Handling Inconvenient Requests

  • Comments posted to this topic are about the item Handling Inconvenient Requests

    Brad M. McGehee

  • I think that the default response ought to be to help out. That's what we do as technologists, and our art/science is often arcane and complex in the eyes of layman.

    That being said, someone shouldn't abuse the ability to make requests. If this happened repeatedly, maybe even twice, I might say no.

    It would depend on my situation, plans, and feelings towards the individual, but in general I don't like being taken advantage of. However if there is some way that I can help others in my job, my inclination is to just help them

  • I get all sorts of requests due to the nature of my job, (database jack-of-all-trades). I've actually spent time at work this weekend to finish some processing so some reports can go out Monday. :Whistling:

    I think one should examine the nature of the request and the priorities of the job. I had a lot of problems at one time with coworkers and clients sitting on data and projects till the last minute, then dumping it on my group on Friday afternoon. (Hey, I gave them the requirements last week... :angry:)This isn't good business or necessary fair to all the parties involved. I believe that you need to set up internal processes and make clear the expectations of all parties. Otherwise you end up with a lot of finger pointing and abuse.

  • I usually try to figure out if the request is because that person can't do it by himself/herself and it's not part of the general job that person is responsible for or if it's simple because if I do it then he/she doesn't have to do it.

    The former cases I usually try to help them out. The latter: no.

    As an example we have two groups in our company that belong to different divisions, both groups capable of accessing the same data.

    I don't see any valid reason for doing reports for the other division on a Friday afternoon seeing the other group leaving early at the same time (actually happened more than once). One common reply from the folks requesting the report is something along "I get it faster from you folks than from my own group".

    I started to send those folks to my boss requesting my support. Most of the time they didn't show up on his desk...

    It's a very thin line between being called "unwilling to help" and becoming everybody's "report slave".

    A pessimist is an optimist with experience.

    How to get fast answers to your question[/url]
    How to post performance related questions[/url]
    Links for Tally Table [/url] , Cross Tabs [/url] and Dynamic Cross Tabs [/url], Delimited Split Function[/url]

  • My default decision is to help the person. The only reason I wouldn't would be because of some prior commitment conflicting with it.

    If, as per one of your examples, I had a 5:30 engagement already scheduled, I'd tell the manager what the situation was, and ask if getting the requested data after that would work.

    If I have to go out of my way to help someone, I will almost always do so. Then I'll inform them that they owe someone a favor. Doesn't matter what, doesn't matter for whom, they just need to take an extra effort to help someone.

    That policy has worked very well for me. People respond positively to it.

    Property of The Thread

    "Nobody knows the age of the human race, but everyone agrees it's old enough to know better." - Anon

  • Personally, my response to requests of that type has always been to try and say yes. Though it has backfired a little, on more than one performance appraisal I have been criticised for being 'too accommodating' and told I need to learn to say no! :unsure:


    Assumption is the mother of all F***ups

  • Default, by nature, is to help out.

    In my work environment (Auditing) we always have young staff that suddenly become partners in the business and therefore they become one of my bosses. My philosophy is that the hand I bite today may be the hand that feeds me tomorrow. I also use the "I'll do it but then you owe me" routine. I may not take them up on it but it seems to prevent some coming back for more.

  • I would hope that most peoples for a better word for it "Default position is" "Yes" on this point.

    I mean I would say "Yes". However we do get trained sociologically in the "You scratch my back and I will scratch yours ethos" it goes back to the pre dawn of mankind.

    However I would be lying if I said I didn't say "No to people" because

    1) That person before "Didn't scratch my back"

    2) The wife waiting in the rain for a lift home

    It's all a point of social integration and goes far beyond the report. There's abosloutly nothing wrong with saying "NO" There's also nothing wrong with saying why such a late request?

    If they ask for something that's urgent then you need to know why.

  • I echo the general response of those that have already responded. My criteria, both for myself and for support teams I have managed, is a twofold assessment:

    1) What is the requestor doing while I do the report? If he/she is at happy hour, then so am I (or my team). If they are willing to stay with me, and review results (even if that is completely unnecessary), then I will consider it. That is the best test of their taking advantage.

    2) How has the requestor behaved in the past. Is the assistance from me or my team appreciated, or taken for granted? Are there frequent 'emergencies', indicating a lack of planning on their part?

    If I am truly helping in an exceptional situation, and the requestor is meeting me half way, then I am very happy to help.

  • I feel the best way to make this decision is to look at your mission. I have always felt the mission of IT/IS to help people be more productive. In this case, the manager is attempting to get something done, but is having difficulty. Therefore it is my mission to assist him.

    Of course, afterwards I would look at why he had to ask for my help. Is there anything I can do to prevent this type of request from happening again? But that's a Monday thing.

    Of course, if I know something about this manager that suggests that by giving in to his request it will make my mission more difficult (say, he's the type of person who just wants a minute of your time and by giving in he'll continually ask for more and more until you're doing everything for him and have not time to help others) then an alternative needs to be sought. I wouldn't lie to him but maybe I could run the report from home and email it to him later or something.

    I'm fortunate that I have a degree of freedom where my manager trusts my judgement and wouldn't bust my chops over being too accomodating. I was in a situation like that before and it ran counter to my mission so I found somewhere to work where their values and mine lined up.

  • Yep. By default the answer is "yes" - it's what I do.

    We have in my office, however, a "5 o'clock Donna". In any given week you can count on her to come up with some urgent request after 4PM that "absolutely has to be done today" at least once. It gets old. Everything that comes from this person is a crisis. She's been well trained to know that we'll handle any crisis as long as it's presented that way. She'll resort to crying if she has to.

    Personally, I don't jump anymore for her (very often). As a result she doesn't come directly to me with her troubles very often anymore.

    The problem here is these things may be critical for the company to keep clients but more often than not she's known about them for over a week and not said anything. So what to do in a situation like that. We're not a huge company. The loss of one major client could be catastrophic. I'm not "an IT guy" exclusively. I have a life that doesn't involve SQL or my company. I have kids to pick up from day care and get fed and play with. I have a dog at home that really wants to go out. I like my job but I'm not my job.

    There's a balance to be found I guess. It's no different from most other jobs. I just take things as they come and deal with them the best I can.

  • I generally start with the "yes" position. If I have some hard boundary I usually tell the requestor that I will try but I have another commitment that I am unable to break. I view that as managing expectations. I'm not saying no, but I am limiting how much "yes" I can deliver before I have to go, and after I satisfy my other commitments I might be able to come back to it.. I think this works fairly well because they usually know full well that they are imposing but are happy for the accomodation.


  • Also by default yes, unless I have an appointment elsewhere. I'm on proper flexitime so staying late will add to my credit and be time off later. We tend to jokingly say the job is worth a few Jaffa Cakes which often do materialise a day or so later to be shared round the team and does wonders for that users next job request :-).

    If we get a "5 o clock Donna" or someone who has been awkward before we can fall back on beaurocracy - "we really need a helpdesk call before we can do any work" or "I need to confirm it with your manager" or "your manager needs to speak to my manager" (since her manager gave her the job he'll know how long she's had) or the killer "we need a change request and that has to go through the change board (CAB) and the business steering group" (a.k.a. black hole)

    Often we've found it's not as urgent as they make out and we can leave it until the helpdesk call gets through to us via the appropriate approvals. But we'd rather find that before we bust a gut on a Friday evening.

  • I think P Jones has a point, people who abuse this might get away with it once or twice but most of us have a formal process that we can shift them to if need be.. One that better tracks the request..


  • I usually say yes, too. I've been lucky that it's rare for people to abuse it (with me anyways). I ended up staying 'til midnight once (I rarely work more than 40 hours), but I was happy to do it in this instance: it was a critical need, the person was new and had been given limited training (not her fault), I was the only person besides my boss who knew enough to be of assistance, and although it was years ago, I know she still remembers and appreciates it. Plus I am part of the Information Technology Services department. I do agree that people who abuse it need to be handled differently. "Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine."

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 50 total)

You must be logged in to reply to this topic. Login to reply