You know office hermits. The colleagues who, hidden within the confines of their offices or workstations, click away on their computer keyboards, mumble their way through conference calls behind closed doors, and slip in and out of their offices and workstations as quickly and silently as they can. It is almost as if they are members in a secret society comprised of individuals that pride themselves on how few colleagues they interact with on a daily basis.
Not all who are unresponsive can blame the overwhelming amount of incoming emails and phone calls as the cause of their behavior. Many of us tend to assume that other people’s low responsiveness is due to workload when, in reality, they may not possess a natural predilection to getting back to others in a timely fashion, if at all. Consider these various places you could find yourself when you attempt to balance a desire to be responsive with your actual responsiveness:
There is a big difference between acknowledging an outreach and providing an answer to the outreach. You may not have the answer or you may not have the time to provide the answer at that moment. Regardless of the situation and in order to help your colleagues make progress, you do need to acknowledge your colleagues. By acknowledging receipt of an email or a phone message, you will benefit in the following ways:
Below are some typical hurdles to accessibility and suggestions for improving them in your organization and industry.
Accessibility does not mean you are available 24/7/52. We all have limits on the degree to which we can be reached by co-workers, and you should feel comfortable enforcing and expecting others to honor these limits.
Can you be so successful modeling accessible behavior that too many colleagues want a moment of your time and you find that you have no time for yourself? Is this an example of “too much of a good thing”? We all know that sunlight is a good thing, yet too much can cause skin cancer. We know that the human body needs sugar to survive, and yet too much may cause diabetes. If you are wildly successful at being accessible, you may find your calendar and productivity under attack.
It is not enough that you are highly accessible to your colleagues; your colleagues must also benefit from the interaction. After all, what is the point of being highly accessible if the interaction does not benefit your colleagues?
Visibility is also comprised of “reputation” which is the intangible ways that individuals connect with you. Do you create a welcoming atmosphere that reflects your desire to be accessible? When your colleagues come to see you, is your behavior creating or hindering access? Here are some ways to create a welcoming atmosphere that inspires access:
Visibility is comprised of “presence” which is the tangible ways that individuals connect with you. Here are a few ways to make sure it’s as easy as possible for people to find you:
Being accessible benefits everyone. Ram Reddy is the Chief Information Officer at The Rockport Group, offering high-quality dress and casual footwear to customers globally. Despite the daily challenges he faces in his busy workplace, Ram is committed to being accessible to those who reach out to him. “Being accessible is a key part of collaboration. Although many of us have offices that physically separate us from one another, it is important to act as though there are no walls. If a colleague needs me, I want her to be able to get to me. Likewise, I like getting out of my office and, rather than email a colleague a question, ask her my question or follow-up with her in person. This also allows my colleague to access me in ways that help her.”
To stay ahead of an unending volume of work, sometimes people hide in their offices. They may spend the day dodging colleagues, letting the phone go unanswered, and surfing their inbox to select which emails are the most urgent. Their colleagues likely feel frustrated that they cannot get their attention; and on those rare occasions when they do, they feel rushed. If those people are inaccessible to colleagues who need their help and attention, they may slowly lose contact with individuals who are important to their careers.