I’m a tad grouchy today, and I apologize. The source of today’s grumpiness is related to people not following up on simple tasks.

Did You Get My Message?

For as tech-savvy as the 21st century workplace is supposed to be, I find it vexing how many different ways I have to reach out before I finally receive a response to some inquiries. If I was only sending a message FYI (for your information), it wouldn’t be an issue. However, in most of these cases, I am asking a (usually time-sensitive) question:

  • Could you perform X task by tomorrow?
  • Did you receive the document I sent you, and can you please review the content or fill in the missing content by X date?
  • We’re having a meeting tomorrow. Can you attend?
  • Have you finished X task or sent X email?

None of these messages is terribly complicated. In fact most of them can be answered by a yes or no. Some of them are calendar requests that can be answered by clicking Accept. And yet I’ve experienced dusty silence. I do not understand this.

On a Similar Note…What Are You Doing?

This complaint relates to the one above…why is it so difficult to let someone know when the work is completed? If a document is due to go onto a shared drive, all I need is for the person doing the work to send me a message telling me so.

I can hear some of you now: “I do the tasks you ask me to do, what’s the problem?” Maybe it’s been my time with military officers or Disney. I was taught to acknowledge a request and inform the requestor that I would carry it out (and by when). The “aye-aye” you hear sailors use serves two specific purposes: one “aye” (yes) signals that a request (order in Navy parlance, but I try not to give those, mostly because I don’t have any authority); the second “aye” indicates that the request will be executed.

Bottom Line

The people I’ve worked with and for over the years are usually quite competent and willing to do the work needed to achieve important goals. But for gosh sakes, if you want to reduce friction with your coworkers, mind the little things, too: respond to messages, even if it’s a simple yes or no and keep us informed about what you’re doing and when. Paying attention to these little details will improve everyone’s situational awareness and ensure the progress of documents through any office ecosystem.

About Bart Leahy

Freelance Technical Writer, Science Cheerleader Event & Membership Director, and an all-around nice guy. Here to help.
This entry was posted in Office Politics, peers, personal, workplace. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Follow-Up

  1. Ally says:

    Yes to all of this! I would rather get an “I’m working on this/I’ll get back to you” reply than nothing at all. Bonus points if people actually read the email and don’t ask questions I’ve already answered 😉

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