How to properly respond to tasks and issues

Too many times I have seen individuals with plenty of work and life experience respond to tasks, projects, and even simple questions in ways that make even the most patient of us grit our teeth. While I personally feel there is no excuse for this, I will give those people the benefit of the doubt and assume perhaps they really don’t now how they are responding.

Here’s an example of what I mean. Let’s say I sent someone an email following up a job I had started and they had taken over. I still feel a sense of ownership to the job because the client engaged me, so I often follow-up with both the client and the persons working the issue to ensure things are being done in a way that keeps the customer happy. Here’s my email to them:

Good Morning Bob! Just following up on Project X: Client Z relayed that they have not had the issue resolved and weren’t aware of its status. I know you were working on getting Vendor B to come on site to address the wiring issues. Have you scheduled the repair? What is the timeframe for getting that completed? Could you please let Client Z know the status and get them some updates on this? Also, Client B has reported similar issues, could you add them to your project so it can be resolved as well?

6 HOURS later comes a response:


I hit the roof. Yes, that’s entirely my fault,  I can control how I react. But I had an upset client on my hands, who asked me to fix an issue 3 WEEKS ago, that not only still isn’t fixed, no one knows the status! “Bob” isn’t communicating with the client, isn’t communicating with me, and now I feel like Bob isn’t doing his job at all. And I take it personally because I have worked hard on my reputation as a person who gets things done, and gets them done quickly. This is reflecting on MY reputation, as well as the reputation of our team. Clients don’t tend to say “That guy isn’t very good at taking care of my needs“, but they WILL say “That whole company/department doesn’t care of my needs“. So yes, in my hypothetical example, I get a bit upset. and respond with an exact copy of my original email preceded with “Which items are you responding to, and can you please provide details?”. I let the client know I would check into it and let them know something. This was around 4 pm that day.

The next day, at almost noon, here’s the response:

Sorry. I have been busy. I will look into this today.

We have a job to do, we have a client with an issue that is resulting in loss of productivity, and simply no excuse for 3 weeks to have gone by without even starting to look at the issue. It’s unacceptable.


1. Respond in a timely manner that is in line with the severity of the problem

If the problem at hand is that something is not working and that ‘something’ is critical to company operations, it gets bumped to the top of your priority list. You don’t stop to chat in the hallways about your kids. You don’t help someone out with their personal computer questions or  spend an hour helping them download ringtones on their Blackberry. You don’t sit in your office for 2 days taking stock inventory. All of those things are VERY important to maintaining good client relationships and trust, but they are not critical, and can be dealt with later. The broken stuff needs fixing first.

2. Provide all relevant information to those who need it

Let your client’s know what you are doing, and when you expect it be completed. Not doing so will make the client feel like they have forgotten, or worse, ignored.

3. When answering questions, make sure you are answering questions.

Provide direct answers to the questions asked, and if you have more information, provide it too. If someone asks if you are working on something, you can say “yes”, or could take a couple of seconds more and say “yes. I’m scheduled to meet with Client C at 3:30 pm today”. “Yes” or “No” on its own is hardly EVER an acceptable response, offer relevant information because more than likely the person asking wants and needs details and by responding appropriately you will avoid them having to respond back asking you those questions.

 4. Never, EVER say you are “busy” as an excuse

Everyone is busy. Everyone. It makes it seem like you are implying that you are busier then they are. It’s presumptuous of you to use ‘busy-ness’ as an excuse, when the person following up with you is taking time of their ‘busy’ day to check on a job YOU should be doing.


Here a few reasons why you want to avoid being “Bob”:

1. You look lazy/ignorant/incapable of doing your job

2. You not only make yourself look bad at your job, you are making your whole team look bad.

3. You make your manager/supervisor look bad. Guess who gets those complaint calls and emails?