I've recently acquired some valuable skills in the technology my company is working with. I enjoy working with the technology and using the new skills a lot.

Now my ego got the better of me and when someone was complaining about how much time they are wasting using this technology, my spontaneous reply was in the vein of "This can be easily solved using [my new skill]. Since I've started doing that the new way I've been able to reduce the time needed for [a very tedious task] to [a very short amount of time]. Let me know if I could help you".

The colleague replied very enthusiastically asking me to help not just him but also his 5+ team mates.

The problem is: whereas everything I said is true, it's also true that I currently work 12+ h/ day and more. My workload is very high and the team understaffed. And my boss sees the cooperation with the team I told that as just a secondary priority. I have a long list of projects I need to use the skill for. And it's not something I can teach people in an hour or two, helping them would require me to do that for them.

How to withdraw gracefully without sounding like a total jerk?

  • 1
    "it's also true that I currently work 12+ h/ day and more" it sounds like the situation isn't healthy at all. You could at bare minimum speak with your boss about setting up a more sustainable pace, regardless of the help matter.
    – Diane M
    Jul 22, 2020 at 12:09

2 Answers 2


(1) Apologize, (2) blame your boss (nicely), and/or (3) set expectations

I think your situation is relatively common, especially among nice people who like to be helpful.

You can say something like "Sorry, [Boss] has asked me to focus on XYZ, so I'm not able to help as much as I'd hoped. Here's ABC resource that might help you out." It's the manager's job to set priorities for their team, so this should hopefully be understandable by everyone.

If you still want to help a little bit, you could set aside a very limited amount of time during which that team can ask you questions. For example, set up a 30 minute phone call every 2 weeks for a while, or whatever makes sense for your situation. Make clear (nicely) that this is the only time you have available for this particular project.

  • 6
    also, you might suggest that their boss talks to your boss as to get some priority on helping them out over whatever else your boss wants you to do. Jul 21, 2020 at 21:19

Maybe you should think about it differently...

One should always try and work in a collaborative manner, maybe you can do a couple of 1-hour sessions. Or direct your co-workers to a tutorial online where they can pick up the skills needed. You can still make yourself available for questions if they are stuck.

You never know maybe down the line you would need the assistance of the team to help you out with some issue in the future.

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