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What is the proper way to handle a situation where a coworker (call them "Not-Started") is asking repeatedly, every day, in person, or via email the status on their project, when I am working on an unrelated different project for another coworker, and the original coworker's project is not started?

Do I keep telling them "it is not started"?

Do I tell them "I will let you know when I start working on it" (and repeat that every day to them, and any time they ask)?

I can also compose an email, and include my boss, and the "Currently-Working-On" coworker whose project I am actually working on, and tell the "Not Started" coworker that I am currently working on another project and your project is not yet started... Basically here I will include every person who is involved somehow and expose the transparency of the situation to all, even if that was not explicitly asked of me. What was explicitly asked was 'What is the status of the not-started project by "Not-Started" coworker.

Note: the "Not started" coworker is not aware or may not be aware of my other projects I am working on.

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    Who is assigning projects to you? Do you decide when to start this task, or does somebody else? – nvoigt Apr 8 at 15:30
  • There is no officially clear assigning person. Rarely it is my boss that assigns anything. Usually it is people in departments such as Engineering/Sales/etc. who know I am the person to go to for changes to the software. Sometimes those people to through Engineering project manager, sometimes directly to me. In effect I work with several customers directly, some of whom go through a project manager but it is me who manages projects based on perceived priority / urgency / persistence of the customer – dennismv Apr 8 at 15:37
  • I usually decide when to start, based on perceived assignment priority usually dependent on specific situation details. i.e. in this case, project assigned to me from engineering analyst who went through (got approval and "okay" from) engineering project manager first, got higher priority than one that was from an engineering coworker who did not go through any channel, but went directly to me. – dennismv Apr 8 at 15:37
  • They probably just want to know when they can expect the project to be completed. I would give them the longest estimation of time you can foresee, taking into account your other priorities and any complications that could arise. If that's not good enough for them, tell them to talk to whoever's in charge of arranging your priorities, i.e. your manager. – AffableAmbler Apr 8 at 15:52
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    This is a passive aggressive way to "encourage" you to start/finish their project. – Dark Matter Apr 8 at 16:32
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I think you might benefit from using a project management tool like a Kanban board that is shared among the co-workers that are interested in the status of you tasks. I mostly use trello.com because its free, has a nice UI, and is flexible in how it is used. There are other options out there but the idea of something like this is to provide an easily view-able display of your task/project status without the need to answer emails. I introduced this to a previous job and it was the only way I could see managing inputs from multiple teams and executives.

The basic idea is that you have "cards" that represent your tasks or projects. These can just be names of things or include notes and estimates, etc.. You then sort these cards into stacks/columns that represent status. I like to use [Backlog, On-Deck, In-Development, Ready For Test, Done] as my column names.. Now that you have you tasks sorted and displayed by status you can share the URL to your board with everyone and establish "Dont email me about what I am currently working on, there is a tool that shows that on demand". After that, changing the status of things is a matter of dragging and dropping cards in the UI.

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It seems right now, the only chance they have to get to know when their tasks will be done is to pester you every day. There is no other channel to get this information.

The obvious answer is create such a channel. I don't know what might be appropriate for your company. A scrum board? A project plan? A sticky note on the door? A precise forecast from a committee or a gut feeling estimate over a coffee break? We cannot know. You will need to figure that out. Look at how the rest of the company is working. If you need something done, how do they communicate to you when it will be done? That might be a good way to start.

Create appropriate channels so people can pull their information from a system when they need it. If you don't, you will be the point of contact and they will use whatever they deem necessary to get that information from you.

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