Background: I'm a mechanical engineer at a pretty large (Fortune 500) company. When you're hired out of college, you're placed in a rotational program where you work a new position every 6 months or so, for 3 to 4 rotations. After this, you choose a place to work permanently.

I started my third rotation in this program on Monday. At the end of the day on Monday, my manager hadn't contacted me, so I sent him an email asking for some tasking to work on for the upcoming day. I finished all my training for my new role during this downtime. I met briefly with him on Tuesday morning, and he indicated that someone should have contacted me with tasking, and that they'd do so soon if they hadn't already. Tuesday came and went, and I wasn't contacted. I spent the time refactoring some messy code on a project from my previous role. I waited Wednesday as well for the person to contact me, which I feel was a mistake. This morning (Thursday), I emailed my manager again asking for tasking, and he said again that this person should be getting into contact with me. They still have not. What is an appropriate time frame to wait? What might my next steps be? I have the person's name, is it wise to reach out and contact them? It's very hard for me to spend time not charging to a contract based on how our company operates, and I feel like I'm costing the company money by essentially sitting idle.

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    I would call the "person" and introduce myself. Mention that your manager said he/she would be tasking you with stuff, and request an ETA. – Lumberjack Oct 20 '16 at 14:25
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    Consider that it may be cheaper for the company to have you to sit idle for a week or two than to pull the "person" off a higher priority task. By sitting idle, you are not costing the company money -- the person who will assign you tasks is. – Dan Pichelman Oct 20 '16 at 14:29
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    Just keep calm. Those things happens all the time and management is likely to know you are idle and if they are not ok with it be sure they can find anything to fill your time. Anyway take your time to learn more, about company, about departament to socialize and build network, to listen coworkers opnions about the company or just go read a tutorial about any new tech you find out interesting. You already demonstrated you are ready to go and got emails to prove it. Also consider everybody else can be really busy and with no time to deal with you just now. – jean Oct 20 '16 at 18:55

Just reach out to the contact. Unless you pester them this won't bother anyone.

  • "Hey, X said that you'd be contacting me as part of this rotation, I've not heard anything yet and wanted to touch base."

Call them, don't email. Maybe IM if you have that? Either way, you want something realtime (which email is not).

You should have a "rotational program manager" type of person, too, who would be a good resource to talk with if you are still unable to get ahold of your contact to get work guidance.

Doing work from your prior rotation is almost certainly fine. Just make it clear your only reasons are doing this are because you currently don't have assigned tasks - the last thing you want is an expectation that you will continue to do your previous role in a rotational program (ask me how I know...).

You could also find documentation to read about your new position, depending on how available this is. Or researching the technology if you are unfamiliar with it and know what you will be using.

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  • Thanks for the pointers! My previous two rotations were at campuses about an hour apart, I learned the hard way to scope your work appropriately. – andrew Oct 20 '16 at 15:15

Don't wait, call the person.

There is no harm in calling this person who is supposed to be giving you tasks.

You certainly don't want to be accusatory or complain in any way. If I found myself in this situation, I would simply introduce myself, mention that my manager said he/she would be giving me tasks, and request an ETA.

In my opinion this is the most professional response. It is my responsibility as an employee to remain productive on tasks that will benefit the company I work for.

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  • Thanks for the help! Both answers were awesome, wish I could select both. – andrew Oct 20 '16 at 15:14

Although you might be justified in waiting to be tasked, ultimately your manager is more interested in your starting work, no matter how that happens.

Be proactive -- reach out to your contact immediately, either by email (and copy your manager), phone, or in person, whichever is more immediate and effective.

If you are not able to charge time until you have tasks, all the more reason to act quickly and decisively.

Escalate the issue to your manager, or anyone else who might be able to help, if you do not receive responses, since your contact is already late in getting back to you.

Keep your manager in the loop throughout the process, documenting your attempts to get started working on your tasks.

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