Questions to Ask Yourself Before Marking Your Request ‘Urgent’

Your colleagues will thank you (and so will your career)

Teresa Douglas
Published in
4 min readJan 17, 2020


A young business woman looks anxious as her coworkers surround her desk demanding things of her.
Photo: PeopleImages/E+/Getty Images

Co-authored with Holly Gordon and Mike Webber

YYour work doesn’t exist in a vacuum: At some point over the course of your workweek, you’ll need something from someone, or someone will need something from you. Sometimes the request is easy and your colleagues are willing to help you. Other times, people are busy and resources limited.

Communicating the level of urgency of the thing you need — and getting what you need in return — is an art. On some level, we all know this. And yet, too often, many of us forget.

The two big don’ts

We’ve all encountered that colleague who needs everything right now. Maybe you’ve even dropped everything to help that person get something done, only to find out that the “emergency” was all in his mind. Or maybe you’ve run into his polar opposite, the co-worker who doesn’t tell you that she’s overwhelmed or unable to complete a task. That is, until her deadline passes, and her lack of communication means you miss your deadline, too.

To be successful in any career, you should do your best to avoid becoming a my-problem-is-your-problem co-worker. This requires more than knowing how to do your job. First, you must understand what you need.

The four workplace needs

Most needs fall into one of four categories (information, access, skills, or authorization), and the category of need determines the level of legwork you can do ahead of time. If you need someone to authorize your budget, for example, you can often collate all the relevant data in an easy-to-digest email or spreadsheet so the authorizing person can simply glance at the information and make a decision. If you need information, you can research whether that information is already housed somewhere else before you reach out to a colleague. Once you’ve done your due diligence, you can feel good about asking for what you need.

Pay attention to timing

Once you know what you need and who can assist you, you can think about when to approach that person for help. In a traditional…



Teresa Douglas
Writer for

Mexican Yankee in Canada. Remote work speaker, manager. Book: Working Remotely: Secrets to Success for Employees on Distributed Teams