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I have a customer that has been going through me to request work. All requests need to go through my manager before we can address them. I have already sent her 3 mails stating this. The last 2 mails I sent her specifically said "Please coordinate with the "boss" to get this task scheduled".

What is the most professional way to handle this situation in the future?

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    relevant answer – enderland Sep 24 '13 at 16:17
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    @abhi - Why don't you just forward the emails? Don't respond to the emails simply forward them to your supervisor. Your supervisor will handle the user that shouldn't be something you worry about. – Ramhound Sep 24 '13 at 17:00
  • If you've already told this person twice, then I'd say polite has left the building. I would not respond to someone who disregarded my emails/instructions in this manner. – Joel Etherton Sep 24 '13 at 17:16
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    You would respond impolitely to a non technical client after two emails Joel? This behavior is very common in my experience. People like to have their point of contact in a company be the one who's actually doing the work, sometimes it takes a lot more than two prompts to get them to follow procedure. They're paying the bills, just make sure you bill them for the overhead of having to forward all their emails. – Andrew Bartel Sep 24 '13 at 17:27
  • Send a mail with a return receipt, reiterating and mentioning that further such mails will not be entertained this way (and if she has an issue with this, to talk to your manager). Then proceed to ignore said mails. Keep all previous mails + return receipt in case asked for it. – Simon O'Doherty Sep 25 '13 at 6:22
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OK, simply do the following:

forward request to boss with

Hi "Boss"

FYI "business user" has submitted this request, I've requested she liaise with you to progress.

cc the business user, then wash your hands of it. If the business user chases you you respond with

Hi "business user",

I'm not involved with progressing this request, please contact "Boss" for further information.

Repeat until they get the message (although it might be worth having a chat first with your boss to ensure he isn't saying to the business user "talk to Abhi about it" separately, and you're be left to deal with it.

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    This is exactly what I've done. Now the boss has managed to get to her and inform her that I won't be available for a week or two owing to previously scheduled work. – abhi Sep 25 '13 at 14:12
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What is the most professional way to handle this situation in the future?

First, check with your boss to make sure you are interpreting the policy correctly (that your boss must be the one to direct your activities, and that users are not free to work with you directly).

Then, ask your boss how you should deal with business users that don't want to follow the policy. Your boss may have other suggestions for how to deal with this, or not.

If the last two emails haven't convinced her, it seems unlikely that one more of the same will do the job.

Assuming you need to respond to the user's email at all, this time respond politely that you aren't allowed to commit to work without your boss' approval. Explain any details of the process to this user (forms they need to fill out, the "To" email address they should use, any details that should be included in the Subject or Body of the email, etc).

Copy both your boss and her boss.

Hopefully, that will help. If not, just don't do the work and continue to direct her to your boss. Eventually, if she wants anything done, she'll learn to follow the required process.

Why do it this way? Because you have two stakeholders here (your boss and your business user) that both need your attention, and are asking for the opposite action. Your boss already told you that "All requests need to go through my manager", yet the user has refused to go through your manager.

As a manager, a large part of my job is finding ways to help my team be successful. Using this approach notifies your manager of what is happening, helps him/her be involved appropriately, and notifies the user that you are escalating the problem accordingly.

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    Thank you... IMO the other answers need so much more than why explained. At least we have a good answer here now. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Nov 14 '13 at 13:13
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I was in a situation where there wasn't one person doing this, but a relay of people in different departments in the organization - they would each come down and 'visit' with me, insisting that their project get priority.

Most people here are inviting you to tell the customer 'get lost', and I'm not sure that's productive. From the perspective of the user, the two separate issues are finding the boss in the first place (s/he may not be responding to the customer's communications), and the second is perceiving the boss as unknowing or unhelpful. You might have a pushy client that is just rubbing everyone the wrong way, and is making demands on time that can't be met. You may also have a client that feels stranded, and this might be a legitimate conclusion.

First you have to figure out whether the customer's expectation is excessive, and whether the boss is doing his/her job. If the two answers are both no, then the right approach is to simply keep the boss in the loop, and deal with the customer until someone overrides your decision. In departmental and company meetings, you should point out you're handling customer interface, which might create an embarrassment for your boss, but on the other hand everyone else may already know what s/he thinks of this customer. Being good at customer relations is an asset - it doesn't hurt to have a rep in that regards.

(Note: in the 1970s I actually took a phone call from a belligerent customer, and everyone else in our bullpen could hear it, including my supervisor. This guy chewed my ass for a good half hour. No one had any inclination to intervene. Perhaps this was viewed as an exercise in character building.)

If the customer's expectations are excessive, then you can either ignore the phone call, or respond very slowly. If the customer wants something now, figure out how long it would take to do it if normal channels were working, and deliver it slightly later than that. In short, figure out whether you are the path of least resistance, and increase the resistance until you aren't.

There might also be a way to communicate with the boss about the situation, and see if the calls can get routed through a sales rep, marketing, the customer's boss, or some other more circular route that makes more people aware of the sore point. If there is a trust issue between your employer and the customer, it might be a good idea for the two of you to go your separate ways. It isn't that easy to tell from the details provided what the bigger picture is.

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    This is a tremendous answer with some great advice. I would upvote again if I could. "the two separate issues are finding the boss in the first place (s/he may not be responding to the customer's communications), and the second is perceiving the boss as unknowing or unhelpful." +1 "keep the boss in the loop, and deal with the customer until someone overrides your decision" +2 " figure out whether you are the path of least resistance, and increase the resistance until you aren't." +3 -- I look forward to more answers like this! – jmac Nov 14 '13 at 5:05

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