I am trying to create a culture where developers attempt to solve their own problems first before approaching me. Right now, it is the opposite. They come to me as a first resort. Of course, I will always be there as a resource when they get stuck, but now my time is getting consumed by team members asking me questions.

How can I create a culture where my team tries to solve problems on their own first and then come to me only as a last resort?

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    I'm curious... do you actually know how to solve all their problems without even a false start? If you do, then I guess you are like a magic genie and if I had a magic genie next door, I would use him/her as much as possible. If, on the other hand, you have to try a couple things first, then why not suggest those as avenues to pursue, e.g. "Try doing X or Y and let me know if you get stuck. Possibly Z or something else is better. Maybe you can improve on this." And if their problems are so simple they are basically "google it" type questions, you might as well tell them to google it. Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 3:50
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    Heh, I don't know if this is ironic or not, but how do we create a culture here at The Workplace Stack Exchange where the questioner tries to solve problems on the questioner's own first and then come to us only as a last resort? Please note that this is not directed at you personally; I had just dropped by as part of the community review queue. However, I hope you do take the comment as a chance to perhaps lead by example? Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 8:39
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    Possible duplicate of How should one handle an unnecessary question?
    – gnat
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 11:07
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    see also: How to politely ask a coworker to “Google it”
    – gnat
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 11:07
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4 Answers 4


I run an online community of managers called Resolve where we share and learn from each other's experiences. This question has come and here is a response from one of our community members.

Become a manager of solutions and develop your teams.

An open door does not equal being the answer database for your employees. Becoming a manager of solutions will require re-training for you and your team.

When I first became a Director, it was easy to default to answering questions for my team and providing solutions. Let’s face it, it was faster or at least it “seemed” more expedient. Truth is, it caused dependence AND over time they were acquiescing the simplest of decisions. They were not strengthening their problem solving, communication or being challenged. It was also a missed opportunity for building trust and confidence in my team members. Time for a change.

The new motto, “Come with an idea, solution or recommendation.” This became so ingrained sometimes someone would pop in my door and say, “OK, I don’t have a solution but I wanted to get your input.” Success! They were actively seeking to collaborate and they felt comfortable telling me so. My door was open to support them and they knew it.

With any change, make sure the team is in the know. “I noticed more and more questions are coming to me which I appreciate the interaction and think it could be a bottleneck. We are missing an opportunity for professional development and collaboration as a team. Moving forward for questions, who/what might be a good resource to consult. This builds relationships and you will learn where things are for future reference. I encourage you come to my office with a solution, idea or recommendation for a problem you may be having. Doesn’t have to be perfect, we can collaborate. My job is to support you and I think this will allow us to be most productive.”

How to be a manager of solutions:

Become curious. Break the habit of answering immediately.

Questions to get started:

  • What ideas do you have (to solve the problem)?
  • Who might be a good resource to get more information?
  • What have you tried/learned/researched so far?
  • What are your thoughts? Have you checked/read X?

Dig Deeper:

  • That sounds like a viable solution, have you thought about the impact downstream?
  • What risks do you see if any?
  • Who does this impact?
  • What type of communication is necessary?
  • Is there a plan B?


  • Robbie has been working on that. He would be a good contact for you to get some of the basics.
  • That’s a great start. Here are a few risks I see. Taking that into account, is there anything you would change?
  • We might want to try this. That information is posted. Why don’t you read that first and let me know if you have any questions or if it solves the problem for you.
  • Whew that’s a biggie. Glad you brought that up. Let me escalate and circle back with you.

Remember to fight the temptation to answer immediately and see how your employees begin to feel more empowered.

Here are a few more suggestions from Resolve and the original post app.meetresolve.com

  • Hi, just dropping in as part of the community review queue. I would have probably formatted this so it's a little more clear which part is yours and which part is the answer you had copied and pasted. Meanwhile, welcome to The Workplace SE! Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 8:18
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    I like this because it follows a positive method of coaching employees. The only caveat for me is, and it only comes with experience, there's a fine line between knowing when to ask questions, and when to give solutions.
    – CKM
    Commented Mar 10, 2017 at 16:47

Have you thought about introducing a "quiet time".

e.g. between 10 -12

people should not be interrupted.

Perhaps this will get the individual to use a bit more self reliance?


Every question you answer should end with "and here's how you could have found that out yourself." This gives them some latitude between genuinely learning research strategies, to feeling silly or dumb for asking something they could have found out on their own, but the hope is they will use that latitude to grow and reduce the need to ask you many questions.


They shouldn't come to you as a very last resort, they should do what's cheapest for the company. The cost to the company of asking you is your salary during the interruption, plus some extra for breaking your focus on your work. The cost to the company of not asking you is the salary of the person not asking, plus the cost of that person coming up with a subpar answer to the question and possible spending weeks on the wrong path. Now that is expensive.

Put a sign on your desk "My name is not Mr. Google" or "My name is not Mrs. Google". There's a resource that should have been asked first. Cheaper, and infinitely patient. Now if the question is about something company internal that should have been documented (maybe by you) but isn't, then you answer and tell them to document the answer.

And if you are the senior developer, then junior developers should absolutely come to you to check if strategies they want to use are the right ones. Especially if you had to do a code review later, it's much cheaper not to produce something that won't be acceptable in a code review, by asking.

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