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Is it unprofessional to leave Post-it notes on the monitor of people who you need to get ahold of at work?

In my specific situation:

  • My coworker is extremely busy
  • They spend most of their workday in meetings, not at their desk
  • I need to discuss an important, but non-urgent matter with them
  • They haven't responded to my last few emails
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  • It will depend on the severity of the situation, the actions you wish them to take, and their overall personalities.
    – acolyte
    Apr 5 '13 at 20:43
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    This is completely dependent on your office culture, the people involved, and their relative importance.
    – enderland
    Apr 5 '13 at 20:52
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    Some companies enforce a clean desk policy. so that no information is available for anybody to see. This might be breaking company policy so i would check that first of all
    – user5305
    Apr 17 '13 at 12:12
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    Gut-reaction, and something I didn't see mentioned in any answers: Don't stick the note to the screen area itself. That can be perceived as pushy, and will leave a smudge on the screen.
    – Quotidian
    Apr 17 '13 at 18:37
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    Note on keyboard is just about as effective (or not) and less obnoxious.
    – keshlam
    Dec 24 '15 at 13:23
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Leaving a note is sometimes ok. However it is rude if:

  • the person has an office with a door, and you open the door and go in to leave the note. Handle that by leaving the post-it on the door.
  • the content of the note should not be seen by others. Handle that by folding up the note so that it won't be read accidentally by passers-by, and not putting super confidential or gossip-worthy details in the note.
  • the note is located highly obtrusively. I react with anger when I find items on my chair or post-its on the part of my screen I look at - as opposed to on the bevel. I don't mind a non-adhesive note on my keyboard but some people do. Handle that with great care - one person's HOW DARE YOU INVADE MY SPACE is another person's "oh, I never saw that there."

Make sure you include information in the note that is not in the emails. Do not write the note in advance and set out to deliver it. Go to their office or desk, and if they're not there, leave a note that says:

Sorry I missed you, came to discuss Johnson reports. I need your help to make the deadline. Can we talk at 3?

They need to know why you need an answer and when, and you need to give them an action item. That would be true of emails too but it's all the more true with such a constrained communication device as a post-it.

If you really need an answer, I would risk being rude. Later if the person says it was rude, you can ask what would be better - not angrily, like "what the heck do you expect me to do?" but patiently, like "how can I let you know when I really need you during a busy day?"

As an alternative to leaving a note, consider sending a meeting request. I blogged about someone else's blog about makers schedule and manager's schedule, and I think it's relevant here.

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    I love that article. It's been only increasingly more important since I first read it.
    – enderland
    Apr 5 '13 at 20:56
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The appropriateness depends on the situtation and the person and how often you do it. Clearly some people are bothered by them and if I knwe someone did not like Post-it notes, I wouldn't put them on his monitor unless I had no other choice.

Personally I think a post it should be reserved for a situtation where you need an answer as soon as someone else gets out of a meeting and you don't want it lost in a sea of emails and phone messages. I will leave these for my boss when I know he is going from one meeting to another, so he knows that I need to urgently talk to him as soon as he can spare 5 minutes. I don't leave them for unimportant things or just for information unless the info is something he specifically asked for and I am positive he won't want to search through a bunch of emails to find it. I will usually send an email followup to these types of post-it notes so there is a record of the answer as well.

Another time to avoid the Post-it note is when you are the boss and you come in earlier than your reports (or stay later) and leave a lot of new tasks for them to do in the form of post it notes on their monitor. I had a boss like this who left me no less than 6 of these a day. Being faced with a bunch of new tasking before you have even sat down is beyond annoying.

I also will leave Post-it notes to myself about something I want to be reminded to do. Things like take the "take the salad home" or "Password changed" when I had to change the password just before going on vacation. Under no circumstances put a password on a Post-it note.

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For very busy people it is usually necessary to book their time.

Consider inviting to a physical meeting just the two of you in your company calendar. This is usually much more visible than the arbitrary email, and you have the option of inviting your boss(ses) if it is very important.

This escalates it slightly and may be enough to get the attention you need.

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I think so. I normally leave a message like "I'm looking for you", or if I'm in close relation send a text message with more information.

Some people are just hard to find (valuable resource in the company :-)), leaving them some kind of a message would allow them to prioritize the things they need to do in between meetings, or even tell you someone else can help.

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Post-its on peoples work spaces are unprofessional.

A Post-it requires someone to physically be there to read it and technically anybody can read its contents. Professionally you should be using email, phone, arranging a convenient time or asking others when the best time to get hold of them is.

The reason for an unanswered communication is the issue which should be addressed.

Using an antiquated method like Post-it notes is not really appropriate in the digital age. Its a bit like fax machines in that respect.

Anecdote: A former colleague used to leave Post-its for missed calls, this then lead to missing information such as: when did the call come in, who took the call or the person not getting the notification until they were back in the office. Emailing the missed call cured those issues.

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