I sent an email to a senior developer to ask him to make a change to a web service that i require to continue on with my work. He is the only one in the office that has the skills to do what i require.

Trouble is, one and a half days have passed and i havent received a response. I know he is busy and has a whole lot on his plate. The only thing is, i cannot continue with my work until this change is made.

I dont want to come across as hassling. I only occasionally email him every week. How should i get him to follow up on my email?


4 Answers 4


Depends on the organization and the developer.

Were it me, I'd start by physically walking over to the developer and asking for an estimate on when she'll be able to make the change. She may be working on a number of other projects and your task may not be a high priority for her. If you're not in the same physical location, I'd call or IM or use whatever other technology you have for higher priority conversations.

I assume that you've alerted your project manager/ line manager/ whoever oversees your time that you are blocked waiting for this change. If the other developer isn't responding or the estimate she provides causes you problems, escalate the issue to her. Your manager/ project manager/ whatever exists to remove obstacles and to deal with getting tasks prioritized. If your request is a lower priority that can't be done immediately, that's fine as long as everyone understands how this impacts your timelines.

Of course, different organizations and structures deal with things differently. Some expect developers to route all these requests through the project manager rather than going to other developers directly. Others expect developers to do more project management and negotiate priorities more independently.

  • +1 for the manager route :) However, given that the OP says he or she does in fact email the other person indicates that there is already an established relationship and channel of communication :)
    – Jane S
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 2:40
  • 12
    @JaneS - If I had a nickel for every time someone sent an email rather than going through the defined "official way to request a developer to do something", I'd have an awfully large pile of nickels. It's possible that sending an email is the right way to request this. But it's possible that the issue is that the developer has been told that real project requests always take priority over emails. Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 2:43
  • No argument there. You already have my +1 :)
    – Jane S
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 2:44

I would recommend the following:

Show personal interest. If it's really important to you, then it's worth a phone call, a visit, or something else that makes that fact self-evident. A lot of urgency and importance can be politely communicated by a show of personal dedication.

Give the benefit of the doubt. Often when my superiors haven't responded to my email it's because they're busy and haven't gotten to it yet. Usually they have received the email and already have a solution in mind. Approach the recipient of your email with a smile, be friendly, and ask them if they saw your message. Chances are they have and they can talk to you about it.

Explain the importance of the situation. If the situation really is urgent, calmly give the recipient important details that they might not know yet so they can effectively prioritize and implement their solution. If they decide it's not a high priority and they assume responsibility for it, then don't worry about it.

Be patient. If you aren't getting the results you want, find something else productive to do. There are always opportunities available. Take advantage of the time you have to make a difference. Doing the right thing in times of difficulty will set you apart from other employees and prepare you for future problems.

  • I like the focus on communication style here. This is a very valuable tool for prompting positive action. It is common for developers to forget the human element!
    – Gusdor
    Commented Sep 17, 2015 at 10:50

Other answers have already explained how to try to get more attention from the senior developer.

However, one thing you should do is to check with your supervisor and make sure there really isn't anything else for you to work on while you wait for the web service to be updated.


Being road-blocked on an issue is not something you need to be concerned about having to follow up on, especially if the person is the only contact you have for it (and you have managerial approval to contact them). He should be well aware that he is in a critical position and will likely be contacted about issues on his area of expertise.

You can approach him in one of several ways:

  • Send another email
  • Call him on the phone directly; or
  • Wander over to his desk if he is local to you.

I would strongly recommend the phone call or personal visit because this adds the immediacy of your need and is a little harder to ignore than an email. Whichever medium you use, ask if he has had a chance to look at your question yet and stress that you are sorry to bother him, but you really need the answer to be able to proceed.

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