Just about everyone I know has too many things going on and not enough time to get everything done. I am not sure if it is worse now than it was in the past, but it sure seems that way.
If everyone were simply a self-contained organism, without any interactions with others, this would not really pose a problem. If you got 8 out of 10 things done on your to-do list today, and I only accomplished 4 of my 7 items, no big deal.
But few if any of us live lives without interactions with others, and the resulting inter-dependencies are at the root of many potential conflicts. When you do not get back to me about something (failing to complete just one of the things you were supposed to do), the result could be that I am unable to take care of a few of the items that I was hoping to get done.
In many ways, life is all about managing our priorities, and it seems that the less we need to rely on others, the simpler life becomes. Unfortunately it just is not possible for most of us to run our lives without having to depend on anyone.
So we try to find people who are dependable. Over time, if you weed out the less dependable ones and bring in some more of the dependable type, things should get simpler for you. But what happens when you have depended on someone for a long time and now they have let you down?
I am currently in a situation where I have worked with someone off and on over many years, and things have always gone well, until recently. You see, this man has had some recent changes in his life that have forced him to reorganize things and re-assess his priorities.
As for the area of his life that impacts mine, I had assumed that despite the changes he has faced, the work he did with me would continue to be a high enough priority for him, so that he would continue to do a great job insofar as I was concerned.
But I am now learning that I was probably wrong. Lately when I send him an email or leave him a voice message, I wait several days or even weeks before getting a response. I often end up following up an email with a call or a text before he gets back to me.
The excuse that invariably comes up in such instances is “I was going to get back to you, but I didn’t have time, because of such and such and I was busy dealing with so-and-so”. Ugh. Yeah, it is probably true, in some respects. But what does it really mean?
Well it reminds me of a relationship book that became popular a few years ago called, “He’s just not that into you”. It was aimed and women who lament the fact that after what they felt was a great first date with a guy, he often did not follow up.
What it means in your work life when these things happen to you is similar. Yes, give someone the benefit of the doubt. Once. Maybe twice, assuming the relationship was good and has been in place for a long time. (And assuming the explanations are believable and acceptable).
But what it means to you in practice is that this person’s priorities have changed, and you had better realize quickly that you are no longer as close to the top of the list as you were before. So you would probably do well to start to plan your next move without having to rely on that person.
The sooner you start to realize that there is a new reality in place and that you need to make some changes, the sooner you can start to regain control of the situation.