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Daily we have to fill timesheets and details on the project/task we have worked on upto hour level. Somedays I don't have any task that have been assigned to me. I have asked to my manager to assign task and he said ok he will do it. But it sometimes takes hours or he assigns the task next day or tells someone else to assign me task which makes it harder to write on the timesheets that I have worked on since obviously I didn't work on anything and I don't wanna lie. I try to attend internal trainings or do some trivial tasks but I get bored and it's creating problem for me as I am on probation and there will be performance review after 6 months of which 4 months have been passed already.

I am BA at IT MNC in India and I don't wanna lose this job atleast not in current times. Any help on what I could/should do to make it so I don't look like I am slacking would be helpful and appreciated. Or this is normal and I should take it lightly?

As far as previous task are concerned I've been completing that on time so there is no such issue of incompetency from my side.

  • 1
    Does your manager assign you tasks every day or does he do it in advance? If he should do it every day and some days he doesn't do it there's a problem with his work, but if that happens often you should get input what to do on that times even if he doesn't give you tasks. If he gives you tasks in advance and sometimes forgets the same thing stands, but in that case you could remind him even before you finish your last task – Affaltar May 28 '20 at 7:52
  • Do you have meetings during which tasks get assigned? When a task is presented and is not assigned yet, offer to do it yourself. Say something like: "ehi, I'm pretty free, I can take care of this task if needed". – nicola May 28 '20 at 7:54
  • @nicola We have daily standup calls since it's lockdown. In call everyone talks about the task they are working but since no task is assigned to me I don't have much to say. But after the standup call I do contact my manager and ask to assign me any task. – Stupid_Intern May 28 '20 at 7:57
6

Some companies are struggling with a dissonance between theory and practice.

In theory, all hours on the timesheet must be billable, either on an external or an internal customer. But in practice, they just don't have enough billable tasks for everyone.

How is that problem solved in practice?

  • In some organizations, people just cheat. Off-time gets distributed on all billable tasks they worked on during that time. If someone spent 8 hours at work, and during that time they spent 3 hours solving issue A, 1 hour solving issue B and 4 hours looking at meme pictures on Reddit, then they claim they spent 6 hours on issue A and 2 hours on issue B. This is of course very problematic, because customers get billed for hours they didn't need, the whole internal controlling gets thrown off and the management has no way to quantify how much free capacity they have. But nevertheless it is the status quo. It's usually the result of management ignoring the cognitive dissonance between expecting people to bill 100% of their time while not having any work for them to do.
  • Some organizations have a formal and encouraged way to bill hours on "lack of work". But anyone who puts too many hours there admits that they might be reduntant, so in practice it often degenerates into the previous point: People cheat so they look busy.
  • Some organizations have a formal and encouraged way to put hours on certain tasks people are expected to perform when they have nothing better to do. For example:
    • Education (which might be self-education or teaching your knowledge to colleagues)
    • Looking for ways to improve internal processes
    • Brainstorming proposals for new products or ways to acquire customers
    • Teambuilding

If you want to know which solution is the usual one in your organization, then you need to ask your colleagues how they deal with this issue.

  • Doing work for 1 hour and doing reddit for 7, while claiming 8 hours of work is not cheating. Cheating is doing reddit for 2 weeks and doing absolutely nothing, but claiming that you are working on something but having some setup issues. A real world example is when it takes developer 1 month to write 1 line of code. Yes, it actually happened on my code review. I put a comment "can you change this 1 line to this". 1 month later the change is made and PR is merged. – Neolisk May 28 '20 at 23:14
4

I'm responsible for assigning work to a few employees and have been in this situation a few times before. Sometimes priorities are changing quickly or I have to participate in a meeting or two before I can decide on the priority at the time, so can sometimes take a few hours before I can give a definitive answer and give a proper briefing.

When these occasions arise and the employees don't have a task due to no fault of their own I expect them to spend their working time on learning new skills which are relevant/helpful to the job. All the developers know about a number of technologies which they can improve in, and I don't mind if their pick their own pet technology that they want to learn, as long as its somewhat relevant to the job. From higher management's perspective I'm happy to explain that an employee spent half a day doing research/training to the benefit of the company. As you're relatively new I expect there's quite a bit you could learn which would be helpful to your role. So you could try asking your manager what skills they would like you to improve on the most, or try to use your initiative.

2

Assuming there's a "pool" of unassigned work items that you can pick from, such as a prioritized backlog:

  1. Review the backlog, and scan for the highest-priority work item you can work on
  2. Inform your manager that you intend to work on such item unless he has something else for you to work on
  3. Work on the promised item
  4. (Optional) if the work takes more than one day, inform the manager at the start of the day that you intend continue on the work you started earlier
  5. Inform the manager of the completion of the work item
  6. Ask your manager for your next work item, then repeat from point 1.

If there's no such backlog, ask your manager for work only via written communication and start building a paper trail to cover yourself.

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    I really don't recommend the employee takes it upon themselves to start working on things that they haven't been assigned, unless their boss has told them to. I don't know exactly what the BA role would entail here, but they could do some real damage by doing tasks they are not equipped for. – Gregory Currie May 28 '20 at 8:05
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    Even if I look at the pool of unassigned tasks I cannot evaluate whether I will be able to do it. Since the analysis and breakdown of task into subtask and assignment is the role of my manager. Because he is more experienced and I am a fresher. I can always try but it will be nothing but a waste of time and can backfire. – Stupid_Intern May 28 '20 at 8:08
  • A somewhat competent manager will step up once you reach point #2. If you inform them that you're working on something and then it backfires, the fault is on them, not you. – STT LCU May 28 '20 at 8:34
  • @STTLCU Well, it would have to be verbal, to make sure they are aware. Of course, if it's verbal, you have no proof. If it's written, they may not get it in time. – Gregory Currie May 28 '20 at 8:44
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    verbal + written follow up, as usual in such bureaucratic environments. – STT LCU May 28 '20 at 8:47
1

If you can't work on anything, you should add an entry called "blocked", and assign hours to that. After a week, if that number is "high" you should bring it to your boss's attention, so you can work together to reduce the number in the future.

Also, you should try to be productive when you are blocked. Maybe you could educate yourself, or revise some previous work and look for errors. You need to have answers for when they ask what you are doing when you're blocked.

You should be asking for fresh work before you complete your assigned tasks. It would be good to have several tasks always ready to go. Also, you should find out what they wish for you to work on when no tasks are assigned.

I wouldn't trust any answers or comments that says "Your boss should be doing this, or doing that". The important thing is you are doing what you boss wants. Any workflow that others may find expected may not be suitable for your particular case.

1

Ask your manager directly. Ask what you should be doing between tasks and where to log that time. As a developer, you could be helping others in chat or via calls, reviewing code, answering emails. As a BA, you could be looking into project documentation to better understand what you are working on. Watching internal product training is another useful direction. But first - ask. Also it's better to send an email, so that you have a written response - if you ever need it later.

0

If you have no current task assigned to you by your manager you could do one of the following. Some of them are already mentioned in other answers but for sake of completeness I mention them all.

1 Pick a ticket from the backlog and work on that.

2 Ask the co-workers from your team if they need help with anything.

3 Look on the backlog for tickets that are double, already solved or no longer relevant and remove them from the backlog.

4 Are there any changes/updates scheduled for your programming environment or other tools you use ? Install/update them now.

5 Test the module/program you are working. There is always a bug which has not been discovered yet.

6 Learn/experiment with the module/program you are working on. You are probably not (yet) familiar with all functionality.

7 Do you have an idea for improvement on the module/program you are working on ? Turn this idea into a ticket/concrete proposal.

8 Write some unit-tests.

9 Study some technology relevant to your work.

10 Study some domain knowledge relevant to your work.

11 Look at logs for the most common/serious errors and try tackling one of those.

12 Ask the team for client-support if they need help solving some issue a client is having with the software.

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