office politics strikes again
August 12, 2010 9:06 AM   Subscribe

A colleague didn't do her work in a way that affects the entire office, and in particular makes my current project more difficult. Now she's gone away on holiday. Should I just do the work myself?

I should point out that some other things have legitimately taken her attention away from this project recently, and that she was never really provided the necessary support and training. None of that, though, changes the fact that she's theoretically in charge of this particular show and now it turns out that she really hasn't gotten much done.

The project in question is setting up automated backups and figuring out a policy for maintaining, storing, and testing them. I don't know if she's been able to get the rest of the office to tell her what needs to be backed up, or that she understands what automating a backup means, or that she knows, for each system, what a successful test of the backups should look like. (Actually, it's not clear she believes in testing backups, but that's a separate matter.)

My specific problem is that she's now gone away on holiday and given me the bag to hold. My project needs the data off those backups, and if I have to pull them off the servers themselves, I might as well set up proper backups while I'm at it.

If I set up the backups, I'm going to have to explain why I couldn't use what she's done. It'll probably also put me behind schedule on my own work, which might lead me to tell our boss what happened. (Not because I'm looking to embarrass anyone but because our boss isn't the sort to take "I ran into some unexpected problems getting the data" without asking questions, and I won't lie if he specifically asks for details.)

By the way, if you're wondering why I waited until my colleague went on holiday, the original plan was to happen to be by when she was working on it and offer to help. Due to the aforementioned other things, this never really happened.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's not clear to me if your hesitation to do this work is because you don't want to upset your coworker or if you don't think it's fair that you're in this position.

In any case, if you are the type of employee whose first reaction to this situation is "What will result in the best outcome for the company?" then you should probably do it. Assuming, of course, you think doing this work yourself will actually be the best outcome.
posted by mullacc at 9:23 AM on August 12, 2010


Take the issue to your boss. Don't worry about laying blame, or defending her, or anything like that: just give him the facts. 1) You need the data off the backups; 2) the backups don't exist in a format that you can use; 3) if you take time to set up the backups, you'll fall behind on other things; 4) if you use what already exists, your project will have problems X, Y, and Z. If you want to be really proactive, make a plan for what you want to set up and make some really good estimates about how long it will take to set it up, and how far behind you'll fall on your own stuff if you do what she was supposed to have done. His job is to make sure you can do your job; that's why he's the boss.
posted by neushoorn at 9:24 AM on August 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


If I set up the backups, I'm going to have to explain why I couldn't use what she's done. It'll probably also put me behind schedule on my own work, which might lead me to tell our boss what happened.

Say to your boss "I needed some data from our backups for my project, but while I was getting the data I noticed that so-and-so hasn't set up the automated backups yet (or hasn't set them up correctly - it's a little unclear which it is). It would take me X amount of time to do this myself - would you like me to do that now, or just get on with my project and let someone else set up the backups/leave it for when so-and-so returns from holiday?"

This passes on the decision as to whether her backups (or lack of them, or the misconfiguration of them) is OK or not to your boss, and also the decision as to which has priority - your project or sorting out the backups.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:24 AM on August 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


neushoorn said basically the same thing as me but said it better.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:25 AM on August 12, 2010


Why can't you just get the data off the servers and not worry about setting up the backups? I appreciate that it will eventually make things easier, more accessible, or whatever, but I'm gonna take a wild leap and assume that you guys have been running without her backup scheme in place and the company has survived, so why not follow SOP and grumble at her for leaving you in the lurch when she left?

The way I see it, this is two separate problems: her flaking on the backups and you wanting some data. Your data needs do not seem to be tied to the backups at all if you can just "get it off the server" anyway...or are you equating files on tape/disc/media with "on a server?" It's unclear. At any rate, you seem more put out by her leaving like this than you are with the minor technical issues of dealing with the lack of backups until she gets back. A restore is not the same as setting up backups.
posted by rhizome at 10:40 AM on August 12, 2010


My project needs the data off those backups, and if I have to pull them off the servers themselves, I might as well set up proper backups while I'm at it.

If you can get your data without doing the backup setup—and doing so won't put you as far behind as also doing the setup—then the kindest thing might be to make do till she gets back and not make a big deal out of it to your boss. Then, when she comes back, tell her this is high priority, you've been making do, blah blah. That way you are owed a favor instead of causing trouble for someone else.

(I know lots of people here are all happy to jump on the tattle train but I think that working things out yourself is best, and going to authority should be reserved for situations where your first attempts didn't take.)
posted by dame at 10:46 AM on August 12, 2010


: "(Actually, it's not clear she believes in testing backups, but that's a separate matter.)"

Contemplating my workplace observations, I propose a rule: the person responsible for configuring backups shouldn't be the person who tests them. Because otherwise, the quoted behavior will turn crisis into catastrophe. DailyWTF is literally full of stories where disaster strikes, only to discover the backups haven't been working for ages, and sometimes not at all.
posted by pwnguin at 6:03 PM on August 12, 2010


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