Of all the people that you can encounter in business, one of the most frustrating types has to be, what am I now about to coin, the Urgent Avoider.
This person has two distinct cycles. The Urgency Phase is easily detectable by the number of attempted contacts in a two-hour period. For example, the time line will look something like this:
- 9:01 am: Leaves voicemail about some detail the two of you need to work out. (You are away from desk at the photocopier and then are off to a meeting, so don’t have a chance to receive voicemail never mind return call)
- 9:58 am: Leaves second voicemail wondering if you got the first voicemail and saying they will follow up with email, wonders on message if you are away on holidays. (You are still trapped in epically long meeting)
- 10:01: sends email reiterating all information two previous communiques. Last line reads “PLEASE contact me ASAP so that we can work this out. Cheers! ;-)
- 10:03: harasses receptionist to give out your cell number by claiming they are long lost cousin who must urgently contact you to receive giant inheritance from long-lost aunt.
- 10:04 Leaves voicemail on cell phone. Lists in clipped tones all the times that you have been messaged. Marks message urgent. Fails to leave return number. (Your meeting is just winding down)
- 10:10 You receive all messages. Return phone call and get a chipper voicemail inviting you to leave a message and your call will be returned as soon as humanly possible. You do so, although there is a weird click halfway through your message, so you are unsure if it went through.
- 10:15: You step into the washroom at which point the Urgent Avoider calls. This is only detectable by the caller-ID because they did not leave a message this time. A warning bell in your head goes off.
- 10:17: You are cc’d on an email to your boss that reads something like this: “I have tried several times to reach so and so [you] but she hasn’t returned any of my messages. Is there a better way to reach her?”
- 10:18: You send off tersely worded email to Urgent Avoider and cc’d to your boss pointing out that you did in fact leave a message and are currently sitting at your desk if they would like to call you right this second.
- 10:18 and 30 seconds. The Urgent Avoider calls. The both of you speak. The detail is worked out and the call will end with the Urgent Avoider promising you something “Okay, I will send that off to you in the mail.”
Thus ends the Urgency Cycle. You will know this by the fact that nothing will ever materialize in the mail.
Now we start the Avoidance Phase.
- Two weeks after this last exchange, it will occur to you that whatever it was has still not been taken care of. You dash off an email noting that it hasn’t arrived. You get no reply.
- A couple of days later you leave a voicemail. No reply.
- You continue to follow up every couple of days or so alternating forms of communication (phone, cell, email, fax, I’ve even resorted to snail mail upon occasion).
NOTHING. A black hole of silence. This can last as little as a week and a half or as long as two months.
And then suddenly, for some unknown reason, the UA resurfaces and the Urgency phase kicks in. The UA calls four times in 1/2 hour period before the two of you are able to connect in person. They explain that ALL their forms of communication went on the fritz, including the postal worker who is currently at Future Shop having their knobs jiggled and their memory wiped. But, never mind that, the UA is ON IT! Have you sent that whatever it was? Once reminded that it was THEY who were going to send the whatever it was, they are apologetic and in a weaselly way apologize for thinking that it was YOU who was letting the ball drop. There is probably some “silly me” giggling involved.
Now, some helpful words of advice–if you have ANY HOPE of getting the whatever it is taken care of, DO NOT let them off that phone. Say something like, “Why don’t we just walk through the changes to the document over the phone and then you can sign it and fax it to me right away. No, don’t hang up! How will you know I’ve received the fax if you hang up? No, no, I’ll just walk over to the fax machine with the phone in my hand and let you know that I’ve got it. Now, I’m going to sign it and fax it back to you, and you can let me know if you received it back.”
They will not want to do this, because it interferes with their enjoyment of their avoiding time if they are not actually avoiding anything. The Urgent Avoider feeds on procrastination like a Dementor feeds on emotions. They will wriggle and squirm and hyperventilate, but eventually they will respect your stand and move on to other prey, (and hopefully another job where they have no contact with you).
The Urgent Avoider–avoid them, well, urgently.
Have you had any dealings with an Urgent Avoider? Do tell.