Lots of words come to mind when describing bad traits that show up as labels at work. Sloppy, lazy, sleepy and clueless are a few that you might want to avoid. If any of these show up in your review, it’s time to hit the reset button. But there is one descriptor that is even worse.
That word is UNRESPONSIVE.
An unresponsive co-worker sends out tacit messages to others that I am too busy to respond or that you are not important enough for me to respond. Either way, neither is a response that will endear you to your co-workers. But you don’t have to act that way. The guidelines on what is appropriate for being responsive are always changing but a few rules seem to always apply.
My first boss told me in no uncertain terms: THESE ARE THE RESPONSE RULES, and they should never be broken if you want to be successful. • Every phone call should be returned within ¬twenty-four hours. Even those from people you don’t know.
• Every memo should have a response by the next business day. Even if the response is, “I am in receipt of your memo, stay tuned.”
• Each piece of correspondence received should be acknowledged and a response prepared and returned within three business days.
These rules no longer apply. Today, it is rare to make a phone call or to receive one. No one even knows what a memo is anymore, and no one receives written letters unless the letter is from the IRS. The rules have changed and are now, well, a little ambiguous. There are some general guidelines that are never written down in an employee manual but seem to generally apply:
• An e mail needs to be returned the same day. Probably.
• A text should be returned within an hour. Probably.
• And a phone call? Depends on who it is. If it’s the boss, return it the same day. If it’s the person calling about a solar panel offer, maybe never.
Some would say that these guideline response times are too slow. This group would say an e mail should be returned within the hour and a text within a minute. This same group would be forgiving on returned phone call times because this is the group that never makes phone calls or would die before posting an automatic out of office response.
Others would say e mails, texts, and calls are the source of all distractions and inefficiencies. This group would choose not to be measured by response time.
The workplace is moving so fast today that “the quicker the response, the better” is always a good rule. Acceptable and exact response times today are a moving target with lots of variables that dictate the right answer. If you are too busy for appropriate responses, a quick, “I got it. Stay tuned” might suffice.
Go ahead. Look up the synonyms for the word unresponsive. These words include: insensitive, passive, cold, and unfeeling. Some of the descriptors are worse. One thing I do know: to be labeled as unresponsive in today’s workplace means you are showing a lack of respect for colleagues.