One of the things I enjoy doing is writing the analysis for the SmartBrief on Small Business reader polls. It’s always fascinating to see how people respond to the questions. Sometimes you can predict the answer…other times, not so much. Like in the case of this poll from another SmartBrief publication on Leadership. The question was:
What best describes your approach to doing favors for others in the workplace?
And 82% said: I help out everyone who asks for favors whether I know they’ll reciprocate or not.
Sorry guys, I’m calling bravo sierra on this one. This isn’t about SmartBrief; they asked a legit question. I’m just not buying that 82% would help everyone who asked. No strings attached. I’m all for being nice and paying it forward, but I’m really struggling with this one.
The poll got me thinking about favors. My first thought was “What’s a favor?” Wordnik defines it as a friendly or obliging act that’s freely granted. If that’s the case, then just about any request you’re willing to freely grant could be called a favor. So, my guess is there are a few unwritten rules when it comes to doing favors:
We do favors for people we know. If a complete stranger asks for a favor, I’m not sure we process it the same way as when our best friend asks for a favor. This implies a little mental benchmarking takes place when a favor is requested.
We do favors for people we like. Yep folks, admit it. Whether we know the person or not. If someone you don’t really care for asks for a favor, we are less inclined than if someone we like asks for a favor.
Sometimes we do favors only when they are convenient. Another one of those let’s be honest with each other moments. If someone asks you to drive across town in rush hour when gas is $4/gallon, you might make up a little white lie about having a prior commitment. But if it’s dropping off a FedEx envelope on your way home, that’s relatively easy and you say yes.
I totally believe people want to do all the favors people ask of them. I really do. The reality is we can’t – there just isn’t enough time in our busy lives. So we have to develop some sort of criteria for who we say yes to and who we have to turn down. What’s unfortunate is that sometimes the person saying no is perceived as not being helpful or not being a team player.
The hard part in this situation is the responsibility of the favor is being placed on the person who is being asked. If you want to do it, you say yes…and if you don’t, you say no. When in actuality, the responsibility should rest with the person making the request. People should stop and ask themselves, “Do I know this person well enough to ask for this favor?” and “Is my request reasonable?” Instead, many people just ask with the sole intent of getting the task completed.
Favors should be a considered valuable commodity and requests should not be taken lightly. Let’s be honest – how do you evaluate requests for favors?