Hello --

I assigned a task via email, using the MT model -- asking, providing deadline, reasons etc. A couple of weeks later in an O3, my direct informed me that my email was unreasonable, in that he and his support staff don't have time to provide the data requested, they're too busy. He went on to say that I should KNOW that they're too busy, and instead of assigning the task via email I should come and discuss it with him in advance to verify that there's time to complete it, so he understands the reasons for the request, etc.
I responded by saying that when I assign work I always assume that if the assignee anticipates having difficulty meeting the deadline, doesn't understand the task, or doesn't agree that the task should be performed, that I expect them to come to discuss it.
He rejected this, saying that it puts him in an awkward position, and that instead I should know capacity for performing the task before assigning it, and if I don't know if there's capacity, then I should ask. This to me seems tantamount to requesting permission to assign work, which I naturally disagree with.
I would appreciate any suggestions folks here might have as to how I can persuade my direct to understand my point of view and accept responsibility for managing their workflow without having to resort to role power.

mrreliable's picture

From your description, and "he and his support staff," it sounds like your direct is in a management position or at least a position of some authority. It's disturbing that he seems to be absolving himself of any responsibility for communication. Did this person just blow off your directive? Would your direct give the same advice to his staff, that if they don't think there's time to fulfil a request, they don't need to say anything because it would be "awkward?"

Without flexing role power, you could frame the directive as being done for the sake of communication. I would think that a person in charge of a staff should be accountable for communicating conditions and circumstances relating to work flow. 

Kevin1's picture

Here are just a few thoughts.

  • If you have 'asked', then you should be prepared for them to say 'no'.  Never 'ask' if you aren't prepared to honour their answer as this destroys trust.
  • When you ask, you want a 'yes' or 'no' then and there.  Difficult to get this by email.  Much easier via a live conversation in person or phone.  If you get the 'yes' you are all well and good.  they have committed.  If you get the 'no', then you can ask about the obstacles they see that are getting in the way of them doing this task, and you can start sayign things like 'If I can get XXX off your plate, then will you be able to commit to this task?' until they say 'yes'. 

The cast How To Assign Work Tasks talks about this at length.

If something really 'must' be done, I start with apologising for the critical interruption and I dont ask.  I include a discussion with my direct about the impact of what other work won't get done as a result of the new activity so that we can either agree it won't get done, reschedule it, or reassign that work elsewhere.

Hope that helps


jazzlover's picture

Thanks very much for taking the time to respond. It was very helpful!