I need your help! Last week, I had a meeting with co-workers to gather data for a time-sensitive project that I am working on. When Bob showed up, he immediately started asking how long the meeting was going to be (even though it was specified on the agenda that was sent to him prior to the meeting) because he had “sooo much” work to do. Bob is always talking about how “busy” he is and how he doesn’t have time to assist other team members because he is “sooo swamped.” What makes him think his time is more valuable than anyone else? And what about my project?
Signed, Not too Busy to Complain About Bob
A: Dear Not too Busy to Complain About Bob,
I feel your pain. This is a personal pet peeve of mine and reminds me of one of my favorite comic strips by Randy Glasbergen that says, "No matter how busy I am, I'm never too busy to stop and complain about how busy I am."
I’ve had a similar situation myself when I requested data from a coworker via email. I received the following response: Wonda, I understand you are under the gun for those numbers and need them immediately. Unfortunately, I am working on my own project and it takes precedence over your request. I wish I had more time to assist you, but I have so much to do and little time to complete my own tasks let alone print you out the report you need. Seriously, I have not had a second of down time and I’m not even sure when I will finish my project. The following is a list of things I have to do on my project before I can even think about helping someone else. (too lengthy to include in this article) Check back in a week or so and I’ll let you know when I’ll come up for air.
Are you thinking what I’m thinking? The time it took him to write this lengthy response on how busy he is to help me, he could have printed that darn report.
What fascinates me about individuals like Bob is that they are usually the first in line at the “boss is away” potluck and always have time to put his or her two cents in when discussing the latest episode of the Bachelor or the Housewives of Wherever.
In all seriousness though, Bob could be suffering from a couple things.
1) Low self-esteem, and/or 2) Lack of time management skills. Usually, employees who complain about having too little time often thrive on the sense of importance that their busyness generates. Every single time Bob says, “I’m busy” or “I don’t have time,” it reinforces how darn successful and important he is. Sometimes, complaining about overwhelming demands are easier than setting priorities and getting organized.
Unfortunately, my psychoanalysis of Bob isn’t going to make Bob assist you and the team. The truth is, Bob just doesn’t think what you have to do is as important as what he has to do. My advice to you is to work on Bob’s need to feel important. Tell him you understand he is busy, but he is an integral part of the project. Then give him specific tasks and deadlines. If that doesn’t work, you might have to go to yours and/or his boss and let him or her know how Bob’s unwillingness to assist in the project could jeopardize its completion.
I wish I could offer you more advice, but I am a very busy girl...
Signed, Workplace Wonda