When someone at work asks for a favor, you might grant it on the grounds of friendship, teamwork, or affection. But at times, we receive collegial or businesslike requests for favors from people who are neither friend nor foe. Let's assume that there are no ethical questions involved; that it would be perfectly proper to say either yes or no.
To decide what to do, consider both your choices and the seeker's. What are your choices?
- Grant the favor
- If the effort involved is minimal, and if the negative consequences to you are minimal, granting the favor is a good choice. Otherwise, think about another option.
- Deny the favor
- People sometimes get unhappy when we say no, and sometimes they act out of anger or disappointment. Denying a favor can have negative consequences, but if you're sure nothing too terrible will happen, denying the favor is a possibility.
- Defer the favor
- You might suggest that it isn't convenient or possible right now, and suggest that the seeker contact you at a future date. At that time, you can start all over again.
- Make a counteroffer
- If granting, denying, and deferring aren't appealing options, perhaps you can offer something else instead. Figuring out what to offer is easier with help and advice. You can ask the seeker directly, or consult someone you trust.
And what are the seeker's choices? In part, your decision depends on an assessment of the seeker's response. We can classify the responses of seekers in four patterns.
- If you grant the favor, the appreciative seeker expresses appreciation and returns the favor immediately, or at least, someday soon.
- If you don't expect an appreciative response, and you aren't indebted yourself, exerting significant effort might be unwise.
- The appreciative favor-seeker expresses
appreciation and returns the favor
immediately, or at least, someday soon
- If you don't grant the favor, the vengeful seeker might extract a price from you, or threaten to do so.
- If you expect a vengeful response to a denial, deferment, or counteroffer, it's wise to search for a low-effort way to satisfy the seeker, especially if the seeker is more powerful than you are.
- The thoughtless seeker accepts what you offer with little expression of appreciation.
- Granting big favors to the unappreciative gets tiresome quickly. Find a low-effort way to satisfy the thoughtless, or consider denial, deferment, or a counteroffer.
- The passive seeker doesn't mind much when you deny the favor.
- It's tempting to simply deny the requests of the passives, but take care. Passivity can arise from powerlessness. When it does, and when it's coupled with a long memory, vengeful payback at a later date is always possible.
This framework is completely unnecessary when the seeker is a friend or ally or someone you know and like. In that circumstance, it's best to do what feels right. And sometimes, it is an ally of the seeker who is really asking the favor. In that case, applying this framework to the seeker's ally can yield a different result. Top Next Issue
Is every other day a tense, anxious, angry misery as you watch people around you, who couldn't even think their way through a game of Jacks, win at workplace politics and steal the credit and glory for just about everyone's best work including yours? Read 303 Secrets of Workplace Politics, filled with tips and techniques for succeeding in workplace politics. More info
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenXxIQxbrNBMSvdUqcner@ChacCaNQbvnWyDlpmQmBoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Make Space for Serendipity
- Serendipity in project management is rare, in part, because we're under too much pressure to see it.
If we can reduce the pressure, wonderful things happen.
- Coincidences Do Happen
- When we notice similarities between events, or possible patterns of events, we often attribute meaning
to them beyond what we can prove. Sometimes we guess right, and sometimes not. How can we improve our guesses?
- Virtual Communications: II
- Participating in or managing a virtual team presents special communications challenges. Here's Part
II of some guidelines for communicating with members of virtual teams.
- Asking Brilliant Questions
- Your team is fortunate if you have even one teammate who regularly asks the questions that immediately
halt discussions and save months of wasted effort. But even if you don't have someone like that, everyone
can learn how to generate brilliant questions more often. Here's how.
- Changing the Subject: II
- Sometimes, in conversation, we must change the subject, but we also do it to dominate, manipulate, or
assert power. Subject changing — and controlling its use — can be important political skills.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming February 20: Brainstorming and Speedstorming: I
- Recent research suggests that brainstorming might not be as effective as we would like to believe it is. An alternative, speedstorming, might have some advantages for some teams solving some problems. Available here and by RSS on February 20.
- And on February 27: Brainstorming and Speedstorming: II
- Recent research into the effectiveness of brainstorming has raised some questions. Motivated to examine alternatives, I ran into speedstorming. Here's Part II of an exploration of the properties of speedstorming. Available here and by RSS on February 27.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenCFNsETnOLCBmGzATner@ChacdFjwpijAakFoOBAgoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.