I need help and my colleague is not answering quickly!
My colleague is asking for help, but I’m very busy. How do I follow up?
A practical checklist to help you ask better and reply better.
When you ask:
- clarify the urgency (Is it time critical? are you just anxious? explain yourself. If all requests are urgent this is likely to lessen the perceived urgency)
- Is the person the only one able to answer? Offer the option to redirect your question to somebody more appropriate or free
- What you want to do
- How you tried to get it done
- The result you’ve got and the result you expected
- Is it the first time you ask this? Ask for documentation.
- Did you ask similar questions many times? Check the documentation and offer to update
When you receive a question:
- acknowledge the receipt even if you can’t answer immediately, especially if you don’t have an appropriate status (like “in a meeting” or “very busy”) or if you know you will not be able to answer within a reasonable time
- if there is a better person to ask, try to redirect the question (especially if you are planning to say “ask this person anyway, they know better!”
- link documentation if appropriate
- if you have more important priorities at the moment, it’s nice to say “I can’t help you at the moment” even if you don’t have options of offer. Although debatable, knowing no help is coming is better to stay hopeful for a few hours.