I'm a client liaison (Sales/Client Consultation) for a software company, and occasionally something will come up in our application that is broken/doesn't work.

When this happens, I alert the Dev & Tech support group (via ticket or email - Tickets assigned to Tech Support) and I'm often asked "Have you checked X?" Where X is one of 4 pieces of software related to running our application. I reply no, sometimes adding that I don't know how or I don't have access.

I'm not a Developer, and in most of these cases learning these server or processing backend programs is arduous and time consuming to me.

It has already been established in the team that these items are not my responsibility. It seems that because I'm the one reporting the issue, there is a developer expectation I will investigate as well.

However, recently the developers have made implications that I should get access to these programs and learn them so I can investigate these issues myself. I've gotten numerous email "invitations" indicating my email address has been granted access to these programs.

How can I tactfully decline to learn/use these programs without playing that "that's not my job" card?

  • 53
    What kind of screwed up operation are you working in where the developers are handling first-level support tickets? It seems to me a huge piece of your organization is missing. Specifically: the Support department. Don't play the "It's not my job" card, because any competent dev will play it right back at you with a "Draw 4" right behind it. Aug 18, 2017 at 16:56
  • My role is Sales/Client Consultation not Support. Apparently the job title means something different outside of our company. There is a tech support team. It's work mentioning, when I report an issue I assign it to the Tech Support team, but the Devs still push me to answer their questions.
    – SNSAD
    Aug 18, 2017 at 17:01
  • 4
    Again, why are the devs even involved in it? The support department should be handling it. You should be working with techs, not devs. You've got a bigger organizational problem. Aug 18, 2017 at 17:05
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    I'm agreeing with @WesleyLong - if you're putting in the requests for Tech Support to deal with, it sounds like the right thing to do based on what you've told us. However, I'm not sure why the development team is involved. The Tech Support team should be checking out your reports and either fixing the issues or forwarding information to the Dev Team for any problems that require design and development Aug 18, 2017 at 17:07
  • 2
    A lot depends on the size of company. One of the benefits of being a small software company is that developers get to talk directly to users: it does wonders for helping them understand what's needed. But if you're a developer who wants to make life better for your users, there's nothing more frustrating than a user who reports a problem but then won't follow up with the detail of exactly what they did and exactly how it failed. Aug 18, 2017 at 22:55

7 Answers 7


You don't decline.

You raise your concerns with your manager, as your manager (and not you as an individual) determines the scope of your work and required access to systems and not the development team. If your manager says that you should be doing these things or having access to these systems and tools, then you work with the development and operations teams to get the appropriate training and access to do the work that is in-scope for you. If your manager says that this work is out-of-scope for your job, he should bring this to the attention of the development team and their manager.

If, after taking to your manager, you still feel that your manager's expectations of the work that you do and your expectations of the work that you do don't align, you can choose to resign your position and find a new job that is more in line with what you expect.

To follow up with the edit to the question.

If it has already been decided that it is not your responsibility, you should be informing your manager that the development team is (still) making these requests. Your manager should be the one to ensure that your time and effort is put on doing the work that is assigned to you. This is their battle to fight, not yours.

However, as a developer myself, I would (and would expect my manager) to push back on the idea that this is beyond your job. I find it suspicious (and unsafe) that the entire development team would have access to production systems and data. Since it sounds like your job is to do front-line support, I would expect that these people have at least read-access to system configuration and data and can include it in the problem report so it is much faster for me to reproduce and design a solution.

It still sounds like this is a problem that needs to be hashed out with management to make sure that everyone understands everyone else's role. It sounds like the company isn't that big, so it shouldn't be too hard for everyone.

To follow up once again with some of your comments, it sounds like your company's process has serious issues.

If you are submitted tickets to the Technical Support team, I wouldn't expect that the Development Team is involved at all. Maybe the Technical Support team may need some information from you, but I would expect that the Technical Support team would either fix the issue or pass it off the the Development Team if their assistance was needed. I would expect that the Development Team interfaces with the Tech Support team and not you for understanding the issues, only bringing you in if necessary.

Again, my original points still stand: Don't get involved yourself. Talk to your manager and have him work with the managers

  • 3
    It's a tech startup, so Me, 1 Tech Support, 1 Part time Tech Support/Part time Dev, 2 Dedicated Devs, and the VP. I usually report rather than taking up Tech's bandwidth since I can use the ticketing system. But perhaps I should just email Tech instead?
    – SNSAD
    Aug 18, 2017 at 16:57
  • 2
    use the ticketing system, assign it to tech support instead
    – bharal
    Aug 18, 2017 at 16:58
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    @SNSAD I would recommend talking to your boss, but the workflow sounds wrong. This sounds like what a tech support team is supposed to be doing. You wouldn't be taking up their bandwidth. What you are doing is definitely not good for a developer (it's difficult or impossible for them to understand the issue unless you provide them with the information they are asking for and they likely have more important work to do, especially since they are probably more expensive for the company). Aug 18, 2017 at 17:01
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    If you work anywhere in the Software industry, "refusing to learn new technology" is pretty much equivalent to "will be permanently unemployed in the near future". That's your choice, of course. Personally, I lost count years ago of all the systems, and packages I learned about and later forgot almost completely - but it's more like 50 or 100 than 10 or 20. If that number seems "too arduous or time consuming", maybe you are working in Sales in the wrong industry.
    – alephzero
    Aug 18, 2017 at 18:40
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    @SNSAD In a tech startup that small, it's not unusual to expect everyone to be technically-oriented and have a fairly deep level of operational knowledge of what's being sold -- including any ancillary tools. If you're encountering bugs in the product during the course of your work, you're going to save time, energy, and frustration of everyone involved by being able to provide better bug reports. This would also, in turn, make your interactions with clients run more smoothly as you help them through implementation issues.
    – afrazier
    Aug 18, 2017 at 20:07

You need to discuss this with your boss. It could be the client liaison is expected to be able to resolve simple issues and only problems requiring programming should go to the developers. If this is the case, in no way can you refuse to use the software. So ask him or her exactly what is expected of someone in your position concerning these software packages and client support. this is not refusing to do the task, just asking for clarification as to how this stands with your other duties and priorities.

It also could be the case that the devs don't want to do support work so are trying to pawn it off on you when they are supposed to be doing it. Only your boss can resolve which is correct.

  • 8
    +1 as a dev I always expect due diligence from the client liaisons. I don't wanna spend hours debugging only because a site-specific setting was turned off, or something silly like that.
    – rath
    Aug 18, 2017 at 16:35
  • And I expect that the definition of due diligence varies from organization to organization.
    – HLGEM
    Aug 18, 2017 at 20:58

How can I tactfully decline to learn/use these programs without playing that "that's not my job" card?

I'd still be interested in hearing how to word that in the moment when I'm being pushed by the dev team

As an "in the moment" response, you can say "Learning these programs would be a large investment of my time, but it's worth considering. I'll ask for Vice President's point of view on my priorities, and get back to you."

It's a tech startup, so Me, 1 Tech Support, 1 Part time Tech Support/Part time Dev, 2 Dedicated Devs, and the VP. I usually report rather than taking up Tech's bandwidth since I can use the ticketing system. But perhaps I should just email Tech instead?

My understanding is that startup employees have to learn a lot of roles outside of their comfort zone, and it could be a good opportunity for you. If someone else is solving your customers problems, they'll bypass you (the customer liaison) and work with that person. BUT as you are the only salesperson, spending all of your time on new sales could be more important than developing relationships with existing ones. Deciding which is more important sounds like "not your job".


You were invited into sort of support or even key user role. Proceed as with any other incoming role invitation.

Couple for factual points:

  • Invitations to workplace roles and responsibilities happen, they might not neccessarily come from your manager, although you and your manager make the decision.

  • Your career path expectations determine your willingness to accept/decline the invitation.

  • This process must be accompanied by your manager (ideally from the beginning), because one of their responsibilities is to oversee your career path and manage team's resources ("Is it possible to allocate this team member for that?")

  • Potentially accepting the role should go with expected percentage of your time, i.e. you are expected to dedicate 20% of your time for this new responsibility. And there also should be plan to transition out of some present to have a room for this.


Update from what i read in comments throughout this page - You should create the tix and assign them to the tech support team, who will then assign/investigate as needed. Sometimes developers forget they are linguists translating one language to another.

Bigger problem seems to be the communication breakdown, given how small you are - but developers are not trained in management, don't let them manage you.

Original answer: You don't.

You can ferry the emails into a separate folder and let them sit there, and that is probably the end of the problem. Develpers don't give you tasks, you give them the tasks.

I wouldn't bother escalating - it has already been established it is out of your area of concern.

If developers start with the "have you investigated" you can either point to the email that outlines your tasks, can respond with "no" or suggest to their manager that they come up with a simple REST client that can be used to access the specific data needed to debug the issue.

Don't try learning some random software component. If the developers aren't doing their work, escalate to your/their manager of their tardiness.

  • 1
    Devs aren't supposed to be doing first-level support. If they're being asked to, then the problem is with management, not with the devs. Aug 18, 2017 at 16:59
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    @WesleyLong We don't know what the devs agreed to do, seems perfectly reasonable in a startup that they'd do support work too.
    – bharal
    Aug 18, 2017 at 17:23

Perhaps there is a communication issue. It is sometimes amazingly difficult to track down a "bug", when it can't be replicated in the devolvepment environment and the tools being referred to may provide the developers the needed info to solve the problem. Often the ticket is so cryptic, one doesn't even know where to start. The tools might also be used as a "sanity" checker to make sure configurations are within parameters. Sometimes "bugs" are "we never intended to be able to do this." Unfortunately, a user intelligible error message may not be generated. Again, unless the developer grasps the end user's intent, these can be hard to figure out Perhaps the developers and the clients need to be told you are only the sales person, an "expert" tech is immediately introduced on sale to do install, configuration, and support. This "expert" need not be highly skilled, but be willing and able to learn to determine client's desires (not always easy), common issues and fixes, and be able to walk through basic diagnostic steps. If I was the developer, the reason I might ask you to try other tools would be to assist in data gathering, so the problem may be diagnosed, so that the best solution may be engineered. If you can give the developer a better option in helping them do their job, they will jump on it.

  • 1
    this post is rather hard to read (wall of text), would you mind editing it into a better shape?
    – gnat
    Aug 19, 2017 at 7:40

There's a reason why your company doesn't have developers as the first line of support for customers. The reason is that developers are usually working toward specific objectives, with deadlines. If the developers had to stop to handle every issue the customers have, your company would never get any updates (including critical bug fixes) out the door.

Your job, on the other hand, really doesn't start until the phone rings or you get service tickets.

Therefore, it would be wise for you to learn any tools that help you do your job, which is to support the customers AND create safe space for the developers to do their jobs with minimal interruption. This actually makes you a valuable team member. If you want to make noise about having to learn new things, eventually your employer will not have any problem replacing you with someone who's more open to learning.

You work for a tech company. The developers can't tell management that they don't want to be bothered with learning new technology that helps the company overall, and really, neither can you.

  • 3
    we don't know what OPs job is, speculating that their job starts when phone rings or a service ticket arrives invalidates your viewpoint.
    – bharal
    Aug 18, 2017 at 16:50
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    What a client liaison is expected to do will vary from company to company. Devs are not automatically entitled to not be interrupted for production support. This is terrible attitude and extremely unprofessional on your part.
    – HLGEM
    Aug 18, 2017 at 16:54
  • 2
    My job is to sell the software and manage the software's implementation on the client site. There's also a tech support team for post-implementation client issues. What's happening is I'm noticing bugs/outages while I do my work, and because I'm the one reporting there seems to be an expectation I'll investigate. Maybe instead of reporting I should let Tech Support report?
    – SNSAD
    Aug 18, 2017 at 16:55
  • The job is client-centered if it's a liaison. If there are other tech support staff, then OP should be working with those people before pulling on the developers. A good development approach is to make sure the application has plenty of logging -- again, to empower the NON-developers to solve problems. It's really annoying to developers when other staff that deal with customers take the approach that they'd rather not be bothered with investigating issues on their own.
    – Xavier J
    Aug 18, 2017 at 17:01
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    @XavierJ it might be "really annoying" when people ask developers to do boring tech work, but developers do tech work. What is easy for a developer - making sql, using unix - is confoundingly difficult to non-it staff.
    – bharal
    Aug 18, 2017 at 17:24

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