July 8, 2011 / 1:28 PM / 8 years ago

Management Tip of the Day: Dealing with an urgent request

A fuel gauge in a car shows empty, September 12, 2005. REUTERS/Toby Melville

BOSTON (Reuters) - When you get what is portrayed as an urgent request, dropping everything and going into scramble mode might not be the best response, says Harvard Business Review.

The Management Tip of the Day offers quick, practical management tips and ideas from Harvard Business Review and HBR.org (www.hbr.org). Any opinions expressed are not endorsed by Reuters.

“We live in an instant-response world where a simple push of a button can make something feel urgent.

Next time you get that email with the little red exclamation point or the voicemail at 10 p.m., try these three tips for determining how to respond:

1. Don’t assume urgent means right now. Talk with your boss or your customer about what he wants to accomplish and when it’s really needed. His interpretation of ‘immediately’ may be different than yours.

2. Respond, but don’t necessarily act. Sometimes a client or colleague wants you to commit right away to a plan of action, but doesn’t need more than that in the short term. Explain what you will do and your intended timeline to be sure that meets her needs.

3. Be prepared to say no. At times, you need to discern between a true crisis and a cry of wolf. Even if your customer thinks he needs it right now, it may be best to decline.”

-Today’s management tip was adapted from “The Right Response Is Not Always Instant” by Ron Ashkenas.

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