Drumming Fingers

17 Jan

The only part of my job that I don’t like (and really, this isn’t specific to MY job, just any job in which the objective is to accomplish something) is when everything on my “TO DO” list is pending some action by another person.  I can remind, I can beg, I can annoy people until they yell at me, but ultimately I cannot force compliance.

There’s this strange dance that takes place when you’re trying to get something from another person.  First, the initial request – which is subsequently ignored.  You’re pretty sure it has been ignored when you haven’t received a response after a few hours, but yet you must to wait the requisite period of 2-3 days, the socially acceptable time period in which action can be taken on a request before it’s considered delinquent.

3 days pass and you haven’t heard anything, so you ask again.  You might get a response this time (“I’m on it”) but you will not get the actual information or commodity you need to obtain.  Since the other party has in fact responded, you must allow an additional waiting time out of common decency – usually another 2-3 days, depending on the urgency of the issue.

By this point, it’s time to poke the person in question again, inquiring whether there’s some holdup that they haven’t bothered to communicate, or if they’re just soft in the head.  If this person is a coworker with which you work closely (or your boss), it’s best to just send another gentle reminder.  If it’s a a vendor or party outside the company, it’s time for the firmer “I HAVE ASKED TWICE ALREADY AND I’M TIRED OF BEING NICE” notice, which informs them exactly how they are holding up your progress.  Copy other people who may be remotely related to the project for good measure, especially if you have a relationship with Person In Question’s supervisor.

You will usually get a response to this urgent request, but it may not be the actual piece of information or file that you need.  Guess what?  More waiting.  (If you receive no response at all within one day, you’re pretty much screwed and should go ahead and give up on getting whatever you need from this person – it ain’t gonna happen.)

By now, the initial request (which should have taken the other party 5 minutes to complete) has gone unanswered for over a week (and God forbid there’s a holiday or long weekend in the middle).  You still have nothing to show for your efforts, and no hope of resolution in the near future.  And you’re still responsible for completing the task assigned to you, which is hanging out on your To Do List with 5,000 underlines and exclamation points drawn around it, as though you somehow believe that EMPHASIZING its importance any more will miraculously CONTRIBUTE TO ITS COMPLETION.

Sometimes being dependent on other people is the biggest pain in the butt.

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