Friday, August 07, 2009

Caring time is over

People will only care for so long. No matter how many times you remind others of your life's hardship, there is an inherent shelf life to how long you can gain sympathy from others. I have run into this three times in my life (one of which I am not discussing here intentionally).

5 years ago, after a long-term relationship breakup, I spent a lot of time talking, joking, whining, and stuck in a post-breakup rut. It got to the point where I had to be kicked in the ass by a friend of mine, who told me to basically "get over it" and addressed the specifics of my complaints in a way that made sense to me. His comments clicked, I couldn't argue them, and it was a turning point for me. It was a hard pill to swallow, but I did and finally moved forward with my life.

The reason I have come to blog today is that I noticed a correlation between the aforementioned situation and a work situation. Since most of my life over the past year has been usurped by work, I'm a pretty busy person. I will tell anyone who will listen about how busy I am (see a pattern?) and it is the truth. I currently have 880 items in my email inbox that need sorting/action, I have pages of notes since June 30 that need to be reviewed and logged and possibly acted upon, and I have 4 stacks of paper that are things I need to fix or research, plus phone calls and drop-ins. [881 now].

In my mind, if the issue is not a crisis, I feel it is most important to address the oldest issues first because they have been waiting the longest. Others do not share this opinion. They know how busy I am, and have even repeated it back to me, but they've gone beyond the point of caring. They have now emailed another person in my department (who will only end up bringing the issue to me anyway) and copied my boss. The copying of my boss is what irks me to no end. A lot of people subscribe to the belief that if the boss is copied, the work will get done faster, when, in actuality, it's a guaranteed way to piss me off and put your issues on the bottom of my list. It feels childish and immature, like they have to tattle on you that you're not getting your job done. Given this and a second email sent to someone else in my department (but not cc'd to my boss that time), I can only assume that caring time is over and this person just wants answers.

Yeah? Well so do the other 1000 issues I have sitting around me right now. It's a bit overwhelming at times, actually. The sad part is, despite all of the overtime I have already worked, it's going to take more overtime to dig myself out of this hole. [882].

So, now I am stuck dealing with this issue because my boss was copied, achieving the opposite signal I want to send because, ultimately, it affects a third party. I know what my boss will say, I know what this co-worker will say, I can play it all out in my head. The least painful method to me is to just get it done and move forward.

Caring has a shelf life, and it expired today. It sucks, but nobody cares anymore. Just shut up and get some more work done, will ya? Geesh.

1 comment:

Liza said...

What your message says loudly and clearly is that your department is under-staffed and needs an office assistant NOW.

Sometimes, a person just wants a response from anyone, but if you are the only person they have to communicate with, you're going to get the contact and then have to generate an appropriate response and develop an action plan.

Your immediate proactive response to the current situation is appropriate: get the complainer's issue off the table ASAP. However, that person may spread the word that the only way to get your help is to complain directly to the big boss, a message you don't want sent.

Take the issue away from the chronic complainer by addressing it head-on yourself: organize the issue from your perspective into bullet points and hand deliver it to your boss so (s)he knows what the issue really is and how you need to be supported in handling it; i.e., hiring an office assistant to field the calls and be the initial line of response to determine priority of services or generating an automated response that refers some queries to the operations manual for the department, etc.

You may not win another hire, but you may avert the appearance of poor performance raised by a passive-aggressive chronic whiner.