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I'm a DevOps. In my team, we do many "boring" tasks such as replying to client emails that are related to technical issues, and maintaining the system, cleaning DB. But we also do some development.

I have a problem with one of my colleagues. He always works on the nice development tasks, leaving the support for me. He has become pretty good in development because he's been practicing it.

Whenever there is a nice/important task, he does it without consulting the team if there is another one who would like to work on it.

I complained about this to my manager, who gave feedback to the colleague, but now the situation is worse. He does the important tasks without saying that he's working on them. He says that he's doing X (which is a boring task) and after some time when we prioritise the important task, he jumps and says, hey I've done that already.

The manager is ok with this because he already became pretty good at developing while I'm a newbie

I feel very bad that I'm not getting the same opportunity.

Any advice?

First update

Most of you suggested that I just pick up a development task and work on it. I did .... It backfired horribly. Two clients complained to the manager about delay and the manager gave me a strong feedback.

  • 84
    What's stopping you from taking some of the "nice" tasks first? – user1666620 Jan 20 at 21:06
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    does your manager know you've been working weekends? – user1666620 Jan 20 at 21:16
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    If there's so much support work that you are working weekends, how does your co-worker have time to do the "nice" (development) tasks? – DaveG Jan 20 at 22:51
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    That close vote is because your question doesn't have a goal. But I'd like clarification on how work is assigned. Right now it sounds like it's whoever grabs a task first. Who's supposed to be assigning it? Who ends up doing X after your coworker lies about doing it (or does he do both X and the dev work)? – BSMP Jan 21 at 6:39
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    When a "nice" task appears, have you done the old "Oh yup, I'll do that one", and then actually work on that instead of support? Maybe phrase it like: "Oh yup, I'll do that one. Can you cover the support for a few hours this time? Thanks :) " Possibly do it when the manager/boss is near so (s)he knows about it as well. – rkeet Jan 21 at 7:40
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I feel very bad that I'm not getting the same opportunity

You are being given the same opportunities, it's just that you are choosing to prioritize other, "boring", work. At the end of the day your manager doesn't care who does the tasks, only that they get done and done well. If you want to do some of the tasks instead of your colleague, you need to go and do them yourself, not wait around.

Secondly, you need to tell your manager about all the work you've been doing for the company at the weekends. You will only be given credit for that if people know you've been doing it.

The fact that you feel you need to work at weekends means that something is seriously wrong with your team.

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    @Fuvicsbpm why do you feel that you need to do all of the boring tasks? How do you know that only working on administrative tasks isn't also a sign of underperforming? – user1666620 Jan 20 at 21:34
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    @Fuvicsbpm That's a problem for your manager. – user1666620 Jan 20 at 21:47
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    people have shown their disregard for processes. Including your manager. The downward spiral is already started. So your choice: You suffer, you play by the same rules, you switch jobs. Preferably, leave a papertrail that shows it's fine to ignore the process. Like meeting notes where the team lead said it's ok as long as work gets done – Benjamin Jan 20 at 21:48
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    @Fuvicsbpm You handle it by either doing your job, or finding a new job. There is no need to feel terrified. At the end of the day, it's only a job, and there will always be more of those. – user1666620 Jan 20 at 22:21
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    Honestly i'm quite skeptic about the fact that OP can change it. OP has basically been setup in its current position and if he moves away from it and the other refuses to pick up a part of the "boring" work, the blame may fall on OP since he was the one doing it. – Walfrat Jan 21 at 8:29
53

Your workplace is disorganized

It sounds like your workplace is disorganized. If your co-worker can jump on items saying "I've already done that" then you probably don't have an issue tracking system in place.

Also, the idea behind DevOps is that developers and operations are not separate roles. Your colleague is separating the roles. This is not DevOps.

Organize your work

This is the key.

Keep track of what you do and send your boss a status update every friday. This will show that you're working hard enough and shoveling your share of support issues. Write it in a neutral/upbeat tone, not as a passive-aggressive complaint.

Don't come in during the weekend if you're not getting paid. Enjoy your free time. Maybe work on a hobby programming project, to get more development skills that you enjoy sharpening. If your boss complains that the support work is piling up, point to your status update that shows you did your share of it.

Grab some of the work you want

You don't have to get greedy and take everything, but pick some of the development tasks that you want and announce "it's okay guys, I'll take this issue".

Meanwhile, don't commit to too many support tasks. Do your share, but don't pick it up before you're done with the previous task. Give other people plenty of time to pick up those tasks.

If the support work isn't all done by friday, go home for the weekend anyway. If your status update is showing that you did enough of the support work, then you have no moral obligation to come in during the weekend. If your boss wants to complain about that work not getting done, just politely say that you've processed a lot of issues but if there's still more then your boss should consider:

  • Pushing more of it the other guy's way
  • Hiring more people, since apparently you're chronically understaffed

Do not suggest coming in during the weekend, and don't do it without being asked

It depends on your type of contract whether you're required to come in during the weekend, and whether that's paid for. But in all cases, if there's a pattern of structural overtime, you need to get compensated in some way. This is why you don't offer and don't do it without being asked. Every time you work overtime, it has to be asked for. That way, your boss incurs an obligation.

  • If according to your contract overtime has to be paid for, then make sure you get paid. Typically this is at a higher rate than during regular hours. That should incentivize your boss to just hire someone extra.
  • If it's not paid for but it's happening structurally, then it's time to ask for a raise or promotion because apparently this job requires more work than the contract really covers.
  • In both cases, get recognition because you are willing to (occasionally) come in on the weekend. You don't have to say it, but it your colleague isn't doing that, it's going to show.
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    I'd add that doing work on weekends silently is hiding a hot spot from management. Even a good manager (which I doubt this is) needs correct information to manage well. An asymmetric workload must be transparent to be able to react to it. – Fildor Jan 21 at 9:28
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    Devops tend to thrive on tickets - maybe all the big jobs should be ticketed and then you only ever work on the ticket at the top of the list/backlog/sprint or whatever. That won't cover replying to emails, but maybe that's the next rule - whenever you finish a ticket, clean out any pending emails before taking the next ticket. Or have a rota where for one day or week each person has to do the support tasks first, and the tickets only if they've got time. – Ralph Bolton Jan 21 at 9:34
  • When I worked helpdesk, processing the email queue was a daily task that rotated among the crew. Also, everyone got a daily digest of how many incoming phone calls everyone had taken. It kept people honest without requiring more heavy-handed management. – ObscureOwl Jan 21 at 9:37
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    @RalphBolton Colleague is lying about what he's doing now. What should stop him ignoring the new rules, too? – Fildor Jan 21 at 16:36
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Fundamentally, you are being taken advantage of. Your coworker has no interest in playing fair with you. He wants to do all of the fun/interesting jobs. Your manager has no interest in changing the status quo. Right now, he has two DevOps people who are specializing in ways that he personally finds quite useful. Your coworker is getting better at the development side, while you're learning the customer base. Changing things over from that paradigm will only make you both less efficient, so he's got no incentive there either. The current situation is all upside for both of them, which means that any attempt on your part to change it is going to get pushback from both (thus far seen in the form of your coworker ignoring rules and your boss letting them). You've let yourself be pushed into this. Similarly, you've let your clients push you into working on weekends, without particular acknowledgement, and with more than your fair share of abuse.

So... what are your options?

  • You could force your boss to understand and acknowledge the situation. He's not going to want to do that, because he's in a position where it's beneficial to him to have everything run along smoothly while he ignores the personal cost to you, but it is a fact that your coworker has been permitted to take all fo the development work, and you've been stuck with all of the customer-facing work, and this was not the job as it was described to you when you agree to join. It is a fact that your coworker's unwillingness to do part of their job has left you with more work than can be covered in a standard workweek, and that you're having to work overtime to try to keep things afloat. You can bring these things to your boss, explain that you feel that this is not fair to you, and ask him to help fix it. It's possible that he'll respond well to it. It is much more likely that he'll respond well if you can come up with reasonable, concrete ways in which your current position could be made more tolerable that don't require significant effort on his part and don't require him to seriously corral your coworker. I don't think those exist, mind. It seems like your situation is beyond that, but if you'd be willing to settle for, say, being actually acknowledged for the significant contributions you make (tracking on the number of user tickets handled per week, with posting in the weekly meetings? Something?) and possible making a few changes to reduce some of your workload so that you aren't working overtime by default, then that's the sort of thing you might be able to get him to agree with.

  • You could just suck it up and deal. I think this is a bad choice, and working at a workplace where you know that people are mistreating you is mildly toxic, but it doesn't sound like things are entirely intolerable (yet).

  • You could leave. Find another job, and just go. Next time, make sure that you have "and won't take too much advantage of my nature" on the list of things you're looking out for when you consider positions. There are certainly plenty of people out there who will exploit folks like you, but it's not everyone, or even most. You can find folks who will treat you better. Perhaps you should.

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    "Fundamentally, you are being taken advantage of." - should be bold. – Fildor Jan 21 at 9:05
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    you forgot a fourth point @BenBarden .. reduce your personal workload to an amount that goes without overtime / weekends .. weekend work without compensation is a no go. Let them see how it unfolds after a few weeks when customers start complaining .. and then explain that you could previously only satisfy them by overtime working while your colleague did not contribute anything towards customers satisfaction.. – eagle275 Jan 21 at 9:34
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    ... and use weekends to gain new skills, instead of wasting time on boring tasks which your boss does not consider important enough to prioritize them over new development. – Peter M. - stands for Monica Jan 21 at 17:31
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    Couldn't agree more with the comments here - if one person has so much work that they are having to take stuff home over the weekend, and the other person has enough free time that they're able to work on tasks in secret without people even knowing, there's a clear and obvious answer to the problem. Work the hours you're meant to work and they'll have no choice but to ask the other guy to pick up the slack if they want all the support tasks completed. Once he's pulling his weight on support tasks it will be easier to split the other tasks, right now he has no incentive not to do the fun stuff. – delinear Jan 22 at 16:17
7

Whenever there is a nice/important task, he does it without consulting the team if there is another one who would like to work on it.

Frankly, this is just a poor team work culture. Someone could argue that you could rush to grab the cool tasks for yourself too, but why prolong that culture? The team should really have a way to prioritize and assign tickets without creating silos.

The manager is ok with this because he already became pretty good at developing while I'm a newbie

Your manager should really care about the long term development of the team's skills e.g. by rotating team members through different kinds of task. Besides the obvious of just moving to a different company, I would suggest to you to suggest to your team to implement a round robin-like ticket assignment system. This way everyone gets different kind of tickets.

3

There's several sides to this issues that I've seen and even have done myself. I'll talk about a few of them, but there's more than I can cover as well as variations and combination of things that are far too many for even think about.

Insecurity

The other dev could be insecure about their abilities, so they take the easiest things to work on, knowing it's within their capabilities. They do it to try to impress people with their skills as well as getting an ego boost. This isn't always a bad thing, but it can definitely be annoying or even a major problem if they are literally always doing this. Also, if they are literally doing this all the time, they are likely wasting a lot of time looking at the job queue instead of doing their normal work.

Burnt-out

Sometimes people just need to take some easy tasks to either prevent or recover from working too hard. This will be something done on a fairly short term basis and will go away as suddenly as it started.

Similarly, there may be some things going on at home that are temporarily increasing their stress, so they need to get some easy stuff on their plate to be able to handle things at home better.

Egotist

Similar to the insecure dev, and egotist will take all the easy jobs to impress people, but will do it to prevent anyone else from being able to do it, then show the boss how many tasks they were able to perform, as compared to other people. If you have a point system for tasks, they may even be able to rack up a bunch of points this way, while others trudge along with higher point tasks that take considerably longer to do. This type is specifically doing it to further themselves and/or to hinder others.

Lazy

Sometimes you'll get someone who doesn't have a very good work ethic or simply knows their time at that employer is short. It could be short due to a recent move in jobs that hasn't taken effect yet, the end of a contract coming up, or they just don't care and are willing to get fired to get out of the job.

Helper

This is the type of person who sees something really easy and to not waste time of others who are clearly better to be doing harder projects, they take the easy stuff. This allows others to concentrate on getting the real work done.

Observation

From what you've described, your co-worker is a bit of a mix between insecure and egotist. They may not be doing this to specifically hurt others, but they seem to be doing it to boost their rank in the eyes of the boss. Which way they lean (as to egotist or insecure) depends on why they are doing it.

Your manager/boss should have a policy on how work is taken, but if there isn't a policy or the policy is vague, it needs to be implemented to prevent this type of "sniping" work. No policy will be able to prevent all of it, but a decent policy should be able to prevent some of it without making people mad. You co-worker may think they are the "helper" type, so continuing to let them know it isn't actually helping will fix this. Knowing why people do things will make it easier to figure out how to prevent them from doing undesirable things.

Some things need to be done in a specific order. If they do things out of order, it'll cause more problems. Make sure people know about these situations. They shouldn't come up very often, but they can.

Not your job

Just to keep things in perspective, you correcting your co-worker is not your job. It's the job of your boss/manager or your team lead. That said, you mentioning it in a non-accusatory fashion can be useful. Offer solutions, instead of whining or suggesting punishments. Suggest a better policy for handing out work. Suggest peer programming for more training. Suggest something that'll show forward movement in policy, whatever it may be, rather than negativity. You should be offering these to your superiors, not your co-worker specifically. You can offer them in a team meeting in a way that all of you can make things better, just don't single out anyone. Doing so will not win you any friends.

Conclusion

There's things that you can do and things you can't do to fix this problem. Even if you do make progress with policy, you aren't going to fix every problem. Anyone who is willing to spend the time will be able to "game the system", unless doing the real/normal is more interesting or less actual work than trying to cheat. And trying to prevent all forms of cheating will likely cause a lot more work for everyone as well as while trying to prevent the cheating.

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    "The other dev could be insecure about their abilities, so they take the easiest things to work on ... Sometimes people just need to take some easy tasks ..." - Where are you getting that the other dev is doing easy tasks? In the question, it's pretty clear that the other dev is actually doing development tasks, which sound harder (but more interesting, which is what I suspect the OP means with "nice") than the support tasks the OP ends up doing. This would invalidate the entire premise of your answer though. – marcelm Jan 21 at 12:21
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    Development may be more difficult but feel like it’s easier. The abysmal nature of much documentation, and the poor quality of many companies’ support suggests that perception is common, making people avoid such tasks. – WGroleau Jan 21 at 15:37
  • @marcelm, speaking as a software developer, about the only "nice" task out there is one that's really simple. Those are the only tasks people actually fight over to do. Anything more difficult would be noticed in a drop in productivity, as far as the current work schedule is concerned. Taking a week or even a day to develop a medium or large task that involves a lot of code would be easily noticed. Doing something for an hour or less wouldn't, hence: nice == easy. Also, with the OP saying he's a novice, he wouldn't care if a difficult task was "stolen", only the easy ones. – computercarguy Jan 21 at 16:55
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    In the question OP describes these tasks as "nice" and other tasks as "boring", so not addressing or considering the possibility of those tasks just being more enjoyable and interesting to do seems like a pretty significant omission. Although the possible reasons why they're doing it takes up most of the answer but doesn't seem to be linked to your suggested solutions. Deleting everything before "Your manager/boss should have...", and expanding on what comes after that, would probably make for a much stronger answer. – Dukeling Jan 21 at 20:57
  • @Dukeling, knowing why people do things will make it easier to figure out how to prevent them from doing undesirable things. (I've added that to my answer.) Too many people gloss over the "why" and try to go straight to the "how", which is almost always a recipe for disaster. Also, asking "why", instead of "how" or "what" will lead to much more interesting and useful conversations and solutions. – computercarguy Jan 21 at 21:12
0

You could raise the issue that the "bus number" of particular areas of knowledge (the development side) is one.

Bus number: how many people need to be run over by a bus for a critical peace of knowledge to disappear

When the bus number is 1, only one person knows it. This is poor organisation for any team, and a risk.

It would be prudent that both you and your colleauge can write code, and are familiar with the codebase. Therefore the bus number will 2.

Starting taking development tasks, one at a time, and do them well. Gradually learn your way around the code base. Be nice, but persistent about it.

You can do it, good luck!

  • The code base and the support/customer-base knowledge are both critical bodies of information. Both devops staffers persons should be familiar with both bodies of knowledge. But based on the OP's description the bus/truck number is 1 for both the code and the support knowledge. – David Jan 23 at 15:31
  • That is a very strong argument! And directly relevant to all levels of management up to the CEO. – Volker Siegel Jan 23 at 18:48
-1

I suggest when such a task becomes visible to work on, you tell the co-worker that you've got this one. Ideally in a way (group slack channel? group email?) where both boss and co-worker can see you've claimed it, so he won't decide to do it anyway.

Also, keep in mind that studies have shown that working fewer hours (35 is ideal) tends to lead to maximum overall productivity. Too easy to quickly burn out a little if working more than that. If working over the weekend allows you to grab one or two such tasks first though.. might not be such a bad idea.

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