I am currently working as a junior C# developer in the Netherlands. Last Wednesday, a senior developer, who was working for a client I never met, went on a summer trip for 4 weeks. Before he left, he did some changes to a project for that client and made it ready for deployment on production. We work with a schedule and always deploy our project to production on Thursday. Because he wasn't working that day, he asked me to only finish the deployment and mail the customer if the deployment succeeded.

So, I deployed it, fixed some issues that popped-up and informed the client that it was done. The next day (Friday afternoon) I received a mail with a long list the client want to see changed or added before he leaves on his holiday next week Friday. In his mail (which wasn't written in a very friendly way), he wrote about how he "asked a dozen times to place X on the left","made clear he wanted to see Y replaced with Z", "How hard it could be to remove A,B and C" and referred to different mails he had sent to the senior in the past, but never to me. (Some of the mails he referred to were even sent before I started working there).

At first I got the feeling he confused me for the senior, but the client did add him in CC himself so he might have done that on purpose too.

Either way, I doesn't seem possible for me to finish all what he asked in such a short time. I have 2 days off next week and still need to finish a lot of work/documentation/bug fixing etc on my own projects before I leave for my holiday too. Besides of that, I don't know how the project of the senior was built and he doesn't seem to have any documentation about it. He was also quite confident that everything would work perfect, so he never really told me which actions to take when I asked him what I should do when the project failed.

My question here would be: How to handle a situation where the client is asking you to change a big part of a colleague his work, without the colleague knowing about this?

I thought about just mailing the client back and saying I would inform the senior about this since it is his project and knows how it is build, what was agreed on etc, but on the other hand, I don't want to say "no" to a client without talking about this with my manager first. Then again, my manager is a very ambitious person and would propably just tell me to do it either way, which wouldn't be very liked by the senior who doesn't want people to touch his work at all...

I hope that's enough information to get a clear view of the situation. :)

Edit, Extra information in case someone asks: I received his mail just this Friday afternoon when I came home from work.

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    Just ask your boss. You might not have all the information that is relevant for a decision. – jhyot Jul 8 '17 at 8:59
  • I think there's too much going on in this question - Should I change a colleague's work while he's absent? How should I modify a colleague's work if he didn't provide any guidance to do this? How should I handle being asked to do more than is possible in some given timeframe? If you need help with all of those, you might want to split them into multiple questions (and scrap the middle one). ... Why do you think it's a problem to change colleague's work at the request of the client? The work presumably belongs to your client or employer, so your coworker is irrelevant here, do what you're told. – Bernhard Barker Jul 8 '17 at 9:13
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    "Do what you're told" by your Manager. Don't make changes to the project without getting approval from him. If you mess something up it will come back to you and your manager might make you cancel your annual leave to fix it! This seems like a decision that needs to be made by someone higher in your organisation. – Darren Gourley Jul 8 '17 at 10:00
  • 1
    Remember that you aren't on the client's payroll. Your responsibility is to your employer. It's likely the client has a legal/contractual arrangement with your employer. Also likely your employer has a formal process for their clients to raise bug fixes, request changes and provide feedback. You could find yourself in a difficult situation with your employer if you bypass this. It's your employer's responsibility to manage their clients. If your employer has delegated the responsibility of managing client relations to you then that's fine, but it doesn't sound like this is the case here. – Ben Cottrell Jul 8 '17 at 13:27
  • First, don't take this personally. The client is addressing 'the project manager', not you. – Laurence Payne Mar 8 '18 at 17:15

Contact your boss, and explain the situation. There are a few things going on here, which require someone else to get involved.

The first being you don't know this client. That means you also don't know their normal behavior, or what deal your organization has with them. They might just always be a little cranky in email, but they might also be trying to get free work out of you in the hopes that you just do what you're told. Maybe they've been getting "no" from the senior for months and they're hoping that you aren't aware of that.

The second is that the client doesn't decide your priorities. Probably that is your manager's job, and probably you have work lined up for next week that you were supposed to do instead. You can't just drop that without communicating it, and your manager might decide that your current work is more important.

The third is that you don't have the knowledge and time to implement the demands; so even if your manager gives this priority, you won't be able to do it before the client's (arbitrary) deadline. Which means that in any case, someone needs to do expectation management with the client.

So bring it up with your boss. Point out all the things that you've pointed out in this question (the client's demands, their deadline, your lack of knowledge, and your current priorities) and let them make a decision about this.

But that's really a general response to all demands from clients or outsiders, especially ones you don't know. You don't work for them, you work for your company. That means your company calls the shots, so whenever someone tries to make you do work, clear it with your own company before doing it.

(Unless specifically instructed to do otherwise, in that case follow those instructions, but you clearly don't have any or you would not have asked)


In such a situation definitely aggressively contact your boss.

(Forget email, snapchat, slack, etc - walk over to your boss, or, telephone if Boss is remote from you.)

The more you care for the client and want to help the client (so that your company does well), apply that energy to aggressively contacting your boss to resolve the situation.

Really you should have aggressively contacted Boss as the email hit you, within seconds: it's a shame you've left it a day you know?

It is really tempting to "do what the client says" but you have to work for your company. Note that you may get many surprises; for all you know (just one example) that client is "not paying" and hence the Senior Guy On Holidays did what he did for a specific reason - anything could be the case.

Note that, in some cases indeed your Boss may have told you, "Den, regarding client C, please do whatever they ask instantly, and small or large changes". That is perfectly common situation - indeed that may be the outcome here. But don't do that unless you are explicitly told.

Again - merely one example - for all you know that client may not be paying; your Boss and Holiday Senior may be very explicit in what they are doing for that among many other possible reasons.

Just to repeat your Action here is, aggressively contact your boss - not by email, slack, - walk over to your boss, or, telephone if Boss is remote from you.

All that being said:

An interesting issue arises since this QA is specifically in the software scene.

It is, simply, ubiquitous that in this example in a week or a month we have the new situation: Angry Client dumps Current Company, and you end up either having Angry Client as your First Account in your Own Place, or, you end up on with Another Company working on that same Angry Client.

(Or - merely one other perturbation - you'll find yourself as First Hire for the new company of Holidaying Senior when H.S. manages to start his own shop next week or month, and secures Angry Client as a client.)

That's software - only perhaps the movie business is more "we're all in a blender, and you never know what will be happening next week!"

So - you do have to be super-service-oriented to Angry Client (and indeed, every single person/entity you come across, really) on a personal level, understanding that in the software business company arrangements are as transitory and delightfully ever-changing as clouds in the sky.

However the way to do that is not (in the example) to rush and do what Angry Client says, but rather, apply that energy to aggressively getting an answer (telephone, sneakernet) from Boss as to how to proceed.

As a junior in the exact equation you describe, you should not even reply to the email, it's not your business, you know?

At the very most you could just reply stating "I'll contact Boss straight away on that," but really there's no need even for that. What a Young Go-Getter would do in this situation is - within seconds - use legs/telephone to aggressively contact Boss or maybe Holidaying Senior, and learn what to do.

One small point on internal politics: say you get on to Boss and Boss tells you "quick, move the f'g thing to the left!" then be sure to first drop an email only to Holidaying Senior saying: "phew! I got called by Boss asking me to move the damned thing to the left, so I'll do that straight away..." Nobody wants some junior working over them and after the fact saying "nyah nyah, boss told me to move your icon around" - both internal and external politics are a minefield in software! :O

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