A bit of advice for those who are seeking help from someone else, but first a little story. A few weeks ago, I was out of the office, when I received a phone call that had forwarded from my desk phone. The following dialog ensued between myself and Phone Girl, who’s name I’ve forgotten, from some company who’s name escapes me.
Phone Girl: Hi my name is [Phone Girl] calling from [Some Company]. For the last several months we’ve been getting these letters in the mail from your company and we don’t like them, and we never do anything with them except for throw them away, and we want you to stop sending them to us.
Me: I think you’ve got the wrong person.
Phone Girl: Is this Ben?
Phone Girl: Well, then you need to take us off your list.
Me: I’m sorry, I don’t have a list. I am not familiar with this letter, and I don’t have anything to do with the letters that the company sends out.
Phone Girl: Do you work for XYZ Company (I’ve changed the name here).
Me: I work for ABC Corp (another name change). ABC Corp purchased XYZ Company a long time ago, but I didn’t have anything to do with that, and again, I don’t know anything about these letters or this list.
Phone Girl: Well I need you to take us off your list.
Me: (getting a little annoyed) Well, I’m sorry, I can’t help you. Perhaps you should try someone in marketing?
Phone Girl: Can you transfer me over there?
Me: I cannot, I’m out of the office today on my cell phone. You could probably dial back in again and talk to the operator at the front desk.
Phone Girl: Boy, none of you guys know what you’re doing over there do you?
Me: (angry now, and realizing I need to get off the phone before I say something really rude) Well, if that’s true, then I definitely can’t help you.
And then I hung up. I stared at my phone in amazement for a moment, wondering about the manners of Phone Girl on the other end. Did she expect me to help her after she said that? Did she think that was going to get her closer to her goal?
The reality is that even if I had been in the office, with access to the company directory, my company has over 5,000 employees. I have no idea how many of those employees are in marketing, nor do I know if it is marketing that maintains whatever list she happens to be on. I’m a generally amiable person. If I can help you I will, but my desire to help wanes quickly in the face of rude treatment and insults.
Here’s the advice: if you find yourself in a position where you need someone else to help you out or do a favor for you, treat them with respect when you go asking for their help. If you’re fishing for one person in a sea of 5,000+ recognize that you probably won’t catch the right fish on the first bite, and being friendly might help you get what you want.