8

For context I work remotely at a fully remote company as an independent contributor. Like many others I find video calls to be a big distraction from my day to day work. Of course, in many situations they are necessary, I have no issue with video calls for standup, planning, etc - nor hopping on a call to discuss a complex issue that would be difficult to discuss over Slack.

However, I've recently started working with an employee who insists on a video call for every single interaction. I can leave a very detailed comment in the ticket in question or send a very thorough message over slack and they'll still insist on hopping on a zoom - wherein I'll almost always just wind up saying exactly what was in my comment with no new information being shared, leading me to believe that he's not really even trying to read my comments, and instead is just immediately reaching for video conferencing. I don't have this issue with any other coworker, so I don't think it's an issue with my ability to communicate well over text.

How can I politely encourage this coworker to not immediately jump to requiring a video call for every little issue?

7
  • 3
    Is there a reason you can't just tell this coworker you prefer communication in a different form?
    – Kupo
    Mar 16, 2023 at 17:32
  • 1
    Question: Does this person have an issue with typing or writing? That would be my first thought. Mar 16, 2023 at 18:25
  • @Kupo My main concern is coming across as though I'm not willing to work with them - Like I said in the post, there are totally incidents where a video call is totally necessary (or at least the best option by far) and trying to sort the issue out over slack would be silly. I'm looking for a way to cut back on the calls that won't make him feel like he can't reach out for a call when it's really necessary
    – Bitsplease
    Mar 16, 2023 at 22:39
  • 1
    for sake of clarity: are you having issues with video call specifically, or audio-only (voice) calls would also be an issue? Mar 17, 2023 at 9:36
  • 2
    @SouravGhosh it's either - I just prefer communicating asynchronously where possible because it's less disruptive to my work
    – Bitsplease
    Mar 19, 2023 at 0:24

2 Answers 2

15

1. Use the standup

Given that you indicate you already have a standup, I would expect this person to be indicating there if they expect to need help to progress their tasks during the day. If they are doing this, you have an opportunity to say something along the lines of "take a read of my comments on the ticket and if you have any questions I can have a short call at chosen_time - perhaps straight before or after your typical lunch slot when your flow is broken anyway.

If they are not stating their blockers at standup, then coach them to do so - when they contact you remind them that they could have raised their issue earlier (or waited until the next standup if it is not urgent) and make sure that you are also modelling this behaviour - it's a lot easier for a junior to say they will need help if they see the seniors also asking for it some times (and none of us know everything).

And if they state in standup that they will be working on a ticket where you've made detailed comments, you also have an opportunity to head off the Zoom behaviour by letting them know that there are comments, and indicating your availability & preferred method of contact if they do get stuck (e.g. "Let me know in slack if you have any questions - I'm quite busy but will get back to you when I've had time to think about them" but remember, too, that a video call & screen share can be a lot quicker than typing for all but the most trivial questions).

2. Manage the calls

When they call you out of the blue, you have the option of not picking up. Rejecting the call and responding with a quick IM back saying "busy at the moment - can it wait?" will coach them that you are not obliged to prioritise their issue over your own, while also giving them the chance to tell you when it's genuinely something both urgent and unexpected, or schedule a time convenient to you if it can wait. Each time you answer the call and read the ticket to them, you reinforce their expectation that you always will.

Once you get onto a call, if there is a ticket with detailed comments, open it, screen share and ask them to be specific which part they are not clear about. Model the process of analysing a change request/bug report/whatever. Be open to the idea you could have been clearer, even if your more established team members don't have a problem - they have experience in your domain that this guy doesn't, or may just be used to some idiosyncracy in your writing style you don't notice yourself. Once this person gets used to the idea they need to be specific about what is not clear, they will take the time up front to think it through, and may work it out in the process. And if they haven't read the ticket before calling, politely end the call and ask them to read it and let you know in tomorrow's standup if they are still blocked needing clarification (back to 1!).

TL;DR - the best way to coach someone that you are not instantly available is to not act as though you are. But also remember that helping your team is part of your job, and cut some slack to a new guy who may just need a little coaching.

6
  • Very good points, thank you!
    – Bitsplease
    Mar 16, 2023 at 22:40
  • @Bitsplease stick to the pre & post lunch times and then start controlling the days available like Mon, Wed & Fri only etc.
    – Solar Mike
    Mar 17, 2023 at 5:42
  • 1
    I've had a boss (company owner) like this - his first instinct when he came across an issue was to ask or call someone. Sometimes those calls would be after hours. My typical strategy dealing with them was to pretend to be busy, saying I'll call back. Calling back an hour or two later, he'd usually have dealt with it by himself.
    – jaskij
    Mar 17, 2023 at 14:43
  • @DanielR.Collins I read it as the OP being frustrated that their colleague will call them on zoom to ask for information which has often already been included by the OP in detailed comments on a ticket or slack message. In my answer I have tried to give the OP some pointers how to avoid those zoom calls interrupting their flow, and coach the colleague to check and make use of the information that is already provided before asking for help.
    – Saes
    Mar 18, 2023 at 13:31
  • 1
    @DanielR.Collins Sorry if I was unclear, I am indeed the "giver" of information in these interactions, not the requester
    – Bitsplease
    Mar 19, 2023 at 0:24
2

Answer from Saes is good. I have one more suggestion: set "office hours".

Dedicate 30-60 minutes per day, or every couple of days as appropriate. Make yourself available for a video call during this time to answer any questions. Reject calls outside of this time.

1
  • Another good option
    – Saes
    Mar 18, 2023 at 13:33

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .