I couldn’t believe it when HR told me his office was on the mezzanine—a half-floor between the 2nd and 3rd—and only accessible from the north stairwell in an old industrial building that had been converted to office space. It immediately reminded me of the movie “Being John Malkovich.”

For weeks, I had been trying to track down my contact. He was only sporadically responding to emails and never answered the phone. After repeated attempts to meet with him in person, my patience wore thin, and I decided to visit his desk unannounced.

Upon arriving at the mezzanine level, I marched through the door, found my target, and walked into his cubicle. I wasn’t prepared for what I encountered—a painfully shy man struggling with health issues, which I learned about later.

My work-related frustrations immediately melted away. I was forced to quickly rethink what I was doing there and look at this differently.

The experience taught me an important lesson: never assume too much about the person on the other end of an email, as you never know what personal or professional challenges they might be facing.

Ultimately, the issue at hand was resolved smoothly with the help of others in my contact’s group, and together we unraveled the multiple process breakdowns that had escalated the problem.

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