Handling Inconvenient Requests

  • Gary Varga

    SSC Guru

    Points: 82166

    colin.s.allen (10/15/2014)


    ...I've had too many occasions where I've stayed until 7pm and call them only to be told they left the office as soon as they had passed the buck.

    I suspect the number of people who thought "me too" after reading this also equals the number of people who read it.

    Gaz

    -- Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen...they're everywhere!!!

  • shoestringdba

    SSCertifiable

    Points: 6206

    Coming from a desktop/field support background, saying "yes" is just this side of a primary conditioned reflex. In most cases - not all - I will pitch in and help with all the aforementioned caveats already posted. But I try and teach people some ways of accomplishing their task they may not have thought of while I'm doing it.

    What really frosts me is when someone asks your advice on a course of action, you explain why it is a Really Bad Idea and they go around you and do it anyway. Then when things don't work properly or the way they expected because of all the reasons you explained earlier, they want you to come up with a way to fix it.

    Most of the time I'll figure out some kind of workaround, but I won't bother with a permanent fix until I have the time and resources to do it properly.

    ____________
    Just my $0.02 from over here in the cheap seats of the peanut gallery - please adjust for inflation and/or your local currency.

  • batgirl

    SSCarpal Tunnel

    Points: 4979

    I agree with much of what has been posted here.

    I try to help - but have been told many times that I need to learn to say no.

    I do keep score to some degree - there are always people who stop following the process if you give them results without enforcing that they follow. I have definitely created some monsters over the course of my career.

    I will not hesitate to point out to someone that lack of planning on their part does not constitute my emergency - but then I take care of them anyway 😉

  • Xavon

    SSCrazy

    Points: 2280

    Gary Varga (10/15/2014)


    colin.s.allen (10/15/2014)


    ...I've had too many occasions where I've stayed until 7pm and call them only to be told they left the office as soon as they had passed the buck.

    I suspect the number of people who thought "me too" after reading this also equals the number of people who read it.

    +1

    ------------

    For me there is generally no thought process. Unless I am already working on another emergency, or have something important and unmovable planned (usually professional, sometimes personal), I will drop everything and help. And if I cannot help immediately, I will usually check on that person as soon as I am able.

    I get a lot of mixed messages from management about 'learning when to say no' vs 'supporting the rest of the company is our job'. So I go with 'It never hurts to help', and get thrown through the same blender Eek! did, at least metaphorically.

  • RP1966

    SSC-Addicted

    Points: 492

    Xavon (10/15/2014)


    I get a lot of mixed messages from management about 'learning when to say no' vs 'supporting the rest of the company is our job'. So I go with 'It never hurts to help', and get thrown through the same blender Eek! did, at least metaphorically.

    The normal rule is 'learn to say no' when your manager's targets are being compromised and 'supporting the rest of the company' when someone goes above their head and some hierarchical pressure is applied.

    Naturally, true business impact has no bearing on the prioritisation process either way.

  • Brad McGehee

    SSCertifiable

    Points: 5272

    It is interesting to see a discussion on this topic again, based on an editorial I wrote nearly 5 years ago. I had forgotten I had written it. 🙂

    Brad M. McGehee
    DBA

  • Gary Varga

    SSC Guru

    Points: 82166

    lshanahan (10/15/2014)


    ...But I try and teach people some ways of accomplishing their task they may not have thought of while I'm doing it...

    ]Anne Isabella Ritchie (nee Thackeray) in Mrs. Dymond (1885)


    Give a person a fish, feed them for a day.

    Teach them to fish, feed them for life.

    (Rephrased in modern English by me)

    Gaz

    -- Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen...they're everywhere!!!

  • mike.gallamore

    Mr or Mrs. 500

    Points: 563

    I guess it depends what your job is. If it is supplying relevant information to the program/division etc (whatever is greater than your direct boss) then you probably should do it. If it is an external request that you aren't responsible for I'd say its up to you. But I'd at least let my manager know so that all the overtime/work for others that you are slaving over gets accounted for when they need to allocate resources, bonuses etc.

    I'd say don't be whinny about it just say FYI to your boss. A good boss will push back when he realizes you have better things to do/are time constrained on things you are actually supposed to be doing. Other than that helping out others in the org when otherwise not busy is always good. If you want to be a little Machvellian and give a little nudge to them that it is an inconvenience or should be planned a bit better just occasionally say no. Nothing forces managers to form rigorous plans like the presence of uncertainty.

  • Kick6Tiger

    SSCrazy

    Points: 2368

    I try to follow the "Golden Rule" and put myself in the requestor's shoes, including whether or not I would have found it absolutely necessary to request the use of someone else's personal time. Then again, I usually volunteer my time if possible when I see someone else is taking on a large task and using a lot of their own personal time.

    Aigle de Guerre!

  • LightVader

    Hall of Fame

    Points: 3620

    I try to set expectations when people ask me for help. "Yes, I can help you, but I won't be able to start working on it until..." or "Yes, I can help you, but it's going to take x amount of time to be ready." or some combination of the two. And I found that I need to do that in both my professional life and my personal life.

    The other thing I experience is people asking for something that will end up becoming a project. For the most recent one, we discussed what the request would entail and possible barriers to completion. The conversation ended with the user submitting a ticket so that it didn't get forgotten and the promise that it would be discussed with the group in the weekly meeting to figure out where it fit in the priority and who would be assigned to work on it.



    The opinions expressed herein are strictly personal and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of my employer.

  • Stephanie J Brown

    Hall of Fame

    Points: 3866

    As with so many things in our profession, "it depends"!

    1. Is there documentation showing them how to do <the thing> and did they read is is always my first question. If they are just trying to save themselves time by spending my time, the answer is often "No, go read the manual, and then if you have questions I will help you". The only exception is when they are under a real time constraint - as in, the task just got dumped - errrr, dropped - on them and they had no time to prepare. Then I set up a GoTo meeting and walk them through the process.

    2. Is there a system problem of some kind that is preventing them from performing the task? I prefer to confirm via a GoTo meeting; that way I can correct any "typo", "out of sequence" or other user issues, since they are often at the root of the problem. If it's a true error they can't get past, then I will do it for them IF #3 applies.

    3. Is it a true emergency - and does it trump the priority items I'm working on? If not, then "No, and see # 4" (always give them another option if you can).

    4. Is there someone else who can assist them? Maybe in their own department or another department that supports them? Or even in my department or team. Send them in that direction if I can't help them.

    5. If I can't help them (due to priorities, lack of expertise, whatever), give them other people to contact, or put them in contact with someone who might be able to find another person who can help (my boss, his boss, another manager...) ALWAYS try to help find another option for them - they appreciate it and you.

    6. And since I'm human, yeah I consider the prior demeanor of the person asking - it's automatic to want to help someone who asks rather than demands, and who is considerate of your time. If the person asking doesn't fit that category, then I just have to "get over myself" 😛 and follow the exact same evaluation process as I do for the nice folks. I support the business, not the personalities.

    And I made sure long ago my manager knows and supports the evaluation process. He's actually much "nicer" than I am, so step 1 is something I encourage him to do. Think short term versus long term benefit - long is always better IMHO.

    Teaching people how to do something themselves has huge benefits

    - they come to you less often, thus preserving their time as well as yours

    - you've given them a gift and most appreciate that (no, they don't owe you for it, it's a GIFT)

    - you've helped them feel powerful - because now THEY can control their time and their projects/tasks

    - they will likely pass the gift on at some point to another person, preserving even more time

    - you get a chance to update the documentation to be even MORE useful

    - saving time = saving money - the more they can do themselves, the greater the long-term time savings

    It just makes good business sense to teach, help, find other help, or help them find other help.


    Here there be dragons...,

    Steph Brown

  • JeffO2

    SSC Enthusiast

    Points: 104

    I worked at one company that wanted each employee to treat each other just like we would treat a client. Sometimes we ask for favors that are outside the agreements and job titles. This is easier when enough socialization has taken place between the two parties. Companies that see idle chit-chat as slacking off don't realize the good will that is lost. It's much better than: I'll have to take this to my supervisor, but first you need a help desk ticket. If you just run the report, we'd all be on our first beer by now.

  • Xavon

    SSCrazy

    Points: 2280

    Gary Varga (10/15/2014)


    lshanahan (10/15/2014)


    ...But I try and teach people some ways of accomplishing their task they may not have thought of while I'm doing it...

    ]Anne Isabella Ritchie (nee Thackeray) in Mrs. Dymond (1885)


    Give a person a fish, feed them for a day.

    Teach them to fish, feed them for life.

    (Rephrased in modern English by me)

    Unfortunately, teaching some people is more likely to end up as:

    Terry Pratchett


    'Build a man a fire, and he'll be warm for a day. Set a man on fire, and he'll be warm for the rest of his life.'

  • mosaic-287947

    Ten Centuries

    Points: 1042

    I have been told off for doing others a favour, because of politics between departments that I was not aware of. The more unknowns there are (who's asking, which department, actual report content), the higher the chance I will have to say no.

  • Gary Varga

    SSC Guru

    Points: 82166

    mosaic-287947 (10/17/2014)


    I have been told off for doing others a favour, because of politics between departments that I was not aware of. The more unknowns there are (who's asking, which department, actual report content), the higher the chance I will have to say no.

    So easy to do. I got "told off" earlier this year. The way it was done made me feel like was being treated like a child. The person had a point but I was just being open, honest and helpful to the client overall.

    You would think that with over two decades in the industry that I wouldn't be so naive at times but occasionally I am guilty as charged :doze:

    Gaz

    -- Stop your grinnin' and drop your linen...they're everywhere!!!

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