Please excuse my French in this next sentence.
Have you ever heard of the phrase: To ASSUME is to make an A$$ of our U and ME (ASSUME get it?) Well I want to go over a time in the work place where I made complete @$$e$ of not only myself but my co-worker.
Let me give you a little background on how I was to contribute at this particular job. I was hired in a new position created by my boss and trained by my now co-worker/equivalent. I was to help my co-worker manager the day-to-day operations of their large account, of which contributed to the highest sales of the company out of all accounts.
This particular co-worker has one account while our other co-workers have an average of 6 accounts. I was promoted a year ago to the same position of all my co-workers(and trainer) but with a contingency: I still have to help my co-worker that trained me. This was due to a hiring freeze at my company so my old position was never fulfilled.
Now this co-worker is very Type A: very much into the details and stresses if they overlook one detail the co-worker will then stress themselves and the others around them. Essentially they do not trust others to do their job if it affects how they have to do their job 99.9% of the time, following up with several phone calls until their requests becomes a priority, even when it can wait.
This particular day however my co-worker came to see me. They asked me what I was working on and I told them: working on our account reviews for our boss, that requires a lot of research into our last 5 period sales. This person was telling me that they were glad I was working on that project our boss asked us to do.
I made the terrible mistake of cutting this person off, before they could finish, to let them know I would not be doing this particular report for their customer.
Now before you shame me to death, hear me out! We all have busy days to manage our customers. The majority of the time this co-worker will normally come to my office to ask me to assist them with something, but not always. Sometimes I’m visited by this co-worker to ask me about my weekend/day or to vent however 90% of the time it is to ask me to help them with something.
This particular co-worker however is always under some sort of “stress.” If you were to ask this person how they were doing midday, they would cry out loud saying “UGH I have so many things to do!” Then we would hear of the laundry list of things they have to do. Now to give this frantic co-worker credit, they do deal with a lot of things from their ONE customer but the point being is that the co-worker brings onto themselves unnecessary stress. However I can see how each of my co-worker’s management styles differ. Other than myself, no other co-workers would not be able (or want to for that matter) deal with this customer.
I’ve aided in helping this co-worker out, even at the disadvantage of the tasks I handled for my own customers. I respectfully aided my co-worker even in the smallest of tasks that they requested (but not most efficient use of my time in my requirement to still aid her) so my co-worker could worry less and because this person taught me everything about the business. Every time I hear her pace (yes I have designated this co-worker with their own walking pace to my ear) I prepare myself to help her at that very moment.
Back to my story: After interrupting what my co-worker had to say, they corrected me, quite frankly I might add for one who was upset, in saying they was not asking me to help them, and began walking away.
I quickly realized how I was completely wrong for assuming something so I got up and followed her, calling out to immediately apologize. This person shut their office door 2 seconds before I could arrived so I knocked and opened the door slightly to tell her I was sorry that I misunderstood. She then stated she had an email to send and she would call me later.
UGH! I felt like a complete dummy. I got very upset with myself for being presumptuous that I sent her a quick email basically stating I’m sorry for the miscommunication, knowing she would read it and went to grab lunch to eat while working.
After pondering on it at lunch, I realized how she disrespected me when she walked away as I was trying to apologize so I tried to recall the email that I sent to resend the email to her to also let her know I felt disrespected.
A couple of hours later she replied essentially stating to imagine how disrespected she felt when I cut her off when she only intended to complement me on how happy I was being able to do my reports, as she could not get around to doing hers yet. She also said she understands miscommunication and to move on and not worry about it. I felt even worse but still curious as to why she came to see me in the first place.
Talk about drama! Although I felt that it could have been resolved when I went to her office, I am glad that we have moved passed it to continue the flow of our work relationship.
Moral of the story is: Listen more than you speak. I’m the master at this as I grew up being quiet and shy, which is why I was so disappointed in myself when I interrupted. I knew better. Listen to all the facts first before you assume behavior. It may be normal to expect something however it could really be something entirely different from what you expected to receive. Also, speak up if you feel that your use of time is being used inefficiently. Had I learned how to wean my co-worker from giving me tasks she could easily do, I would have never had to assume anything.
Bonus: On that day, before I co-worker emailed me back, my boss knocked on the door and came into my office, but not before closing the door. Immediately I began to panic, thinking my co-worker said something to my boss, but I decided to wait to see what actually came out of his mouth; a task I’d wish I had done only a few hours earlier. I expected the worse but actually received a raise. Talk about waiting to hear all the facts!