I’m in a summer class (summer in Australia now) called Global Issues in Competition Law & Policy. I have to present a different 30 minute presentation every week for three weeks as part of the class requirements. However, getting the work done is proving a bit troublesome, because my two groupmates can’t seem to get their act together.
I don’t know if I unequivocably hate group work. I just hate working with groups who don’t know how to work as teams. For example, my two group mates often take days to respond to emails, and not only don’t pick up their phones, but don’t follow up on voicemails.
I’m not sure where one aquires those kinds of skills though. I rather suspect that you simply have to spend time in the workforce, and work under a serious manager who kicks the shit out of you if you ignore his communications. I think I’ve been lucky in that sense– most of my past employment has always been in very tightly knit environments with people who either have a personal stake in the business, or who have been working those positions long enough that they really have a standard operating procedure for everything. As a result of working in those situations, I think I have pretty good “communications etiquette.”
I think that communications etiquette is essential to teamwork. Yet somehow, people overlook it.
This year, I’m the IT Director for the university’s Law Society. It’s actually a pretty cutting edge position because I have to basically build several projects from the ground up– there’s no precedent for a lot of the things I have to do. The previous person who did the job though, it’s part of his job to explain just how procedures worked last year. So, I’ve been trying to chase him down on skype and by emails to get a sitrep from him about server maintenance and all that. But the guy just keeps dodging! What. The. Fuck.
So, let me tell you a basic principle of communication etiquette. The first thing is: communicate.
That sounds like a no brainer, but I know you know plenty of people who break this cardinal rule: they just don’t get back to you.
When you get a message addressed to you in your official capacity as a holder of a certain position within a company, your can decide to:
- Take care of it right now;
- Take care of it later;
- Delegate it / Refer it to someone else; or
- Refuse it.
No matter which one of these options you chose, you must RESPOND to the sender within a reasonable amount of time to let them know what you’re going to do.
Is the person making a request that you have to make a decision on? If there is a question mark ANYWHERE in the email, that’s usually a pretty strong hint that you probably need to respond.
That said, when you write a message requesting something, make it concise and precise. Give the important details, and then clearly state your request / question. Don’t ask ambiguous rhetorical questions– this isn’t you sheepishly trying to hint that you want to be more than friends, this is you trying to get shit done. Get to the freaking point. It helps to separate each item of your request into background information and the request itself.
If someone outlines what they want very clearly to you, and you receive requests, it’s decision time. Address every part of the request one at a time. Do not simply respond to some of them, or respond to questions that the person did not ask. If you do, you should be dragged out into the street and shot.
You might think it’s fine to just leave someone hanging because you might eventually run into that person in the hallway, and you can talk about it then. But it really makes a huge difference if you just take 10 seconds to say “we’ll talk about this on Thursday” or whatever. Know what the difference is? The person who asked for your help won’t think you’re a douchebag. If something is addressed to you and is making a request, you SHOULD respond to it.