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I've been at this job for a few years now and I have come across 3 people who are superiors in terms of experience in different fields. There are certain things I need from them (which is their job) but can't seem to get it done or at least on time. By the time it gets done, it is usually weeks past the date I had wanted to finish it. Here are the scenarios:

Person X: X is an in-house advocate and I'm from a different country. My visa is sponsored and application process is taken care of by the company(X is the person responsible). Now I have to renew my visa and I have been in touch with X for months now(way too early from my side but I wanted to be prepared as I did not know how things worked). I was assured by X a date D by which the application would be submitted and an interview would be scheduled. Now we are past D and the application is not submitted yet. I have been on top of this process from the very beginning check with X on what I needed to do from my end. Seeing potential delays or problems(possible immigration office closure due to Covid-19) etc and validating the same with X. Despite all this I was assured there would not be any delays in the application but there is.

Person Y: Person in my team who is a few years more experienced than I am. For my work, I needed something from Y(some data that needed to be fetched from a system Y handles). This wasn't anything new. I had interacted with Y before, asked for data before and through proper email communication etc. But this last time, I did not get the data I asked for so I sent Y a reminder(first time this happened). Not sure if sending the reminder hurt Y's ego, Y's interaction with me stopped(doesn't even greet anymore) which was strange because we had a good rapport before. After this, I did got the data after a few days. I had some questions, which I asked Y over email which remains unanswered. I check with Y over office chats for a meeting and not even an acknowledgement. I emailed Y with the boss in the loop. Still no response. Till this day(more than a year later) the issue remains unresolved. I switched to work on other things as I did not want to be stuck on this forever.

Person Z: Z is my boss. His expectation from me is that I explore and bring solutions (I am a techie) which can be pitched to clients. While I have done that, with time, I wanted to build bigger solutions which for one person was too much work and also meant I had to do things which aren't really my forté. I had requested Z to give me a team of juniors that I can train and get the job done faster. It also helps my move my position from an individual contributor to someone managing a team(which is the direction I wish to go). That did not happen for more than a year. After which I finally got one person(J) fresh out of college. I had all the work cut out for J and after a couple of months, J was moved to work on something else and I was back to working alone. I continued doing my work and there were times when I needed some feedback or just to validate what I planned to work on/build. I tried scheduling meetings with Z who is almost always unavailable for such discussions including one where I wanted to discuss my career and growth in the organization. Z would say he would find me at a later point in time which unless I check again would never happen.

I work independently without a team. No one else does what I do, many in my team don't even know what I do. Working alone for years on end without someone to even validate your work seems very demotivating. In cases with Y and Z, both of them hinder my work. Specifically with Z, it makes me lose motivation on the work I do and wonder if I should move because I haven't had any growth or even a discussion regarding this for more than 2 years since I requested it. Given both Y and Z are more experienced than I am, how do I communicate to either party or parties similar to them when they are not doing what is expected from them on time. I feel my time and myself disrespected anticipating responses from them. How do I let them know?

In case of X, is there anything I can do? We are in different departments and X is superior to me in age and experience and our communication is very little and happens only in such cases. This activity is important for me and X knows it. How do I communicate to X to get the task done without delays?

In all 3 scenarios, I notice a very complacent nature where things are not taken seriously enough as I would have wanted them to. How do I effectively communicate this to either party without coming off as disrespectful?

  • If these things arrive late or aren't done at all, what is the impact? – Touchdown Aug 11 at 17:30
  • The work I do is mostly R&D. I explore tools out there(mostly free and open source) and use them to some solutions using the data we have. So, it is mostly prototyping and very little impact client-wise. So, majorly, I have to wait to continue on things that depend on their responses. However, for the work where I need a team, while it is still in the R&D stage, the idea is to make this mainstream and possibly replace some products running in production and even pitch the idea to new clients. So, essentially, all that is delayed. – KNP Aug 11 at 17:36
  • It also means, less time focusing on the core of designing solutions than having to do things that someone with a 1 year experience can do. – KNP Aug 11 at 17:39
  • Do you even know if they still want you to continue working for the company? Maybe they want your visa to expire so that they can get rid of you without paying severance or unemployment- in which case talking to them about your career is obviously fruitless. – nick012000 Aug 11 at 23:29
  • That's an interesting point. The company is responsible for my visa and as of today, they are working on the documents for my visa renewal. I didn't know about the severance aspect till you just mentioned it. Have to wait and watch. – KNP Aug 11 at 23:34
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Before you go too far down the rabbit hole... ask yourself if all you're seeing is a result of minimalist Slack Time.

One of the instincts a lot of managers have is to try to make their area 100% productive at all times, or as close as possible. They'll plan the group's tasks with no downtime/slack, with 100% velocity.

It sounds intuitive... until you imagine an unexpected task popping up. If your group has a 99% load and this new task takes 4 hours - what happens? You either have to wait 400 hours for the task to be completed, or projects on their docket start getting delayed due to priority slip.

It's a pretty pervasive problem, because no manager likes to think, "Yeah, I'm purposely planning on only 70% capacity for my group."

Where you work sounds like they only have the tiniest sliver of Slack Time.

So what happens in places like that?

People tend to have a lot of balls juggling in the air. They simply don't have the time to complete their Workitems, and they've got a lot of WIP (work in progress) floating out there. People also tend to de-prioritize non critical tasks and will often not notify the people requesting them that this has been done.

Sound familiar? This is why a perfectly friendly colleague might take 8 weeks to complete a simple 1 hour task for you. Because they're working at 99%+ capacity, and it actually takes that long to free up enough time to get to your request. This is why a perfectly friendly colleague might require 3 follow-up emails on getting your request done - because they've got 30 WIP items they're trying to keep track of.

I'm not saying this is necessarily what's going on. But from your depictions of where you work (friendly people) and what's happening, I think this is a real possibility.

If this is the case, what should you do?

  • Be patient and send ping emails as needed. Don't think of these as 'nag' emails. Think of these as, "Hey, don't know if you forgot, but you've still got this task out there" reminders. Because it's entirely possible that the person doesn't have a good way of tracking their WIP.

  • Escalate if (and only if!) the situation demands it. If you've got something critical that has to be done at a certain point, escalate it up the org chart. Just be very careful you're actually escalating a business-important issue. If your email client is hanging twice a day, and support can't seem to get around to fixing it, that's just an annoyance you'll have to deal with; if your email client won't send outgoing invoices to companies so your company can receive profits? Then that needs to be an ASAP task for support.

  • Don't take anything personally. I'm unfortunately a low-slack person a lot of the time. There are whole stretches where I don't even get a chance to read my emails, let alone handle them. If someone comes to me with an issue via email and I don't respond, it's not a personal slight. It's because I'm working on something critical that has to be done within 24 hours.

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  • Thanks. Follow up emails/pings are something I do regularly. At the very first stage, I ask the concerned person when they can deliver. I only check with them 1 or 2 days after that due date. I perfectly understand the team's dynamics. Which is why sometimes, I go have a friendly word with them and just casually remind the person about it and also make it a point to say "if there is anything required from me, let me know". One friend and colleague at least gives me a response when I ping them and we have a good rapport because he likes the work I do and wants in on it. – KNP Aug 11 at 17:55
  • But another colleague is (Y) the one whose behavior changed suddenly and I understand from the team that this person is of a certain character and he has done this with other people. Sounds more like a person who uses authority in the team and is also one of the most experienced. Not sure if this is powerplay. – KNP Aug 11 at 17:58
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    @KNP - In my experience, jumping to 'malicious' for the root cause for something is almost never the right decision. But either way, you work with the framework you've got. If you've got a task that they need to deliver something on? Ping them as needed, and if necessary, escalate it up the management hierarchy. – Kevin Aug 11 at 17:59
  • With Z, my boss, career growth discussions are something very crucial and if I cannot discuss it with them, then who else can I talk to about it? To them, it is probably not very important but for me it is at this stage. I have specifically requested talking about this and it is usually nudged for some other time. Time that never came. I am talking close to 2 years. Which is why it is concerning for me. I spoke to another person in the team and they have the same concern. Boss is too worried about clients, that the team is not taken care of. Hence the attrition as well. – KNP Aug 11 at 18:01
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    It doesn't matter what the priority is to you. It matters to the person who needs to do the task. If it doesn't matter to your boss, then it's probably not getting done. At that point, your main decision point is, do you escalate the priority on this (by talking to the boss' boss or HR), do you accept the lowered priority, or do you find a different place to work? Again, I'm trying to give you a Heuristic to handle this, not advice for an exact specific scenario. – Kevin Aug 11 at 18:08
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I notice you said you are from another country, it looks this is a classic case of workplace racism, I'd try raising this with HR if you feel confident they will do the right thing, if not, look if there are any equality or diversity laws you can find that are applicable.

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    Thanks. I have personally not seen anything racist in the company. People are generally very kind and friendly here and very accommodating. Outside of work, there are no concerns. I have seen observed this only when it comes to work. I had raised the point about career development with HR and they advised me to speak with my boss. So, I don't think racism is an issue. More on the lines of complacency. I don't want to use the word incompetent but it feels more like things are not very structured and organized in the company. – KNP Aug 11 at 16:56
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    Also both HR and my own team, I have seen a lot of attrition. the HR team alone, I would says refreshed like 2-3 times since I joined just a few years ago. – KNP Aug 11 at 16:57
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    Because someone from another country is having a problem, it must be racism? And equality/diversity laws should be invoked? This is a terrible answer. Reason A: The problem might not have anything to do with racism. Reason B: just because someone's from another country doesn't mean they're a different race. Reason C: You're suggesting an extreme action without having enough background info (which looks silly, since OP replied that, no, there's zero indication of racism) Reason D: You're suggesting an extreme action without suggesting doing smaller steps first. – Kevin Aug 11 at 19:38

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