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I work supporting some code which has a separate developer. The developer has his own manager. This piece of code is now quite stable and there is very little support work and development. The developer's manager has asked him to work on some other code.

Since my work is now very light I have asked my manager if I can take over the occasional development that is needed. This will need very little ramp up time as I know the code very well. He was OK with the idea. However, said that he will talk to the developer's manager but has not done so yet. AFAIK, there is no organizational problems with this arrangement, it can be an informal one. There is no need for me to formally transfer.

Should I inform the developer directly about my request? I will be diminishing his responsibilities, but he has other things to take care of anyway. I have never met him, and have not talked to him about anything outside of work. He is quite nice, I am worried that he may feel that I am backstabbing. On the other hand, this whole arrangement may not even work out.

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No - the decision maker is not the other developer

The decision maker is the other developer's manager --- and your manager.

You would be going over the heads of two managers, trying to get control of this code and in a highly structured organization, that would be viewed negatively.

Therefore, unless your organization is very loose and informal, your behind the scenes attempt to get this work will not likely end well for you.

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Your only real responsibility (to the company, and to the world) is to deliver the maximum value you can. So if you find yourself doing less than you are capable of - I believe you must look for places to help out.

Now if you are looking to take ownership and credit mainly -> see the answer from Prinz above.

However, if you motive is to provide more value, it is ok to talk directly to any college whom you might assist. Work assigned by your own manager has priority, and you must inform him of what you are doing.

The "wait until told" is the very lowest rung on the ladder of independence in a hierarchy. Any and all should strive to move higher.

The next ones are: - Ask before (as you did) - Do and tell immediately - Do and report later - Do, period.

Now I do assume you have no other assignments from your manager, that is not being handled.

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