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In our team one person was let-off last year. That person wasn't replaced and the work down was absorbed by the remaining team members. It got hectic.

Then there was another team that was working on X. Someone in the higher-up decided to move that team to project Y and our team was assigned X as an additional task. So that got added to our plates without any increase in resources. This added to the stress but after a few months we cut down on a lot of older tasks and were able to deal with this.

In the last 5 months, 2 employees have left the organization, both from our team. They still haven't been replaced. However, their work is being absorbed by the remaining team members.

  1. Is it appropriate for managers to ask for more resources to replace the ones that resigned/were let-off?

  2. If yes, then why doesn't anyone ever do it? I have more than a decade of experience in software. I've not seen a single instance of them replacing people who left the company + team. Is this normal?

  3. Also, if yes, then is it appropriate for managers to call attention to the fact that "Tasks that cannot be completed until we get more resources for the team" to the higher management? If this is possible then I could escalate a couple of tasks as things that cannot be completed.

  • Just to confirm; has nobody already openly said to the higher-ups that taking on these additional tasks will delay those already being worked on by the remaining employees? – user34587 Mar 18 at 8:33
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    "Showcase" is probably not a good word choice. Are you the manager? It sounds more like you are a member of this team, frustrated that the manager hasn't done what you wish they would - or perhaps they have raised it with their manager, but the conversation was private. – Chris Stratton Mar 18 at 13:56
  • What would be a better choice than "showcase"? Yes, I'm a member of this team. I'm doing like 2.5-3 times the work that I was originally doing and I need to understand what's going on to make a career move. Understanding the answer to this question is very important in my whole decision-making process. – Mugen Mar 18 at 14:02
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    You "showcase" something you are proud of. You "call attention to" "raise" or "emphasize" a concern. About the only way to apply the word to your situation would be to "showcase" how much you have done with so little. It's not a trivial distinction - what you are describing is largely a communication problem, and word choice matters to the impression created when attempting to communicate. – Chris Stratton Mar 18 at 14:22
  • @ChrisStratton Thanks for the correction! I've updated it in the OP. BTW, I've read your previous comment at least 5 times (the first one on in this thread). Somehow, I find it deeply validating. Also, there's something "crisp" in the sentence structure. – Mugen Mar 18 at 17:46
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Is it appropriate for managers to ask for more resources to replace the ones that resigned/were let-off?

Yes.

If yes, then why doesn't anyone ever do it? I have more than a decade of experience in software. I've not seen a single instance of them replacing people who left the company + team. Is this normal?

Normally, the reason for this is the available funding. Most "good" companies will replace staff ASAP as they know that it will eventually lead to other staff leaving if roles are not filled. Another thing is higher ups might not be aware. This could an issue you have to uptake with your manager.

Also, if yes, then is it appropriate for managers to showcase "Tasks that cannot be completed until we get more resources for the team" to the higher management? If this is possible then I could escalate a couple of tasks as things that cannot be completed.

But they are being completed. At the cost of unhappy employees and at a much slower rate. As a manager you can never say "this will not be done". You have to find a way to get them done with what you're given. Your manager may be able to put in a case to get more employees but can never say the work won't be done because X and Y.

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    "Your manager may be able to put in a case to get more employees but can never say the work won't be done because X and Y." But this is a ridiculous culture among the management people! Any idea what is the reasoning behind this? We're at half-the strength of our original team. The only way to finish off the work is to over-work without any extra pay. – Mugen Mar 18 at 13:44
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    @Mugen you are assuming the work has to be finished on time. A manager is totally able to say "this won't be finished by the current deadline" – Erik Mar 18 at 13:45
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    @Mugen it's entirely possible that they have raised the issue, but that this conversation was private. – Chris Stratton Mar 18 at 13:54
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    @ChrisStratton It doesn't make sense in my case. The senior manager is the person who's added 2 more tasks on our team's plate after 2 people quit. Our team is at half-the-strength and he's created 2 extra tasks for the whole team. If a private discussion ever happens between a manager and his superior, then I'm guessing that the superior would acknowledge "we cannot complete ABC currently because we don't have resources." which I understand would translate to the manager informing his subordinates "don't worry about task ABC for now. We will pick it up once we get a new resource". – Mugen Mar 18 at 13:59
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    @Mugen because the work can be finished, it's just that either it'll be delivered late, or something else will be delivered late, or it'll be much more expensive. It's not a question of "can it be done", it's a question of "when can it be done, what will have to be cancelled to get it done, and what will it cost?". – Erik Mar 18 at 14:21
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1) It is appropriate for managers to ask for more resources.

2) People do do it, this is part of a managers role.

3) Yes, if a project hits a block then it's necessary to identify the reasons why and rectify them with whatever means are available. It's quite normal to escalate if it cannot be handled at one level. This provides a paper trail to cover the manager if things don't work out. It also highlights the problem and solution to people who can do something about it.

  • "It's quite normal to escalate if it cannot be handled at one level. " Do you mean it is acceptable for managers to escalate an issue like "we cannot do X anymore because 2 employees have quit and now we're grossly under-resourced"? – Mugen Mar 18 at 13:46
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    Yes, if a manager cannot solve a problem with the resources they have then escalate, otherwise the problem doesn't get solved. It's a judgement call on when and how it's done. In my opinion the sooner the better if the manager is sure, because the longer problems are left the worse the impact can be in many different ways. It also provides some protection for the manager in that the attempt to get a solution is visible. – Kilisi Mar 18 at 13:49
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Is it appropriate for managers to ask for more resources to replace the ones that resigned/were let-off?

It is the role of a manager to ensure they have the necessary resources to meet their targets while minimising the cost to the business. That doesn't mean automatically replacing people who leave, if there is not enough work for the team.

If yes, then why doesn't anyone ever do it?

These discussions will usually be held in private between managers and directors (or whatever the next layer of management is called). The director will need to evaluate whether the cost the manager is asking for will bring sufficient benefit to the business.

Also, if yes, then is it appropriate for managers to call attention to the fact that "Tasks that cannot be completed until we get more resources for the team" to the higher management?

Absolutely. A manager should be having periodic reviews of project progress with the director, highlighting what is being delivered and what are the risks to the business (which includes what tasks are not being done with the current team).

If this is possible then I could escalate a couple of tasks as things that cannot be completed.

You should also be in regular communication with your manager, discussing the work that you are involved in and anything that is preventing you from completing your assigned work. Your manager should want to know when you expect your tasks to be completed. You can say "I estimate ticket 1 at two weeks work, and ticket 2 at three weeks work. I have not estimated ticket 3 as I do not expect to be starting it this month".

You can then forget about ticket 3. If your manager needs it to be delivered sooner, then they are responsible for finding a way of making that happen. That might asking you to prioritise it above ticket 1 or assigning it to another team member.

If after that they ask you to deliver all three tickets in two weeks, you can say "I don't believe that will be possible, but I will do my best, starting with ticket 1".

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