A colleague has a task that he does monthly, which recently has had an adverse impact to some of my systems. I've asked him to modify his task so that it will not include those specific systems any more. He's said he can do this, that's not a problem.

However, the unpleasant part is that he says he will need me to send him an e-mail every month to remind him to do this modification. Of course, it's not really much easier for me to remember to remind him than it is for him to do so (or set something up to help) himself.

I've considered sending him a recurring Task in Outlook, but tossed that out as too passive-aggressive. How else could/should this situation be handled, aside from plain acquiescence?

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    Suggest that he create a recurring event for himself on his calendar? It's possible he's just never thought of using the calendar for non-meetings. – Monica Cellio Oct 2 '12 at 19:24
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    Task Scheduler is your friend... Don't have to do everything through Outlook. – Oded Oct 2 '12 at 19:39
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    dummies.com/how-to/content/… – Oded Oct 2 '12 at 19:58
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    My advice and response would be to indicate that "No, I will not remind you to do it this way" and basically walk away. He should be able to remind himself to do the task the correct way, if he is doing to do it the same way every single time, then he should update his notes that help him do the task the correct way himself. – Donald Oct 3 '12 at 13:24
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    Can you provide a bit more background on what this task is? I could imagine that if you, say, wanted to request that Windows patches not be applied to your particular servers that it might make sense for that sort of exception to the policy to be documented on a regular basis both to ensure that the deviation is still necessary and to provide an appropriate paper trail for the audit. But there should be alternate ways to do that other than having you send an email every month. If the task is more bespoke, the other suggestions are good. – Justin Cave Nov 28 '12 at 20:56
  1. Start person to person - don't let him get away with making you his unofficial keeper. His task is "do the recurring thing without screwing you up" - not just doing the recurring thing any way he pleases. I'd probably start with a polite - "hey, I'm not better at remembering monthly tasks than you... I have tricks for reminding myself of my own work, do you need help setting up recurring reminders for yourself? I'd be glad to help" - basically a friendly, helpful way of offering to fix the problem that involve more legwork for you. It's easy to assume that everyone knows that tools like automated reminders are available in just about every communication tool these days... but some people either don't know or don't think of it.
  2. Escalate - seriously, needing a reminder to your job properly suggests a serious problem. Especially when the work is so largely unsupervised that the employee is expected to do it on a regular, recurring basis without managerial involvement. You've done your part of the work when you and the other guy have worked out what needs to be done to do the work correctly without impacting other systems adversely. If this guy understands the work, has tested with you that the new way of doing it doesn't break your stuff, and simply needs to be reminded - it's time to tell both your manager and his that your part of the work is done. I wouldn't raise this as "I think this guy is a screw-up", but I'd say to his manager "Look, I don't think it's appropriate for me to be the reminder-generator here - he knows what to do, and I verified that it works... if the process is that I remind him each month, then we hit the problem where I'm managing this task that is really his responsibility, and I don't want to circumvent you as his boss... also - if for some reason I am out, on vacation, etc, then this is a fairly brittle process that could easily get messed up... is there a way for him to have his own reminders?"

I'd do #1 first, and only move on to #2, if the guy threw up so many excuses to taking responsibility that you knew you were getting no where.

Frankly, I've ended up in stage #2 a few times and it usually means there's an issue. Either the guy is actively avoiding doing things properly, or there's a disconnect between your group and his on the priority of the work and the responsibility of all stakeholders. Either way, this is the kind of thing I prefer to find out ahead of time, so I can make appropriate arrangements, and I usually don't learn the real problem until I escalate.


I would be as honest as possible and offer to teach him how to do it on his own. There are a number of tools for each Operating System and even websites like http://www.rememberthemilk.com/ that can help someone remember their tasks.

I wouldn't worry so much about how you are going to be perceived and just say what's on your mind. I found that once I quit worrying about what people thought of me that it has helped me immensely in my career. The suggestions that you have come up with sound very reasonable to me and don't sound passive aggressive at all.

Good luck!

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    I would add that, if it's your co-worker who is responsible for the task, then he is (presumably) also responsible for doing it correctly. As such, any notes, special exceptions, or things he needs to do in order to complete it correctly are probably on him. You can be nice about this, but be clear that if he's the one doing the task, how is your reminder going to help him do it correctly any better than him reminding himself? – jefflunt Oct 2 '12 at 20:25

...he says he will need me to send him an e-mail every month to remind him to do this modification.

Red Flag !

Are you sure he is not the guy on here that asked how do I politely reject a work request that I don't care about, because it doesn't impact me?

Yeah, he is just brushing you off, obviously he doesn't care and now it's all on you so if you forget he is free and clear - smart guy actually...

If you can somehow make this modification important to him or a reflection of his work, then you can be sure it will happen every month, even when you forget.


You are concerned about not being passive-agressive, but to me it seems like your colleague is manipulating you. What exactly is this all about? He should be doing something as a part of his job... but somehow it became your problem, and you are asking on internet what you should do to solve it.

Of course people should help each other, but there are some limits where too much helpfulness opens door for exploitation. You can help him, but remember the limits; they could help you avoid some unpleasant surprises later.

First, don't let him shift responsibility to you. You can give him some good advice, for example teach him to use a reminder system. It's his job, he is paid for doing it, and he is paid for doing it correctly. -- If your work will require you to do something once in a month, who will be responsible for remembering it correctly? You will.

I don't know what "task" he is doing monthly and why exactly some "specific systems" should not be included. But I assume that this request is not your personal whim, but is somehow necessary for a work that your employer wants to be done. You should document this necessity in some report, so your manager knows about it. Without mentioning your colleague. Just write: "To make X work correctly, it is essential that Y is not done on server Z; otherwise it might stop working."

If you accept that sending reminders is your responsibility, suddenly every possible problem related to the reminders becomes your fault. What if your Outlook for some reason does not send the reminder? (There could be a bug, a network problem, an update that does not preserve configuration, etc.) Or what if your colleague simply claims that he did not receive the reminder, without any evidence either way? By accepting the responsibility for the reminders, you invite all these problems on yourself.

Second, be careful about subtle power games in the workplace. Just because you avoid them, it does not guarantee they will avoid you. Accepting a task from your colleague is a very bad move. Think about it this way: "If company thinks about promoting one of two employees A and B, and A is already giving tasks to B, which one of them is more likely to be promoted?" If you accept a subordinate position, it will be only natural for everyone else to confirm it.

But for the same reason your colleague should not accept tasks from you. Which is why this situation should not be framed as something between you and him, which you two have to negotiate on. -- You did your work. Your work needs your systems to be excluded from the monthly task. You should explain this need to your manager. Your manager should ask your colleague to exclude the systems from the monthly task. -- This is the proper way to do it. Then it's between the manager and your colleague, and you are out. And I don't think your colleague would ask his manager to send him reminders.

So at this moment you should 1) explain to your manager that your systems need to be excluded from the monthly tasks, preferably in a written way; 2) tell your colleague that you will not send him reminders, because you have a lot of other work to do, and 3) offer your colleague to help him setting up his reminders. Whether he accepts or refuses your offer, it's no longer your problem.

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