Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Part Deux on Q

I have to share this... I need to share it with the world. So, here goes... In the continuing tale of the horrid clipboard person, Q.

Q has a terrible habit of estimating the time it takes to do a task. There are multiple ways to do something like that - and multiple reasons. Q's primary reason is to imply that what he is asking is small. Thus, you must accommodate it. You can do this in a few ways:

  1. I hope this isn't too much to ask - it should be a fairly short effort, but if it takes longer, do let me know. That is not my intent.
  2. I hope you have something already prepared that would fit this need. If not, do let me know.
  3. While I know this is onerous, I have to ask you to do it.
All of these are perfectly respectful. They acknowledge the estimated magnitude of the task, and the person's busy schedule - and try to communicate the expectations of the requester. Meanwhile, Q does this in a pretty annoying way instead:

I know this will only take you 5 minutes and be a cut-and-paste job.

First and foremost, identifying the task from his emails alone takes 10 minutes. But that aside, rarely are things cut-and-paste jobs. Even tossing things in a new template, culling 50% of the text to fit 1 page, and changing the tense will take 10 minutes. At least. And not always do you have the source material. For example, the timing of our marketing of our new launch is so well known that I don't have a slide that describes it. I have to write it - and while that isn't onerous, it does take time.

Further, every 5 minutes counts in a world of work from 7am-11pm. That's toothbrushing time. And on an urgent turn around, that's really quite a request.

Finally, anytime anyone does anything for you, you should be grateful - not diminish the effort it took to accomplish.

When I get those emails from Q, I get agitated. VERY agitated. Like, degrade his service level to 1-week replies. Rail against his madness. Get a headache as I parse the request. So I finally emailed him on a late late night, when my eyes were strained from looking at a computer for more than 14 hours, and said:


I have to say this – and this is as someone who has been on the clock for 14 hours already today – with no obvious time for reprieve… when you estimate the time you believe it takes to do things, it is really remarkably aggravating. I thought you should know – that changes my reaction to an email from "I'd like to help" to "yeah, that 5 minutes was the time I was planning to brush my teeth tonight."…

Perhaps not that eloquent, but for a man who sends emails with subject lines of "More Work," it seems within the band of normal at 11pm. And, the goal was to communicate that there are better ways to work with me to get the right result. A good clipboard learns how to manage his or her team, right?

Not Q. This is his response, with an attached ppt slide:

You now have a template – and I KNOW you have the details at the tips of your fingers – if not 5, maybe 7 mins tops.  :-)

Yeah. No words.


PD said...

Can you just pre-populate a template and always send the same exact response? By the time Q gets to processing through your answers might be another 11pm night. It might actually be instructive to see the lag time between requests for information and returned responses.

Rob said...

This may sound pedantic, but here's a suggestion I've heard of for situations like these: have you considered keeping a detailed journal of where & how long you're working, esp. in response to requests like these? Having those numbers on hand may be helpful for future such interactions, or if things escalate. (Although I get the impression a person of this density would just say something like, "Well, you're just not working efficiently enough." Having other task completion times to compare could be useful there, perhaps.)