I had a phone meeting with a coworker today. He’s in IT.
Generally speaking, the people of our IT department march to the beat of a slightly different drum. I’m no longer surprised at their odd habits. One of them sits cross-legged in his chair during business meetings. He also walks around in his socks at times. Another wears cargo shorts during the warmer months. He either wears the same pair of cargo shorts every day, or he’s got five pairs in the same color. One of them seems to collect his empty pop cans on his desk for days and weeks on end before finally cleaning house. The IT people speak a language that the rest of us don’t always understand.
And IT people enjoy privileges that many of the rest of us do not. They get to work from home a lot. Hence the reason I was having a phone meeting with my IT coworker today as opposed to an in-person meeting.
I set up this meeting yesterday. I have some reports that need to be built. I documented the specifications and created some mock-ups and I provided these to my IT coworker yesterday. I asked him to look over my documents and be prepared to discuss with me whether what I was asking for was possible and if he could build the logic for these reports within a specific and rather short time frame.
My IT coworker called me this morning, as agreed, but I missed his call. We played a bit of phone tag before finally connecting. As I began to talk with him about my reports, he seemed confused and a bit distracted.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I’m just so tired today. What are you asking me about?”
I was slightly taken aback. What was I asking him about? Didn’t he remember the only reason I had asked him to call me? Odd.
I explained that I was referring to one of the two report examples I had sent him yesterday. He said that I mentioned the examples in my email but had not actually attached them. I was pretty sure that I had, and I quickly looked through the Sent Items in my email account, finding the original email and attachments just as he said, “Oh here they are. You did send them. I’m sorry.”
Again he apologized for being so tired and “spacey.”
I’m not easily annoyed by my coworkers and I particularly like this particular coworker. He’s smart. He does his job well. And for an IT guy, he communicates pretty well with those of us non-IT kind of people. It’s unusual for him to seem so distracted, tired and “spacey.” But I found myself wondering about his exhaustion. Was he up late with a sick kid? Was he up late with his wife? (OOPS! None of my business. Shouldn’t be wondering such things.) Was he up late hanging out with friends? A part of me wondered how long the work-from-home gig can last if those who enjoy such privileges can’t wake up enough to function during normal business hours.
My IT coworker did seem to come to life a bit as we talked though, and was able to give me his perspective and some promising feedback on what I was asking. He told me he was going to look into some stuff and discuss a few things with someone else and would follow up with me tomorrow or early next week. I figured that was best. I figured he shouldn’t be making any promises when he was having such a hard time focusing and staying awake anyway.
We hung up with me envisioning him lounging in his home office in his pajama pants, hanging up the phone and leaning his head back on his chair. I pictured his eyelids drooping sleepily, a pile of beer bottles in his recycling bin from the poker game with his buddies last night.
Later in the day, I heard another coworker mention feeling sorry for the IT guy I had met with. Something about him starting his work day really early. I suddenly remembered that along with the perks enjoyed by the IT people, such as shoelessness, there are a lot of drawbacks, such as working long past normal business hours, working weekends, and having to make deployments at midnight.
It turns out that my coworker hadn’t been up late with his kid or his wife or his poker buddies. He had started his work day at 3:00 a.m. in order to make sure a very important report was run so that many others could do their jobs when they arrived at 7:00, 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. today.
I was too quick to judge. I hadn’t said anything to my IT coworker about the impression he’d made on me. I didn’t talk about it with anyone else. Still… I thought it. And I should have known better. Now I’m the one feeling sorry … and really grateful to be surrounded by people who are so dedicated to doing a good job, especially when expectations are always high and expressions of gratitude are often forgotten.
I’m thinking maybe I should make amends for assuming the worst about my IT coworker. A little token of appreciation, without explanation, of course because that would just be uncomfortable. But something. Any ideas?