Here is the situation: We need maintenance done on a utility supply that a machine we have can't run without. It's a somewhat crucial piece of equipment and time is money here (but then again, where is it not).

I sent an email to the guy who is in charge of getting these things fixed, giving him information about the problem, where to find it, possible fixes, etc, 2 days ago. He has yet to even acknowledge receipt of this email, let alone any steps to actually fix it. If he had said "OK, I'll begin looking into this", I would feel a lot better, but for all I know he hasn't even thought about it.

2 days may not seem like a lot to some people, but it is stalling our work, and if he's not going to be helpful I need to figure out ASAP so I can find someone who is.

I know he's not sick or on vacation because a friend of mine saw him yesterday. Personally (and from my previous experiences with the guy), I suspect he's kind of lazy and irresponsible, but speculation isn't useful here; I just say this to emphasize that he doesn't have some other dire reason to not be responding (when my friend saw him in fact, he seemed to be the opposite of busy...).

The important part is, what should one do in this situation?

I see a couple possible actions I could take:

  1. Send another email, asking if there's any progress (I'll probably do this before anything else)
  2. Find him in person and ask him if there's any progress
  3. If this fails, find someone higher up than him and request the same (and do or do not mention the lack of success with him)

However, I think it's pretty unprofessional to make me either remind him several times or hunt him down in person to get him to do his job. He may be very busy, but sending a 10 word long email is something anyone can do.

  • If this is a critical piece of equipment and "time is money", why are you relying on email? Pick up the phone or go visit the responsible person. – GreenMatt Jul 1 '15 at 18:42
  • Following up my earlier comment: Are you absolutely certain the person at the other end of your emails has seen them? Maybe they weren't addressed right and you missed the error messages that came back to you. Or, if he's like me, he literally gets hundreds of emails per day; there's no way to read all of them and effectively get work done under such circumstances, so one has to pick and choose what one reads. So, try another communication route. Email is not the best choice for time critical communications. – GreenMatt Jul 1 '15 at 19:47
  • @GreenMatt, I'm not at all sure. I am positive it is his email address, but I have no idea if he's seen it or not. He could get hundreds a day... but like I said, a friend saw him kind of puttering around at work, so I don't think being too busy is that great of an excuse. I will probably see him in person soon, though. Thanks! – shmuppins Jul 1 '15 at 19:54
  • 4
    @shmuppins if you feel your question is not a duplicate feel free to edit your question and clarify how it is not. If you want to have a meta discussion about the on/off topicness of your question please create a thread on the Meta site as this is more suited for that type of discussion. Thanks! – enderland Jul 1 '15 at 20:36

It would depend on what your role in the company is. If you're a manager, escalating with that employee's manager would be appropriate. If you're a supervisor or a line-level employee, then you should CC your manager on your follow-up, and then send a second email to your manager explaining the roadblock and reminding them of the implications. It's then your manager's job to chase it across the departments.

Then, let your manager handle it. It's what they're paid to do.

If you're a supervisor or line-level employee, escalating it to that employee's management can backfire, easily.


I see a couple possible actions I could take:

  1. Send another email, asking if there's any progress (I'll probably do this before anything else)
  2. Find him in person and ask him if there's any progress
  3. If this fails, find someone higher up than him and request the same (and do or do not mention the lack of success with him)

If you have given him a reasonable period of time to complete the task, then any of these might be appropriate.

Here "reasonable" is very context-specific. What is urgent for you, may not be urgent in the list of tasks for this individual or department - only you and he can know that for sure.

Also, it's possible that there is a formal request form or process that needs to be completed before work can start. (I know at one company where I worked, folks who didn't follow the formal process after several warnings were simply ignored.) I'm not saying that's the case here, but only you can know that.

If it were me, I'd probably forward my prior email asking in a friendly manner "Any ETA on this Maintenance? It's really important to our work. Is there anything else you need from me to get started? Thanks!" and copy his direct boss.

  • I would probably check with him in person (Either by phone or actually physically at his desk) before escalating to his boss. Otherwise I agree with this answer – HLGEM Jul 1 '15 at 20:03

Failure to ensure time critical things are being done is as much your problem as the person who needs to have it fixed. Escalating too quickloy has the potential to make you look bad for not having a full understanding of the situation rather than forcing the repair to happen faster. For example, imagine that the repair person actually has a more pressing task to attend to and your request has been received and explicitly deprioritized. Escalating actually get you this information, but it will not replace the lost time you could have spent in searching for alternate solutions.

This scenario is somewhat unlikely, but it illustrates that that your next step should be a follow up either via e-mail to confirm that the request has been received or directly in person. If you still get no response, progress or reasonable explanation, then you should escalate.


Send him an email, making sure to cc: his manager. Tell him that you asked him several days ago to complete that task and then, that's the last you heard from him. Tell him that his non-response to your communications is holding up the team.

You're telling us that you didn't follow up for two days. This makes you at fault and the cause of the delay. You were dilatory.

It is incumbent on you to follow up with him and view of the fact that your request ha been idle for two days, to escalate to his manager if you don't hear from your colleague within the hour. Make sure you cc: your own mamager when you escalate to his manager.

Almost nobody would play with me the kind of games that your colleague is playing with you. Because they know all too well the consequences if they tried me.

Frankly, somebody needs to set a fire under your butt and get you moving.

  • Thanks for the response. Sorry if I was unclear: he didn't agree to complete it yet. He just never responded to any of my emails (the initial one saying "hey there's this necessary job", the next one shortly after with details). I wouldn't yet say he's playing any game, but is certainly being unhelpful. – shmuppins Jul 1 '15 at 18:08

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .