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I'm a lead engineer for a highly technical product, aspects of which cross multiple technical disciplines. From working with him, the PM doesn't know even the very basics about computers but he's constantly trying to "help" with my work. For example, trying to reimage PCs or repair a motherboard. Why would he even try to help with something like this? He's tried (unsolicited), he can't. Not only is he just in my way (sometimes literally breaking things), he is also wasting his own time.

How do I know this? Because part of his job is showing the product to customers and I am constantly getting feedback from him that "he didn't know" that these key features existed, despite being part of the product for a year now. He is in the meetings with software devs and the rest of the product team. He has access to our product to try it himself, not to mention all the documentation being emailed to him as it is made. But it doesn't seem like he ever does anything with it. So he's constantly calling me for help on things that he should know by now. And frankly, it is taking up too much of my time.

Who should I talk to about this? Technically, he has more seniority over me in the product, obviously. But he is interfering not only with my work, but in a way that distracts from his own. Should I talk to my manager? Report it to his manager? Try to talk to him about it? I've tried to give him hints and tell him no (I manage to evade things I know he can permanently break), but he's persistent. Actionable advice would be helpful.

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    Does this answer your question? What to do when my boss is very disorganized?
    – Fattie
    Oct 16, 2020 at 17:21
  • @Fattie not really relevant as that question is more along the lines of a direct high level manager where I am dealing with a PM who is not my direct manager.
    – q-compute
    Oct 16, 2020 at 19:33

3 Answers 3

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Who should I talk to about this?

If you have already spoken to the PM and have asked them to stop "helping" (clearly explaining the negative consequences of his meddling) without any change in behavior then you should speak to your manager.

Approach the discussion from the angle that the PM is disrupting your work by either wasting your time or breaking things that he should not be touching. Do not mention anything about the PM wasting their own time or not doing their job because that is not your responsibility. Let your manager then sort things out with either the PM or the PM's manager.

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    Well, the part of him not doing his own job to keep up the product actually does waste my time, because I have to repeat myself and take "service calls" which are not things that I am supposed to be spending my time doing. But I'll phrase it in a better way. Thanks
    – q-compute
    Oct 16, 2020 at 19:11
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It is very tempting, when reporting something like this, to phrase it in a non-selfish good-of-the-business way:

I need to let you know that one of your staff is not doing a good job and our customers are not being served well

However, most managers actually react really poorly to this. Especially if they hired or manage this person, they get defensive, they don't like you doing their job, that sort of thing.

You will get much better results with a selfish phrasing

"Chris" is using up a lot of my time trying to help when I didn't ask for it, such as hardware problems, and has made things worse a few times. How can I ensure that I am left alone when I don't want that kind of help?

"Chris" appears really unfamiliar with our product, or at least to need a lot of help with it. Should I really be spending as long as I do explaining the product? I did not allow for this time when planning my work.

Here you are doing several very important things. You are asking questions (after providing background) which makes most bosses happy, to be asked to make decisions. You are not acting like "Chris"'s manager yourself. You are focused on the effect of the behaviour on you, not on the customers or the company as a whole (if asked, you can of course speculate on those things, but your manager has access to that in a way you don't, so you wait to be asked.) You are not refusing to do what you've done in the past, but you are mindful that your time is valuable and should be spent carefully.

If your manager insists that you should continue to let Chris bumble around and waste everyone's time, you'll have decisions to make. But I doubt that will happen.

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You mentioned that you have tried to give him hints, but did you ever have a one on one talk with him? Getting to know this individual will also help you on how to approach them, find out what drives them and maybe you can direct them better.

I think first you should try to show your reasoning and show how this affects your work and come up with solutions on how both of you can best manage such a situation. This conversation should be taken very delicately to not cause any type of conflict.

Give it 2 weeks to see the change, if that approach does not work then you should escalate this situation to PM's direct manager, so this way the PM had a chance to fix. Again approach the PM's manager with an already constructed solution not just the problem.

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