I work 9-5 in an office doing various Web Development tasks for various parts of the organization. We are pretty big and some of the projects span several groups.

If I have completed as many of my tasks as possible but the rest of the project(including more of my work) is being bottlenecked by someone else in a different group, is it okay for me to knock out their work? What if they are in my group? What is a healthy alternative to doing their job for them, other than nagging them about the status of the task?

  • Related, possible duplicate: What can I do at work when I have no work? – David K Jul 22 '16 at 18:47
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    Short answer, have you asked your boss what you should be doing? – David K Jul 22 '16 at 18:47
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    There is nothing wrong with making yourself useful but that should be done with the cooperation of the person you're helping and management. Aggressively taking up their work will, eventually, backfire upon you regardless of good intent. If someone is "a bottleneck" make an effort to help them out before dismissing their contribution. – teego1967 Jul 22 '16 at 19:07
  • Put the boot on the other foot for a moment. If you had an overenthusiastic colleague who would snatch your work all the time, what would you do? My advice is don't do it. If you have nothing to do, take up some "backlog" tasks which are not assigned to anyone, never snatch things from other people's table. – Masked Man Jul 23 '16 at 17:43
  • Also remember that anything you do once becomes your job. Are you okay with being expected to do this "extra" work as your "regular" work in the long term, especially when your "regular regular" work increases? – Masked Man Jul 23 '16 at 17:45

The only real answer to this is ask your supervisor.

Any other advice will be different from Country/State/Employer/Department/Team/Person to (same).

Unless you have the blessing of management, never

You have no idea how much trouble you could cause yourself.

Some possible scenarios:

  1. You make a mistake, and then you get to explain why the project is screwed up by someone who had no business doing what you did.
  2. The person is midway or even mostly through the task, and you end up undoing their work.
  3. The person overwrites your work, and now your piece no longer works. Explain that one!

In other words, you are exposing yourself to a situation where you cannot win if even the slightest thing goes wrong.

  • I think it also depends on company culture. At my previous company, a few teams were able to override others as they choose without management direct approval. However, their manager would defend them heavily even if they were wrong thus protecting them from any wrong doing. – Dan Jul 22 '16 at 19:21
  • @Dan Yes, I once worked for such a manager. – Richard U Jul 22 '16 at 20:56

You walk a very fine line when you do someone else's job. Here is some general guidance:

  1. If you're looking to help out in a small way, or push a project over the goal line, then not only is it perfect acceptable, but it's encouraged. Helping out a teammate in a small way demonstrates that your committed to your team and committed to your job. It also demonstrates ownership. Going above and beyond the call of duty is typically noticed by management. Many times, it will help you earn bonuses, raises, recognition, and job security.
  2. On the other hand, you don't want to do someone else's job full-time because you could breed moral hazard. In other words, if a coworker gets used to the idea that you will come to their rescue when the going gets tough, then they may forever lack the incentive to work and do the job that they are being paid to do.

So in conclusion:

  • It small doses, it's perfectly fine (and even encouraged) to help out teammates; but watch out for situations in which coworkers expect you to do their work for them.

Normally there are already policies/practices in place which cover this. But if there really aren't:

Ask your manager if it's ok. Then ask the other person if they want help; if so, work with them to coordinate who is doing what and, preferably, to peer-review each other.

If your manager says no, you probably shouldn't.

If the other person says no, you can talk to your manager about getting the work reassigned to you.

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