74

I like to do stuff right when people ask me. When they need help, if I'm doing nothing, I love to go there and help, or to call them and fix the problem, because I like to be pro active. But my co worker keeps telling me things like: "Don't do this so fast.", "Make them wait.", "Don't do this right now.", or "They will get used to it."

I asked about my feedback (I'm new here) to the guy that hired me, and he said that he loves my work. I'm fast, I'm smart and I can solve problems without leaving developers waiting hours for a solution, and people keeps saying that I was an awesome choice, and I like that.

How can I tell my co worker that I like to be pro active? I wake up 7AM every day to work, and I like to do a very good job every day.

  • 30
    He's not an active guy. he has been a DBA for more then 20 years and I think he just, I don't know this expression in English, but he does not care so much about stuff. and I think he's afraid that suddenly, a new guy comes and start doing thing right and will notice that he didnt do a good job. I fixed a LOT of stuff in the first week that I was hired ( failed backups, organization, and dba stuff ). If I work fast, he will need to, and, he doesn't like it. there are solicitations from 2 weeks ago to be solved, simple stuff, but he stays on the internet alllll day. – Green Baloon Aug 31 '17 at 13:08
  • 57
    "Because, he's not my boss. he's the senior dba here. and even he says that hes not my boss,...." This dramatically changes applicable answers. How I deal with a coworker is not the same as how I would deal with my boss or manager. – Mister Positive Aug 31 '17 at 14:57
  • 1
    Possible duplicate of What can I do to make a coworkers lack of effort more visible? – gnat Sep 3 '17 at 10:19
  • 3
    There are certainly legitimate non-lazy reasons for pacing oneself when solving problems. On several occasions I've had to spend many hours undoing "solutions" which were implemented very quickly by people who were 100% certain they were being proactive and efficient. – barbecue Sep 4 '17 at 2:52
  • 2
    This is not a duplicate because the linked question is directed at making the other employee's lack more visible. I sense no intention to do that here. Rather the OP wants to respond best to the person making the complaint, not get the person in trouble or have his lack of effort seen. – Chris E Sep 5 '17 at 12:57

15 Answers 15

99

So this person is not your boss. In that case I would do your best until your manager says otherwise. I would be careful to take advice from them, but not instructions.

It seems your co-worker likes to pace the output of the team so no one (like your co-worker for example) has to work hard. If you are inarguably the fastest most responsive person on the team (as will become clear over time with everyone else being "paced"), then that could make you a threat to your co-worker's position on the team. (People will figure out how to get what they need in the most efficient way possible.)

Remember you do not want to make an enemy (of your co-worker), but at the same time you want to make a good impression (to your boss and the people you give service to) as being dependable, reliable, accurate, and timely.

Do your best, help others as you can, and most importantly listen to your boss.

  • 63
    In the long run, it's better to not already be at your 100% speed your first week there. Your boss is right when he says that people will get used to you solving everything so fast, and they will expect you to be available at any time. You have to stay in control of your schedule, and that means not dropping everything instantly when someone needs help, but just saying "let me get back to you this afternoon". But of course there is a balance to be found, do not fake being super-busy if you're not. – Kerkyra Aug 31 '17 at 13:24
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    @Kerkyra It's less about not working at 100% speed and more about setting an expectation for response time to those who ask for help. In the long run, you should improve over time, so you should be able to improve on what was your 100% at the start. – Dukeling Aug 31 '17 at 13:35
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    You may want to suggest how the OP could respond to his colleague because "ignore him" just won't work. Non-committal and evasive responses might be the way to go. – Lilienthal Aug 31 '17 at 15:38
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    "you may wish to consider slowing down some a bit so the speed difference between you and your co-worker isn't so noticeable." This ruined the answer for me. If I was a manager, I'd be pretty unhappy if I knew that someone was working slower to keep someone else from looking bad. As someone who has worked quicker than coworkers, I've never slowed down to make them look better and it's brought me nothing but good things. – Goose Aug 31 '17 at 18:59
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    I am with @Goose on his comment. I was about to say the very same thing. – AgapwIesu Aug 31 '17 at 19:01
64

Here's one rule I try to live by whenever I can: never work at 100% when you can afford not to.

It's not necessarily about slacking off when you get the chance. It's not even that much about getting people used to your level of competence. It's about being able to do more when it's needed. If you work at, say, 70-80% of your capacity, you'll be not only able, but also in better condition to tackle unusual workloads when they happen. If you're always at 100%, and the situation demands that you work more, well, you won't be able to, obviously.

Maybe your "boss" has had some experience with that, and is trying (although in a clumsy way) to share that experience with you. He might believe that at some point, you'll be asked to do more and more, because they got comfortable, until your ability is no longer good enough for them. Maybe it even happened to him and that's the reason he stopped caring so much about things, because he knows that you won't usually be asked significantly more than what you show you can do. I'm not saying that's OK, but work environments in which things work this way are definitely not unheard of: if you give it your all, they'll suck you dry, so you keep a somewhat low profile.

It's pretty cool that you like working that much, and that makes you valuable. But keep this in mind, and watch out for any changes in your average workload or your coworkers' expectations. Your boss might just be trying to protect you from toxic working habits.

  • 20
    I agree with the base of your message, but would add a qualifier/supplement - that remaining 20-30% capacity when things "aren't on fire" should be used to deepen/broaden understanding of systems and business practices when working on problems. I've learned a lot about how different customers/employers work by "looking around while I've got the hood up." +1 all the same. – Wesley Long Aug 31 '17 at 14:50
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    This is terrible advice. I'd much rather work at a consistent pace than sometimes slack off just so I can "work harder" when necessary. Good employers recognise good work, have reasonable expectations and reward you appropriately and, if you're always doing your best, the need to put in more work should be much more rare (because you're getting more work done). It depends what you mean by "100%" though - working overtime should be exceptionally rare and I'd consider that to be more than 100% (if you consider 100% to be working overtime, you might want to edit and clarify) – Dukeling Aug 31 '17 at 15:39
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    So basically your recommendation is to work 28 hours a week for real and then spend 12 hours (that's 30% of a 40 hour work week) twiddling your thumbs because next week there might be some additional work? There are many ways to manage your work (prioritising work being a core part of that) and deal with unexpected additional work, but this must be one of the worst imaginable. – Voo Aug 31 '17 at 16:18
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    I agree with this message and hopefully some clarifications can be made. 100% shouldn't mean 40 hours. You wouldn't call someone staring at a screen 40 hours blankly 100%, would you? I take it as put all the time and effort as one could reasonably afford. The reality is that our energy and ability to focus vary due to so many factors. Burnout is inevitable if you just keep pushing the throttle all the way down. – xiaomy Aug 31 '17 at 16:39
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    You can see 100% as working like everything you're asked to do is due yesterday. 100% is giving it your all. A little like vVO2max, you can run at your vVO2max, but not for very long, as it's an intense effort. You can run at ~80% of your vVO2max, it won't be exactly 80% but you know approximately where you are regarding your max. We're not car engines indeed, but such things exist. – Sheldonator Sep 1 '17 at 11:02
35

I'm not saying this is the instance here, but in similar situations I've seen this be a problem because the "proactive" guy breaks the process.

If tasks are tracked in a system (Jira, Trello etc.), everyone knows what's going on and different tasks can be prioritized. If a person always jumps on certain tasks, even before they are entered into the system, the process breaks down. Then the team wont know what that person really is working on (they might even think he's slacking, not finishing any tasks!). Or since the person is so proactive, no one else on the team gets a say in how a problem is solved. This can be a bus-factor, where one guy knows many details of the system, but doesn't share them with the rest of the team. Or maybe he really should have worked on a task with higher priority.

The novel "The Phoenix Project" has a guy similar to this. Everyone loves him, as they can contact him and he solves the problems fast. However, after some time it turns out that doing stuff that way is why they have to contact him about all the problems in the first place. Worth a read.

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    I'd argue the problem in your scenario is that the proactive guy isn't documenting what was done, not that he did it quickly. – chepner Aug 31 '17 at 21:12
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    Like the time I consulted history comments in some code I had to work on and it only said "SPR 1234" Looking that up, I found "it was broke. I fixed it"—the whole Software Problem Report having been written after the code change, a clear violation of process. – WGroleau Sep 1 '17 at 18:48
17

There is a corporate climate answer here, so you have to handle this within your own corporate climate.

A very important thing in a producer/consumer relationship is to be able to manage expectations. Consider this situation:

  • Customer asks for A, you do A immediately. Customer is happy
  • Customer asks for B, and you do B immediately. Customer is happy
  • Customer asks for C. C is harder, so it takes you time. Customer understands that C is difficult, so they accept it.
  • Customer asks for A again. You can't do A immediately because you're busy doing C. Customer asks "Why can't you do A quickly? You did it quickly before."

The next step in that story is very context dependent based on your relationship with the customer. You have to be able to explain to the customer why A can't be done as fast as it was done before. That might involve introducing them to exactly how hard some of these tasks are to do. Or it might involve them accepting that you are a go-getter that opportunistically did A when it was easy, and now needs to schedule it.

Or they can be the kind of customer that's furious that your production schedule no longer matches their expectations, and you can lose their business.

Or there could be a complicated system (like billable hours) which you didn't know about and are accidentally causing problems with.

Your boss is the one responsible for this. Work with them. Make sure they understand that the consequence of your pro-active approach is that it won't always be there. Make sure they understand that when they fully task you with all sorts of stuff, you won't be able to just interject those quick turnarounds.

In some environments, the boss will say "great. Keep doing the fast paced work. I'll cover for you when you hit 100% load." In other environments, the boss will say "Let's focus on managing expectations, and ensure the customer not only is happy, but stays happy for the long haul." Answering those questions is your bosses job, and you job is merely to provide them the resources they need to answer that question.

If your boss is happy with your approach, then that's what matters.

All customers like to be satisfied in the short term. All customers like their producers to be able to offer fast turnarounds. Some customers understand the long term implications of these fast turnarounds, while other customers would prefer you and your team to manage them.

And in this case, the big difference between your boss and your customer is that your customer may choose to be interested in the long term interests of your company, or they may choose to do their own thing. Your boss should always be thinking of the long term interests of your company, and can provide you such guidance.

  • 4
    It is indeed all about managing expectations. If you are currently picking up work faster than you normally could, this is probably a good thing, but it may be wise to proactively communicate that you are able to pick things up so fast because you are not busy at the moment. – Dennis Jaheruddin Sep 1 '17 at 7:26
9

Listen to this guy. 10 years from now on you will be thinking fondly of his advice and will be regretting not paying heed.

In the present you are fresh, energetic, eager to work as fast as you can but slowly you will tend to find less energy to keep up the pace over the years. There will be a day you will start thinking I can take it a little easy I don't have to do everything yesterday but by that time you would already have gained reputation for getting things done yesterday and you will have to keep the pace up even when you don't feel up to it.

I don't know or care about the motives of this person for telling you to slow down, but the advice itself is very good. Send me back 15 years I would take it.

  • 1
    dont vote negative just because you dont like the answer, I also like this answer and was exactly what i was about to say. – montelof Sep 1 '17 at 14:13
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    Agreed, if you can no longer keep up with your rep, you wind up having to move jobs or burning out and quitting or worse. – RandomUs1r Sep 1 '17 at 15:15
8

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.

The DBA has a point when he tells you that "They will get used to it.".

If you're a fast problem-solver, you might end up spending your whole day only babysitting your colleagues or firefighting their urgent problems. Your colleagues will enjoy it too much and get lazy.

This will take the fun out of your work pretty fast, and you might become a bitter old DBA ;)

Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

If you're as smart, fast and proactive as you say you are : don't just solve the problems presented to you by your colleagues! Make sure to invest enough time to make them understand what the problem is, what they could do to avoid it and how they could solve it alone next time.

I organized a small Python workshop for a dozen of my colleagues in order to teach them how to :

  • merge 365 daily CSV files into one big yearly CSV
  • check that each file is complete
  • remove duplicate headers
  • change date format inside the CSV

I needed to invest 1 week in order to prepare the 2-days workshop, but at least they won't bother me anymore for this kind of tasks.

After you've helped enough of your colleagues, try to find patterns in their problems and teach them what they need.

  • 2
    on the other hand: "'Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Don't teach a man to fish…and feed yourself. He's a grown man, and fishing's not that hard" - Ron Swanson – NKCampbell Sep 1 '17 at 19:33
  • @NKCampbell: You have a point. OP should make sure to plan enough time for productive, personal work. – Eric Duminil Sep 1 '17 at 20:14
6

I agree with Mister Positive Answer, but feel that someone needs to play devils advocate here.

I personally have worked various forms of tech support / DevOps of the better part of 10 years. Working your tail off will get you noticed for good and for bad. The good part is that people will respect you for your ability to turn things around quickly and correctly, the bad part is that some (not all) will take unfair advantage of this and call you for help without ever trying to solve there own problems first.

Your time is finite! Regardless of how fast and efficiently you work, if you work hard and do your best, there will almost always be more demand for your time than you have time available ... and in many cases a portion of your time is being wasted by trivial things that the person you are helping could have solved for themselves if they had done a small amount of research or even listened to what you told them the last time you fixed this exact same problem.

My advice is to work your tail off and become indispensable to your employer even at the expense of showing up all of the other tech's in your department (though you should be willing and able to help them if they are actually interested in learning from you). However, be mindful of who is USING your time vs who is WASTING your time ... it is not only acceptable to delay doing jobs for people WASTING your time, it is encouraged because you will will end up fixing larger problems that are more worthy of your time and talent. Finally you should never set yourself up so that you are too busy fixing things that you dont have time to learn new things and possibly more efficient ways of solving problems.

  • A nice job of playing the Devils Advocate! – Mister Positive Sep 1 '17 at 13:20
  • However, be aware that if you make people look bad (no matter how much they deserve it), sooner or later one of them will try to get even and be smart enough to succeed. So consider Eric's advice to teach others how to be more effective. – WGroleau Sep 1 '17 at 18:54
  • @WGroleau Yep. But a more subtle problem: if you're making others look bad, whether intentional or not, it can make you seem like a "lone wolf" who don't cooperate well. It depends on who is the outlier: the one doing well, or the one doing poorly. – employee-X Sep 2 '17 at 1:43
5

Because, he's not my boss. he's the senior dba here. and even he says that hes not my boss, but I should tell him everything that I do, or what people ask me, what I totally agree. – Green Baloon 36 mins ago

This completely changes the question. You are on a dysfunctional team. You not buying in to the dysfunction makes the rest of the team look bad. Listen to your team mate on company standards for domain specific stuff but if you and your team mate can't come to agreement on broken business processes you need to involve your actual manager. We go our managers when we need input on the bigger picture and I'm sure that leaving devs waiting for no good reason isn't good for the bigger picture within this company.

5

Simple...

Continue what you are doing and do the best-job you can. If you continually out perform your co-worker/s and he feels you "work to fast and accomplish too much", that in my mind is his issue to deal with, not yours. Your manager approves and thinks you are fantastic...keep accomplishing your tasks the way you have been and helping everyone time permitting.

Sounds like you are on a fast-track to success in your job.

  • 2
    I still can't believe that this is a minority opinion. – Peter Sep 1 '17 at 23:25
3

You have to think about the conditioning that your are doing to the people you help.

By being available fast and effective you condition people not to think for themselves, because there's someone who will fix their problem in 5 minutes. This will make them less self-sufficient and less attentive.

Also you stop being master of your own time. With your current workload you can easily help everyone on the spot. But next month you'll be on that very important project with a deadline and that's when you find out how vile and mean people can be. "They had this problem for over a week but waited till the last minute because they knew they could call you." And now you're not available and you're the reason they're missing their deadline.

In my own work, by not immediately helping people I managed get a few things done:

  • Get less support calls: people wouldn't be immediately helped, so they had time to think about it more which often meant they solved the problem themselves. Also, when I did help them they paid more attention so the number of repeat tickets for the same issue of the same person became virtually zero.
  • I did my other work more effectively because I could work for a long stretch uninterrupted. (I instituted a policy of helping people with their issues between 13:00 and 14:00)
  • everyone still liked me.
  • no more vile people because even during important projects: 13:00 to 14:00 people could count on me being available.
  • And, if there was a real emergency I still had the freedom to drop everything and help. (But time was written on the other department so it was not free.)
2

You are balancing three things:

  • Your career. Perhaps your career will go better, or be more enjoyable, if you follow your preferred way of working. Dragging people down to one's own level ("don't rock the boat") is not uncommon.

  • Your relationship with colleagues. You want to be part of the team and not be on the receiving end of grudges or hostility, or accused of selling out, making them all look bad, or whatever.

  • The business process. Perhaps an issue will arise if some people work much faster than others, as suggested in other answers. Seems less likely in most cases.

The main issue is balancing 1+2. But as you have to live with your career and decisions/consequences for life, while other people only have to live with your choices for a limited amount of time, your primary responsibility is 1 not 2. Try to keep others happy, but unless there is a real issue caused by that working speed - tell them it's not about them, or about "looking good", it's that you love your work and want to carry on loving it!

If needed, explain that you understand their position but you hope they will understand you want this, and try to smooth over things. You could also tell your manager the concern, if it continues or you feel it is leading to hostility.

1

I'm like you in this regard, and I've also been in similar situations.

These "slow paced" coworkers are probably very comfortable in their slower way of doing things, as they get paid the same amount as the ones doing the work fast. And they're probably not very interested in promotion and changing their everyday work schedule. You, on the other hand might be more interested in advancing your career faster and moving on.

Doing your job fast and effectively while disregarding such "slow down" advice helped me get promoted and hired by better companies for higher paying positions while they were left back at their comfortable positions. I've had a few coworkers who were like me, and we still remain very good friends because of our like-minded approach. I have to say it's rare to find determined workers like ourselves.

Remember that all your coworkers are coming from different backgrounds financially and culturally, so what they want from work will be different from what you want. So keep that in mind and be wary of their advice about what's good (for them).

1

There are two reasons colleagues will ask you to slow down that in my experience are more likely than you are "making them look bad:"

  • Quality or risk issues. I've spent many an hour debugging issues that turned out to have been caused by my "fast" colleagues. Long-time DBAs are also measure three times, cut once type of people, because of the cost of downtime. Speed is not your friend in that job.

  • Inability to prioritize. If you treat every issue as the most urgent as soon as it comes in, that leaves no room to prioritize your limited time for the day. You can end up running around on easier low priority issues all day, while your colleague does the harder, higher priority issues.

0

Your co-worker is giving you advice, you most certainly don't have to take it. However, from experience it is good advice, as the nail that stands out gets hammered first, so while you might feel you're putting his position in jeopardy he most likely has a far more mature relationship with your boss so crossing your co-worker isn't a very good idea.

Listen to your boss as others have said and keep the advice in the back of your mind, if anything it'll keep you from burning out.

Keep in mind that your boss may not view customer service as a high priority depending on the nature of the customer service (ex. customers contact you because they think you're smart rather than thinking for themselves)

However, there's a bigger picture here, yours sounds like a small company, you might want to move somewhere more structured to learn the pros and cons of IT customer service. I recommend looking into ITIL and Agile shops and the differences in how they handle their customers.

0

It is one thing to do your own task better and faster than others, but quite another to be always available for help for anyone who asks.

As a manager I would be concerned that those you are helping develop an expectation that you will always be able to help them.

Generally, helping is fine, but it should be done in a manner that the person being helped learns how to do it for themselves next time. Pacing your help is part of that.

I would also be concerned if you are helping someone fix problems that someone else is responsible for. Instead you could maybe helping the responsible person.

If you want to earn the good will of superiors you should help them do their job and not undermine them by helping others with things the superiors are responsible for.

All of this depends on the team structure. What I said above applies to a team where everyone has their own responsibilities, and jumping around helping everyone is not your responsibility.

However, if you are in a team where the whole team is responsible for the assigned work together (your team is assigned a project, and superiors don't care how you divide up the work), then jumping around and helping everyone in the team might just be the right thing to do because in the end the team output matters, and your help makes the team perform better.

It still would be an issue to help other teams because surely your team still has work for you to do. If it doesn't then the project is done and the team could pick up a new project.

  • @Peter my apologies, i changed the capitalization. Can't change the paragraphs because each one addresses something different. – eMBee Sep 2 '17 at 4:04

protected by Jane S Sep 2 '17 at 23:20

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