Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Please. Ignore me.

It must be in my signature lines. Perhaps the email and phone calls and in-person requests have some sort of insignificant aura around them. "Don't bother." They whisper. "We'll wait. No problem. Just, maybe, when you possibly get just a few seconds of time, you might - if it isn't too inconvenient - perhaps consider replying in some fashion."

I've read everything in my sent folder again. I don't see where I'm going wrong - I'm straightforward and concise. I even set out time frames sometimes! Yet there's nothing. Nada. I know no more than I did yesterday. Or Friday. Because nobody will respond to my questions.

"We really appreciate you working on this so quickly." Penguin told me at our meeting last Friday. I arrived in the conference room a couple minutes late (my goodness kept me busy) and waited patiently for 15 minutes. Then I set out down the hall to find one of the three men who was to meet with me. Penguin apologized profusely, of course. Said that Dr. Icing and Penguin Jr. were running late. And all was fine. I understand that priorities shift - if someone had sent me email and said we should meet 30 minutes later, that would have been lovely. Instead, I waited alone for 15 minutes and spent another 15-20 minutes making small talk with Penguin. Hearing how important my work was, how grateful they were for my help, how vital I was to the project.

"Are you setting me up for something bad?" I finally asked. "Trying to ease an upcoming blow a bit?"

"Not at all!" He said. "We just really like working with you."

"Oh," I smiled and nodded. "That's very kind. And I likewise enjoy working with you."

Our other two attendees arrived and apologized and we talked and pored over manuscript pages and peered at figures.

"This," Penguin said as he looked at one of the tables I'd prepared, "is very helpful. May I have a copy of this to submit?"

"Of course." I replied, making a note on my paper to email it.

"We appreciate that you did so much work over break." Dr. Icing said.

"That's no problem." I smiled. "I'm just sorry it took me so long to get back to you." I was sincere in my apology. Penguin sent the comments on a Tuesday and it took me 8 days to reply with my notes on the reviews and another week to find time to meet to present my work. I blinked when all three men looked at me for a moment before I asked what was wrong.

"You've never taken too long, Katie." Penguin said. "That's just..." He looked at Dr. Icing and Penguin Jr. for help. "Not true." He decided.

"You're a pleasure to collaborate with. Exceptionally quick with replies and project reports and results." Dr. Icing clarified.

But two weeks is a long time! When something gets on my list, I like to do it soon! I started revising my rejected paper the same day I got the email. I carry my laptop with me to the bathroom when a migraine leaves me writhing on the floor. I don't like having email in my inbox so I try mightily to answer and file it as soon as possible. I don't even like to stop reading a book in the middle - I try to start and finish in one sitting.

When I ask for a free experiment, how long does it take to say yes, no, or I require more information? SPB has another two days before I bother him again - that gives him a week to have pretended I don't exist.

Is it terribly difficult to look at your calendar when I ask for a quick phone call to discuss interviewing possibilities or results? It seems to me that a few keystrokes would set a day and time so that we could get this over with. My 2 possible jobs have until Monday before I make more phone calls to them.

VIMD finally told me about the delay in our analysis. I told her I'd touch base next week to see if things had changed. See how delightful that was? We communicated. And now everybody's happy.

I have thus far prevented myself from jumping up and down in a tantrum and yelling, "Why not? Why not? Why not?!" when Boss avoids eye contact and tells me he still has no comments on my paper. It's a short manuscript. A good manuscript! I hate bugging him every day. But I'll do it again tomorrow because I still don't have notes from him.

If we're going to be email friends, one person eventually has to send me email in return. Past experiences indicate that when I don't get email, my email friend is bored. That makes me feel badly about myself, which should be the opposite goal of having email friendships at all.

I felt abject relief when Cousin called tonight. She invited me to dinner on Sunday and I told her sometime this week would be better. I forgot to call her yesterday so she called me back today.

"I'm sorry." I said, completely sincere but pleased that I mattered enough to someone to merit a follow-up call. "I forgot about you yesterday."

"That's fine." She said, sounding breezy and busy and confident in her own appeal. I envied her - she just calls back. I feel invisible and irrelevant and awful when I have to make another call or send another email.

"Tomorrow night." I told her and she said that would work fine. So there will be Little Cousin and reubens and puppies and the house of happiness. I'm trying to tell myself that I simply forgot to call her back. It's not that I don't want to go or don't love her dearly or am anything other than delighted to spend time with them. It just slipped my mind.

But I look at my list - which is composed of people who owe some some response - and feel badly. I dread reminding them that I require some attention. That I need some time they seem unwilling to give me. But perhaps it's a trivial problem after all. Which means you're in good company if you choose to ignore this post altogether.


BrightStar said...

I hate situations like this. I felt really ignored by my colleagues by something important recently, and I called them out and it was helpful... I think you're doing the right thing by modeling the kind of behavior you'd like to have returned to you, though.

Wayfarer Scientista said...

What a little thing communication is and what a huge difference it makes!

Amanda said...

I hate it when that happens. I have the same feelings of being marginalized. Advisor tells me it's his flaw not mine, when he doesn't get back to me. That helps. Sometimes.

Unbalanced Reaction said...

Ugh, how frustrating! It takes so much time to elicit even the simplest responses from people sometimes!

Alethea said...

I am totally in your camp. However, from the point of view of a part-time procrastinator, I think it's really helpful when a collaborator sends a gentle nag. It helps me reorder my priorities and, as you say, then everyone is happy.

Happy new year, btw.

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