I have an assignment, 3 weeks in, and due to schedule concerns and the team has a nascent understanding of the assignment at hand. However, I feel like the co-worker tasked to help me who has 20+ years of experience over me and usually gets high marks for performance, hasn't been pulling his weight or putting his best foot forward with the assignment. Online resources for inter-office relationships for a situation indicate to ignore the issue, do your own work, move forward, politely decline to help if asked by the person. But is this appropriate when he is tasked to help me? Do I approach my boss about this? More to read below.
We are embarking on a new direction on our project in order to save time and make use of features of a product we didn't have before. I was tasked to research and understand the product in question and learn how to use it. Since this is a internal software development project with very little documentation it requires us to look through various different parts of the system. It has been a struggle and due to this struggle, my task lead assigned a team member to help me progress faster. I requested the team member to go through the setup instructions provided by the internal team that worked on the product and ask questions as necessary.
Unfortunately, after three weeks I'm still not sure where he is at and how much he understands while I have been digging deep into the code and system files trying to understand as much as I can from videos, tutorials, etc what is the challenges in integrating the product into our environment.
On the first week, it took him until the fourth day to finally screenshare his screen to show me where he was struggling and within an hour we were up and running. It seemed rather strange to me that it took this long to determine he was still having issues moving forward - especially when another coworker and I communicated throughout the previous week and were able to resolve most of the issues 1 to 2 days into setting up our system.
On the second week, the co-worker was tasked as an alternate. He made continuous comments that "he doesn't know what that means" and "hopes its not a lot of work". Mind you this was completely voluntary and I even volunteered myself. He was asked to take place for our task lead for two meetings and perhaps this could have been anywhere between 4 hours of work (1hr meeting, 1hr notes) or at most a days worth of work. That still leaves 32 hours in the week for other tasks. He only reached out once during this period of having issues and then towards the final team meeting of the week, he gave his opinion that we should reevaluate what we are doing but at the same time "I haven't gotten far in this assignment". It doesn't make sense to talk expertly on a subject you aren't caught up to speed on.
This week, he is finally sending me e-mails that shows he is making some progress but he is still struggling to understand what to do. I understand this and am happy to help but follow-up indicated that he didn't get much done cause he was fighting a headache all day and then today he went to see the doctor. At this point, I've already progressed well ahead enough to feel confident I have educated myself but still stuck on what to do next but there is still no progress on the second stuff that he was asked to do. Since this is an exploratory exercise, its inexcusable to not put yourself in the driver seat and start digging through things on your own.
Of course, asking questions is encouraged, in fact necessary, since this is a lot like a school assignment and you are learning something new for the first time. There is no implied expertise on the team and we are all looking to each other to figure out the task at hand.
Unfortunately, I can't help but feel I don't have a co-worker who I can talk to and try to combine our mental energies together to tackle this issue effectively and efficiently. Without the benefit of two individuals who can help each other bounce ideas off each other to ask the right questions and look at the right places, I feel I am left to figure out things on my own. I wouldn't have cared to discuss this but ultimately just today it began to bother me and now is occupying mental space. I'm not sure how to tackle the issue. A lot of online resources indicate to ignore, do your own work, move forward, politely decline to provide help to the person if asked. But none of that sounds appropriate to me. And I wonder how much of this applies to this situation because a lot of those resources are in reference to those who are co-workers. In this case, I feel like I was tasked to understand this and he was tasked to help me but I do not feel helped. Do I talk with my task lead? Do I approach him with "I have a work issue and I'm not sure how to talk about it"? Any advice?
P.S. I understand with the new normal and also to be sensitive to if someone is sick, but at the same time I expected more out of him, especially since he typically a very stellar employee. Maybe with the pandemic and remote work, he feels less accountable, I don't know.