Ask the Question, Even if It’s Dumb

Dear WSW: My boss told me to write an outline and to make sure that my
 "lower-case letters are always auto-formatted, 
like the bulleted lists." 
I have no idea what this means. I think I should just pretend like she 
never said that to me and do the outline a different way. 
What do you think?
—Explanation-Deprived

Dear Deprived,

This is a weird mandate, but OK. If your boss likes her outlines to include lowercase letters, who are you to suggest otherwise? You know that she’ll be looking out specifically for this to be correct, since it was important enough for her to state explicitly.

We’ll keep this short and sweet, because it’s a simple directive: If you aren’t sure, Google it. In this case, Google “auto-formatting lowercase letters in MS Word” and you will get what you need.

BUT, if somehow the world implodes and Google can’t help you, ask the question.

People assume a certain level of knowledge from others. There are two reasons for this:

1. They don’t want to be an asshole and talk to you like you are a moron.

2. They have spent so long in a certain profession that they lack the ability to see what should be self-evident and what should not.

When you are given a task, there will be a ton of information the task-giver does not provide to you. This is not because you should know it. It is because the task-giver does not know what you do not know. It is your responsibility to make sure you have all the information you need before proceeding (or even as you get started and realize you don’t know what you’re doing). A lot of the time you’ll ask questions and the task-giver will remember things he or she meant to tell you and simply forgot.

Think of it like this: which is worse, asking a question that seems dumb, or totally fucking up a project because you made assumptions that turned out to be incorrect? If you answered the latter, then you really are just stupid and you should never ask anyone a question ever again.

Got obvious advice? Got a question? Submit to wearshoesatwork <at> gmail.com

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