Jerry and Sandy work down the hall from one another: Sandy in the office on the right, Jerry in a comfortable cubicle to the left. Yet despite their proximity, it was as if they worked in two different universes.
It wasn’t uncommon for their coworkers to get trapped in a cycle of back-and-forth between these two offices. When people approached Jerry with a question, he would wave his hand and say, “That’s not my responsibility. You need to talk to Sandy.” And when they came to Sandy with the same question, she deflected the concern back to her neighbor.
Their colleagues knew this wild goose chase as well as they knew their morning routine — but the familiarity didn’t make this situation any more okay.
Parts of a Puzzle
Though Sandy and Jerry don’t actually exist (to our knowledge), this scenario certainly does. As we encounter people who are siloed — both at work and in our personal lives — it causes us to reflect on our own attitudes as team members: Do we offer help to people even if we don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle? Or do we refuse to answer until our piece fits perfectly with the information they bring us?
It seems the default state is to make excuses, not offer solutions. After all, it takes energy, work, and sometimes leaving comfort zones to serve others well. It often causes us to admit we don’t know the answer, or appear vulnerable when we ask those who do.
But this work is worth it because it helps the team win. Sending someone down the hall for answers doesn’t make you a team player; walking with them can.