Most folks I work with are overtly appreciative and kind. And make no mistake: I absolutely love helping this vast majority of people. The occasional person, however, still manages to tick me off. Since this is something I gladly do because it's the right thing to do, I thought now would be a good opportunity to review some fairly simple ground rules. Some folks, it seems, need the occasional gentle reminder:
- Politeness. Kindly say please or thank you at least once. Similarly, if you call my house and my wife picks up the phone, please at least pretend to be glad you've reached her before you hurriedly ask where I am.
- Effort. If I e-mail you an answer with some suggestions, please don't call me a day later without having first read my message.
- Time management. If, after an hour of involved discussion, you're still not "getting it" after I've made a dozen different suggestions, please keep in mind that I might prefer to spend the rest of the evening (or Sunday afternoon, or whatever precious little free time I've got) with my wife, my kids, my dog, or alone. I appreciate when folks recognize the value of my time.
- More politeness. If you've figured things out, please let me know. I like when folks close the loop with me and don't leave me wondering where things are at. (See previous "value of my time" point, as when you fail to do even this, it's clear that my time really doesn't matter to you.)
- Prioritization. If you call me while I'm working and I can't immediately respond, don't be upset with me. At the end of the day, I have bills to pay, a career to sustain and a family to raise, too.
- More prioritization. Per the above, if you are upset with me for failing to drop everything and move you to the top of my priority list, I really don't want to hear it.
- Listening skills & respect. If I set boundaries around how or when to call me, please respect them. Don't keep calling my cell phone during core business hours when I've explicitly asked you to either call the home line or e-mail me during that time.
- Limits. Know when to say when. I'm happy to share editing tips on your marketing plan and make suggestions on how to punch up that web copy. But if you ask me to make sales calls on your behalf or attend meetings with your marketing team - who you're paying for their time - then you're seriously pushing it.
- More limits. Don't "hunt" me. What's hunting? It starts with an instant message, then becomes a voicemail at home, a voicemail on my cell, and an e-mail message. Leaving multiple messages in rapid succession will not accelerate my response to you. It will, however, force me to waste time retrieving said multiple messages, and it will accelerate the rate at which I get ticked off with you. Add bonus unhappy points if you try repeat-calling me while I'm in the middle of an interview.
Your turn: Am I being too tough here? I'd love to hear your thoughts on your own "help desk" experiences.
One more thing: I know this entry may just upset some folks. I'm sorry about this. But if you're one of the righteous majority - and frankly, 99% of you are in that majority - you know this absolutely doesn't apply to you. If you're one of the 1%, you recognize yourself in this, and you hear what I'm saying, hopefully we'll have a new level of mutually respectful understanding. And if you're not hearing me, I've just gotten back some time to spend with the people who matter most.