Tourist Information

I work in Compliance and have previously worked in IT.

My personality is one of a people pleaser, and in my previous company, I was there for over 15 years and became something of a goto person for information, a font of all knowledge.

I took this as a result of my attitude and longevity, but in my current role after 2 years I can see that I’ve fallen into the same trap rather more quickly, albeit it in a smaller company in a role which is one which works with all departments and people.

Has anyone broken this chain in the past without being too rude or being seen as a non team player?

Geoff - can you say more about why you regard this a “trap”? What chain are you trying to break?

I think I follow. My advice in these situations is to restrict yourself to documenting and improving documentation/routing systems, and mentoring, and making other people provide these answers. If you’re a one-man department, it’s hard to do this without looking unhelpful. You would probably need buy-in and some kind of announcement from an executive.

If you’re one part of a compliance group, you probably just need agreement from the team that this is worth doing. Presenting it as a growth opportunity for junior members is most palatable (they will be excited for it, and executive-level staff will like it. Senior ICs in the middle might not appreciate it, but shouldn’t be actively hostile.)

Assigning difficult problems isn’t easy because, unlike when you started, it’s not necessary for them to struggle until they arrive at the answer since you’re there. Explicitly communicating to them that you are going to have them try to do something that isn’t easy, and making sure that you’ve given them time in their schedule to work on that (or coordinated with their manager to give them time) will help and minimize the organizational fear that your new lifestyle will necessarily generate. :smiley:

Your counterparts in other departments used to instant answers might see you as being unhelpful no matter what, unfortunately. You can try to explain the long-term benefits to them, and get their manager to communicate their department’s buy-in, if it’s that kind of organization.

Random initial thoughts. Curious to hear more from you and others.

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Good question. I find a few different downsides:

  • I find that instead of people looking for something they email, message, or phone me straight away (Charitably I’m the easy option, less charitably, they’re being lazy).
  • I then become a bottleneck if i’m not available (People have waited a week while I’m on holiday rather than ask others or try to find it themselves)
  • I get interrupted when trying to work which…
  • affects my ability to achieve my own work goals.

I’m about to change jobs and move companies, so now is the perfect time for me to learn and try not to fall into the same trap again.

Yes, I’m a one person department, I’ve tried Intranet pages with common answers and pointers to the right resources, communicating to particular managers and departments a list of things I don’t do and even tried asking people how they think something should be tackled to be met with a blank stare and “That’s why I’m asking you”

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Thanks @geoffaire!

Having been in similar situations, I’d recommend thinking about your situation in terms of systems, processes, and incentives.

  • Systems: your coworkers need info and it’s easier for them to contact you than find it themselves. Are there ways to gather your knowledge and put them in more accessible places? Or, if you are ok with the emails, but want to reduce their impact, maybe you could keep stats of most requested info and invest some time in pre-canned responses.
  • processes: systems have processes that humans follow. What processes can you control or influence? Maybe the information finding processes are more painful than the “email Geoff process: personal search engine” process. Which brings me to…
  • incentives: what rewards or mild impediments can you use to engineer the kind of work experience you want? For example, if it’s possible consider using “office hours” on your calendar where you say, “happy to answer your questions from X - Y am/pm, on the following days”. Or, if you think your workplace culture tolerates turning on Auto Replies during working hours, consider using them with a message that allows you to decide when and where you respond.

Hope these are helpful

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I’ve done the “intranet” thing in 3 of my last 4 jobs and gained recognition for it. If you can pull it off, it works wonders. In my current job (where I have been around a long time, but am still pretty much “the new guy”) I convinced the rest of my team to contribute to the documentation (originally in a wiki but quite soon moved to OneNote) because they saw the value in what I have provided myself. But… it did take a fair amount of time, during which I took every opportunity to say “put it in the wiki” or “if it was in the wiki…”.

Now I have things to the point where I am no longer the biggest contributor and have even been told off by other team members for not contributing on specific topics when I should have. I take that as a win.

That’s the long term solution. However, in the short term, there is one technique I use which has been quite effective for people outside my team, for whom there is an official channel (a group mailbox). If they contact me directly, I will sometimes help out on the spot, if it’s an easy request, or sometimes I will tell them I am busy and can they please go through the proper channel. Some people have even asked if I mind them contacting me directly and I just explain this to them. They can try, but don’t be offended if I tell you to go away.

For those who don’t understand this, and/or who are persistent, I find it works reasonably well to simply ignore them for a while before eventually getting back to them and saying “Sorry, but I have been busy with important tasks” (which is true).

There are a handful of people, who have shown they do not abuse the privilege, who I will always respond to quickly and in some of these cases I have the same privileges in reverse, which can be very handy.

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