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How to delegate politely & respectfully?

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Senior Software Engineer at Series C Startupa year ago

We currently have a problem with test flakes happening very often.

Someone is currently working on a systemic fix, but in the meantime, I've taken it upon myself to be the leader in categorizing and assigning people to take on some of the existing flakes as they happen. I am assigning based on who has the most context or who wrote the original test.

My question is: How can I assign these in a way that doesn't cause people to dislike me? I ask as someone who needs to delegate in my role but also needs to get buy-in for various initiatives so its important that people like me.

A couple of things I've tried:

  • Trying to be as helpful as possible, showing that as I'm assigning these I've done a little bit of investigation myself to try to fix it (even without much context) or give any info I can gather
  • Asking in a polite way (maybe)? Here's a couple examples:
    • "@person, I saw this one flake a few times and noticed you were the original author. Would you be able to take a look when you get a chance?"
    • "@person it looks like we attempted to fix this here (link to github commit) but it seems to still be flaking. If it's ok, I'm gonna assign this one to you."

Any better wording of the "ask" or advice around this situation would be appreciated!

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Discussion

(2 comments)
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    Senior Software Engineer [L5] at Google
    a year ago

    First, I think the steps you are already taking are great. Most collaborative individuals won't be peeved if you assign them tasks like this, since you are clearly trying to help everyone be more productive.

    That being said, one thing you could do is to make this not your personal initiative, but your team or your org's initiative. So if the person isn't happy with it, it's on them to bring up with the org publicly. Maybe...

    "@person, I'm helping our org identify and improve test flakiness as part of the test flakiness reduction initiative [Link]. I saw this one flake a few times and noticed you were the original author. Would you be able to take a look when you get a chance?"

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    Engineering Manager at Blend
    a year ago

    I think people are usually fine being asked to do something. However, people often don't like to be told what to do. So even if you ask a question but the assignee interprets it as a command/directive (and feel that they don't have a choice) then you'll increase the likelihood of people disliking you.

    With that beings said, you can preface and/or post-script your question with something like:

    • "please don't feel obligated to take this task, if you don't think you're the best fit for the task then let me know..."
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