Now, I need it. Now!
Timing and urgency can be funny things in the corporate world. I had a boss that was a generally good
guy and the work I did was reasonably easy. All and all it was a good situating for me. But my boss was
the owner of the company and he was used to getting what he wanted, when he wanted it. I had been with
that company for about a year and had settled into a nice comfortable existence behind the secured IT
room door. I had developed a very proactive tendency to provide the owner with the reports he might want
before he would ask for them.
One afternoon as I was getting ready to leave for the day, the owner emailed me and said he needed to
talk to me for a minute about a new report. He had an urgent need but he had to speak with the IT
manager first. I replied ok and waited. About an hour later the Owner came in following the IT manager
back to his desk which was across from me. They seemed to be having a good time telling jokes and
laughing it up. After a bit their conversation lagged and the owner turned to me. He was all business now
and indeed had a report he wanted done. We went over the details and the significance of the report.
When we were done he looked at me and asked, “So when can I get it?”
I felt very pressed and said, “I don’t know. When do you need it by?”
He responded with, “As soon as possible.”
I said, “I could get it done in a few hours.”
He said, “Great sent me an email when it is ready.”
I was instantly stressed as my wife and children expected me home and I was already delayed having
waited for him to give me the details of the report. He left the room and went back to his office from
whence I got one more email and a another call from him to add something to the spec and clarify another
point. I ended up calling my wife and letting her know I was not going to make it for dinner and in fact I
might be very late and may not make it in time to put the kids down to bed.
I got a new cup of coffee, a snack from the vending machine, rolled up my selves, and sat back down to
work. All the while feeling the tremendous stress and pressure to accomplish. This was critical. It was of
urgent importance. This needed to get done as soon as possible, so that the company could continue to
function, is how it was portrayed. At the very least it would make the difference between the gain or loss of
thousands of dollars. My head did not come up from the computer screen for the next four hours. Not
even to go to the bathroom. When I got it done. I published it on the network and then emailed the owner
expecting him to call me into his office to review it and make changes. After a few moments I had not
gotten a response so I felt it was safe to go the bathroom now and refill my coffee. As I come back to my
desk I was sure that there would be an email from him but there was none. It had been close to ten
minutes and no response. He must be tied up in a call, I thought, I should go over and let him know it was
done. When I got to his office the lights were off and he was no where to be seen.
I looked at his secretary (she liked to be referred to as executive administrative assistant which was her
official title.) and said, “Do you know where he is?”
She said, “He’s out.”
“Out where?” I asked.
She said, “Out for the day.”
I said, “Are you kidding?”
She said, “No, he left about 4:30.” It was pretty much right after he talked to me.
I said, “Do you know when he’ll be back?”
She said, “Wednesday.” I was stunned.
She added, “I think he was going to Vegas this weekend.”
I explained the situation and she said, “I don’t know; you could email him.”
I wondered back to my desk and wanted someone to complain to but it was after nine at night and
everyone but a few straggling sales men were gone. No one was left in the IT department and my kids
were already in bed. I sat back down and sent an email. Simply stating that it was done and to let me
know what changes he wanted. I packed up and went home for the night. It was Thursday. The next day I
came in a bit later then normal as I was in a poor mood having taken it personally, I thought to myself, “I
was here late… I can take my time this morning.” When I got settled I found an email reply for the owner
stating that he had gotten the message and he would look at it when he got back into the office. The IT
manager sat across from me so I let him know what had happened. He said he knew the owner was going
away to Vegas that is what they were talking about yesterday. He laughed at the situating. I was bothered
but let it go pretty quick.
I mentioned the over time from the night before and the IT manager said, “If the owner told you to get it
done and he wants to pay for it then that’s up to him.”
We both kind of smiled at each other and said, “Well, that’s it.” I sat back down and said, “I get it. I am his
beck and call boy.”
He nodded and said, “Yep.” I reported to the IT manager but all the work I did was for the owner so as
long as the owner was happy everything was good. It was a profound realization in a lot of ways. Not the
least of which was that his “now” and my “now” where not the same thing.
On Wednesday six days later the owner called me into his office to go over the edits to the report. Which
he wanted as soon as possible. I said, “I’d let him know when they were ready.” They should have taken
me about an hour or two to get done. I emailed him they were done at the end of the day right before I
Having a sense of urgency and jumping through hoops are two entirely different things. It is good to be
responsive and accomplish the tasks that you are being paid for on time but without a clear understanding
of the need you can find yourself sacrificing all kinds of things in order to meet an artificial deadline with no
effect. In so doing you loose control of your side of the work relationship thus turning yourself in to a
pawn, a peasant, a slave.
The Lesson to Learn:
Just because someone says they need it now it does not mean they really do. People say a lot of things
for a lot of different reasons that might have a variety of meanings. Someone might say they need it now
because they want to give themselves extra time to go over it next week or they might say it because they
don’t trust you can or will get it to them on time if they gave you the real deadline. In which case you’re
being manipulated. Before your go and put your unpaid life on hold to accomplish a task in an emergency
make sure it’s a real emergency for everyone not just for you. In other words before you jump out of the
window of a building filled with smoke with people yelling fire make sure that the building really is on fire
and that it’s not just a BBQ.
The Brutal Truth:
Sometimes you will have to jump through hoops for no other reason then because they said so… but that
needs to be your choice and not theirs. Most of the time it does not have to be done now and if you can
develop the nerve not to flinch you can continue to enjoy your life outside of work.