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I am a junior and I'm usually blocked by team members who are slow to respond to my instant messages. I had one of these senior team members tell me "Sorry I made you wait" after taking a day to respond to my message. His response implies it was intentional.

If I was the one not responding quickly to my team members, I'm sure I would be reported.

What do I do?

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    do you include in your message the time-bound nature?
    – Tiger Guy
    Jun 22 at 14:50
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    Just FYI - "Sorry I made you wait" does not imply that it was intentional, although I can see what it reads that way. It rather means "I am sorry that you had to wait for my answer". Jun 22 at 15:35
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    Minor point of clarification - are you one of those people who will IM me with nothing more than "Hi brhans" (optionally followed by "how are you?") , and then wait for my response before asking what you want to know from me? Or do you spend the time to compose your thoughts and ask a reasonable question in your initial IM?
    – brhans
    Jun 22 at 18:25
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    This answer may be relevant.
    – gidds
    Jun 22 at 23:54
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    Also just to make a clarification of my own - that is a serious question I asked above. Often when I'm on the receiving end of a "Hi brhans, how are you?" IM at work, I'll glance at it in the corner of the screen where it pops up then and continue with my work while I wait for whoever it is to ask their 'real' question. If there's no follow-up then I'll respond some time later when I'm at a natural break in whatever I'm doing. But it's also entirely possible that I'll forget to do so and only realize the following day that they pinged me ...
    – brhans
    Jun 23 at 1:19

6 Answers 6

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How to deal with team members who are slow to respond to my messages?

If you have a truly urgent question, that not having the answer is blocking you from doing your work, you ask the person who knows. If you are sending an instant message, make sure that part of the message indicates that the question is urgent and is blocking you from doing your work. If you don't receive a response there, you attempt to communicate with other whatever alternate forms of communication are available at your company.

If after all that you still have not received any response, you should let your manager know and ask them how to proceed. After that, you follow through with what your manager says.

Keep in mind that your coworkers are presumably doing their normal work and unless they have been asked to prioritize answering questions from you, they will most likely answer when they have a chance....especially if you do not indicate the urgency of your question.

Finally, if your question is not truly urgent and not truly blocking you from working yet you present it as such you will be less likely to have your coworkers respond when you really do have an urgent blocking issue. Make sure that you are accurate in how you present your questions/requests.

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"Sorry I made you wait" means "I have been very busy, with duties that are as urgent as yours or more, and I'm sorry that you had to wait a whole day to get a response, but I'm doing my best on it".

Finding answers on your own is your top priority. Everyone is busy with work, and while part of our work is responding to less knowledgeable developers, getting a constant flow of questions gives us no time to do the job that is actually relevant to our role. If I'm a senior dev assigned with implementing X architecture, my first and foremost duty is getting that done. Replying to junior's questions is another duty, but less critical to the business and to my job, especially if you didn't state it is urgent.

Now, if you do need some answer, and X developer is too busy to help out or unresponsive, try to state urgency politely "Sorry to bother you again X, but I'm currently blocked with this issue and I would really need some help, if you are too busy I'll look for somebody else".

Then, if he is really busy, you will have to look out for another person that might be able to resolve your problem, even if it is not your "reference" mentor or developer. Most of the software projects knowledge isn't in the hands of a single person, knowledge is shared purposefully among several people. Try to reach out others who know.

Finally, if nobody can answer your question, and it is completely blocking, you will have to reach your manager, explain him the situation and either get your issue prioritised or get something else to work on in the meantime.

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  • This answer seems the most appropriate to respond to the question. Thank you for formulating your thoughts so well. Jun 22 at 20:47
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It seems that you take "instant" in "instant messaging" too literally.

Senior team members have their own priorities and your questions, apparently, are not at the top of their list.

From pure business perspective it could be better to make you wait than to make them to interrupt their current work flow.

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Teams work differently in different places, in the team I manage I would expect developers to attempt to find solutions on their own but to reach out for help if they are stuck for more than an hour, however if they discover that they are blocked by something outside their control I'd expect them to reach out straight-away or have a good reason why not.

It is the job of your leadership to remove obstacles preventing you from doing your work.

If you are blocked on something urgent then say so in the message to the team member and if you remain blocked for a while, raise it with your manager / squad lead / in stand-up.

Lastly, be careful of misinterpreting written messages, your colleague was apologising, take it on face value and don't try to second guess people's intrinsic motivations.

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When you need assistance from other people it works best is to ask the other person to schedule a quick meeting when they have time.

In order to save their time you can accumulate multiple questions. Also you will be better to ask where to find solution rather than asking to solve problems for you.

After all it helps you to become a better developer.

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If you're seeking help from someone on the team who isn't being helpful, in whatever manner they're not being helpful (ignoring messages or anything else), you are in the unique position of being able to:

  1. recognize that they're not being helpful, and
  2. seek help from another source

If you pursue #2, you will increase your own exposure and experience. This might be due to interacting with others in your team, or others outside of your team, or others in different companies altogether. This is what helps you learn and grow, and importantly helps keep you focused on delivering your work commitments. In the end, this is what your boss cares about: did you complete your work on time?

One starting point step for #2 would be to ask your boss for another name or two who might be able to help when you're blocked.

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  • Downvote without comment? That helps nobody. I'm genuinely interested in how this was downvoted.
    – Kaan
    Jun 22 at 20:56

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