat different viewpoint here, because I've been in the role of the colleague who is doing the support. In some cases I'd be bombarded with questions about problems and error messages. Each message would require getting information about exactly what the input was and the working thru the system to determine what was going on.

What I learned was the best thing to do was wait a bit. And, as the OP says, often the person asking can do the gruntwork and figure it out. It may be difficult but the OP has to learn how to get the answers, rather than relying on someone else to do all the work.

Of course, if the question was something that the asker couldn't possibly know, or that I knew off the top of my head, I'd dig into it. But for questions that require a bit of effort and analysis, the best thing is to let the OP figure it out themselves, and hopefully retain that knowledge for the next problem.

2
  • 1
    A good point - and often they may not even have any obligation to help you as part of their job description (even if the boss has told you to go seek their help).
    – sfxedit
    Oct 9 at 18:48
  • I can understand how you were affected by someone being lazy enough to not figure out the work on their own and questioning you repeatedly. That isn't the case here though. So that's a wrong assumption though a reasonable one. I used to group together all my questions into a word doc to ask her for a meeting - only once a week. And even that - she would keep postponing it like Thursday she has a headache, so Monday. On Monday a meeting has come up so Wednesday. On Wednesday she would postpone to Friday. And I like a considerate fool used to burn out trying to get all answers on my own.
    – Mugen
    Oct 10 at 16:33
4

I don't agree at all with the perspective that the manager is shoddy or incompetent - s/he is empathetic enough to consider the other colleague has a 2 year kid and is kindly willing to temporarily give that person some leeway. Your manager is asking you to extend similar consideration for your colleague (which you may also need one day from someone else at work).

Moreover, she has already been assigned other tasks. Is it part of her job description to assist you? If not, this may also explain her behaviour. If she has not been assigned to work with you and assist you (even if you have been told to seek her help and advice by your boss), it would mean you are actually asking a favour from her (to help you). Your approach should reflect that.

You calling her, emailing her or messaging her whenever you require help can be irritating as it may be disrupting her work or schedule, and may be interpreted as a lack of consideration and respect for her time.

Unlike what some are saying here, a Manager asking you to solve the issue yourself and find an amicable solution isn't necessarily laziness or incompetence on their part. It can also be test to observe your people skills with your colleague(s).

Keeping all this in mind, a suitable approach could be to:

  1. Explain to her honestly that your work is suffering because you have a lot to learn from her.

  2. Tell her that the manager has explained to you that she maybe having a tough time juggling her job and kid, and you understand that's why she hasn't been able to spare enough time for you.

  3. Suggest a solution - ask her which medium she is most comfortable with. And request her to spare 15 - 30 minutes twice a day (perhaps morning and evening), on the chosen medium, to seek clarification on doubts you have every day.

  4. Work on the questions you will ask her and make it as short and as relevant as possible.

  5. Inform your manager once both of you reach a compromise. See how it works for a month or two. If there are still issues, update your manager.

(Note an important life lesson here - your colleague has a good rapport with her manager and that's why the manager is willing to side with her. People skills matter.)

6
  • There are so many things that I strongly disagree with in this answer. Where to begin. 1) If your manager has assigned you to get help from another person then it automatically means that he's expecting that other person to help you. It makes absolutely no sense that the other person shouldn't help you when the manager has ordered it.
    – Mugen
    Oct 10 at 16:19
  • 1
    2) "Calling/messaging whenever you require help" - yeah, no. You've assumed a missing information here. That I've been pestering her for more info. Nope. I had been quite considerate towards her. In fact, now after all these years when I look back at that lady who used to login only 1 hour a day, I feel guilty for not approaching the HR. And she "shared" work with my colleague but actually did about 1 hour of work. A few years later my colleague who from East coast slammed her lack of performance in a team meeting. I was just glad that I didn't have to interact with her after the initial days.
    – Mugen
    Oct 10 at 16:23
  • 1
    Also, a little backstory. That lady directly told me that she doesn't care about the work and is absolutely fine if they fire her. She said her hubby is bringing home some solid bucks so she doesn't need to earn really. But she'll keep avoiding the work until they fire her. Fast forward 3 years no action was taken because our bosses keep getting changed every year. BTW, I used to accumulate all my questions together and get a meeting time as per her convenience. We had only 1 meeting / week that lasted like 5-7 minutes each time because she would get "back aches" or had "other meetings".
    – Mugen
    Oct 10 at 16:25
  • 1
    3) Regarding the rapport with manager - when he resigned he told me that I was the easiest person to work with and he wanted to fire that girl. But since it's a large company he felt it's too difficult and cumbersome to fire her. So instead he wouldn't assign her any work because she did poor work. So yea, he was actually a shoddy manager.
    – Mugen
    Oct 10 at 16:29
  • 1
    @Mugen With that background, it becomes a different issue - it's about an incompetent employee who no longer cares about her job, and her colleagues. Anyway, one thing in my answer still applies - just because a manager has asked you to seek help from a colleague, who is now in a different role, doesn't necessarily mean that the colleague has an obligation to help. Especially if it is something extra, outside their usual role. A manager may know that the other person has no obligation to go beyond their role but still ask you to seek their help hoping you'll convince them (office politics).
    – sfxedit
    Oct 12 at 19:20
1

Schedule a handover session with her. Give her plenty of time, couple of weeks if needed, so she can arrange her schedule accordingly. If she's overworked as you say don't expect her to come prepared, but you can at least agree on a strategy in which your questions get answered with minimal friction. Make it clear if you must that the sooner this happens, the sooner you'll stop bothering her.

Notify your manager about this so that he knows about the pending knowledge transfer, so he won't expect miracles from you in the meantime.

1
  • 1
    Unfortunately, a single session isn't enough to cover it. She's got working knowledge about an area on which I have to work. I've already nailed the setup part. What's remaining is dealing with issues where the product doesn't work as expected. Usually the error messages are very cryptic with nothing to go on. So I have to rely on her to tell me the solutions which means that this is something that's needed on a daily basis for a couple of weeks.
    – Mugen
    Jul 5 '18 at 10:20

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .