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Consultants Share Thoughts on Being Helpful or Disruptive

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Is there ever a time when being helpful is counterproductive or even taxing? According to one source, even the simplest of actions can hinder workflow.

In an article on, author Hanna Raskin said that stacking used dishes while dining out makes an employee’s job more difficult:

For servers who innately understand the art and physics of plate stacking, it’s terribly frustrating to be handed a wobbly tower of dishes and silver that has to either be set down and reassembled or carried gingerly to the dish room before the server can return to the table to do in two trips what might have been accomplished in one.

Interruptions in routine can cause delays, prevent active productivity and even disrupt crucial thought processes—all of which create set-backs and errors. Yet, being helpful should not be frowned upon in any situation. After all, denying the graciousness and willingness of another can also be counterproductive.

consultant thinking

© Flickr user Victor1558

Instead, when compelled to offer assistance, perhaps exercise a few of the suggestions below:

1. Prior to taking something over, ask  first. By doing this, you give the individual the choice to a. decide whether they are willing to accept the help; b. decide what they need assistance with; c. decide how the task can properly be completed without disrupting his/her normal routine.

2. Inquire strategically. As kind as it is to offer help by asking first, its also important not to interrupt. Try not to utilize the phone. Avoid unexpected trips to the person’s desk, cubicle and/or office. In all cases, its best not to break the person’s concentration as it diverts attention to the matter at hand. Instead, send an email. Request a short, informal meeting. Ask at a more opportune time such as the person’s lunch break.

3. Never assume small actions are obsolete. Like Ms. Raskin mentions above, simple actions that appear harmless (like stacking dirty dishes) can certainly throw off an entire process. And though you may think you fully understand the process and all its parts, it never guarantees you hold the correct notion of the workflow. Every person works differently. Therefore, its always better to ask rather than assume an action taken is helpful.

If you find that interruptions in your work environment are inhibiting productivity, contact our small buisness consultants at AccelaWork today.

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