Your Emergency is Not My Emergency

Your Emergency is Not My Emergency

I volunteer on a few online forums that focus on Microsoft Office applications and I try to help end users with questions and problem they have. I do this not only for altruistic reasons, but I also find it a good learning opportunity for myself. Sometimes the questions need research to find the answer, and that helps me understand the product better. Unfortunately, often after supplying the answer, no feedback comes back from the individual who asked the question.

When your response to a plea for help goes unacknowledged…

At times it makes me wonder:

  • Was getting the question answered important?

  • It took my time to help you, so what happened to common courtesy?

  • My answer didn't help? That would be helpful for me to know… wouldn't it?

Sometimes there are situations that emotionally for me go way beyond a mental sense of wonderment. Disgusted is a good adjective. For example:

Four months ago, a request for help posted on the forum worded as though there was a priority of importance to finding an answer and workaround. Within hours of the request for help, others and I responded. The responses from my colleagues who also contribute to the forum were things to try.

I agreed with my colleague's responses to this person's question as valid suggestions to try and see if by performing them, the problem resolved. My response was that if those suggestions didn't resolve the issue, then email the document to me; I provided my address, and said I would attempt to help.

Today, four months later, I receive an email from this person that briefly says, "Sorry for the delay in responding. I've been busy, I need your help now." I also see that this person added this same message to the online forum and my colleagues are now asking if she tried the former recommendations. In the personal email to me, there is no mention of what she tried… just, "I've been busy, and I need your help now."

Busy is the New Stupid

That’s the title of a good article by Ed Baldwin and one I recommend you read. I think it supplies some excellent advice, and I want to add to it.

I see this problem of "being too busy" as epidemic and at its core, I see an unwillingness to spend time learning, which involves thinking.

OMG - Thinking takes time, doesn't it?

It's easier and faster to shout “Emergency!” and have someone tell you exactly what to do than it is to research it yourself and find your own answer. If the recommended self-help steps to resolve an issue appear too complicated to perform now, then it's easier and faster to ignore it until it becomes an emergency to resolve. And all you have to say is, "Sorry, I've been busy." That will be enough for them to help you once again to do your job, so you can continue to look like you know what you are doing… when, you really don't!

Stupid is As Stupid Does – Forrest Gump

Maybe there are lessons here for all parties…

  • It's smart to help others in trouble because it makes you feel good and you also have an opportunity to learn.

  • It's smart not to be an enabler of incompetency in others because when they learn to do something for themselves, they will feel good and they will grow.

  • It's smart to say "thank you" to those who have helped you learn because it enhances their willingness to help you again… when, you really need and deserve it!