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...,