Just Return the Damn Phone Call
Business etiquette or lack thereof
By: Shayna Englin
Mostly, I work with awesome people. It’s actually a cornerstone of my business plan: I do interesting work for causes I believe in while working with people I like and respect. Why bother taking on the risks of self-employment if I can’t set those types of parameters for how I spend my time?
Every now and then, though… aargh. I miscalculate. I’m dealing right now with a consultant who shall go nameless (though every bone in my body wants to name names; Does that make me a bad person?). She’s my point of contact on an extremely important, extremely time-sensitive project. She doesn’t actually deliver anything of value to the project, but she’s the gatekeeper. Nobody else can do anything until she connects the dots.
Which makes it unconscionable that she takes THREE WEEKS to return a phone call or an e-mail. Literally – three weeks. I’ve taken to leaving a voice mail and an e-mail EVERY SINGLE DAY trying to get her attention. Nothing. Three weeks seems to be her standard timeframe.
I’m trying to be sanguine about it. If my work is held up by her incompetence, then it isn’t about me. But, honestly, I ask you – THREE WEEKS?!? What kind of professional gets away with that? What kind of professional even tries?
A very smart, successful woman once told me I should learn what she called the Zen of interacting with others. The gist is that we should try to learn something from every interaction, whether it’s a productive or frustrating one. How to find my Zen on this one? Here it is, in all its petty glory: I don’t ever want anyone to be as frustrated with me as I am with this woman. Every time I file away an e-mail or voice mail for “later”, I’m going to keep in mind this experience and this incompetent consultant, and think through for another couple of seconds whether I can and should just deal with it immediately, maybe saving someone else a giant headache (and the urge to trash my name far and wide).
Oh, and lesson number two for me: if someone as incompetent, rude and unprofessional as this person can make a living as a consultant, then surely I can, too. Petty? Yes, but oddly comforting.
Tell us: What should be the standard time frame for returning calls? What other rude business interactions have you encountered?