I am in USA and I work for a big global company. I recently moved to a new team which is in a different time zone in USA. I worked with them in their office for a few days and then began working 100% remotely from my time zone. My company has flexible work policies and many teams or people work remotely. A lot of people are leaving the company and very few are coming in, mostly due to problems in the management.

My new team does some things differently than the old one. In my role, we have to use a tool which can do, say 10 things. I am not sure, but I think that all people of my role were given some documentation a few years ago to learn how to do all those things.

In the old team, a person in my role was required to do only 2/10 things, say A & B. The rest were done by our team lead. It so happened that someone showed me how to do A & B. So, I there was never any need to read that document or learn any of the other tasks. But, in the new team there is no lead as such and I have to do other things besides A & B, say C & D.

I asked my new teammate if he could show me how to do the C & D. He said that all people in our role in the company were given some documentation on how to do those things a few years ago and he expects me to know all that. I asked him if it does not take too long, then could he show me how to do the other things. I told him that if it will be too long to explain, then I could find the (years old) documentation and go through it first. But, he did not answer my question and told me to mention this to the manager. This discussion happened in an online call with my teammate. He hung up the call abruptly without saying bye or such which he does not do generally.

I tend to read documentation first before asking others to explain things to me. So, I don't think I might have done anything to deserve the kind of reaction I got.

How do I deal with a coworker who seems to be curt and avoids helping me ? I wonder if I should ask my manager upfront if the new teammate wants me in the team or not. I don't want to work in a team or company where people behave like this.

UPDATE - I appreciate all the answers, but it seems like some of them are missing the point that my teammate's reply was curt and uncalled for. I believe that the teammate could have simply replied "Learning C & D will take a lot of time, and I don't have the time. Please read the docs." instead of "read the docs" and "talk to the manager". The latter is rude and seems passive aggressive. I want to call out such behavior before it becomes a problem for the team.

Anyway, I found someone else "James" to help me. It took well under an hour to get the knowledge and I even documented it for others to use. After talking to James I discovered that our team does not do C & D exactly according to standard procedure. Our technique differs significantly and only 3 people (including James) know that difference.

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    "I tend to read documentation first before asking others to explain things to me" Have you already found and gone through the "years old" documentation? – sf02 Aug 19 '19 at 20:41
  • @sf02 - I am looking for it. – RemoteGuy Aug 19 '19 at 20:42
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    Well I can see why your teammate would be slightly annoyed if you have yet to read the documentation – sf02 Aug 19 '19 at 20:43
  • @sf02 - I never had to read that doc in order to do A & B tasks. Someone showed it to me. I never had to do the other types of tasks and never saw the doc after that. Let me clarify that in my post. – RemoteGuy Aug 19 '19 at 20:45
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    Even after your update, not reading the documentation is the core issue here. – Solar Mike Aug 20 '19 at 5:12

I tend to read documentation first before asking others to explain things to me. So, I don't think I might have done anything to deserve the kind of reaction I got.

But in this case you didn't read the documentation first. You knew there was documentation, old as it may be, but instead of looking for it and reviewing it first you reached out to your colleague for an easy answer.

His response to you may have been an overreaction, but isn't completely unjustified.

Read the documentation, follow it, then ask him follow up questions if you don't understand something or get stuck.

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    I don't feel his reaction is justified. He's clearly trying to make a big deal of this simple request. If he did not want to answer, he should've pointed at the docs and left it at that. Even saying "They're somewhere in that doc pile, search for C or so" would've been fine, and really not a big ask. – bytepusher Aug 19 '19 at 21:09
  • @Ramhound - Please see my updated question. – RemoteGuy Aug 19 '19 at 22:56
  • I appreciate all the answers, but it seems like some of them are missing the point that my teammate's reply was curt and uncalled for. - Curt or not, you seem to be blaming your colleague for your lack of effort. Maybe he's tired of people asking him to spoon feed them information. Is there additional context that you're not telling us? Is this the first time you've asked this colleague for help before putting in your own effort? Is your colleague the "go to" guy whenever someone has a question? – joeqwerty Aug 20 '19 at 1:45

How do I deal with a coworker who seems to be curt and avoids helping me

In defense of your coworker, you asked him how to do C and D, he told you that there was documentation explaining how to do C and D and you proceeded to ask again without having even acquired the documentation.

You were lucky that someone taught you how to do A and B, but you can't expect someone to teach you everything especially if there exists documentation on how to do what you want to learn. I would recommend that you first locate and read the documentation and if you have any questions you can approach your coworker. Just make it clear that you have already read the documentation and you may receive better help.

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  • No, I asked him IF it would not take too much time to explain, then could he explain it to me ? A simple answer like "Too long, and I don't have the time." would have sufficed, instead of "talk to the manager". Such behavior can be a symptom of a bigger problem in the team. I'd like to identify them and resolve them before they become worse. – RemoteGuy Aug 19 '19 at 23:20
  • @RemoteGuy I understand you asked nicely, but his first response to your initial inquiry was to refer you to the manual and you completely ignored this and proceeded to pursue the issue. – sf02 Aug 20 '19 at 15:59

He hung up the call abruptly without saying bye or such which he does not do generally.

Be careful you're not committing a Fundamental Attribution Error. Assumptions made about someone's character based on a single interaction are oftentimes misleading. You don't really know why he hung up on you. He could've been having a bad day or maybe he was running late for a meeting. The fact that you have prior evidence of him being more personable lends credence to the possibility that his phone demeanor was unrelated to your question. Before you do anything drastic, I would advise you give him a few more chances.

Another possibility is that he's perfectly friendly and just doesn't like people interrupting his workflow with random questions. If this is the case, use him only as a last resort and go to others whenever possible.

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Read the documents if you can find them. Ask your team for the documents if you don't have them. Ask your boss to help you if you can't find the documents, or if you don't understand them and can't get anyone to help you learn what you need to know.

Analysis and Recommendations

You actually have two problems, not just one. Remote workers can (for various reasons) often be politically or socially out in the cold, and may not benefit from "hallway meetings" and drop-ins that might reduce some of the friction you're experiencing. The other issue is that you have a knowledge gap, and are dealing with a social expectation that you should already know something.

First, accept that you have both a knowledge deficit and a social one. You have to take some ownership of the situation, regardless of whether or not there is "fault" of some kind. Focus on the solutions, not on the problem!

Next, read the relevant documents. If you can't find the documents, ask your team mates for another copy. If they can't or won't provide a copy, then ask your manager. It's in your manager's best interest for you to have a copy now, whether or not you read it several years ago. Leverage that.

Once you've read the document, if you don't understand it or if your learning style is more visual, go ahead and be honest with your boss about what you need help with. Laziness (e.g. you don't feel like reading the docs) is pretty unpersuasive and generally unacceptable, but a guided tour of features you have never had to work with before is not unreasonable on its face. Unless you've already gained a reputation for needing too much hand-holding, your manager should be receptive if you make a legitimate knowledge/learning gap visible and ask appropriately for help.

Don't make this an interpersonal issue if it isn't one already. Focus on your role and your responsibilities, and ask for help when you need it. However, be honest in your self-assessments as well, and make sure that you aren't being a "help vampire" or failing to be a self-starter. As long as you're truly doing your best, and doing work that your manager values, your manager is likely to collaborate with you to resolve the technical or interpersonal issues that you're experiencing. Open a constructive dialog with him or her about the knowledge gap, but avoid expressing hurt feelings as some sort of action item.

Always remember that your manager's job is to ensure you have the tools, training, and knowledge to complete work that benefits the company. A manager's job isn't to salve your feelings, help you make friends, or teach you the basic skills you are expected to have in your role. It's your responsibility to ensure you're communicating effectively with your manager about your role, responsibilities, and any blockers you face.

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