What is the best way to stop spending so much time teaching a co-worker basic things, without being hurtful?


I am a computer programmer, and my work is generally tested by a business analyst. We do not have a QA Engineer on our team who would properly be doing the testing in a proper way.

I work on several different projects for my company, and a few of them all involve the same analyst. In order to be able to find data to test with, as well as verify the results of various tests, they have started to learn some basic programming things. They got the very basics down from copy/pasting code that I have sent for different things, and modifying it as needed.

The issue is that I am finding myself spending far too much time teaching them how to use this language. I'm always happy to help a co-worker learn something about programming; but it is normally in the context of teaching another developer something that they will then only need to be taught once. The analyst, on the other hand, has trouble grasping some very basic concepts; and will ask the same questions about how to do something simple that I have answered multiple times before. In many cases the types of questions that should be a simple Google search. In other cases things about our specific code.

I do not blame this person at all... their job description should not entail technical expertise. Their computer background is in spreadsheets and such; not programming languages. I blame my company for putting an analyst, rather than a QA engineer, in this position.

It's not a constant issue; it's on-and-off over the past several months. But there are days that I will spend up to an hour talking to them, going through some basic things while I should be getting my own work done.

If it matters, I work remotely, and only talk to people via phone, never in-person. Also we do not share the same manager.

My goal is to find a way that I can focus on my own work, and spend less time teaching others, without being insensitive or hurtful.

I have approached my own boss about the fact that we should be using QA Engineers for testing; and he agrees but says that I shouldn't get my hopes up that the company will do anything about it. I have not approached anyone about this specific employee.

I have seen questions here about handling incompetent co-workers; I do not think that applies here because I do not think this person is incompetent. They are not producing poor work or anything like that.

  • 3
    Possible duplicate of How to handle a subordinate who asks the same question repeatedly?
    – mcknz
    Jul 27, 2018 at 20:24
  • I disagree with the duplicate @mcknz . It is related though, but that other one is about asking the same question, which was perhaps even done to bother that other OP. Here, OP is being continuously asked different things, quite different.
    – DarkCygnus
    Jul 31, 2018 at 18:46

2 Answers 2


What is the best way to stop spending so much time teaching a co-worker basic things, without being hurtful?

First, have in mind that with time this coworker may eventually learn the ropes and basic things, and will stop asking you many things.

Now, it's understandable that you have other things to do, besides coaching this coworker. In that case, when you find yourself busy, the best you can to is to be clear and direct (but polite) with him:

Hey Joe, I'll gladly discuss about X with you. However, I am currently really busy and have tons of work to do. Would you mind coming back in Y minutes/hours so I can finish this and assist you without having to rush?

Furthermore, to make things easier for both of you, you can drop a guiding suggestion or tip along that phrase, so this coworker may work it out in the meantime:

"...but know what, try googling about technique Z. I am sure that is along the lines of what you need. When I get back to you we can see if you still have problems with that"

This is really important. Not only may this coworker find the answer on their own (sparing you from having to teach them), but you will also be encouraging him to be self-sufficient. This will prove valuable on the long run, so he doesn't make a habit of going to you for every little thing he can't figure out.


Ok, so there's a fundamental issue here that's being sort of overlooked.

You have a business analyst who is attempting to write code in order to test results. Clearly this isn't his role.

While it's ok and helpful for business analysts to be able to analyse data and use tools to do so, actual programming seems a step too far.

Speak with your manager about this and see if it's appropriate that this guy should be writing code. If so, you need to declare his level of expertise and point out how much helping this guy is affecting your own work. You have your own job to do after all. If you're not speaking to your manager about helping the guy, you're effectively hiding the fact that you're not working to your full potential.

So, seek advice from your manager. If it's ok for this guy to learn, then book some time into the project plan accordingly and plan some session in.

If you can't formally spend some time with the guy, then someone else needs to be resourced to help, or something else needs to be arranged to fulfil the need for this analysis tool.

You can't really continue to carry this guy, he's turning into a help vampire that's affecting your own work.

  • 1
    Don't get why the DV, this is also a valid point to consider.
    – DarkCygnus
    Jul 27, 2018 at 20:59

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