Unhelpful “Help” drives me crazy

Recently, I had a request to share my Microsoft Outlook Calendar with someone at work. Here’s how the conversation went down:

Other person: “Hey, I’d like to have access to your Outlook Calendar.”

Me: “You do have access to it.”

Other person: “No, I’m pretty sure I don’t.”

Me: “Just hover over a particular block of time and it’ll show you if I’m available, tentatively scheduled, busy, or out of the office. It’s color-coordinated and I keep my calendar up to date.”

Other person: “Um, what I’m asking for is to be able to view each of your appointments, individually. I’m looking for the nitty gritty details.”

Me (to myself, not the other person): “Dammit, I hate it when people invade my private space.”

Me: “Oh, okay. Normally I prefer not to share my calendar details beyond the color scheme.”

Other person: “I’d like for you to make an exception for me.”

Me (to myself, in my head): “Crap. This person is tenacious.”

Me: “Okay. Let me investigate how to do this and I’ll get back to you.”

Other person: “That’d be great.”

I guess you could classify me as a private person, so being asked to open or share my daily schedule makes me a little uncomfortable. Also, I was burned by this before.

Previously, when my calendar was open and accessible to everyone, I had an ulcer (the ulcer was not caused by my calendar being open. ;-)). It was bad. I was loosing a lot of blood, and I had to have several blood transfusions. During this crisis, I marked my Calendar as “Out of office” with a note saying I had numerous appointments with a Gastroenterologist and a Hematologist.

When I’m ill, I don’t want sympathy or attention, or a delivery man to send me a bouquet of flowers from my co-workers. Don’t get me wrong. All of these are very kind gestures. But what I really want is to be left alone to get well. I’m like a dog when I’m sick; I like to go out into the woods, find a big tree to lie under, and rest until I’m healthy again. I don’t want to interact with anyone who isn’t my mother, father, sister, special someone, doctor, or nurse.

Here’s how I was burned when I had the ulcer. A “busybody” looked at my calendar and took it upon herself to be the CIO of my situation. She did me a huge “favor” and sent an email to about 150 people (all the way up the hierarchy to the Vice President), telling them… and I quote… “She sprung a leak of unknown origin.”

A colleague/friend was horrified when she saw this email message and she forwarded it to me immediately. Needless to say, I felt like my privacy had been violated and I think I broke down and cried. Now, looking back, I can laugh at it. “Sprung a leak of unknown origin” is kind of funny. But at the time, it really pissed me off.

Having had that bad experience, I wanted to give the person who requested access to my Calendar the right “level of permission.” Nothing more, nothing less. So I went to the Microsoft Outlook help page for instructions on how to share my calendar and how to determine and assign the right level of permissions.

This is the “help” Microsoft gave me:

Is it just me, or do these descriptions make zero sense? Also, the roles are not alphabetized, so you have to scroll through the list multiple times to find what you’re looking for. No where do I see the word “appointment.” That’s what a calendar tracks, right? I see reference to items, files, and subfolders. But that’s about it.

I called an Outlook-savvy colleague for some assistance. She said, “Ugg. Microsoft’s help blows” I laughed out loud and felt relieved that I wasn’t the only one for whom this wasn’t intuitive.

So here’s how we solved the Outlook Calendar sharing permissions problem: I gave my Outlook-savvy colleague full access to my Calendar and then, one by one, I selected a different permission level, yelled over the wall that I had changed the setting, and she proceeded to test the setting in her Outlook Calendar to see what she could and couldn’t see. It was tedious and ridiculous, but eventually we figured it out.

Microsoft, it’s true. Your help blows.


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