I am an experienced developer. As such tasks that are assigned to me get done usually ahead of schedule, which I always thought was a good thing. It so happens that sometimes there is some slack time between me finishing a sprint and the next sprint, and I use that time as I see fit - reading about new things, experimenting or simply browsing the news, and I didn't make any effort to hide it because I thought it would be unnecessary.

So I was called out explicitly about it and told that I should tell the manager that I was done and needed more things to do. I felt somewhat insulted, after all I did what was planned, it was approved and promoted to production without any problems. It gives me the impression that from their point of view I should pick up the slack of other developers, which doesn't feel fair.

What is the best approach in this type of situation? Should I just fill out the whole time allocated? Why not offer me the chance of learning something new and probably eventually beneficial for the company?

  • "I was called out explicitly about it" - clarify who called you out. Your manager? A colleague?
    – Brandin
    Mar 29 '17 at 9:51
  • @Brandin it was my direct manager.
    – user1220
    Mar 29 '17 at 11:37
  • You should do what your manager asks. Your time is not your own at work. It belongs to the company for the specific number of hours you are contracted for. If you are salaried in the US, it belongs to the company for a minimum of 40 hours.
    – HLGEM
    Mar 29 '17 at 17:08

From your use of the word "sprint" I will assume you are using Scrum or something similar.

One of the key principles of Scrum is that responsibility for the tasks lies with the team as a whole, not with individual team members. Any team member who finishes a task is expected to pick up another task or help another team member with theirs.

Even if you are not running Scrum, refusing to help others on your team says to them (justifiably or not) that you care more about your own development than you do about the team or the completion of the project.

In any case, since you are being paid by the company it is up to them what you do at work. You absolutely should check with your manager what she wants you to do when you have finished your tasks. In that sense your team is completely right.

  • I guess we are not really using Scrum since the tasks are handed out on a planning meeting, and there is so far very little collaboration between team members, it is a stovepiped team where each has an area of expertise and there is little cross pollination. But I understand the gist of your answer, thank you.
    – user1220
    Mar 29 '17 at 2:10
  • 2
    This is a good answer. I'd emphasize the team concept more, personally. Your individual contributions may be great, but your value to the company is how you help the team. Mar 29 '17 at 3:05
  • 1
    @user1220 you should edit your question to reflect that specific aspect, you might have an answer that fit you most.
    – Walfrat
    Mar 29 '17 at 7:14

So I was called out explicitly about it and told that I should tell the manager that I was done and needed more things to do. I felt somewhat insulted.

I'm not sure why you feel this is insulting.

You have finished your assigned work. Apparently your manager assigns the work in your shop. You should have told your manager that you had completed your assignment.

You could tell your manager that you hoped to spend some time "reading about new things, experimenting or simply browsing the news" and see if that was okay. But just because you finished more quickly than expected doesn't mean your time is your own to do as you choose.

Consider it this way - if what you did were acceptable, shouldn't everyone pad their estimates as much as possible, rush to get their work completed, then spend the remainder of every day doing whatever they choose?

Ask for time to conduct research if you like. But you didn't ask, you just decided to take it upon yourself to do what you chose, rather than leave it up to the manager. At least be honest about it and not decide to feel insulted.

In Strategies as a highly productive employee without any work? you asked a related question. You might wish to review the responses you got.


The fact that you finish your tasks within the sprint earlier than the deadline indicates your team has a lack of common understanding about the effort requires for finishing a particular story.

Example: If you finish a story in 2 days time which was estimated to take 5 days, proves your team doesn't have a common understanding about the complexity of that story, and obviously as a manager it makes no sense for you to take your own sweet time for the remaining days, instead they should pull more tasks into that sprint.

Overall, From my point of view, delivering tasks ahead of expected time consecutively is not necessarily a good sign. Your team mates may also not like this as it might denote that you work hard and they don't. (It ruins the market within the team)

  • 1
    "delivering tasks ahead of expected time consecutively is not necessarily a good sign" - that part of the statement is absurd, assuming OP works at their typical pace (and there is nothing to indicate they don't). I agree with the misestimation of complexity, though. Mar 29 '17 at 5:18
  • @CaptainEmacs, My statement might sound too general and broad, but I still believe if the estimation happens correctly, as a developer you will not end up finishing much earlier than the expected deadline.
    – comxyz
    Mar 29 '17 at 5:32
  • I might misunderstand but to me, your last sentence sort of implies that OP should slow down so as not to make their colleagues look bad, which I think is ridiculous. However, I agree that if estimates are frequently severely off in either reaction, that needs to be addressed in the retrospective and corrected in the next planning.
    – Llewellyn
    Mar 29 '17 at 19:30

Don't see it as "picking up slack" from your colleagues. It could be that the estimate was inaccurate, or some unforseen reason has rendered the estimate incorrect. After all, you can't just assume an estimate is going to be correct, they can always be underestimates or overestimates.

If you have downtime, you need to say to your manager that you have finished your tasks. It's then for your manager to decide what else you do in that time.

If you have downtime and wish to spend time learning soemthing that could be beneficial to the company, say to your manager:

Hey, i've finished my tasks for this sprint. Do you mind if I look at X, I feel it could really help us in the future? Or are there items in the sprint that need picking up?

That way, it's your manager deciding whether you look at more work items, or you can then do research. It's your managers' decision how your time is used, not yours.


Use a balanced approach. Give up SOME of that time to further your technical abilities, and the rest to the team to help out here and there. Your team actually, in the long run run, needs both of these things. your team actually, in the long run, needs both of these things.

You don't want a reputation as a non contributor , but you REALLY don't want the reputation as the team work horse who is always singled out to handle everyone else's unfinished tasks. This also makes the team too dependent on one person, which is bad for the organization overall. So try to stay somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

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