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In an industrial company, I work in a team including a software maker. This is a very experienced person, and he has a great knowledge.

We are working on a project, and I have a task to do after him. However, we had meetings together. He has to do A on project, then I will do B on it. He asked me to help him to prepare some data for the project, in a specific format. Note that it is some sort of help from me to him, and not an assigned task but it is OK.

I am not experienced on this data, but I tried some preparation: it was always rejected with (it is my point of view there) little feedback. So I disturb him during task A a few times to present him new proposals of preparation, and it was always rejected.

And suddendly, a few days ago, we discuss on that ago and the "preparation of data for task A" has suddendly become a "preparation of data to help me understand the project".

So I made clear that I did not understand that way what he asked me, and that I will continue to learn about the project in order to achieve task B.

Problems are:

First problem: Before the explanation, while I was proposing different formats as I thought it was useful for task A, he said: "you're are disturbing me in my work".

Second problem: I think that guy, and some others in the team, are perceiving me as a "young and unreliable" guy, with no experience. He saying me to do that (the data preparation) in order to learn is typical because it did help me, but he was no transparent on that objective.

Questions are:

How to explain, in the future, to managers/other coworkers, that there was a misunderstanding (from him that nearly lied to me, but I am ready to say from both of us) that leads me to disturb him in his work? He might day I am the cause of him being late in his work (I took from his time nearly a day out of 2 weeks).

How to explain to managers, that were part of initial meetings, that the task of me preparing the data has been abandonned because I only use it as a way to learn and not as something to deliver?

  • 1
    Don't try to blame anybody. Don't accuse anybody of lying! Just say you had a hard time "coming up to speed" on the correct way to prepare the data. This senior co-worker is not the only person you will meet with poor communication and social skills. His manager certainly knows about his problem in this area. – O. Jones Aug 23 at 12:03
  • The problem is that I had a hard time because coworker refused anything at first and then said it was not a need for him – totalMongot Aug 23 at 16:26
  • This is where meetings come in handy. I can fully understand the need to go and discuss something with someone right away, I am also still partly in this mindset and have to still learn. But people usually can't just stop their whole work and thought process for whatever comes up, or nothing ever gets done. As soon as you have a question that goes beyond 3-5min to answer, set up a meeting, prepare and give the other party time to prepare. Go into the meeting well prepared, with questions, examples, etc. and come out with more knowledge. – Dirk Aug 28 at 14:28
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Write.

As soon as the task is agreed upon put in writing your agreement as you understood it with details and ask for confirmation in order to avoid misunderstandings.

This is almost always a useful practice: with sneaky people it helps to nail them to their responsibilities, with 'normal' colleagues is a way to avoid that something gets back to bite any of you should someone forget a detail or make assumptions not shared by all.

as agreed on past meeting with A, B, X, Z (day/month here) task Y is assigned to X with the goal K. Z will provide input in CSV/XML/whatever format; Z will also provide feedback on the solution produced by X. The deadline for delivery is W. If there are no addition to make i'll start working on the task.

The closing sentence must be tailored to match the actual need: friendly or not depending on the people you have to deal with.

After a few missed feedback you can refer to the initial message explaining why you are stuck, asking your colleague and/or your boss how to proceed.

  • It's sometimes helpful to make these seem somewhat submissive by saying that you are doing it to make sure that you correctly understood what was asked and that you'd appreciate any clarifications if anything is missing or incorrect. – David Schwartz Aug 23 at 0:03
  • Maybe it is culture and/or environment dependent, but being somewhat submissive is something I find easy to backfire, moreover in the situation described by OP: already seen as a junior, explicitly state in writing that the request is to address his doubts. Nailing his coffin imo... – Paolo Aug 23 at 2:40
  • Thank you for your hindisght. I wrote a mail saying giving my preparation of data and saying that if "needed, [coworker] has it". Was it good? – totalMongot Aug 23 at 16:27

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