There is a task to be done, and there is a dispute over whether Bob or I should do it.

Bob doesn't want to do it because it's a pain in the rear. But he has the knowledge, skills, and abilities to get it done.

I literally don't know how to do it. It's a very technical task.

My manager thinks Bob and I both are just being immature and we're pointing our fingers at each other in the same way. But in fact I literally am not qualified; Bob is.

How to express this without seeming childish and stubborn?

2 Answers 2


Gaining knowledge and qualifications is the way to grow in your job. Providing the qualifications are not legal qualifications (designing a building requires a qualified architect), this is your opportunity to grow.

You do need to let your boss know that it is going to take you longer than Bob, and let Bob know that you're going to need to bug him a lot in order to figure out the task.

Hey Boss, Bob - I don't know how to do this task, but I am willing to learn. I know it will take me longer than Bob as I learn it, and Bob, I'll need to ask you questions too. Please be patient with me.

Find out the best way to ask questions of Bob, perhaps one email with a list of questions or a short in-person meeting each day, or whatever works best for him. Make sure you keep the boss updated on your progress, so boss isn't blindsided when it's not done as soon as expected.

Sure, this will soon make this your pain in the rear task. But you will also be seen as someone who is willing to jump in and learn, and that attitude will help you learn and advance faster, perhaps faster than Bob.

BTW, this also achieves your goal of letting your boss know you're not qualified for the task. And if the boss wants it sooner or better, then they will tell Bob to do it. All the while you look like a team player who is willing to learn and help.

Update: If this job really will take a year to learn how to do, then one other thing you need to keep your boss updated on is the other work you have assigned that is not being done. Let the boss know that tasks W, X, and Z will not be done while you figure out how to do task K, and if work needs to be prioritized differently, putting K on the back burner while you work on tasks W and Z, you are willing to do that. In other words, always keep your boss updated on both what is being done and what isn't being done. Do it in an informative rather than combative manner.

  • I was just in the middle of writing an answer very similar to this, but you beat me to it and i like your version better anyway. Have an upvote.
    – Seth R
    Jan 31, 2019 at 19:06
  • @SethR I hate it when that happens! Because I have to do that a lot too. Jan 31, 2019 at 19:07
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    Gentlemen, I greatly appreciate the sentiment and positivity in this answer. Unfortunately it does not fit as an answer to my situation as the necessary qualifications would take so long to acquire that responding in this way would sound sarcastic ("I can do it for you, but it'll take more than a year" would not go over well). Please work with the assumption that Bob and I have significantly different, specialized skill sets.
    – John Wu
    Jan 31, 2019 at 19:39
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    @JohnWu That's part of letting your boss know the time it will take up front. If it really will take more than a year, then your boss will either ask Bob to do it, or is fine with you taking a year to learn how to do it. Jan 31, 2019 at 19:40
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    @JohnWu In other words, either Bob does the task or the company pays for you to study and learn. It sounds like a win either way. Jan 31, 2019 at 19:46

Whenever I am assigned a task outside my ability or comfort. I never say "no". I take the task, I start learning and work toward a solution. However, I always tell my boss "This is going to take a long time." and I give a honest estimate which is often, very long and sometimes, I get the "ok". Sometimes there's absolutely no choice. Personally, I just see it as part of the job. If you're a technical person it's your job to get technical. Period. Your job to dig and grind through that documentation and process.

I'm literally going through this right now. All I do is sit with my boss occasionally and explain where I am in the overall process and how it's going.

I leave the "who is going to do it" up to my boss. If I'm asked to do something, I don't pass the task, I do it and I'm up front on the time frame and resources required. If It's an issue, my boss will resolve it. You can't just magically have the skill, but you can always have the motivation to learn.

In short, say yes, keep boss up to date and grind through it.

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