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I am a programmer and the way things go in my workplace is people are given modules to work on and every module has a set of tasks. This is just my third month in the company and there are days, even weeks, that I have no task to do.

I have only been desperately giving hints to my boss like "Good morning sir. I have already marked all of my remaining tasks as resolved..." but nothing happens.

I wanted to directly tell him and ask him but I'm hesitant because I'm afraid I might not pick the right words. How do I ask for more tasks politely and without annoying my boss?

I don't feel good receiving my salary when I haven't done anything for days or weeks.

marked as duplicate by gnat, Jan Doggen, Garrison Neely, IDrinkandIKnowThings, jcmeloni Sep 2 '14 at 13:19

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Good morning sir. I have already marked all of my remaining tasks as resolved. Can you please let me know what to work on next?

There is absolutely nothing annoying about asking for priorities.

  • Thanks. I have been trying to construct sentences for hours (I still don't have a task). I'll try this out today once my boss goes online. – Penguin Blues Oct 2 '13 at 9:24
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    Nice first post, short and to the point and it even explains the "why" - welcome to The Workplace. – enderland Oct 2 '13 at 13:04
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    @PhebeS While this was a few days ago, I would suggest this is best done in person. While it's easier to submit such electronically, you shouldn't be afraid to speak to your boss. That said, if you get nothing in person, documenting it by sending an email will protect you if they claim you never asked for more work. – David Navarre Oct 9 '13 at 18:38
  • @DavidNavarre I'm afraid I couldn't do it in person since I'm from a BPO company. The boss i'm referring to is actually the company's client. But, yes, I email him or tell him through skype. – Penguin Blues Dec 4 '13 at 9:54
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    @DavidNavarre It's great that you found a better one! Currently, i've been regularly (well, almost regularly) given tasks since I have become persistent on reminding them. – Penguin Blues Dec 5 '13 at 7:50
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I like Marek's answer, but I want to add, that being out of work is not necessarily a bad thing. If I ever find myself in a situation where I suspect the current priorities are unclear, I take the initiative to suggest that I could work on something that I want to work on.

Under ideal (for me) circumstances, that might sound like. "I'm not sure what to work on next," and before being told what to do, add "I've heard of cool technology X, and I believe it would be helpful for us in system/situation Y, I could spend some time investigating/prototyping that."

Either you get a new task, or no-one has the time to figure out what you should be doing, and then most likely, you are now authorized to get learn something new that you find interesting.

  • Thanks. On my idle hours, I learn other languages instead, or read software development best practices (or anything related) but most of the time, my attention gets diverted to the fact that I'm not actually doing anything for the company. It's nagging. – Penguin Blues Oct 3 '13 at 6:51
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How about asking your colleagues if you can help them with their responsibilities while you are free? Maybe the workload per module isn't evenly distributed and while you are underworked, some of your colleagues might be overworked and appreciate the help. It will also help you to broaden your horizon when you learn a bit about the other modules of your application.

When your whole department is underworked, you could suggesting to the management to implement Google's 20% time. It means that all engineers are free to use 20% of their worktime on personal projects they consider useful for the company without requiring any input from the management.

By the way: Not having much to do might be a warning signal that your job is in danger. When the upper management realizes that most of the employees are underworked most of the time, they might decide to downsize the department.

But it might also be the case that in your particular position, workload is cyclic. There might be periods of less work to do followed by periods of extraordinarily high load, and it is important to keep extra capacity on hand for these busy phases. In that case your position might be secure after all. You should ask your colleagues about this.

  • I've always thought the job of an Engineer is to make himself unemployed :) That is: fix all recurring production issues, move to the next team/location and repeat. – Juha Untinen Oct 30 '14 at 9:53
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I work in IT. If I don't have enough to do, I begin to think 'someone will see this and then I will be expendable'. I always look for more work to do. It is critical that you engage your manager and tell you want more to do. It is also useful to try to find work to do. Being new, you want to run this by your manager so you don't break something or get in someones way.

its not uncommon for new developers to have little work to do. Managers are often not very good about engaging them. So it is absolutely critical to tell your manager you want more to do and try to come up with ideas.

as far as how? just say 'I don't have enough to do, I need to take on more work'. Then keep pestering him/her.

IF they dont get you more work to do, you need to look for another job. Idle people are expendable. Also, your skills are not improving if your not busy. I have had cases where I don't get alot to do and then I ask for more and I get blown off. I move on.

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    Hi Bob, this doesn't really answer the question - it seems more your personal experience or what the effects of not being busy are. Can you edit and include a bit more of an answer for the asker? – enderland Oct 2 '13 at 16:02
  • yes it does. its more detailed then 'walk into the managers office and go ' give me more work, Im bored. – Bob Oct 2 '13 at 16:08

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