24

My co-workers are working on fixes for our last build that the users have reported. I've completed my changes, and once they are done I'm to use our HP Fortify tool to scan the changes for ISO-Compliance, then deliver the changes to our build stream for deployment.

While I have a few things I can prepare for the next build, most of it can't actually be put in until these changes are done and our build has moved forward. And because our scan takes considerable time, I need to allocate my time wisely.

In short, I'd like to know how things are coming along. But our boss hasn't come in yet today, and we're on equal levels in terms of the employee hierarchy around here. I also suspect this situation could happen again.

Would it be rude of me to ask them for a direct update on how long they think these changes will take?

  • 2
    That's not direct answer, but you may insist on working in e.g. scrum methodology, so that you'd have daily meetings during which they will tell you about their progress, so there would be no need for asking. – el.pescado Jun 20 '15 at 10:15
  • I think a universal approach might just be to make sure that when you ask, you don't appear to be weighing their personal value to you based on their answer. Or, more specifically, that you are not more emotionally invested in their performance than you are in your own performance. A lot of people seem not to give themselves a hard time, but are rather hard on their underlings, and this tends to alienate them. Being hard on yourself will negate some of this but don't be surprised if people indeed become confrontational in either scenario if you seem remotely annoyed at lack of progress. – Darren Ringer Jun 20 '15 at 16:43
38

No, it's not rude. It's part of your job. Hovering over them and asking them every 15 minutes if they're done yet would be inappropriate (and annoying). But asking for a status (at least daily) is completely within reason, especially since there are parts of the project, yours specifically, that are blocked until they are done. A daily stand-up is the perfect setting for such a query.

If you ask for an estimated completion time/date, and they give you one, it would be best to wait until that time to check back in with them. It would be appropriate to check in with them between now and their estimated time to see whether they have any roadblocks you can help clear. But don't hover.

  • 1
    I think offering to help is a very good idea. (There are still going to be some people that get offended even at that, though.) – msouth Jun 20 '15 at 4:21
  • @msouth To paraphrase the hound - "Some c_n_s." – Gusdor Nov 2 '16 at 13:03
20

It is not at all rude in my opinion unless you asked it in a rude way.

Please could I ask if you have any idea when the fixes will be ready for me to scan them? I would like to be able to plan for that.

I have to ask that sort of thing frequently of colleagues.

Or perhaps little less timidly (in response to the comments below):

I would like to be able to plan for scanning the upcoming fixes. Are you able to tell me when they will be ready?

As avoiding appearing rude is the objective, I recommend the version with "please" and I recommend saying "please" at the start to ensure it is said (as a general rule when making requests). I struggle to phrase the second version with "please". So I prefer the first but some cultures may regard the first as off-putting (see comments below), I wouldn't regard the second as rude and I think only a very surly person would take umbrage at it. It is a perfectly reasonable request and you are just doing your job.

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    Might want to phrase it a little better, the "Please could I ask" part might put some people off. A more casual "Hey, round-about when do you think those fixed might be ready?" will be a little less confrontational to some. But yes, I ask this sort of question all the time, and it's asked of me all the time. Pretty normal. – SnakeDoc Jun 19 '15 at 21:07
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    It definitely depends on your location/culture. In the USA, "Please could I ask if..." sounds timid and lacks confidence. That might be more off-putting for work colleagues. In the USA, if you want to soften your approach, you might try the "shift responsibility to some thing" approach, such as "I need to ask you..." or "I've been asked to ask you..". – Kent A. Jun 19 '15 at 21:30
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    @Kent Anderson That's interesting. I struggle to imagine it being off-putting let alone confrontational. Where I work (in the UK) managers and directors will often say "please" to their subordinates. It's certainly not taken as a sign of timidity or lack of confidence. It's sort of like saying thank you before the event. I hope saying thank you after the event wouldn't be off-putting or seen as confrontational. – Avon Jun 19 '15 at 22:03
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    @Avon, "Please" is not the problem. It is a very welcome politeness. "Please could I ask if you have any idea..." is not the same thing. Also, off-putting doesn't necessarily equate to confrontational. It just means it's an odd way of approaching someone that could cause the recipient to wonder where that person came from. – Kent A. Jun 19 '15 at 22:22
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    @Kent Anderson SnakeDoc used the word confrontational (and got two up votes for it so I assume there must be something to that). Your proposed replacement and SnakeDoc's both removed the word "Please" so I naturally took it to be part of the probem. But I'm glad to hear it would be welcome. I would recommend using it if there is any concern about appearing rude and starting the sentence with it is a good way to ensure it is said. – Avon Jun 19 '15 at 22:42
8

Usually it is not rude, as long as you avoid sounding to "bossy" to them:

  • Explain that you are asking only because you need such feature for your own tasks, so they will not think you are just trying to manage them. As an additional feature, if they are sensible people, they might try to priorize tasks that have become a bottleneck over other tasks that do not affect other people work.

  • Do not challenge their work schedules. If they say "right now I am with another task, and I'll get to work on yours later" do not try to convince them that the task that affects you is more prioritary. They already know that it affects you (see above), if they chose not to solve that immediately they may have some reasons (which they do not need to explain to you).

  • Usually, do not challenge their estimates. If you are in good terms with your coworkers, and you are familiar with that part of their work and their estimates are too high, maybe you can say something to the effect of "I thought it would be easier, just a matter of doing X". And that, just to ensure that they are no missing some obvious solution. Again, if they don't agree with your POV, don't challenge them.

4

Depends on how you ask. If you keep it friendly, and you explain that you want to optimize your use time on behalf of the team, they'll most probably cooperate and they have no real reason not to cooperate.

2

In things like programming, estimates can be very difficult. It can be an unfair question, especially because they themselves don't know, so people can get a bit defensive.

There is a difference between an estimate, a target, and a commitment.

An estimate is how long they expect it to be done, without pressure, e.g. "I think this will take between 2 days and 2 weeks."

A target is a desired deadline, e.g. "It should be done next week."

A commitment is a promise to deliver by a certain time, e.g. "Because of regulations, I'll make sure we have something by June 1."

Be clear on which one you want. Asking for an estimate is fine if you're clear you just want an estimate. Sometimes you'll get a weird figure like "between 2 days and 3 months". In our workplace, we have a term - NFI (No eFfing Idea), for really complex jobs.

Respect their estimate. Don't ask whether they're sure they can't do it faster. Don't glare at them.

This is because they have no control over their estimate, so it's unfair to blame them for something that isn't their fault.

After you get that estimate, you can ask for a target or commitment. If you need it done in 2 weeks and they expect it done in 4 months, there's something wrong with the requirements. See what you can cut out, whether it's features, testing, quality, or something you can outsource. Or if you need only a small chunk done to start your job, you can try to get that from them before the rest of their job is done. If you want to glare, raise your voice, argue or whatever, you do it when negotiating a commitment from them.

1

Any question that you need to ask in order to do your job properly you should free to ask. For example, if there is some job A that you need to do which has to wait until I have finished my job B, you should feel free to ask how long I think it will take so you can plan your next steps. On the other hand, I might only give you the information that you need right now; for example if I say "it won't be finished by tomorrow evening" that helps you with your planning already. Or I might say "there is a problem that I haven't yet looked at; I think it's easy to solve and my job would be finished tonight, but I cannot guarantee this". Again, you can plan accordingly.

You should also feel free to ask me to change priorities (assuming the common boss is not there, and assuming we are both adults trying to do the right thing). I might have planned to work a day on C and then finish B in four hours, but if that interferes with your job, I might change the plan to do B first. Feel free to ask. On the other hand, accept if I say "No".

For longer time frames, there might not be a need for you to wait until I have delivered B in perfect quality. You might be fine with a less than perfect quality implementation to continue with your work. Again, you should feel free to discuss this with me.

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