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I think it's a somewhat common situation in the workplace but one I simply can't master.

My boss tells me to turn to colleague A for some information. So I turn to colleague A and propose a meeting. Colleague A ignores me repeatedly although I contact them several times, using different methods (arranged meeting, email, spontaneous call) and trying to make it as easy as possible for them.

I try to get the information from other people, but there's only one source of this info, colleague A.

I don't think there's a solution apart from escalation to my boss. But how do you escalate without souring your relationship with A and with your boss who values self-reliance and subordinates who solve problems on their own?

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without souring your relationship with A

Which relationship? You tried your best and were ignored... so there is already a big issue with your relationship.

Most important in such situations: don‘t be the weepy colleague running for papa (your boss) to help you out.

Do one more trial to get the information but be sure to have a paper trail:

Write something in the sense of The following in a mail:

Hi A,

Boss C told me to do X and to get the needed information for this action from you.

Can you please give me the informationen via mail or make a suggestion for a meeting in the next days to tell me what I need to know?

Thank you in advance.
Me, myself and I.

Make sure you carbon copy your boss. Ccing somebody who gave you a task is a common thing to do, but it does two things:

  1. It brings the ball into A‘s field and
  2. makes him aware that the boss knows this.

If he still ignores you there are two ways to go -depending on the urgency.

The first thing would be to send a reminder mail a few days later:

Hi A,

I am sorry to ask again, but I still did not get any response from you regarding my mail from 3 days ago. Can you please consider to give me the information asap as I am stuck with my todo.

Best regards
Me again

Of course again carbon copy your boss.

If A still does not react then You need to go to your boss. But now you have your paper trail. Tell him that you tried to call and make appointments as well and that nothing helped.

Then it is his responsibility to do whatever is needed.

The second way to go would be to omit the second mail and go directly to your boss. As said: this depends on urgency and how important this thing is for your boss.

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  • Thanks Torsten. Tbh, I feel bad when ccing by boss at first contacts. I feel as if I was escalating the situation without the need to escalate it. But then if I don't cc my boss from the beginning, I feel bad when starting to cc by boss during the 3rd, 4th, etc. contact cause then it feels even more like escalating and "being a weepy colleague". – 9027485 Jun 14 '20 at 11:57
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    This is what escalation is all about: you try yourself and if that doesn‘t work, you inform your boss... It sends a signal to the other guy. It would only be weepy if you wrote something like: this is my third mail and you did not react on calls and all mails, therefor the cc... just write the mail without a backreference to your earlier tries, then this is absolutely ok. My boss e.g. wants to be in copy for any mail that is of interest for him (now or later). He just takes a glance and puts it away, but if somebody asks or comes for escalation he has the information already... – Torsten Link Jun 14 '20 at 12:03
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    For future reference, you have to cc your boss at the first contact. It's not escalation. It's just the good way of handling information. You are informing your boss that you are doing what they requested (contacting A) and has the added benefit that boss knows what you know and A knows. Also for A has benefits: they know where the request comes from and can organize their work accordingly. Just telling A "please help me" is not enough if you don't clearly add that it's a boss' request and not yours. – nicola Jun 15 '20 at 8:33
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A less escalating strategy is to make your boss ask A's boss to grant A time to assist you.
Not as a demand (A finally should...) or complaint (A never replies!) but as a request (Can A help...).

This is a common flow if a person should do something important but is busy doing something else - which happens all the time. Then bosses have to evaluate what is more important, or if the interrupt is short then at least they know about the interrupt.

Now either you get your information and A has a delay in their own task, or you do not get your information because A must not interrupt their work. But both outcome is a result of your bosses' decision and neither A's nor your fault.

Apart from that A gets a new plan for their task, helping you is not an unwelcome interrupt but a new task.

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The problem is solved by just cc'ing your boss, as other answer already expressed. However, I'd like to give a comment about your handling of the information.

In your current situation, you are the only one who knows:

  • that you asked A to do a meeting
  • that the meeting was boss' request.

So you are hiding to your boss that you did in fact contact A and to A that the contact is due to boss' request. Keeping information aligned in a company is crucial.

How could you reach the goal of sharing information between all the involved actors? Simple: you just cc your boss at the first contact.

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First of all you should probably see if you can find the person in your office and try to do a direct confrontation. In which case try to not make an assumptions(Saying "Why haven't you being answering my phone calls?") is a bad idea. Try to see what is wrong(Sometimes suprising their battery died or their data got deleted. You can be suprised at how often accidents can happen. Finally if they still do not agree try to negotiate and see things from their perspective, if it feels like extra work it is probably not a good idea.

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    Possibly not an option due to the pandemic or maybe they don't work in the same office anyway, but definitely a good option when it exists. – Kat Jun 15 '20 at 5:20
  • Well I did say if you can find the person in the office, which implies when it is possible... – Yunfei Chen Jun 17 '20 at 1:49

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