We’ve all experienced it. We’ve all put with it. We’ve all secretly wanted to punch the person that did it. We’ve all super-secretly wanted to follow up on the punch with an angry, guttural scream and kick. Okay, the last one might just be me, but you have to admit that dealing with someone who doesn’t respect your time is not only unprofessional at a business level but infuriating at a personal level.
It can happen in many forms: That guy who arranges 5pm meetings because he doesn’t have kids to pick up from daycare; that engineer that derails a meeting for 20 minutes with technical suppositions no one else cares about or is qualified to understand; that friend of a friend who’s been bugging you for weeks to help them on their website then reschedules five times; that client who expects you to react to every request instantaneously, then takes 3 weeks to get back to you when you need info from them; that Chuck E. Cheese cashier who shamefully stands idly by while the prize counter girl takes a 15 minute bathroom break and wide-eyed, eager children stand waiting with hard-won tickets clutched tightly in their little hands, tears slowly welling in their eyes.
Years of experience have proved over and over that these issues cause inefficiencies and erode communication. People who are treated with a lack of respect become resentful of the source, which results in less communication and often unnecessary politics. So what’s the solution?
The first part is obvious: make sure that you are not the one being the douche-bag. If you need to meet with someone, make the effort to change your schedule to accommodate them if needed. Once you’ve agreed on a time, short of a medical emergency or unexpected deportation, keep it. If someone is doing work for you, make sure you respond to their requests in a timely fashion. Remember, their delays are your delays. And for the love of all that is good in the world, if you see a bunch of kids waiting to cash in tickets for candy and fake vampire teeth, walk the 2 feet down the counter and hand out a few toys.
The second part is: speak up. Most people I’ve met avoid confrontation like the plague. I personally avoid it like a plague coupled with really bad gingivitis. We also don’t like to stick our neck out and risk looking like an idiot, even though we’d be saying what everyone else wishes they had the nerve to say themselves. Don’t back down when your manager sends you that ridiculous meeting request, propose a new time that you think would work better. If a client is repeatedly slow in responding to your requests, be honest and say “Hey, this is affecting my ability to finish your project. Can we please discuss this?” If you’re in a meeting that’s taking a side trip to the Caribbean, I find the phrase “can you please take that offline?” cliched but effective. Unfortunately teenagers are immune to reason and angry glares, so you’ll just have to suck it up and wait for your 200 ticket Tootsie Roll.