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At my warehouse job, I often run out of tasks and have to go back to my supervisor and ask, "Hey, anything else you need done?" This happens often so I am constantly asking her this. Is this normal?

I am still pretty new and not that familiar with the ropes yet, so there's not a whole lot I can offer. After I am done with the usual tasks, there isn't anything else I can do which doesn't require an 'OK' from my supervisor. For example, if I return an item to stock without getting her 'OK', I could be in trouble.

I want to find a new way to ask because I keep asking this so often, and "do you need anything done?" sounds ridiculous. I think I need a more casual way to ask without sounding stupid or disengaged in the company.

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Ask her to make you a short list of ongoing tasks that she'd like you to get done after you have finished with the tasks that she specifically assigned you. Then let her know that you are on those tasks before you start - that's because she might have tasks for you that are of higher priority than the ongoing tasks that you are about to start on.

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I can see the problem with pestering your supervisor with "do you need anything else done?" especially if it happens too frequently throughout the day. I would suggest you try the below alternatives instead:

  • Ask your supervisor for a list of tasks

    "Hey <supervisor's name>, what are the tasks for me today?

    Check with her if it is okay to proceed with them in the sequence she assigns, without waiting for an 'OK' before each task. If not, then keep updating her when you complete each task, and wait for her 'OK' to start the next task. (This also has some overlap with the next alternative.)

  • Suggest a task you want to take up next

    This is useful if your workflow makes it impractical for your supervisor to decide a sequence of tasks in advance. When you complete a task, you could suggest that you want to take up one of the pending tasks, as against asking what to do next.

    Hey <supervisor's name>, I have completed loading widget X into the delivery truck A. I see that delivery truck B is waiting for widget Y, shall I do that next?

    The supervisor would either give you the 'OK', or tell you to work on something else of higher priority. I expect that in most cases, it wouldn't matter who takes up what task as long as everything gets done, so you would also reduce the supervisor's load.

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In the early stages of any job, this feels like the case. However, over time, you build a sense of autonomy and you end up just understanding or knowing what to do. Through experience of the job and your experience with the Manager's expectations.

I would suggest to keep doing what you're doing but: note tasks that you can find out that need doing on your own. This is important because over time you'll be able to do this all on your own. Of course, the first time you decide to do it on your own, just the first time, confirm with your manager if that's ok. Usually they are receptive to such ideas.

Managers love employees who take initiative and who are autonomous.

So here's your TODO:

  • Keep a short list of your tasks you've been assigned
  • Find tasks that come up often
  • Note tasks that pop up over and over
  • Learn how to know when they're due
  • Do them well, do them quick
  • Again learn what their triggers are and do them
  • Before any task, confirm that your manager is ok with you doing that task on your own. Just the first time.
  • If any task presents with some edge case where it affects things: Let your manager know
  • If any task goes differently than usual: Let you boss know either personally or through email.

This was what I asked as a newly minted developer. For a while it's silly, but that's fine. Over time you should get a sense of what needs asking and what doesn't.

I finished doing ______, what's next?

Good luck on the new job.

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