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Let’s skip the small talk

January 17, 2013, 3:23 pm

I don’t understand why some people have such a strong resistance to using email to communicate at work. I frequently hear and read that “email is a distraction” and “it’s so much better to communicate face-to-face.” Well, I don’t know about you, but I can deal with most emails in two minutes or less, and I can do it when I want to. It’s a lot harder to get rid of most people who pop into my office in less than two minutes.

Especially when they want to chat.

I am not a small-talk kind of person. I’m not very good at it, and I don’t enjoy it. I’ll do it when it is socially required, and I always try to be friendly, but in general I try to avoid it. I especially hate it at work. I strive to be efficient and productive from nine to five so that I don’t have to work more than forty hours a week. I prefer just to get down to business in a meeting or when I have a work request for someone. But not everybody has the same work philosophy as I do, unfortunately.

There is one person in particular in my office who is a frequent offender. Let’s call this person Pat. Pat likes to check in with me on things that Pat is working on. And that’s fine – it’s important to me that Pat’s job is done correctly and effectively. But I really wish that Pat would send an email with information on what has been accomplished, or with questions about things, or with links for me to review. An email that I can review when I have a moment.

Pat thinks “face-to-face” communication is SO much better. Pat pops into my office. All the time. All day long. And asks the question or shows me the thing, and I try to deal with it quickly and get Pat to leave so I can get back to the thing I was working on that Pat interrupted.

Pat won’t leave it at that, however. Pat likes to chat. Pat likes to fill me in on all the tiny little details that I do not want to hear about (having to listen to all of the details for thirty minutes totally defeats the purpose of delegating a task to Pat, if you ask me) in order to remind me of how skilled and important Pat is. Often Pat will say outright how skilled and important Pat is, just to make sure that I know. If I’m REALLY lucky, Pat will also share an unrelated and unsolicited anecdote about the traffic or weather or family issues.

I try to be polite, I really do. But I have work to do. And don’t you have work to do, too?

Please. Just send me an email.

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