Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Busy and Important People

I’ve only had one job in my life where I was required to be Busy and Important and I wasn’t very good at it. I didn’t have the skills required to fob off perfectly reasonable requests from lesser mortals, change meeting times willy-nilly to best inconvenience my staff, or spend a lot of time with other managers behind closed doors drinking tea and eating snacks.

It is my load to bear that I do, however, often have to deal with Busy and Important People in my quest to track down information for use in the occasional articles I write for various journals.

Two responses from Busy and Important People recently reminded me why I thank all the gods every day that (a) I am not Busy and Important, and (b) I am not required to work in a fulltime day-to-day capacity with Busy and Important people.

I sent a very clearly worded email that consisted of a 2-line overview followed by 6 questions (and, interestingly, the emails were to Busy and Important People who actually had a vested interest in the article I was researching). The questions were all of an ‘opinion’ nature and required no research. Answering them would take a normal person about 10 minutes.

The first Busy and Important Person’s response was so typical of Busy and Important behaviour generally that I would have laughed if I hadn’t been so busy tearing my hair out. She told me that she was too Busy and Important to answer the questions via email but would accede to a 15-minute telephone interview, to be organised with her secretary, whose details she thoughtfully provided.
* My time spent composing and sending the email: about 10 minutes.
* Busy and Important Person’s time spent reading my email and sending her response: about 5 minutes.

I emailed the secretary, who sent me one of those irritating Microsoft Office auto-response thingies where you are ‘invited’ to a meeting at a certain time and on a certain date, and you must then click ‘Accept’, ‘Decline’, ‘Postpone’ or ‘Why won’t an ordinary email or even a simple phonecall suffice in setting up this appointment?’ Once you’ve selected your response, you are given the option of ‘Send immediately’, ‘Edit response, then send’, ‘I can’t be bothered with this, why can’t we just chat on the phone?’
* Busy and Important Person’s time spent in instructing secretary to find suitable time in crowded diary for 15-minute phone interview: 5 minutes.
* Secretary’s time finding the time and sending the ‘meeting request’: 10 minutes.
* My time spent in responding: 5 minutes.

Two hours later I got another ‘meeting request’ email – this one cancelled the previous meeting and moved it to another time. Again, I clicked and sent ‘Accept’.
* Busy and Important Person’s time spent in rearranging diary: 10 minutes.
* Secretary’s time spent changing the appointment and sending a new meeting request: 10 minutes.
* My time spent checking my diary, crossing out previous arrangement and accepting new one: 5 minutes.

The next day, early in the morning, this process was repeated (I am not making this up). This time, however, the new time clashed with another appointment I had, so I had to click ‘Decline’, then ‘Edit response’, then write in the block why I couldn’t make the meeting, then send.
* Busy and Important person’s time: 10 minutes.
* Secretary’s time: 10 minutes.
* My time: 10 minutes.

Secretary then sent alternative time and date; I accepted.
* Secretary’s time: 10 minutes.
* My time: 5 minutes.

On the morning of the day of the 15-minute phone interview, I received, completely out of the blue, an email from the Busy and Important Person, answering all the questions I’d sent her. After a brief moment to consider whether I’d dreamt all the to-ing and fro-ing of the preceding few days, I emailed the secretary to inform her of this, and to tell her that I wouldn’t need to do the phone interview after all. She then sent me a ‘Meeting cancelled’ confirmation email.
Busy and Important Person’s time spent answering questions: 10 minutes.
My time spent communicating with secretary: 5 minutes.
Secretary’s time: 5 minutes.

So… let’s tot that up, should we? In order for me to get a response to a short, succinct email,
* Busy and Important Person spent 50 minutes
* Secretary spent 45 minutes
* I spent 40 minutes
That’s OVER 2 HOURS of people-time spent trying to save the Busy and Important Person 10 minutes of effort. God!!

The other Busy and Important Person’s response was as ridiculous in a different but related way. When I hadn’t received a response from her and followed up my email five days later (there was a weekend in between), she emailed me back, stating ‘Three working days is not enough lead time for me on this.’ Boy, I wonder when she finds time to pee.

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Busy and Important Person said...

no need to get huffy about it

megan said...

So classic and so true I vomited a little bit in my mouth with sudden identification revulsion.

Muriel said...

Johann, I know that's you, and you're not busy! Although sometimes you are important.

Megan, v happy to hear you recognise the syndrome - so I'm not alone!