When I get a big project at work, I usually jump right into the things I can do alone. I read the documents, look at everything online I can find about the subject, purchase any software that is needed, etc. What brings me to a screeching halt is usually something that I need from someone else and can’t find any way to get around. I dislike calling people or barging into their offices and asking for things, so I usually try emailing them. “Hi John, I’m about to implement ABC for our company, so I need ….” About 50% of the time, that will do it. John may come and ask me more about what I need, but at least that hurdle is done. The problem occurs if he doesn’t respond to the email.
I know some introverts don’t mind interacting with others and making requests of them, as long as they get their alone time later. I know one guy who is an introvert but isn’t worried about his own feelings or anyone else’s; he just wants the task done. He just emails people or calls them, and if he doesn’t get what he wants, he reminds them. I’m not like that though. If I need something big from someone else, I may waste a lot of time just putting the whole situation off. Without admitting it to myself, I’ve procrastinated in the past by doing lots of easy little tasks, or even investigating ways I could get by without help from someone else. The problem with my doing that of course is that it made me less effective and could have hurt my career.
I’ve had to think actively of ways to do better at meeting interpersonal tasks head-on instead of wasting time by avoiding them. The following is a simple list of things I try to remind myself of when catch myself procrastinating.
Do the people-stuff first. If I start my day with the tasks I want to do or answering emails, putting off that people-stuff, I not only take a lot longer to get the pleasant stuff done, I have that people-stuff lurking in the back of my mind the whole time. Get it over with!
Approach them in the way they respond to best. If they respond to email, that’s great. If this is a person who does not, especially if you know he is an extrovert, call him or go see him in his office. Obviously you’ll have a pleasant and confident tone, and if in person you’ll have confident and friendly body language. Ask if they have a minute, then drop that “quick question” (my most hated term, since I’m an introvert) on them.
Formalize it. If the thing you need is from someone in IT, you can call their service desk and create a ticket. “Hello, I need for someone to ….for my new ABC project. I need it by October 31…” The thing about tickets is, whomever it’s assigned to has to do it. The boss looks at the tickets and even runs reports on tickets that are open – how long they’re open, whether they’re overdue, etc. Opening a ticket means it will get done – and it’s not done until you say it’s done.
Get witnesses. If you’re in the same department with the person you need something from, then when you have a staff meeting and you are asked about your project, give a pleasant, professional update on what you have done so far. Then look at the person and say, “Now I’m at the point I need….. in order to….” That way the other person will leave the meeting with an action item – to do what you need from them.
In general, I try to think, if I were that person, what kind of request would guarantee that I’d respond to what is asked: Asking in person? Calling? Be pleasant and professional, obviously, but remember not to let avoidance of dealing with other people slow you down or derail you at work! After all, most of your coworkers don’t consider interruptions bad and wouldn’t hesitate to interrupt you if they needed something!
Photo credit: Casey Serin