Friday, October 24, 2008

Dilemma, parts 1 and 2

Workplace dilemma, part 1:

People at work often greet me with, "Hi, how are you today?" I reply, "Fine, thank you."

I know the socially acceptable response is, "Fine, how are you?" But I don't want to feed the how-are-you-as-a-greeting machine, so I simply answer the question. It has led to an awkward pause on more than one occasion, though.

Am I wrong for failing to observe this nicety?

Workplace dilemma, part 2:

A certain co-worker starts all of her phone conversations with me, "Sorry to bother you, but..." When she has to call more than once in a day, she starts with, "I know I'm being a pest, but..."

She pauses and waits for me to reassure her that she's neither a bother nor a pest. I never do. I usually just say nothing and wait for her to get to the point.

Whether or not she is bothering me is irrelevant. The damage is done. She's already pestered me. Also, I don't really believe she's sorry. If she was, wouldn't she stop calling me?

Should I cut her some slack?

Discuss.

9 comments:

Shauna said...

I agree with you on #1. I don't ask people how they're doing either. I also respond with "fine, thank you" or something to that effect. Polite enough, I say. Plus, I figure it's a lot less rude to do that then to ASK and then walk away as they are answering. And what if they WEREN'T fine? Would you stop to listen to them? If not... continue on your current course.

#2... hmmm... I would be annoyed. But I'm guessing the fact that you sit there waiting for her to get the point is only fueling her belief that she's bothering you in some way. When people apologize for asking me questions, I usually say something like "You're fine... what can I help you with." That's if I'm feeling super nice though.

Andrea said...

Well, she IS bothering me. Probably 98% of the time, she's either calling about an e-mail she just sent me or she's giving me an update on some task she's completed. (I'm not her supervisor; we're peers.)

I don't mind at all when she calls with actual issues, and I'd be happy to reassure her, but I have no way of knowing that at the outset of the conversation. So how do I encourage her to call when she actually needs something and discourage her from calling to tell me about her cat and her weekend housework and her lunchdate with her girlfriends and oh by the way did you get my e-mail? Have I ever NOT gotten one of your e-mails? Where does you think the e-mail goes? Do you think that by calling, I'm more likely to get it?

Which brings up another point...she calls to make sure I got the e-mail and then wants an answer to her question "while I have you on the phone." Isn't that a bit disingenuous? She only has me on the phone because she called to make sure I got the e-mail. Why not just call and ask in the first place? Oh, yeah, because then she'd be bothering me.

Karin said...

I think your way of dealing with it is fine. I don't think we should feel pressured to be anything but genuine. If you don't feel it, don't say it. :-)

Kari said...

I just think it's hard to please everyone. Unless you're being overtly hurtful, I guess there's no right and no wrong.

Kari said...

P.S. my pet peeve in this regard is when you ask how someone is doing and they respond by saying "how are you?" and then you answer "fine" and ask "how are you?" again and they still don't answer. It's painfully obvious that they neither care how you are doing nor do they wish to engage you in a conversation about how they are doing. Its like, what else are you supposed to talk about when you have nothing in common?

A friend from Iceland once asked me "why the #@!! Americans always insist upon asking everybody 'how are you?' when they don't even care to hear the answer?"

I'm interested... sometimes...

NG said...

I agree on both counts. Maybe we should work together.

momodafoxes4 said...

Total agreement on #1...there's nothing I hate worse than insincerity, if you really aren't interested in the others' feelings...DON'T ASK!!! I can't tell you how many times someone has asked me how I was, then mindlessly "uh-huh'd" or just plain walked away while I was talking...an R.S. pres. pulled that one - gee - thanks for caring!
As for #2...honesty is the best policy? If you were to reassure her, she would probably keep doing it...if you continue what you are doing...she is already continually doing it...No win\win here, eh?

Shauna said...

Okay... the picture is getting clearer on issue #2. I have a co-worker JUST LIKE THAT. Why send me an email and the IMMEDIATELY call me to relay the EXACT SAME INFORMATION. Except sometimes my co-worker actually sends me the email and then COMES OVER TO MY DESK to tell me everything she just emailed me. It's maddening. MADDENING.

I don't ever reassure this one. I make it painfully obvious that every time she speaks, I want to shove my pen in my ear just to stop the sound of her voice from reaching my brain where it must then be processed.

I respond to all of her emails courteously and professionally though. I keep hoping that one of these days she'll say to herself, "That Shauna is so much more pleasant to communicate with over email..." Hasn't happened yet, but a girl can hope.

Shauna said...

Oh... the other thing I do to encourage email communications with these types of people is any time they ask me to do something or want me to answer something, I always ask them to send me the request in writing. If they know they won't get anything accomplished by calling me, they're more likely to just email in the first place.

However, if your girl is anything like mine, she's a lonely sad woman and just wants to talk to people. No amount of trickery is going to teach that one. *sigh*