Obsolete yourself

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When I arrived for an eye exam recently, at a place I had never been to before, I was asked to wait while they printed my paperwork. I had filled out some forms online the night before, but I guess they needed to make sure they had everything. That wasn't surprising.

What was a little surprising (or just sad?) was the interaction between the women at the front desk. One of them clicked a few keys, read something, clicked a few more, and after a minute she called her colleague over to help out. She couldn't print the paperwork properly, and needed someone to show her how.

Her colleague sat down at a terminal next to her and just started typing away, barely saying a thing. The first woman asked her to show her how to do it, and the second woman said something to the effect of "It's complicated. There's a bunch of steps." and just kept going, to which she responded, "Well, if you never show me, how am I going to learn?" After a couple minutes, the paperwork printed.

I can only imagine what was going through the colleague's head. Maybe she wasn't sure of the steps either and didn't want anyone to know? Maybe she has an impatient personality, like Nick Burns in that SNL skit? Maybe she'd just rather do than explain? Whatever it was, it was painful to watch.

Everywhere, not just IT, is full of people too impatient or unsure of themselves to teach someone. Or maybe they're worried about becoming obsolete. After all, if they're the only one who knows some critical process, then they can't get rid of them, right? On the flip side, if the only thing that makes someone feel secure is knowing a few processes, I'd say they're on some pretty thin ice already.

Teach someone what you know. Write it down, document it. Get it off your plate. Don't be the bottleneck. Share the mystery, or misery, or whatever it is. Let someone else have the satisfaction of learning something new, of bringing a fresh perspective to it, and free yourself up to learn something new too.


Grant Winney

I write when I've got something to share - a personal project, a solution to a difficult problem, or just an idea. We learn by doing and sharing. We've all got something to contribute.

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