General Etiquette > All In A Day's Work

Can I help you?

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Let's say I work at a company that makes quilts. We sell a variety of quilt styles/patterns, all of which are available in different fabric combinations. My job is to design the fabric for the quilts. Our project manager (PM) assigns me what designs to do (kittens with yarn, sail boats, butterflies, etc) and I illustrate them. I do not come up with the ideas for the fabric as that is PM's job.

Tom is in charge of our online store. I do not work directly with him, but I occasionally send him pictures of completed fabric designs for him to add to our site. The problem is that Tom seems to take every question he has about a product to me when I'm almost never the right person to answer it. His questions are usually ones that are obviously in PM's department (like "why are the kittens playing with yarn in this design?" I don't know! PM just told me to draw kittens with yarn so I did.) or easily solved by simply going to our stock room and looking at the product. I have no clue why he keeps asking me things!

My attempts to redirect him haven't helped much. Any tips?

If it's email don't respond, just forward his question to the PM. 

If he's calling you, then say "I don't know Tom, you'll need to talk to the PM" and then let him know you're busy and hang up.


--- Quote from: kitchcat on March 18, 2014, 11:24:42 PM ---I have no clue why he keeps asking me things!

My attempts to redirect him haven't helped much. Any tips?

--- End quote ---

Could it possibly be because you actually try to help him? Even if it's just that you try to figure out who to forward him to? Or that you forward the email on?

I had that (the fact that I was helpful) backfire on me once; I ended up w/ the company's receptionist sending me -every- call that she didn't know what to do with. I knew enough that I could figure out what department they needed, and I'd either forward them, or I'd send them back to her with info ("tell her to put you through to this dept.").
   It only stopped when I started saying, "I'm sorry, I can't help you; I don't know why she forwarded you to me, I'm going to send you back."

So, stop being helpful; be a kitchcat of few words. "Sorry, Tom, can't help you. Bye." <click> or "sorry, not me" if it's an email.

Don't even suggest who it is he might call; don't forward the email on. That qualifies as "being helpful."

I will say that I fear sometimes I'm Tom; I do go to people in my company and say, "I'm coming to you bcs I hope you'll know who to ask this of." But usually they actually might know. And I don't bring them everything.

I'm wondering if Tom keeps contacting you with his questions as an excuse to talk to you. It's what I thought of when I read your post, as it happened once when I worked in a call centre - we worked in teams with our assigned supervisor for that shift, and if you had questions or problems, you had to go to your group's supervisor. One of the guys used to take all of his questions to the same supervisor, even if he wasn't her assigned team for that day, and she couldn't help him* - eventually someone figured out he was making excuses to talk to her because he really liked her, but was too shy to just start up a conversation - he was 'spoken to' and it stopped. I'm not suggesting this is definitely what's going on, mind, just a possibility.

Having said all that, I agree with Toots about being 'unhelpful' - don't even try to answer his questions, as it will encourage him to keep asking. Tell him you can't help him every time, and hopefully he'll get the message not to bother you.

I would start using the PM as a  single point of contact. All info about the project should come from the PM. Need pictures for the website? You send to PM, PM "approves" them and sends them on to Tom.

This way, it looks to Tom like PM is the source (she is), and his questions go to her.


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