After a mutually beneficial business connection, he spontaneously offered, "if you need anything in the future don't hesitate to contact me." He went so far as to name some of the things he'd be happy to be involved in, or help me with, and I made a mental note for future reference. It seemed more than an obligatory remark from this well recognized individual.
A few months later, remembering his persistent offer, a situation arose where his input would indeed be helpful. So, after pondering whether his offer was meaningless chit-chat or a sincere offer of assistance, I decided to contact him.
That's when it started. I only had an assistant's email address, so I approached him with the specifics of our conversation, and a request to forward my email to his boss for consideration. No response, no acknowledgement, no follow-up. Nothing.
Thinking perhaps spam-demons ate my request, I sent a nudge a few weeks later. Again, a void. Giving the assistant the benefit of the doubt, I tried the final time ten days later. By now, I was realizing my request would never warrant the professionalism and courtesy of a response.
I'm not alone. Ignoring requests is becoming a deliberate workplace tactic. Sure, it's always been one for a few people, but in this ever-connected world, an increasingly common complaint is, "I can't get a response."
It's not that people are saying they can't get a yes or a no; they can't get a response at all. More people are making the no-response their response. They're ignoring voice mails, emails, texts, and other messaging.
I recently heard about a frustrated manager whose peer at a remote location refused to return her phone calls. She had left a series of messages over a period of several days on an important issue. She was told her peer had gotten her messages to call. So, she left voice mails with more information. Still, no return call.
Maybe the relationship wasn't important enough to that peer. Or perhaps her coworker didn't have the courage to tell her "no," so it was easier to ignore talking to her all - who knows? That deliberate tactic derailed any conversation. It also diminished trust and future cooperation.
People who are winning at working don't use these approaches. They understand that deliberate black hole tactics of ignoring emails, voicemails and requests builds walls, damages personal credibility, and impacts relationships.
In an age of overload and constant bombardment, it may seem like a perfect solution or self-preservation to toss requests into a black hole if you don't have support, don't want to make a decision, get the answer, lack the courage to tell someone "no," or believe you're too busy to deal with something someone else wants or needs. But, ignoring isn't the solution.
You see, even though I'll never know if that notable person even received my request, I no longer view him in as favorable a light. If you surround yourself with people who block your access by applying deliberate black hole tactics, what does that say about you and what you value? That assistant didn't do his boss any favors. His antics diminished both their credibility.
People who are winning at working don't take the easy route. They have the courage to say no to a request, call back the person they disagree with, handle a problem, or work through a time-consuming situation. They do it for two reasons. First, it's the right thing to do. And second, their actions are their message.
These are the people bringing the best of who they are to their work, and that best doesn't include deliberate black hole tactics for things they don't "want" to deal with. For people who are winning at working, black holes may, indeed, be easier, but they know that easier doesn't build relationships, demonstrate integrity, help others, or build careers.
(c) 2012 Nan S. Russell. All rights reserved.
Nan Russell's latest book is The Titleless Leader (Career Press, 2012).
Other books include: Hitting Your Stride and Nibble Your Way to Success.
More about Nan and her work www.nanrussell.com