Requests at Work
I have previously been offered an interpretation that a large number of offers being made in an organisation suggests a healthy, functioning organisation. In my mind, this makes sense. People make offers to assist someone else in taking care of something, and I think that people are less inclined to want to help others if their own needs are not being met or are at risk of not being met. What I am curious about is, does this interpretation also apply to requests?
Requests are how we get things done. I think that, in any organisation, there will be a minimum number of requests that will enable business to be done. An example of this may be “Can you build xyz computer system in X Data Centre for Client Y’s solution by Z timeframe? Without this request, a solution that has been committed to client Y will not get done, so a failure to make this request would possibly be a failure to deliver to client Y.
My assessment is that there are also requests that may not be directly related to getting things done in the context of immediate business outcomes, and it is these requests that have triggered my curiosity.
I invite you to think for a moment about the team member who makes a request to their manager to talk about their current personal life situation, or the team member who makes a request to a colleague for a lift to work, or a team member who makes a request to their manager to leave early on Friday because their child has something important on at school. Although each of these requests is still getting something done, my assessment is that they may not be essential requirements for obtaining specific business outcomes; Client Y’s computer system will still be delivered without these requests being made.
Because there appears to be no direct business outcome from these requests, I wonder whether a person making this type of request may perhaps feel as though they are demonstrating a level of vulnerability that is not normally shown and work, which could in turn require a greater level of courage than simply making a request that would service a business need. I also wonder if this means that there is potentially a greater perceived risk for the requestor in making these types of requests at work? If there is a greater perceived risk of making such requests, what does this say with regard to the level of trust required, and how much does this trust depend on a healthy, functioning environment in order to occur to the individuals?
This exploration has led me to thinking that an understanding of the types of requests made in an organisation, together with the volumes of each type of request, may perhaps be an indicator of the health of an organisation. In support of this wondering, I recall a time a few years back, when I made a comment to a colleague that there were no requests or offers made in a management meeting that I had attended. There were declarations made, opinions being given, and truths being spoken. However, no one made a request of the senior manager or of each other. And no one made an offer. I was curious about this, and my colleague responded with “I don’t make requests to anyone. Who is going to accept them and do anything with them, anyway?” This, I think, leads into a whole new discussion on the moods of organisation. What is the mood of an organisation where a team member does not feel that they can make a request? What is the mood of an organisation where team members feel that they can make requests, not only about the action required to get business-related work done, but also for those requests that don’t directly relate to getting work outcomes?
As I reflected on this, I made a declaration to myself that I would aim to receive requests with gratitude; gratitude for the team member who felt that they could approach me with a request that may potentially serve them as an individual more than it does the organisation, and gratitude for an organisation that has created a culture where making requests for help is understood and encouraged.