Friday, January 11, 2008

I hate multi-tasking

There is something about the culture here that leaves me feeling very conflicted. I find it weird, interesting, frustrating and good all at once. Here's what happens. I find myself waiting to talk to someone. They will not so much as acknowledge that I exist until they are finished with what they are doing, or talking to whomever they are talking.

Now you see on one had, this just seems strange and rude. For instance some of the women at work do it, and I, or anyone else up to and including potential clients, am left standing there, obviously waiting to talk to them, and they just don't even seem to notice. They finish up with what they are doing and then look up. Sometimes after quite a while, I am counting in minutes here.

I have to admit, I find it rude, but at the same time, I have to admire their determination to finish what the heck they are doing before someone else dumps something in their lap.

This respect for what they are doing and the intention to finish it before they move on I have to admire. I think many cultures take multi-tasking WAY too far and in recent years I have been on a campaign to reduce my multi-tasking load, both on a moment to moment basis and on a week by week basis. I will now go so far as to tell people up front that I cannot get to something for even as much as days if something large is looming. I hate it when my focus gets too scattered. You know those days when you have a list of weird and disconnected activities and by the time you get to bed you aren't even sure of your name anymore, let alone what you did that day?

This behaviour does however also frustrate me, as sometimes I only need their attention for a millisecond, for instance to show them that I am borrowing their scissors, and I have to stand there ENDLESSLY waiting.

Not everyone does it by a long shot, and let me tell you, these folks multi-task, but I haven't decided yet whether it is rude or admirable.

I am kind of leaning towards rude. While it is good to respect your need to finish a task at hand, there should be some sort of signal to the person waiting. That classic, "just please wait a moment" signal, the upheld finger/one second sign would do nicely.

Helllooooooooo???? Am I invisible????

ps. One of these days I want to get a couple more albums of photos together from the trip to Andalusia...that will have to wait a little while till, you know, after the Catalan exam and also some sleep.

9 comments:

Shari said...

I've tried multi-tasking. I want to do three things at the same time, but I end up forgeting what I went into the other room for. Multi-tasking is hard work. Or am I just getting old?

As for an employee, customers come first, though if they are on the phone with another customer (not the boyfriend, friend, or relative), they would have to at least acknowledge that they see you. I see both sides here. I would think another employee should step in and talk to the waiting customer if another is busy on the phone. If only one person is in the office, then they should try to complete the call as soon as they can.

Jocelyn said...

I bet they all have had kids and are reveling in the chance to DO JUST ONE DAMN THING WITHOUT BEING INTERRUPTED.

An educated guess, anyhow.

elPadawan said...

I'm only dual tasking. Main task, and "open-door". The open-door just stands there in the background, in case someone talks to me.

When you're expecting a classic signal, upheld finger, I hope you won't get the wrong one upheld :). And I hope they won't be too generous either, otherwise "just please wait a moment" may morph into "talk to the hand" :D

But I agree. Acknowledgement of the people waiting for you IS, to me, mandatory. Whether or not you provide instant response, it's not what's relevant here. Show that somewhat, you don't ignore, but you are in the middle of something.

Beth said...

sleep is good...get sleep.

I have to say, that I am a little guilty of this, but only with one person! This lady at church, will just come up to me and push her way in and start talking to me...REGARDLESS if I am talking to someone or not. I think SHE is rude, so I have been ignoring her until I am done talking with the other person....oops!!!

sirdar said...

I work in a multitasking place so I know how that feels. People don't do what your coworkers do...or they would be labelled as quite rude here. I generally knock and ask if they have a moment. If they do they tell me and if not they ask if I can come back and we arrange a time or they tell me they are about to go to a meeting and we'll touch base later. I think it is a respect thing more than a rude thing.

oreneta said...

Shari, I firmly believe that if you want to do something well, you can only do one thing at a time. If it doesn't matter so much....

Jocelyn, your picture says it all. I cannot imagine how often I wished that I could just, please, please, please, finish just one task without having to tend to a thousand others before it was done. It is easier as they get older. A bit.

Eldawan, it is me that feels like holding up the wrong finger after a while...

Beth, sleep RULES! There are people who SHOULD be ignored, and I have started to ignore the kids more. NO! You cannot interupt me AGAIN, I am speaking thankyouverymuch!

Sirdar, there is no question it is a dance between resect and rudeness, I just find that we are dancing the wrong side of MY definition of rudeness a bit more that is comfy for me.

Lynda said...

You should spend a little time in Germany - that will make you think that Spain is the queen of service! Most customers are treated like annoyances.. it is so rare to find any kind of pleasant service that I become effusive with gratitude when I stumble upon it. cheers L

coloursofdawn said...

I think it is somewhat rude. I do admire that and had that happen one time when I was waiting in emerge and our doctor walked in and talked to another patient, without even saying hi or looking our way 2 feet from the other person. When he was done with that guy, he looked to us and asked what was going on. He had seen us but focused on the patient he was working with. I admired it and in that situation found it totally appropriate. In some of the examples you gave, I agree there should be a signal and if you walk in the room and grab the scissors, you should be able to wave them and walk out knowing they did not ignore the person on the phone yet knowing you have the scissors.

oreneta said...

Lynda! Thanks for dropping by, I am sorry the service is so crappy in Germany....it isn't very charming when your treated like trash.

Dawn, clearly it is situation dependent, and your hospital experience is clearly one where the reverse is true...no doubt there.