Quite often, we need help from other departments. Whenever I need to do so, I always give them enough time to respond, or enough understanding if they can't respond in time.

However, a colleague of mine from another department (who has once asked for my help) didn't come to me beforehand but went directly to my boss instead and said, that's a very easy job, will take him an hour at most (writing a tcl program). However, my estimate is that writing it alone will take 3 or 4 hours, and making sure it works as expected will take another hour or two, and indeed it took me almost a day to do a good job. In other words, he deliberately downplayed the effort to writing that tcl program, deliberately making it not a big deal, and my manager believes him more than me.

This is really bothersome. If I write a bad program in an hour, he will surely come back to my boss complaining that I've done a bad job. If I do a good job, then my boss will say, "What took you so long?"


"I would say if he knows it is a 1 hour task then he should do it himself." Yeah, definitely, totally agree. If I have a task that takes me two or even three hours to do myself, I wouldn't go through the hassle of going through another department's manager, and asking people from another department to do it for me. The only reason he did it, was that he and my manager were quite close, and I was new in the company (and was new to tcl as well). I bet the whole conversation between him and my manager was just, "I need xxx to help me writing a tcl program, a very easy one, will take him an hour at most", "Yeah, sure, I'll ask him". When you are new, you have to do whatever you are told. I don't mind doing it, but such attitude of soliciting help but showing no sign of consideration and appreciation made me very uncomfortable.

I.e., either case, I think I'm losing. How would you deal with such colleagues that want to borrow your time, but downplay your effort? Your answer can help me better prepared next time when I bump into such person again.

  • Advice from one programmer to another: This guy is NOT anything like a real friend... – rahuldottech Jan 2 '16 at 7:11
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    @TheWanderingDevManager, I didn't say anything to the boss because I was new to the company and was new to tcl as well. Moreover, I don't know what and how to say, so I sucked it up myself. This is the reason for the question actually, to know what and how to say. – grn Jan 3 '16 at 4:30
  • @grn The reason this was closed is that you complain about your situation but don't actually ask a question. What specifically do you want to change? What outcome are you looking for? – David K Jan 5 '16 at 13:28
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    @DavidK, thanks for letting me know. I've amended my ending with a question, and also what outcome I am looking for. – grn Jan 5 '16 at 23:13

However, there is this colleague of mine from another department, who once asked for my help. He didn't come to me beforehand, but went directly to my boss instead

Actually, that is generally accepted to be the correct way to do things. Other departments should go through your manager to access your time. Your company policy may vary.

and said, that's a very easy job, will take him an hour at most (writing a tcl program),

You tell your boss when he assigns the work what you estimate the resource requirements (including time) to be. Back up your estimates with your data. If the boss says, "John said it would only take an hour," you say, "Well, it may take an hour to do a mock-up, but a fully debugged and tested script will take 8 hours. I can just give him the mock-up if you want me to, but you're taking a risk in doing that. It could have {X} implications if it's not done properly."


Right now, your manager is convinced that other guy is correct and nothing you say will make him change his opinion. So you need to show him.

Hey boss, that other guy told me to write a tcl script in about an hour, but I estimated it to take me a full day. Is it okay if that other guy shows me how to do it in an hour so I will know how to do it faster next time?

Now three things can happen:

  • Your boss thinks it's not worth the hassle to have two people on the task and orders that other guy to do it himself.

  • That other guy either fails to teach you or has to admit he cannot teach you how to do it in an hour because he cannot do it himself. That in turn will make your boss see that an estimation from that other guy is worthless.

  • That other guy teaches you how to do it in an hour.

Any way, you win.

  • "Right now, your manager is convinced that other guy is correct and nothing you say will make him change his opinion. So you need to show him." Band on! You access the situation exactly it was. But your approach is a bit confrontational, I'll update my OP why. but +1 though. – grn Jan 2 '16 at 14:16
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    @grn I'm not sure why asking for help would be confrontational. You don't need to use my exact words, I'm not a native speaker. You cannot do it in an hour. The other guy said it's doable in an hour. That's a learning opportunity right there. – nvoigt Jan 2 '16 at 15:09
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    There's a fourth thing that can happen. Boss: "My buddy whom I trust completely says it's a one hour job for any competent person. You can't do it in an hour? I'm going to have to re-evaluate your competence." – Chan-Ho Suh Jan 2 '16 at 20:44
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    @Chan-HoSuh Competence of knowledge workers is not measured in what they can do but what they can learn to do. Exceptions are probably short term contracts and third world coding sweatshops. So yes, if it is an exceptionally moronic boss or one of the mentioned exceptions, this might happen. But I'd argue that in those cases, the OP has an even bigger problem than this. – nvoigt Jan 2 '16 at 21:07
  • @nvoigt, very interesting point of view. I do can see people from different culture background view thing quite differently. From your point of view, I realize what things ought to be, but in reality, things might not be that ideal. But I learned what I should be expecting. Thanks. – grn Jan 3 '16 at 4:27

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