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I work in a small company and I've helped out my colleagues with small IT issues in the past. However, we just hired a dedicated IT company that is meant to take over all IT issues. My manager has specifically directed me to let the IT firm handle any IT issues.

The complication is that my colleagues still come to me with IT questions and issues. I decline to help as instructed, but my co-workers appear to be annoyed when I turn them down. I always tell them "call the IT company" when an issue arises - but the turn-around times for the IT company to respond are extremely long (days to months) when I could previously fix something in the moment.

What can I say to my co-workers so I'm not the bad guy sending them off to the IT group?

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    Have you told them that you're under direct orders and that the boss shouts at you when you help them? If they have the same boss as you they may be sympathetic to your helplessness in this situation. – Stun Brick Aug 22 at 15:44
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    @StunBrick I did tell a couple people that I was "talked to" about this and that everything has to go to the IT company now. They began ranting about how that's ridiculous and they can't get anything done. I didn't really know what to say in response so I just said "I agree, but I can't do anything about it". – Jared Aug 22 at 15:46
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    This sounds a lot to me like the problem isn't really you referring to the external IT company, but rather them being upset that the external IT company provides absolutely terrible service. – MechMK1 Aug 23 at 8:21
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    Does your company have team (or otherwise) meetings where this can be brought up and other users can air grievances about the time taken by the outsourced IT company? – mcalex Aug 23 at 8:46
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What can I say to my co-workers so I'm not the bad guy sending them off to the IT group?

"I'd love to help, but I'm under direct and specific instructions to refer everything to the service provider we've contracted with."

If it gets bad enough, your boss will "find the time" to deal with things.

Aside from that: You have to follow your instructions.

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    +1 The plain truth, though not the truth everyone wants to hear, is that you can't fix other peoples' attitudes if you can't fix the problem that is causing them. Not your department, direct them to the boss' office. – Francine DeGrood Taylor Aug 22 at 15:57
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    I would add "and if this issue is impacting your ability to work, please raise the issue with the boss. " Otherwise it may take a long time before the boss realizes that he needs to find time for the OP to fix things (and/or renegotiate the contract with IT) . – Peter M Aug 22 at 16:09
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    +1 I think this is the right answer. But people tend to get annoyed with one sentence answers to their problems. So it's better to elaborate a little and put this sentence in the middle. Maybe add something like "Maybe somebody wasn't happy with my work or boss got annoyed that my projects for the company got delayed so much because of the many other computer issues. But the fact is I'll likely get in trouble if you don't use the service company because I helped you." – Mangocherry Aug 22 at 16:15
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    The only thing I'd add is "... and if we don't escalate these issues to management, they won't know how to get IT Company to do what it's being paid to do." – Julie in Austin Aug 22 at 16:33
  • This answer could also help with many other communication questions by breaking down the suggested text: start with a positive ("I'd love to help") and explain why you're saying something ("I'm under ..."). It could also be good to add a bit of empathy and end with a positive, which may involve presenting some pros of what you're suggesting, an alternative (if applicable) or how to best handle what you're telling them to do (like escalating the response time issue with management). – Dukeling Aug 24 at 23:32
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There are two major issues here. Firstly, you were spending too much time fixing other peoples problems, and your work (presumably) wasn't getting done. Secondly, the IT company (supposedly the solution to the first issue) isn't performing.

You won't fix the first problem by just doing what you used to do. You need to reject any requests. However, you also need to help your manager solve the second issue (it looks like nobody is actively managing the outsourced company). Do this by the following;

  1. When you get a shoulder-tap, ask the person to fill in a support ticket (preferably on the outsourced companies system, but if they don't have one, set one up in house). When they say that they don't have time for that, or that the supplier is too slow, you can tell them that you're under instruction to not work on stuff, but you are working on tracking the performance of that company. If they raise the ticket, their work may get done. If it doesn't get done, you have a record of it not being actioned.

  2. Have a regular weekly meeting with the support company to look at tickets raised, tickets completed, and tickets waiting. Just the threat of that meeting will make things happen quicker. If it doesn't, you'll have meeting minutes to take to your boss when you're looking at a replacement support company.

The advantage to you is that you end up managing the situation, not just firefighting, and your resume gets a little boost because you can show that you work well with and manage external suppliers.

  • Not exactly accurate, but I see we're you're coming from. I was getting my work done, but IT issues kept arising. A lot of our stuff was old and my boss didn't really go for upgrading it. Now that the IT company is involved he fine with upgrading everything they suggest. – Jared Aug 22 at 21:47
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    I just assumed all IT companies were like this. – Strawberry Aug 23 at 11:50
  • I'm not sure we can assume that it is the OP's responsibility to do what you are describing in the second paragraph onwards. Unless it is specifically part of his job to monitor the external IT company, then this should be left to the manager. Of course OP can inform the manager about the perceived problem, and suggest a solution such as in this answer, but it's up to the manager to decide whether or not OP should be given this task. For that reason (and absent confirmation from OP that this is part of his job), I don't agree with "you also need to help your manager solve the second issue". – Jon Bentley Aug 25 at 22:27
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Your manager has failed to do his job. Making sure that employees understand and follow policies is a managerial function. You're not a manager.

Contact your manager, inform him that the other employees persist in soliciting your help instead of going to the contractor. Also tell him that they are probably doing this because the contractor takes hours, days, or weeks to address issues that you can fix in minutes. Request that the new policy be clearly and consistently communicated.

There is also a deeper issue: Making sure that employees have the support to do their jobs is management's role (it's their raison d'etre). Not only has management failed to ensure that all employees follow the new policy, management has failed to ensure that their system for keeping the IT going is adequate.

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Your colleagues have every right to be annoyed: instead of getting their IT problems solved within minutes, they now have to wait for days / months. They are not necessarily annoyed with you personally, so there's nothing for you to do except perhaps expressing sympathy.

Only if there are people who act as if the whole situation was your fault, you should reiterate to them that outsourcing your IT tasks is not your decision, so you're not the one they should be complaining to.

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One element missing from the other answers here is that you're willing to help your colleagues if your manager is OK with it. So you'd be OK with your colleagues going to your manager for permission, and you should tell them that.

This serves three purposes:

  • It really drives home the point that you're doing this because you have to, not because you chose to.
  • Sometimes it really will be something urgent or important enough that your manager will make an exception; but if you don't explicitly suggest they seek an exception, then they might avoid doing so out of feeling that they're "going above your head" or "ratting you out".
  • Whether or not your manager makes an exception, this will help him/her see that the IT firm isn't really meeting people's needs.

I'd suggest saying something like:

I'm really sorry, I can't; Janet has specifically told me not to spend time on IT issues, and to let ITFirmCorp handle them. But if your USB drive not working is an urgent problem and you want Janet to have me help you with it, you can talk to her.

You can optionally add:

If ITFirmCorp isn't working out for us, then maybe Janet will change the policy — but she'll never do that if she never learns that there's a problem.


Of course, you yourself should also tell your manager that this is happening; your manager will want to know about the problems with ITFirmCorp, and you don't want him/her to be surprised when people start contacting him/her about IT issues.

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Tell them that you were instructed by your boss to not help them with IT related stuff.

Also, if the IT company really takes days to months to respond to something simple that you could solve in the moment, maybe you all should start collecting evidence of this so maybe you can hire a less shitty company to do this job.

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See if you your boss is willing to be the 'bad guy' and take some of the heat and lay down the law? So if someone comes to you asking for help, walk them directly over to your boss to decide if it is something for you to solve, and then get your boss to lay down the law.

Encourage your boss to send out a reminder about proper procedures to get help, and ask your boss if you should be reporting the individuals that continue to come to you directly to them?

Encourage your boss to collect some kind of metrics about how good/bad the external IT support is doing at responding promptly and solving the problems. If your peers think the IT support is crap, maybe it is. But if they are complaining to you, instead of your boss, maybe your boss isn't getting the message that the IT support is sub-par.

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The real problem here is that the IT company takes days to months for things you could fix in the moment.

As such, I don't think the IT company is really doing its job properly (it might be more complex for them, but taking months for something apparently simple??).

Now, the IT company may be given more work than it can handle from you, they may be doing work for other companies that makes their response times for your employees bad, the contracted service may have been lower than what your company actually needed, they could have assigned people without the required expertise to work for your company, they could simply be incompetents.

The fact is, that your company has contracted another one to provide a service that "isn't really working".

If you do their job, you would be doing what they are payed to do, and it would simply hide the problem (whereas the IT company would still be payed in full, probably).

It could nonetheless make sense to do that, as it may provide more benefit for the company that you spent 5 minutes on problem X (company loses 5 minutes of your time) than being blocked for a month (coworker loses many more hours) waiting for the IT company, even if the IT company was to be payed anyway. However, in this case you have been explicitly told not to.

What your coworkers need to do is to complain to their manager that they have been waiting for N days for the IT company to do X, so they can't proceed with (they might even add "and Daniel used to do that in 5 minutes")

Then their manager would handle it properly, which could go from informing their manager about that, treating directly with the IT company, getting your manager to approve that you did this... (or, perhaps, do nothing and let X wait for months if it's not important or they want to see how it actually takes them)

By solving the problem, your bosses may think that everything is handled by the IT company while they actually do very little. Escalating the problem is the proper approach so that higher-ups are aware of issues caused by the high turn-around of the IT company, so that solutions can be taken.

Given that you were explicitly instructed to derive them to the IT company, maybe it was done so that you (and other Daniels there) could actually focus on your assigned tasks.

It is possible that -after being aware of the real extent of the issues of your coworkers that aren't being solved by the IT company- your managers find some intermediate solution, such as assigning you a couple of hours on Fridays to help your coworkers with the withstanding tasks that have been open for more than k days, but it is their call.

On the interpersonal part, simply saying "call the IT company" gives a message that "I don't care about your issues, I don't want to help, it's not my problem".

I think you should stop, look to them if you were not, showing with your body language that your are paying attention to them, and explaining them that you would love to help them but your manager doesn't allow you to (although you would happily help if allowed), and all these previous things I have been elaborating above. Let them rant about the terrible service of the IT company, they are not expecting that you are able to make them do a proper job, they are just sharing their problems (which will make them good, too), a response that simply expressed your sympathy would be fine.

Yes, it may take more time than fixing their petty issue, but I think it's the right approach here. Maintaining a good workplace environment is well-worth dedicating a few minutes for that (and you are spending them by following your manager orders of sending them to the IT company, anyway). Of course, you don't need to repeat everything to that coworker to which you have already explained it everything multiple times yet continues going to you.

PS: I hope your company has this properly set up, so all these tasks go through a ticketing system, which would provide the data for the actual turnaround, time spent, etc. Maybe it only took them a month once, and it was for a task actually hard, or there where other tasks with much higher priority going on at that point. It could be that tasks take a long time to solve, but there are actually things that the IT company needs from your company (from authorization to do Y, to clarification from the requestor what they really need) that makes it slow. A good system like that would allow to find out where the issue is and, if it is really their fault, provide evidence to demand they improve their services, or replace them with a better one.

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