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I've worked at a company for about a year and most of the stuff I support is custom. At this point in time I'm pretty comfortable supporting most of our software to external customers. However, occasionally I have to support something that I still have no experience with. What I'm supposed to do according to my boss is speak with a specific more senior employee. A lot of this software he wrote himself so he knows all of the little quirks.

The problem arises when I ask him for help and he is too busy. Typically, I will mention it in the morning and again after lunch. His response is usually "yeah, I'll be right there" or "as soon as I'm done with X". My latest issue has been dragging on for three days because he keeps putting me off. Now I have 2-3 issues stacking up that I need his help with. My gut says to go to our boss so he can tell him to re-prioritize and help me. However, I don't want to be seen as "telling" on him, especially since he's a nice guy just really busy.

  • Does this happen often? Is it something that you could consider (with the cooperation of this guy) to put together a "knowledge base" or "standard operating procedures"? – seventyeightist Apr 27 at 19:05
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Set up a meeting to explicitly go over the things you need to go over. Get it on his calendar.

It sounds like your colleague may actually be busy, or at least forgetful. When you get busy, it's easy to brush aside things that don't have definite time. I know I am guilty of this and so are a lot of other people. If I don't have defined time where I need to do something, it is really easy to stay absorbed in whatever I am doing and put everything else off.

Get a meeting on his calendar. He will have to explicitly accept or decline it. You will have a definite time to work out your issues. Then he can't leave you hanging.

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This really doesn't sound like an obedience problem. So, there's nothing to "tell on someone" about.

You both have things you need to get done. Some of your things need help from others -- but it's impossible for either you or him to know whether your item should take a higher priority than what he's already doing.

It's more than appropriate and beneficial to consult your manager and let them determine which is the better use of his time. Hiding this situation from them helps nobody. It may well be the case that your items should sort low right now.

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If you go to your boss, you better have some form of evidence that this colleague has indeed been avoiding you. If you have been making all of your requests in person then that will be a problem for you as the colleague can easily play dumb if confronted by your boss.

The simple solution is to keep everything in writing. If you need help from this colleague, send an email requesting help. The colleague will either respond that they are too busy or won't respond. In both cases, you have evidence that you can give to your boss if he asks you what is preventing you from completing your tasks.

  • What if this colleague sits right next to me so an email will seem odd? – James Apr 26 at 19:25
  • @James - An email is harder to avoid. You can use a sticky note as a subsitute for an email. – Ramhound Apr 26 at 19:32
  • @James What is more important to you? Getting your work done or not seeming odd? – sf02 Apr 26 at 19:38
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    @James, it's not odd. I email people who sit next to me all the time. Sometimes they are busy or not even there, so an email let's me communicate when I can't talk to them directly. Sometimes I just want to send "read this when you have time" message. There are lots of reasons to use email. Nothing weird about it. – Seth R Apr 26 at 19:39
  • there is always "As per our conversation earlier, we are meeting on Monday October 32nd at 18am, right? Thanks again for your help!" – aaaaaa Apr 26 at 19:41
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he's a nice guy just really busy

There is no such thing as "really busy". You either doing your job, follow-up on promises and commitments, manage your time, take responsibility, or you don't. Everybody at your work is busy, that's why they still work there.

Apart from trying to create paper trail for the commitments, you also might highlight that you would like to have precise or somewhat precise dates. It is somewhat unprofessional to repeatedly tell people

"yeah, I'll be right there" or "as soon as I'm done with X"

No. There is no "right there" on the clock face. There is no "I am done with X" on calendar. Propose specific time, i.e. "How about at 4pm?" or "Can we meet before Thursday, could you pick a time?" Be flexible, but always start with specifics. Your colleague have to understand that your schedule is not flexible and you have to plan things as anybody else. (I don't mean though that you should plan your day with 5 min resolution :)

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