Brevity Is the Soul of Wit, and It’s Also a Pretty Great Trait to Have in the Workplace Where It Really Helps You Eliminate Uselessly Long Chats

Did anyone else get the thing I did in the title? No? Alright, nvm, my bad. Anyway, we’ve both touched on this a little bit tangentially, but is there anything worse in life than having someone repeatedly explain something to you that you already get? (The irony of my 1700 word post about interviews is not lost on me, no.) Is there any feeling more helpless than listening to a group of people re-hash the same points over and over again in a meeting that should have taken five minutes but instead took the full 30 because people just couldn’t quite grasp what was really being said? I think I speak for everyone in the world when I say: no, nothing is more annoying than that.

It’s one thing to get roped into conversation with your coworkers — they usually mean well, and contrary to the essence of everything I’ve posted here, having an office full of quiet, miserly dicks would be impossibly annoying. That part’s fine, in small doses. What’s NOT fine is having a work-related conversation about work-related topics and hearing people repeat themselves and reiterate the point countless times. I’m serious, I think this is the thing that aggravates me more than anything else in the workplace — we’ve tackled a lot of subjects here, but just thinking about this one is already upsetting me. Join me on this blood-boiling adventure — the Fury Train is pulling in to Aggravation Station! (I am getting worse and worse at these metaphors, aren’t I?)

I don’t mean this to come off as hubris or anything, but ST and I are pretty great at picking things up quickly – we just get things. We’re quick to grasp new ideas, adapt our mindset and methodology, and generally just quick studies. It’s part of what’s made me so successful at my job – and it’s probably part of the reason I can be a curt, judgmental dickface sometimes too. It’s not really good or bad, it just kind of…is. Fine, cool, whatever, that’s all well and good. (Do you like how I view my being a judgmental dickface as “all well and good?” I did too.)

Where it becomes a HUGE pain, though, is when someone’s trying to explain a work thing to me. By all means, tell me whatever you want to tell me, and maybe pepper in some context if it seems relevant…but PLEASE don’t stand there and reiterate the same point several times. You’re not helping me understand anything at that point, you’re just trying too hard to make it look like you’re the expert. Trust me, I figured out what you meant within two minutes – and in the event I didn’t, I was prepared to ask pertinent questions to round out my understanding. It really should be that easy!

Here’s a hypothetical but infuriatingly-accurate conversation about a work thing with a hypothetical but infuriatingly-believable coworker named “Kevin” – fuckin’ Kevin, am I right? Anyway:

Kevin: Hey Joe, can I ask you a quick question about the subscriber data you sent over?

Joe: Sure thing. What’s up?

Kevin: So: Corporate has asked us to put together a quick analysis around how many customers are currently on a promotional offer, so we can better predict the “pop” effect that takes place once they go to full rate. IS took a crack at putting it together and it doesn’t seem to jive with what you pulled, so I wanted to circle back with you to make sure we were comparing apples to apples.

Joe: Wait, you had IS pull the data…and then you had me pull it too?

Kevin: Since this is for Corporate, we wanted to double-and-triple-check that everyone agreed on the numbers, because they’re going to really scrutinize this data before they decide on an action plan.

Joe:…alright, well, is their number actually customers with a promotion, or does that include the details for ancillary promotions too? A lot of those have codes that were re-used, so it can lead to inflation.

Kevin: It’s all subs who have a discount of any kind on their account, is what they were looking for.

Joe:…uh, right, but did it include those other codes? Because that makes a huge difference, and if we’re off by so much I’ve gotta imagine that’s the difference.

Kevin: You’d have to ask them about their specific methodology…all I know is the original ask was this: Let’s get a list put together, right, of all the subscribers we have – real simple, just full rate vs. discounted. Then let’s look at the total number and when they’re scheduled to roll off of their promotional rates, so we know what the risk is once they go to full rate.

Joe: Right, I get that.

Kevin: So it should be pretty easy: It’s just anyone with a discount on their account and then when they’re scheduled to roll off.

Joe: Got it.

Kevin: So can you think of any reason why your numbers would be so different? Can you double-check your queries to make absolutely sure they’re right?

Joe: I mean, I know they’re right, I’m just saying I think we’re pulling different things. If their number is higher than mine it sounds like they’re using codes they shouldn’t be. Is their number higher than mine?

Kevin: Their number is…higher, yes.

Joe: Great. So, then, don’t use their number, it isn’t right – mine is what you’re actually looking for.

Kevin: Tell you what: I’m gonna set up a quick huddle for you, me and IS to go over the data and compare notes on methodology. I’ll be there to help facilitate, because Corporate is really pushing hard on this one, but I’ll let you guys go over whatever you need to go over.

Joe: Why don’t I just call whoever gave you the conflicting data and talk to them about it?

Kevin: If it’s all the same, it’d be great if we could have a meeting still, if only to give me some peace of mind about making sure we’re on the same page.

Joe: *kills self*

[Exeunt All. Flourish.]

Quiz Time! This is an open-ended quiz, so there are no wrong answers: See how many minutes of conversation you can cut out of that dialogue while still retaining the key points and concepts. The person who gets it down to the fewest words possible wins a neat prize!*

*Prize not guaranteed to exist. In the event prize does exist, its neatness is not guaranteed by WJ or any of its affiliates

(By the way, maybe this is just a pet peeve of mine, but is there anything more condescending than telling someone that a request “should be easy?” I have yet to find any successful means of conveying to people that just because something sounds like it should be pretty simple doesn’t mean it actually will be – data/analysis doesn’t work like that, for so many reasons. I don’t tell YOU that the marketing plan should be pretty easy to build because it’s “just” mail and TV spots, or that finding the right candidate to hire should be straightforward even though HR wouldn’t know how to pick the best candidate from a pool of five applicants if you gave them six chances, or that IT should be re-structured because it’s full of borderline-autistic drones that only know how to follow directions in the most painfully literal ways – all of those SOUND like they’re easy to me, but I get that it’s more nuanced than that, dicks.)

Now, I get that this post is super specific to my situation — many of you out there probably can’t relate very much, maybe even at all. That’s fine, really. I just wanted to illustrate at least one anecdotal example of how long and unnecessary workplace conversations can be — surely you can all relate to that, even if you haven’t been in that exact situation. If nothing else, I hope you at least felt the pain of reading the same interaction happening like four consecutive times…and hopefully I can get to the liquor store before it closes tonight, because after the painful exercise of writing that whole thing out it’s probably the most therapeutic thing I can do for myself.

The point is this: There are a lot of ways that time gets wasted at work, but by far the most infuriating and least understandable is a lack of brevity. By all means, ask whatever questions you need to get clarity – there’s no shame in it, and it’s good to ensure you’re absolutely clear on everything. But please, whatever you do, don’t reiterate the same thing over and over to me in slightly different words. It’s patronizing at best and outright counter-productive at worst – nothing good comes from it unless you’ve got that short-term memory thing that Guy Pearce had in Memento. On behalf of employees everywhere: save yourself the time and just pre-record your requests on one of those little keychain things that plays sound – I’m already going to hear everything a dozen times anyway, might as well make things more convenient for both of us!

–JSG

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