WITH THE BALANCES TALLIED AND THE DRAWERS locked, the job is apparently done for the day with no carryovers for tomorrow – so one believes is the enviable world of a cashier because there are no follow- ups to be made or to be attended to for that matter! Before I secured my first job, I heard the term used at home only  in a medical context when any of us visited a clinic several times in the wake of a nagging cough or unrelieved pain and until these complaints completely disappeared. One also made a mental note that a follow-up visit was less expensive than the first, and, if made at a shorter interval was totally free !  The medical analogy was soon carried over to the workplace, and today I keep wondering if there can ever be a world without follow-ups.

FOLLOW-UPS APPEAR TO BE UNAVOIDABLE when jobs are interdependent – particularly when the deliverable of a given job becomes the raw material of the next.  A nagging sense of guilt has always haunted me when I realize that a follow-up is essentially a by product of one’s own inefficiency and sometimes, even irresponsibility.  The follow-up business also assumes complications when everyone at work is grappling with competing priorities. A task about to be completed may be deferred indefinitely when someone above you sets a wholly unforeseen priority that not only plays havoc with your To Do List (“TDL”) but also places you at the receiving end of follow-up requests for no fault of yours.

WHILE ONE DOUBTS IF FOLLOW-UPS CAN be completely eliminated from our jobs, their incidence can be vastly reduced if we are generally mindful of the need for ruthless adherence to the timely completion of tasks in our TDLs.  Further, when we  trust the ability of our colleagues and subordinates to do a job well, we should be equally enthusiastic to delegate tasks wherever possible.  When this happens, there would be less knocks on our doors and the phone would stop ringing too and emails will no longer have the tag line “POLITE REMINDER”. One would soon be counted as “reliable” and one’s word would be taken for granted.

MUCH OF THE HEAT AS WELL AS DISAPPOINTMENTS surrounding follow-ups largely arise on account of our failure to properly and reasonably estimate the time frames required for completion of a particular job prior to the commitment of  a deadline to others. One is not sure if it was Narayana Murthy or Subroto Bagchi who said that at the workplace one must “under promise but over deliver.” Yet another powerful reason is also our inability to say “NO”. On the other hand, as part of essential courtesy to our colleagues, instead of springing up last minute requests, it would greatly help if we sound advance warnings of an imminent task that may be required to be completed so that they are enabled to properly schedule and plan their other tasks on hand in our own beneficial interests.  

AT THE END OF THE DAY, BEING RESPECTFUL of others’ needs at the workplace would foster a spirit of reciprocity and we may yet attain a magically real situation when everything gets done on time and “follow-ups” would only be mentioned in a medical context!

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