Know When to Say, “GTS”

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Generic search box depicting searching World Wide WebBecause this is a professional site, we’ll say that GTS stands for “Google That Stuff“. This term became popular in the early 2000’s among those of us who were fed up with answering everyone’s questions. We’ve all been there: someone asks us a question that he/she could just as soon Google. You know people have a smart phone in their pockets; you know they have the same access to information as you do, but for some reason, they insist on asking you.

This happens all too often in the workplace. Unbeknownst to them, there are designated employees that everyone goes to for information, information that the employees themselves have access to, but would prefer someone else to deliver it to them. That’s when you need to say, “GTS.” Telling someone to GTS is another way of saying, “Figure it out.” While this may seem harsh, it is vital that these co-workers learn how to access and process information on their own for several reasons.

When co-workers and employees learn that they can simply go to someone else for the answer, they never learn how to find the answers themselves. There is always something to be said for team work and mentoring, but we need to learn where to draw the line. When the answer is always offered to them on a silver platter, this inhibits their ability to gain the skill of self-sufficiency in the workplace.

Before the age of Google, when I had a question I would go straight to my mom or dad. They would inevitably say, “Why don’t you look it up?” This was so frustrating, because I knew they knew the answer. They could readily tell me what I needed to know, but they would almost always instruct me to find it in the dictionary or encyclopedia. They knew better: if they told me the answer, I would just as soon forget it. If I had to take the time to look up the answer for myself, I had a better chance of retaining the information. When things come easily, we take them for granted. When we have to work for what we have, tangible or not, we tend to treasure it more. “Why don’t you look it up?” was our mother’s version of GTS.

Another major drawback in having ultra-dependent co-workers or employees is that it slows everyone else down. When they don’t know the answer, they hop over to someone’s desk or shoot them an email asking for help. Help is one thing, but when workers start treating one another like their own personal magic 8 ball, it’s a waste of time to those around them. Instead of doing their work, they’re spending time accessing information at the request of someone who can surely figure it out his/herself.

Some of us aren’t brazen enough to throw out the GTS. There are more polite ways to tell people that you aren’t the information desk. You could instead try, “I’m sorry, I don’t have time to help you with that right now, have you tried Googling it?” This is a softer approach that will give them the hint after about the second or third time. Or, you can send them a “Let me Google That For You” link. The point here isn’t to be rude or exclude yourself from team work; the point is to facilitate self-sufficiency in those around you. If you happen to be the go-to employee for answers to questions that are easily researchable, know when to opt out of being their search bar.

By Courtney McGann