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People asking me rather than the team - How to handle this?

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Anonymous User at Taro Communitya year ago

I work as a mid-level software engineer. We have team channels where people can reach us on. But for some reason people always message me in a private message or they visit my office for team related tasks or product owner tasks. I keep telling them to ask the person in charge or communicate through our team channel, but they don't.

I don't want to be rude to them, yet I find my frustration growing. Sometimes I feel like they can't bother to formalise their requests, so they go to me to quickly mention whatever is bothering them, so they later can refer to our "discussion" if the issue is brought up again.

What should I do?

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    Tech Lead/Manager at Meta, Pinterest, Kosei
    a year ago

    This happens all the time, especially in larger companies where it takes some time to search through past discussions or find the right forum to ask a question.

    One reflection for you: is this an awareness issue? If people are aware of the team channel, have you made it as easy as possible for people to get help there? You could do some lightweight user research next time someone asks you a question if there's some friction in the existing channels that could be removed. (I left some thoughts on user research/product sense in this Q&A)

    Beyond that, I have two thoughts:

    1. [Hard-nosed approach] Just refuse to answer their question over 1:1 messages. Ask them to describe their problem and post in the right forum, and promise that you'll take a look in that forum. You can polite but firm in pointing them to the recommended forum, and educate them so they can share with their own teammates. This can be a bit tricky -- here's our masterclass for building deep relationships in tech.
    2. [A bit nicer] Answer their question, but at the end of the week, send out an update to the whole team and tag the asker with what they asked. The goal is not to shame them, but you can discuss the resolution of the issue, and what changes you made to the documentation/help guides so things are more self-serve in the future. If you do this enough, people will quickly start to learn that they get better information (and faster) if they go through the channels you want them to go through.

    The approach I'd take depends on your quick judgment on how much legwork this person did before coming to you.