Thursday, May 14, 2009

Thanks for calling!

I put out a fire yesterday, and all I did was pick up the phone.

The story:
A coworker sent me an IM and asked me to read over an email she was about to send. She was quite upset and the email was addressing an escalating situation. I helped her tone down her verbage and verify the contents, and told her that I had her back if she needed support. This situation had come up on our group call earlier that day, and I could tell that this was something grating a lot of people’s nerves. The next day, I got an email from the “villain” of this story. I initially played nice by email and gave him what I thought was a good answer. Shortly after, I got a reply and the phrase “give him an inch and he’ll take a mile” came to mind. I sort of freaked and my initial desire was to exclaim “Are you kidding me?” and wonder what possessed me to play the “helpful Regina” card. But then I took a deep breath and did something else. I called my coworker (the IM lady) just to make sure I had her side right. And then I decided that instead of another email, I would reach out through the phone.

Novel idea right? I decided to ask this cantankerous, demanding, frustrated, manager just what he wanted. And after I said hello and introduced myself, I was expecting to have my ears buzzing, and to be on the calm defensive.

But that wasn’t the case at all! This man who had given others so much trouble was quite pleasant. In fact, he admitted his worker was in the wrong. I admitted that our policies are quite extensive and that the portal to access them is user-unfriendly. And after a little discussion, we had a plan to fix things moving forward. To my surprise and relief, instead of an immediate deadline and lots of work, he told me to take my time. He said a good product would take time and effort, and we agreed to collaborate through the process. Now granted, I commited myself to a little bit of work. But if creating one presentation will keep a healthy working relationship between our two business groups, I think it's a small price to pay.

After all the emails and speculations, it just took was a phone call. All the manager needed was to hear an understanding voice and to know that someone cared.

Moral of the story:
We live in a super connected world, but our greatest connector is still the human touch…even if it’s just a voice.