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Responding to Urgent Requests

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How many times have you heard that? Someone asks you to do something, and it is urgent.  You consider your calendar, the day’s pressures, expectations, commitments, and whether you can drop what you’re doing to respond. At that moment, you’re weighing the various components of response.

The Thomas-Killman Conflict Model is a popular method used to consider how we respond to demands or expectations of others. Choices include the following options: Compete, Avoid, Compromise, Accommodate, or Collaborate. Let’s explore what each of these mean in real response language.

If you decide the relationship is of upmost importance, you will most likely choose to accommodate. To accommodate means you’ll place their request in priority, and you will move your schedule, personal goals and expectations accordingly to accommodate their request.

If instead you decide to avoid, you will demonstrate a slow response to their request, such as not calling them back in a timely manner, or saying you’re not able to give them an answer yet and will get back with them later. Possibly, you don’t respond at all. These options are characterized as having no priority on the relationship, and may possibly damage others’ trust in your ability to help in the future.

consulting on urgent business

© Flickr user Victor1558

If you select compete, you’ll tell them your schedule and ask them to completely modify what they’ve asked of you. In this scenario, you’re determining the conditions around your agreement to assist. This definitely defies the fact that their perception is, this is an emergent or urgent request. You’ve placed their request into your list of things to accomplish.  If they agree, you win.

Another response is to compromise. With compromise, you offer an equally responsive solution, with respect for their urgency, and your realistic timetable.

When we’re in decision-making mode, we have several opportunities to quickly make decisions. We’re most likely not aware of these steps and stages that we’re considering in a very quick fashion. In the book, Blink, author Malcolm Gladwell delineates the subconscious decision-making capabilities we have available to us, primarily without our awareness of the indicators or foundation of our thought process.

When we’re aware of what we’re doing, we may decide based upon our plan, priorities, values and design. In reality, a decision-making model may look something like this:

Urgency ____________vs__________________Plan
Crisis ______________vs__________________Priority
Guilt _______________vs__________________Values
Default _____________vs__________________Design

For example, in your decision-making mode, you may decide the following regarding the hypothetical request presented above: their urgency trumps your plan, their crises trumps your priority, your values trumps their guilt, their default trumps your design.

Let’s break that down. You allow their urgent request to take precedence over your plan for the day.  You allow their crisis to now become your priority. Your values are to support the request and the relationship. You may also feel some guilt, which would be the reason you decide to change your priorities. If that is the case, guilt becomes your deciding factor. Lastly, default or design? Sometimes we make decisions based upon what falls into our laps, rather than follow our design or plan. If you follow your nose at times, you may subscribe to the “what comes up next, is the thing I will do” school of thought.

So, back to the emergency… what will you do?

Pam Ruster, a licensed clinical social worker and Owner/President of Supportive Systems, LLC, which provides EAP and Corporate Development services to corporations throughout Indiana. Pam has extensive experience as a consultant and trainer, presenting numerous workshops and seminars. Thanks to Pam for sharing this information with us! If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact Pam or the business improvement team at AccelaWork!

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