Learn to Refuse Tasks

As a software developer, you may have more skills than “just” writing code. Maybe you started some side projects at home and needed some graphics or a certain design for these projects. You could have hired a professional designer or artist for this, but it might be too expensive. So you would search for free assets on the net or simply create your own.

The crazy thing is, you know more now than before. And believe it or not, this new knowledge is valuable in a programmer position in the office. But one must also be careful with this knowledge.

Let’s say you’re a web developer. You have some experience with the full stack development so you can be used for the front end and back end development, but you prefer the back end that is actually your current position.

Imagine now, you need a certain design from the design department so that you can implement, test and complete a task. As there is currently no person available in the design team, you have two possibilities: wait for a designer or create your own mock design. The latter almost always works and is usually faster. You have created the asset, your implementations are working and everyone is happy. On to the next task.

But what’s that? A co-worker has noticed that you can create assets. Now, this co-worker also needs a design but unfortunately, she can’t reach anyone. Thank God you’re running into her. Of course, you can help your beloved colleague.

“Can’t you just create this little design? You did this other one that looks pretty nice. It’s just for a short presentation, nothing fancy. It wouldn’t take long, would it? So could you help me?” – HELL, NO!

Don’t do it! Of course, you don’t answer that way. Either you are too busy or you refer to the design department. Be friendly. If this doesn’t work, explain that you need to talk to your supervisor to decide whether you can do this design. You can probably continue programming.

Such situations occur quite often. You know Photoshop? Oh, can you design this one banner? Are you a PowerPoint expert? Could you please look at these slides, I don’t know what’s wrong here. Oh, and the printer doesn’t work, could you take a look at that?

Look. I know we software developers are the “tech guys”. The nerds, geeks, computer guys, you name it. But for every issue, there is a right guy in your company. Printer not working? Call the real tech guys. Is WiFi down? Go to the administrators. And of course, for every design stuff, there are the design people.

If it really is a 5-minute problem, of course, you can and will help. But if it’s something bigger – and in most cases it is – you have to learn to refuse this task.

I know it sounds like I recommend to never support a colleague. That’s definitely not the case. You should help wherever and whenever you can, especially in your development team. Again, you should also help in other departments when you know that it does not take more than 10 minutes. But if it does, everybody will understand when you explain that you have to finish your own tasks.

I just want to keep you from being taken advantage of. People will notice that it’s easy to delegate tasks to you, even though you’re not responsible for them. In the best case, you will only lose some time and are a bit stressed to meet your deadlines. In the worst case scenario, you would fail to meet your deadlines several times, you look bad during the daily stand-up and eventually lose your job.

Now that’s going too far. If you are already in such a situation, you should, of course, speak to your boss. Your supervisor will understand and together you will find a solution. Normally, the next time someone wants to give you a task that doesn’t fit your position, you have to explain that this particular employee needs to talk to your supervisor first and that you’re busy with your development tasks.

However, if your supervisor doesn’t understand and just wants to yell at you, you may have other problems and should think about your job in general.

So next time you want to start a task that isn’t on your list, consider the possible consequences.

You have the right to say no.

2017-09-13T18:49:32+00:00 September 13th, 2017|Blog|