“Thanks for calling ‘The Bureau of Answers’…can you please hold?”

While I was asleep or not paying attention, I became the CEO of The Bureau of Answers in my world.

People think I am really smart!  Just kidding!  Only a narcissist would believe that.

Patrons who knock at the door of The Bureau of Answers have misguided beliefs.  Most of them assume that their hours are more valuable than mine. Some of them have actively cultivated the art of strategic incompetence.  Many are Millennials and require spoonfeeding followed by an acknowledgment of my gratitude that I was able to serve them in that capacity.

A great many patrons of The Bureau of Answers are simply lazy and manipulative, others believe the world owes them whatever they darn well want.  A few of patrons simply need to be able to tell someone else what to do.  Finally, there are a handful who just aren’t very able to figure things out.  I don’t mind patiently helping those.  My 81-year old mother and children under age ten fall into that category.

Before my little rant gets underway, let me be clear…

  • At work, my boss’s time IS more valuable than mine. You bet it is.  If the boss is wearing a watch and wants me to provide him/her the time of day, I am on it!
  • I moonlight and freelance doing projects that are based on information.  After five o’clock, anyone who pays me for my time gets full value of my time in return.  I am more than happy to use my time to answer questions, train others, write, or research topics and organize results, as long as there is an agreement for payment,  My time is money, and I sell it!  But, I don’t give it away.
  • If you are my friend, you are DEFINITELY NOT a patron of The Bureau of Answers.  You and I share a win/win relationship that involves love, support, and mutual respect.  You have probably given me more than I could ever give you.

Patrons of The Bureau of Answers ask for…

Information that I have already provided it to them any number of times.  I am thinking of a woman who is in her early forties. Betty (not her real name) and I worked together in a previous position.  She could never remember how to forward her phone.  After explaining it to her via email more than five times, I made a cheat sheet for her.

Betty called me and asked me to re-send the cheat sheet.  Of course she didn’t save it on her own hard drive!  What was I thinking?  I updated the sheet to read, “Step One – Create a folder under “My Documents; name it ‘How to Do Stuff.’ Save this document in that folder. Name it “Forwarding my phone.pdf.”  

I am fairly certain that because Betty had an impairment of one of her senses and she used that impairment to work the system at the office, my suggestion created a black mark by my name for not being helpful.  Never mind that I had helped her close to ten times! I dared to suggest she take ownership of her own job responsibilities.  I always found it interesting that Betty’s impairment never slowed her down when she was making posters and invitations for her children’s school activities on the agency’s color printers…it only helped her never to be held accountable for work. Bless her heart.

Information that is readily available for them to find for themselves, but they want me to find it for them (for free or by using MY time rather than them using THEIR time).  These patrons of The Bureau of Answers fall into several categories.

  • Standard Handbook Seekers – One category of friendly information seekers asks me for a answers in a handbook that is available for them on various government websites.  If members in this group used Google to search for what they need by putting in “gov ‘certain keyword’ handbook” the information would be number one on their search results.
  • Routine Document Seekers – This category of information seekers repeatedly ask for a certain document (or certain bit of information) one that they should keep in a personal file because they need it on a regular basis.  One of these folks would rather not be responsible for that vital document or bit of information; he or she wants me to be responsible for it.
  • Obscure Document Seekers – There is a subcategory of document seekers who believe that I have memorized the location of all documents in the world on the WWW, even though I have never needed to refer to them.
  • Would Rather Ask Seekers – Another category of information seekers could easily find the needed information quicker than by asking me.
  • Helpless Seekers – They are helpless and don’t know where to start to find addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, how to fix their own electronics, or 100 other topics that apply to their lives.

They don’t really want information on how to do something; they want me to do it for them.  Actually, in most of these cases, if I do it myself, it will take them less time than for me to explain them how to do it because they do NOT want to learn how to do it.  It doesn’t matter if their hourly wage is less than mine, or if this happens outside of work, these folks just can’t figure out much of anything on their own and they like feeling like they can delegate this task to me.

There’s more to be said on this topic.  Watch for these topics/tags:   Pet Peeves, Strategic Incompetence.