In the first week of my first job, my boss sent me the following e-mail:
“Jonathan: Please find out who voted for BCRA.”
My first instinct was to reply, “Hi Bill: So sorry about this, but I don’t know what BCRA is.” Fortunately, before clicking Send, I rethought my response and instead Googled “BCRA.” Ten seconds later, I found the answer: BCRA stood for the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, otherwise known as McCain-Feingold.
These differing responses represent the two types of employees. The first response, which foists the burden back onto the questioner, comes from the slothful employee, who wants to go about his job without exertion and who does not seek success. The second response, which embraces the burden, comes from the achiever. He may not know the answer—and even be utterly ignorant of the subject—but he takes it upon himself to learn. He is averse to answering a question with a question, and considers it a failure if he cannot do what is asked, even with limited information. (A third response, research without success, is fine, as long as the research is undertaken in good faith.)
In short, the slothful employee presents his boss with problems, whereas the achiever presents him with solutions. One is a problem; the other is a problem-solver.
Think about which person you are the next time you receive a request—and not just from a superior—which asks for something about which you’re ignorant. Instead of reaching for the Reply button, scroll a little farther for the search bar. You may surprise yourself.