I work on web development but this week a colleague of mine entrusted me to do some devops work. He'd shown me how a couple of things work and what should I do if someone asked me to do them. He also informed people that he was going to be away so if they needed something they could come to me.

However, as the week starts, no one seems to bother to ask me anything and ignores my presence completely. For a moment I thought everything was fine, but as I soon learnt from him messaging me, people keep constantly bothering him. He started asking me why I'm not doing anything about it, until finally a colleague appears and simply demands me to hand over the document we built together.

Should I be worried about this sort of behaviour or should I have done something differently?

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    Did either you or Bob communicate out to the team that you would be covering these tasks in Bob's absence? – DanK Feb 25 '19 at 17:50
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    Yes, Bob did communicate it right after showing me the ropes. – Will Turner Feb 25 '19 at 18:06
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    This is really normal when a trusted colleague goes on vacation. You don't trust the temporary replacement and you go directly to the colleague even while on vacation. Bob needs to set better boundaries. – jcmack Feb 25 '19 at 18:41
  • "finally a colleague appears and simply demands me to hand over the document we built together" - I guess that "we" means Bob & the OP. Which sounds like the colleague does not trust the OP to do the job. next time, have the supervisor announce in advance how things will work – Mawg says reinstate Monica Feb 26 '19 at 8:31
  • When they message Bob, do the get an automated reply stating they should turn to you? – Bernhard Döbler Jun 26 '19 at 7:58

To clarify (Bob is your coworker who is away):

  1. Bob told people to come to you while he was away.

  2. Nobody came to you.

  3. Later, you found out (from Bob, via messaging) that people were still contacting him instead of you.

Correct? And he blames you for this?

I would begin by politely explaining, to Bob, that you had no idea anybody had any questions, as they hadn't approached you directly. Assure him that you are ready and willing to do so if people come, and will try to address this issue with others.

Then (if you feel comfortable doing so) send out an email to the team, reminding them that Bob is away this week and any questions normally directed at him should be sent to you instead. If possible, quote the original email (or other written notification) from Bob, saying that people should contact you.

If you don't feel comfortable doing that, speak to your supervisor* about the best way to remind people that these questions should be coming to you, not being sent to Bob, while he's away.

* If your supervisor is Bob, substitute the next best person who IS present. Maybe Bob's boss?

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    I've cleared it up with Bob for now, he doesn't blame me for it anymore but he still finds it odd that everyone decided not to come to me. – Will Turner Feb 25 '19 at 18:07
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    Also, specifically ask Bob that if someone contacts him directly, he should send them to you. – DJClayworth Feb 25 '19 at 18:52
  • @WillTurner It's relatively normal, but not a good sign. If people were not told that they should come to you, then it's completely understandable that they still go to Bob. If they were told, it's possible (only possible) they don't think you would do as good a job as Bob and would rather come to him. That's not unlikely if Bob is perceived as the expert and you are relatively new. It's also possible they just forgot. In any case, they way to address it is to actively seek out these tasks and then do a really great job with them (relative to your experience). – DJClayworth Feb 25 '19 at 18:55
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    This is EXACTLY why you should always use TEAMS to communicate. You should have a team email, IM, etc. People should be DIRECTLY and STRONGLY discouraged from contacting individuals. – Wesley Long Feb 25 '19 at 21:26
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    @DJClayworth: I'd say Bob needs to have an email auto-responder as well as his voicemail point everyone to the OP. Then simply ignore any and all messages that come through unless they go through the OP. – NotMe Feb 25 '19 at 22:17

Yes, you should be worried. Your colleagues either don't trust you, or do not wish to work closely with you. Figure which one it is, and fix that problem.

People will tell you that this is normal, but it really isn't. If a colleague going on vacation tells me to my face "hey, you need help with X, go ask Y", then whenever I need help with X, you know what I'll do? I'll go ask Y. I won't call the colleague on vacation. Very few people would.

The fact that everyone at your workplace did just that, suggests they, like I said above, have either zero faith in your abilities, or do not care to talk to you.

If its the former, you obviously need to put in more of an effort at work to change their perception of you.

If it is the latter, then that's a social issue and much harder to solve, but something which you might want to keep in mind.

  • I think you may have missed a detail here. The OP and Bob don't do the same work - related, but not exactly. Bob is the one who should be worried. I've been in his position, and this signals that my coworkers don't trust me to be able to train somebody to babysit the things I've unleashed onto the company. It's possible that Bob picked someone from a related team for the same reason I did. I'd tried to train the rest of my team, and it didn't take with any of them. I get why they were dubious. But I wouldn't have left our partnered team as backup if I hadn't had confidence in him. – Ed Grimm Feb 26 '19 at 3:59
  • Marquiel is correct (I upvoted) - they don't trust the OP. See "finally a colleague appears and simply demands me to hand over the document we built together". No trust at all – Mawg says reinstate Monica Feb 26 '19 at 8:33

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