I have a colleague who is appointed to perform the same equivalent task as me. This colleague loves to say how smart and clever (he/she) is. This colleague mentioned to my boss that (he/she) could perform a particular task in two weeks. However, at the end, this colleague didn't have the task completed and the work was poorly done.

My boss reassigned the work to me in order to not miss the deadline.

How do I handle such a situation? Should I inform my boss that it is my colleague's responsibility to complete the work? Or should I tell this colleague to finish the work? Or should I just resign and go to another company? Or what should I do?

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    Your boss re-assigned the work to you, so you need to do it. Jan 13, 2014 at 9:03
  • I don't understand how you feel the boss isn't aware of who was given the original assignment and feel the need to tell him.
    – user8365
    Mar 4, 2015 at 14:03
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    Take it as a complement! Your boss trusts that_you_ will get the job done. It's no longer the colleague's work; it's now yours.
    – keshlam
    Mar 5, 2015 at 0:39

5 Answers 5


It is not your job to tell your boss who is responsible - that's his (her) job. He already re-assigned the job to you because your colleague failed. Just do that job and leave the judgments about who is doing their job properly to your boss.
(Also, it's not your job to tell a colleague what to do)

The only thing that could go wrong here is that your colleague said it could be done in two weeks. If your boss set the deadline based on that estimate and you cannot make that deadline (because too much time has already passed, or because it is more like a 6-week task) then you should inform your boss ASAP, give him your best estimate and maybe work out a new deadline together.

[Edited in comment by Jon Story:] Remember you don't know the full context: only your manager is responsible for tracking and assigning projects. There may be internal or external issues and holdups that you aren't aware of

  • Regarding paragraph 2: it's also possible that the new task is possible to complete in two weeks, but only if some of your other tasks are removed from your plate. The end result is similar - go back to your boss and get clarification on what he wants to prioritize.
    – Adam V
    Mar 4, 2015 at 16:39

Your boss assigned a task. Your colleague gave an estimate on the task. Your colleague failed to deliver. Your boss reassigned the task to you.

This sounds more like an opportunity than a problem. Since your boss already knows that your colleague has failed to deliver, if you can do better you will have elevated yourself in your boss's eyes.

The only thing you need to do is...do better. Take a look at what has been done in the project and what is left to do. Make an estimate of how long it will take you to finish it properly. When I estimate a project I try to precisely guess how long it will take, then add 50%, because there is always something that changes, something that you didn't think of, etc. It is an inevitable part of the world of project estimates.

After you have estimated how long it will take you, with the various parts of the task broken out so it is easy to see what exactly the time is going to be spent on, you ask your boss for a meeting. Tell him you've written an estimate for the task, and you are concerned that it may not meet the deadline. Tell him you'd like to discuss what to do about it. Give him the opportunity to look for ways to reduce the time it takes by trimming off "features".

If he mentions that "your coworker said it would take this long", just say (like you are trying to put the best light on your coworker's failure) "well, maybe he didn't realize that [this task] would be involved, or that it would take so much time to do [this process]..."

Don't be defensive. Be sympathetic and regretful that your boss was put in this situation and make it clear that you want to help remedy it. Don't bring the coworker up but be ready to discuss if the boss does so.

Your boss certainly isn't going to credit the coworker with your success as long as you make it clear that you are taking ownership. If you can do this, he will see you as a solution instead of a problem, and as a person he can depend on. Make the most of this opportunity.

  • +1 Brilliant answer. Any manager worth their salt appreciates someone who is honest, accurate, and helpful. The point for concern is if the manager is not worth their salt and they do something stupid like crediting the coworker with the task success rather than the OP. In that case, there's some kind of political intrigue going on and a talk with the manager or going elsewhere are options.
    – Wayne
    Feb 28, 2015 at 16:55
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    +1 - I would also recommend getting input from the boss on how the OP should prioritize other assignments. There could be a scheduling conflict he's not aware of.
    – user8365
    Mar 4, 2015 at 14:01

How do I handle such a situation? Should I inform my boss that it is my colleague's responsibility to complete the work? Or should I tell this colleague to finish the work? Or should I just resign and go to another company? Or what should I do?


If you value your job, you may want to avoid taking it upon yourself to "inform" your boss that you won't do what you are being told to do. That sort of move would likely put you out on the street if you tried it in many companies.

Similarly, your boss already told you exactly what to do. You have absolutely no right to then turn around and tell your colleague that he/she must do the work that has just been assigned to you. It's your job now, not hers/his.

As far as just resign - you might want to reconsider that as well. Work isn't always fun. Resigning when something this trivial happens is a bad work pattern to establish. But maybe you just aren't cut out for the workplace where someone else tells you what to do. Perhaps you need to become independent and just work for yourself.


How do I handle such a situation? Should I inform my boss that it is my colleague's responsibility to complete the work? Or should I tell this colleague to finish the work? Or should I just resign and go to another company? Or what should I do?

You couldn't read the situation any wronger if you tried.

Your colleague messed up. Your boss doesn't think that your colleague can fix the situation. He desperately hopes that someone can fix it, and the person he hopes can fix it is you. This is your opportunity to be to be the hero who saves the day and gets the eternal gratitude of his boss (well, slightly exaggerated).

Instead, you want to inform your boss that it is your colleague's responsibility to finish the work? Your boss knows that. He knows it's your colleague's responsibility but he is not up to the task. The boss just took the responsibility away from your colleague (which is a huge reprimand for your colleague) and gave it to you. The boss gives you the opportunity to shine and you refuse? How stupid is that.

Should you tell this colleague to finish the work? If you do, and he fails, and your boss already expected that he would fail and therefore gave the job to you, then the failure is absolutely down to you.

Should you resign? Your boss just gave you the opportunity to be the hero for the company and save the day. Absolutely, that's a good reason to resign. (That's sarcastic in case you don't realise).

What you should do: Do the job. Keep the deadline. If there are things you need to drop, tell the boss what you will drop to keep that deadline. And at the end you will come out of it smelling of roses while your colleague is in the dumpster.

In every job, there is work, and there is opportunity to shine. These opportunities to shine can be rare, and you need to take advantage of them. You seem to be fixated on avoiding the work, so fixated that you can't see the opportunity. In the next year you will do twenty different tasks where your boss will at best say "he did his job". Now there is one task that allows you to shine, where you boss will say "he saved the day" if you succeed, and you want to get out of your way to avoid it.


The fault in this situation lies with your co-worker. Your boss has made a business decision (which you may not like) in an effort to resolve the problem. So far, this is a perfectly reasonable situation and you will come out of it looking good. (Assuming you get the work done).

Where the problem becomes more serious is if your boss doesn't tackle the situation and you are constantly having to do someone else's work. This will mean that your job, the job you were signed up to do, will be suffering.

At that point, you're perfectly justified in approaching your boss and raising your concerns.

If things don't improve, we're in much more unpleasant territory, where you have to handle an underperforming boss. But that's an issue for another day.

  • This is a Q&A not a place for passing judgement about who is at fault. Jan 13, 2014 at 15:34
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    Aye, I know. My point is that the way you professionally handle something like this is to make your boss aware of it.
    – Dave M
    Jan 13, 2014 at 15:43
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    I don't see any judgement-passing in this answer. I think it's quite clearly making if-then statements. Jan 14, 2014 at 1:50

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