In truth, it’s mostly Kate who restocks the paper, fixes paper jams, refills toner cartridges and cleans up the piles of paper co-workers leave behind. And it’s beginning to bother her.
She’s tired of people not trying to fix the problem, and she also wishes they would do something other than slink away without telling her.
What should she do?
First, Kate needs to determine whether the copy machine’s upkeep is her responsibility.
Of course, somebody has to keep the equipment fit, or it won’t function well, and no one will get his or her work done. But is that person Kate? Or should the entire team share the responsibility? If she isn’t clear on those questions, it’s time to ask the boss.
Let’s say the boss clarifies that the responsibility ultimately is hers, though common courtesy would dictate that others should pitch in when they notice, for example, that the paper tray is empty. He supports Kate asking them to do so.
Next, Kate needs to send a message to her co-workers. If she doesn’t address it, Kate puts herself in a “doormat” position. The last message admins should send is that they’d rather be dumped on than assert themselves.
The message should not blame anyone for what has happened thus far. If Kate sounds like she’s blaming people, her co-workers will tune her out. Instead, Kate needs to send an “I need your help” message with a specific, upbeat request.
I need your help. I’m being pulled away to do copy machine upkeep so frequently that it’s becoming hard for me to hit your important deadlines, respond to customers and support you in other ways.
Starting next week, I’d like to ask everyone to refill the paper cartridge if it’s low, and take away any originals, copies or misprints. Of course, I’ll always be available to fix paper jams and refill toner. Please send an e-mail (or drop by my desk) when those needs arise, so that I can help.
I’ll put a reminder by the copy machine. Thank you for helping me do my job better!”
The following week, Kate can send a reminder message with the same upbeat, specific request for co-workers’ help. And then she should post a sign at the machine.
Finally, if the situation doesn’t improve, Kate can ask her boss to lend his voice to the cause. Kate has now established that the lack of copier machine courtesy directly affects her work. And she’s communicated with her team like a pro.