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My employer is moving in a new direction for which I seem to have been picked to be the (de facto) consultant for everyone else in the building. I have no official title or position that indicates that shift in responsibility, I'm still a level 1 grunt, I just have a different background that makes me more familiar with this new direction. My position of subject matter expert is a de facto position not recognized in any way by the company, it is just a matter of convenience for my coworkers to be able to ask me instead of taking the time to ask someone in our offshore office, who are officially recognized as being the people to consult for this new system (we have to wait at least a full day for a response).

I don't mind helping wherever I can, but the problem is that I also have my own workload and am lagging behind on it due to the amount of queries I receive concerning the new initiative. I understand that as a whole, it would be better for one person to be blocked if it means that 25+ other people are not, but at the same time, I don't want to seem like I'm making excuses to my management when I say "I had to help team members x,y,z and w with the new product" as an explanation to why my own work is done. I've come to the conclusion that I'm going to have to start turning away (at least some of) the requests of this nature in order to get my own work done, but I don't know how to do that without making people upset and getting a reputation of being unhelpful.

  • 6
    have you asked your manager? This is what managers are for – Kate Gregory Sep 17 '15 at 20:27
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    Have you talked with your manager to see how he or she wants you to handle the situation. Something like "Hey boss, I'm getting a bunch of questions about x. I'm happy to answer them but that's taking n hours of my day. If I help everyone, it's going to slow down progress on <<other tasks>>. How do you want me to handle questions about x?" Your boss might tell you to send all requests to her to prioritize or to go ahead and respond and delay your other deliverables or any number of intermediate options. – Justin Cave Sep 17 '15 at 20:29
  • Definitely mention it to your manager, at the very least it will explain any shortfalls in your normal workload. If you're struggling, then by all means ask for assistance. – Kilisi Sep 17 '15 at 20:55
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Rather than explaining to your manager after the fact, it's better to make clear to your manager (and any teammates, for that matter) that these other responsibilities are taking up your time. Your manager then needs to provide guidance on how you spend your time and prioritize.

Given that prioritization, when someone asks you to do something you should probably follow this outline: 1. Great, I'll put it on my queue of things to do 2. I expect I'll be able to start it around such-and-such a time (next week, next month, whatever), and it should take (X) amount of time 3. (If they ask) I won't be able to start it until then because I have these other projects. Each of these projects are important because of X, Y and Z. 4. If that's too long, I can send my notes on how to do that task to you and answer questions on how to respond.

Finally, if you are the subject matter expert, the position you are in is untenable. Instead, you want to be in the habit of training others to also be experts.

3

The situation is that you have been given more work than you can do. Obviously you can't do it all. Some of the work is "officially" your job, other work is more "unofficially" your job. It seems that (a) doing your "unofficial" job is right now more beneficial for the company, but (b) you are afraid you will be judged by your performance on your "official" tasks and therefore want to give lower priority to the unofficial job.

Your situation is one where your own goals are opposite to the company's goals. That's a situation that your manager needs to fix - that's a manager's job. That's something managers often overlook; it is their job to structure the job so that it is in your best interest to do what is in your manager's best interest.

To do this, the manager must be aware of the problem first. So you need to tell him what is happening, then the manager ought to tell you that helping others is right now your first priority, doing your original job is lower priority, and that doing your original job not as good as you used to will not be held against you.

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If it's for a particular system, I'd do a bit of overtime (even if you don't get paid, it'll be worth it just for the less stress aspect) and create a load of documentation, in particular an FAQ doc & drop it on a share point or network drive etc. Add a note to your out of office auto reply & your email signature saying where to find it and that unfortunately if the query already has an answer you won't be responding. You then keep the docs updated and build an example to use in your performance review/future interviews etc & show how you can work with issues and overcome obstacles with ease - Especially useful for pay review time! ;)

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