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I have an annoying colleague who always asks me to come to his desk if he has a question about something.

The thing that he has on his screen is always open on my screen and he could always just walk to my desk instead and ask me the same - but he always asks me to come to his desk.

I get really annoyed because I have to leave my desk and go to his when I am in the middle of working on something. After a lot of frustration I told him to email me when he has questions. I want to talk to HR about this but I am afraid that I will look stupid.

I know this is wrong and he also knows that because he will never ask me to do it when HR is around. He is not my superior by any means. I work with many people and everybody else comes to my desk when they have questions.

What should I do in such a situation?

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    I'd say "no, I'm busy." Or, if I was feeling accommodating, "no, if you want my help, you can come here." Why aren't you doing something similar already? – HopelessN00b Apr 5 '14 at 0:50
  • what is he goes to HR and complains about me being un helpful – utri Apr 5 '14 at 1:33
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    Well, if you're really that worried about him whining to HR... a) why? and b) use the accommodating version - tell him to come to you for help. If he whines to HR that he has to get off his ass and walk over to you to receive assistance... he'll look like a whiny punk, and no one 's going to take him seriously. – HopelessN00b Apr 5 '14 at 4:29
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    Teach him the rubber ducking technique – Dave Johnson Apr 7 '14 at 14:18
  • @DaveJohnson Thank you for teaching me this term. I was aware of the "Ask Bob" scenario where you come up with the answer to a problem while trying to explain it. "Rubber ducking" appears to be a practice designed specifically to trigger this scenario. – RualStorge Jul 3 '14 at 18:18
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I know this is wrong and he also knows that because he will never ask me to do that when HR is around. He is not my superior by any means. I work with many people and everybody will come to my desk if they have any questions.

When you are there, do you take over his computer and answer his question(s) by doing the work for him? If so, stop this immediately. This is very enabling behavior.

You need to read this article as this person sounds like the classic example of a help vampire.

I want to know what you guys think I should do in such situation OR whats the right thing to do.

If someone is willing to disturb your work and your workflow and the only reason is "I don't want to undock my laptop" then you need to realize this person has been enabled to the point where they may feel it is their right to have your attention like this.

  1. The next time you get a request like this, respond something like, "hey, will 3:30 work (or a time tomorrow, make sure it's at least several hours away) - I'm in the middle of something right now."
  2. Have a frank discussion if he insists on either you coming to his desk or it being immediate.
    • "Hey, I want to help you, but you make it really frustrating for me. I can show you what you need at my desk - you have to realize I can't keep interrupting my work just to help you. You're the only person who demands that I come to their desk rather than email/IMing me."
  3. Wear headphones. This means the only way the person is going to get your attention is to come over. This might be enough to solve the problem entirely, depending on the level of help vampireness.
  4. If this continues, talk with his manager. It sounds like you are a manager too, if not talk with your manager first - but either way, someone who is responsible for this employee may need to have a direct discussion about the etiquette of asking other team members for help.
  5. Talk with your entire team and make sure all of you have a similar approach.
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There is nothing wrong with saying "no" to someone, as long as you do it the right way.

You need to be accommodating, but manage your colleague's expectations and guide him to the realization that you are not there for his convenience. Acknowledge him, but delay him so that you can focus on your own work until you reach a natural breaking point.

I usually go with a variation the following:

I can help you with that, but I need about 15 minutes to get to a good stopping point on my current task. I'll stop by your desk when I reach that point.

The key points here:

  • Acknowledge that you will help him
  • Indicate to him that you can't drop everything each time he asks
  • Give him a timeframe in which he can expect your assistance
  • Be nice about it

There will be times that you are able to help him immediately. That's OK. But you need to strike a balance where there's enough time to ensure that your work gets done on time too.

With any luck, he'll eventually get the hint and "I need help right now" will give way to "when you get a moment, can you come over?"

  • But the issue is every time he expects me to come over his desk. – utri Apr 5 '14 at 1:31
  • Is it possible to help him remotely? If so, start doing it (not every time at first). If not, readjust his expectations as I wrote above. If he isn't learning and becoming less dependent, you need to go to your manager & explain that your colleague's dependence upon you is negatively affecting your work. – alroc Apr 5 '14 at 1:37
  • The thing is he sits right across my desk and its like 3 steps to walk over my desk. Also we have different managers. The most annoying part is, why would you call someone to your desk when you can so easily come over my desk. Reason he gives his I have to remove my laptop from the dock. This is how it starts "Hey I have a question." I will say "ask" then he goes "can you come over". And learning from him others started asking me to come to their desks. – utri Apr 5 '14 at 1:53
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    Again, take it to your manager. Let him take it to your colleague's manager. Dealing with things like this is part of their job. Not addressing it at all out of fear will ultimately have a negative impact on your work and you'll find yourself talking to HR about that. – alroc Apr 5 '14 at 2:17
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    You're so busy worrying about what will happen if you stand up for yourself that you're not considering what will happen if you don't. – alroc Apr 5 '14 at 2:28
2

Glendower:
I can call spirits from the vasty deep.

Hotspur:
Why, so can I, or so can any man;
But will they come when you do call for them?1

Be less available. He has no motivation to change; he can summon you at will.

Because this is a coworker (and not, say, that guy who's always pestering you on Facebook or calling your phone), you'll need to do this less bluntly than you might like. In my experience in dealing with help vampires (and that's what it sounds like you've got here), I've found gradually adding more barriers to work well:

  • The next time he does it, tell him you'll come by when you're available. Make the delay longer than he's used to but not (yet) outrageous; if he's used to getting your help within 10 minutes, for example, make him wait an hour or two.

  • Gradually increase the delay. Mention that he's welcome to come by your desk if that's easier for him.

Make it more trouble than it's worth to him to get help his way, but easy for him to get it your way. The second part is important: it's not that you're not willing to help him, but you need to do it differently.

1 William Shakespeare, Henry IV, Part I Act 3

1
  1. Getting up, going to his and talking to him doesn't bother me - it's welcome exercise - getting up is a negative but looking at getting up as exercise turns a negative into a positive;
  2. If my colleague is nice to me in all other ways, I'll put up with it. I'll note that it's easier to point to a specific area on the screen when I am on the spot;
  3. If I am working on something, the sooner I am done with helping him, the sooner I am back to what I was doing, hopefully without being interrupted again within a matter of minutes.

Yep, I am team minded. But then, that's my job bias: my job is third level sys engineer - it means that I have to back up the other two levels and that if I can't put up with interruptions and support the team, I shouldn't be doing what I am doing. Aside from that, it's not a bad opportunity to do a bit of socializing, getting to know people a little bit better, know what they are doing - I never know when I might need them as backup :)

On occasion, my boss phones me to get into his office. If I don't want to be interrupted, I tell him him that this is what I am working on. He then gets to decide whether he still wants to see me right now, or whether he is better off doing something else until I come to a stopping point and call him him to ask him if he is available for the discussion he wanted to have.

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In my opinion, your problem is this:

I get really annoyed because I have to leave my desk and go to his when I am in the middle of working on something.

In other words, you think you have to leave your desk and help him, when in fact you don't.

The most tactful way to deal with this to just let him come to you. If he asks for help, tell him something like "sure come by and I'll explain it to you". If he says "come to my desk", just do nothing. He'll come to you, or he'll figure it out himself.

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