Leadership Tactic #59: Don’t Fix Things Without Asking

A string of circumstances lately has made me think about the value (or lack therein) of fixing things for other people without asking. People’s intentions can be so good, but so counterproductive.

Because some things are broken for a reason.

Example 1: A few ladies were recently preparing for a wedding reception where I work. While I was at my computer, I suddenly heard them shouting my name from the dining room.

I ran over to find one of the ladies laying on her back on the floor, desperately grasping the center leg of the huge dining room table to prevent the whole table from cracking in half. It’s an old table with a middle leg that leans to one side, and she had tried to fix it. Good intentions, but in trying to fix it, she almost made it much, much worse.

Example 2: My former roommate’s parents came to town and stayed in my condo while I was in Virginia. During that time, her father decided to fix the headboard of my bed, which was detached from my bed and leaning at an angle against the wall. So he reattached it (despite my thoughtful roommate’s warnings).

What we didn’t know is that I had purposely detached the headboard because of a squeaking sound it makes when I…sleep. The harder and more vigorously I…sleep…the squeakier it gets. Again, good intentions, but it actually caused me more work and aggravation than if he had not tried to fix my stuff (plus, any man should know that you do not go into another man’s home and try to fix his stuff without asking. That’s just a slap in the man-face).

Example 3: I was dating a girl a while back (one of the lovely women who has asked that I don’t use her real name on this blog), and I was staying over at her house for perhaps the first time. At some point in the night, I crept off to use the bathroom. While I was washing my hands, I noticed that her hairbrush was packed to the gills with her hair.

So I thought I’d be super sweet and remove all the hair for her.

The following morning, the girl asked me why I would possibly think that removing the hair was a good idea. Apparently she really liked the way the brush ran through her hair when it was clogged up like that, and now she had to start all over. Good intentions on my part, but really not my place to touch her lady instruments.

Can you think of a time when someone has gone out of their way to help you, but because they didn’t get all the information from you first, they ended up making the situation worse?

16 thoughts on “Leadership Tactic #59: Don’t Fix Things Without Asking”

  1. “The harder and more vigorously I…sleep…the squeakier it gets.”

    That’s some very active sleep you get every night, Jamey. 😉

    Reply
  2. Both of these sets of people have great intentions, but it creates such a hassle it’s not really worth it!

    1. Men who think they’re helping by doing the laundry, only for me to discover that they’ve washed and dried my nice business suit that is “dry clean only” or shrunken a “hand-wash only” sweater.

    2. People that want to pitch in and help with the dishes after a dinner party, but they load the dishwasher in a really inefficient way, or put dishes back in spots where I will never find them.

    Also, I totally understand about the hairbrush thing! If the brush is cleaned out, the bristles are too long and hurt my scalp or get easily tangled in my hair. I thought I was the only one with a gross hairbrush that left it like that on purpose!

    Reply
    • Katie–Those are awesome examples. I’m certainly guilty of the first one. While dating the same girl mentioned in this post, I once put her favorite jeans in the dryer, shrinking them beyond wearability. So I fixed the problem by soaking the jeans in water and wearing them around the condo until they stretched out to normal size again. It was a harrowing experience.

      I totally hear you about the dishes. I think everyone loads differently. Although for the most part I appreciate when someone puts their dishes in the dishwasher instead of in the sink (I have a pet peeve about people putting glasses in the sink).

      Reply
    • This is only tangentially related, but I have a bone to pick with clothes that are “hand-wash only”.

      (Puts soap box on ground. Stands on soap box. Pauses to wonders how standing on a soap box, of all things, became a tradition, then is thankful that soap box was nearby, because those things are pretty rare nowadays. Begins rant.)

      WTF? Why do clothiers still make items that are “hand-wash only”? This is the functional equivalent of cars that require square wheels or using a telegraph machine when a cell phone is sitting right next to you. Gone are the days when humans could not figure out how to properly integrate water, machinery, and electricity. Today (and for the last one hundred sixty years–commercial laundry machines have been available in some form since the 1850s), we have solved this riddle. We can skip the ridiculously tedious process of running cloth over boards as rippled as Jamey’s abs for hours on end. And so, I call out to the clothing industry, “Get with the times! Stop making clothes that ask us to use antiquated processes! Down with hand washing!”

      (Steps down from soap box amid huzzahs from the crowd.)

      Reply
          • I guess it would, but I would rather see the photos first and then ask questions. There must be pictures of them somewhere, isn’t there a Cyborgs on the Beach calendar or something that you’re featured in?

            Reply
      • Trev–Awesome soapbox rant, as usually. You really should have your own column on this blog called “The Soapbox.”

        Reply
  3. For some reason, when people find out you have a food “allergy” they want to be ultra helpful and it just makes you embarrassed. They try to go grocery shopping and buy you things that are wheat free only to find out that you also need things gluten free too. They ask the waitress 20 different questions about food on the menu because they think they are helping you when you’ve already decided on something to order that suits you. Their helping just makes things worse.
    That hairbrush thing is disgusting, makes the girl sound like a slob. I would have cleaned it out too.

    Reply
  4. I would prefer them and other people to just leave it alone, I can order my own food when I’m out to eat somewhere and I can do my own grocery shopping. If they insist on going grocery shopping for me, then let me give you a list of the things I can’t have. Don’t do a surprise grocery trip for me, I hate surprises and I hate people spending money on things for me that I can’t eat.

    Reply

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