Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Professional Approach In Non-Paying Obligations

One of my peeves is the callous attitude some folks have when payment is not involved. We know that when a contract (verbal or written) involves money, it is a professional agreement and deadlines count. But what about agreements that don’t involve exchange of currency?

Some people think these aren’t real, or binding, or at the very least “not as binding” as deadlines set by bosses/contracted editors/clients.

I learned this lesson years ago, when I was part of an organization of volunteers who put together a biannual review of the private schools in the bay area. We met, the chosen head organizer set directives for the standards of the reviews, and we accepted which schools each of us would review. The head set fixed deadlines for submitting the reviews. Some people covered only one school, but I had two schools to cover.

When the deadline came, I submitted my reviews. They entailed research, two school visits to each of the schools, (one an organized tour and the other an impromptu school visit) and interviews with people whose kids attended the schools. No small feat when I had a preschooler and a toddler, as well as a mother who was full time in my care. The head organizer had the added task of looking over all the reviews and making sure they met the standard of the catalog the organization set. It had been a much-lauded publication for over twenty years.

Only the head organizer and I met the deadline. She then had the added task of nagging and needling the other volunteers to submit-please-do-it-NOW. She managed to gain some gray hairs before the publication heroically met the final deadline in time for the Bay Area Private Schools Fair.

 I have since encountered this lackadaisical attitude in critique groups and beta readers, exchanges that do not involve money but do involve agreement to exchange favors. Most folks are professional in meeting standards and deadlines. But then there are others who regularly forget/get distracted and miss these obligations altogether...
...oops, so sorry!

I am not referring to unusual occurrences. Life happens. There are medical and family emergencies. There are situations we can’t plan for and couldn’t even have the ability to notify when they happen. But these are not the rule, and if someone almost always skips and slips, we have an unprofessional attituder (I made this word up 😎) on our hands.
What these folks are saying, in effect, is that because they are not paid, they’ve pushed others and their schedules to the back of the bus.

What to do about it? For myself, I make it a policy not to be such a person. That’s what I do.

At the beginning of this post, I didn’t call it a pet peeve, because I think it isn’t petty to ask for respect. I can’t fix others, but I resolve to be the kind of person I respect. It makes me feel good.

I highly recommend it. If you’ve been such a slacker, change this for yourself. I think you’ll feel good.


Vijaya said...

It's all about honoring your commitments. Respect. I strive for this too and you're right, it does make you feel good. Amazing how doing the right thing is its own reward.

MirkaK said...

I think your discussion of meeting obligations as a volunteer is relevant to being on time for others in different ways. Making others wait for your grand entrance also feels like a lack of respect. My time is way more important than yours! I just can’t be bothered to meet your rigid standards! Or any number of excuses. I have a relative who, no matter what time you set, would always arrive late, rushing in to explain. So I made a point of always telling her the wrong time to meet, knowing she would be at least 15 minutes late and thus actually come on time. Still, it’s wearisome, not to mention annoying, to have to do such things because some people can’t deign to be considerate of others. Maybe it all boils down to a need to feel that who you are is more than those around you. Why volunteer to do something or be somewhere when you’re not going to comply? Yes, life happens and sometimes you can’t meet a deadline, but at least you let the person in charge know what’s happening. I have always taken my writing deadlines seriously but, once, while in the middle of a divorce, I knew I wouldn’t be able to complete a book on time. I contacted my editor to let her know. She was quite understanding and gave me some leeway. Be nice and, generally, others will be nice back.

Vijaya said...

"My time is way more important than yours!" This so much.

For some it is life threatening. My advisor has juvenile diabetes so dinner was promptly at six and I had to tell my other guests to be mindful. She'd take her insulin shot at 5:55.

Indians are habitually late. We have a saying about being on Indian Standard Time and I cannot stand it. My mother impressed punctuality upon us because time is like nothing else. Time lost is lost forever.

Mirka Breen said...

MirkaK, not to be confused with me (Mirka Breen) and I share more than a first name. We both seem to have people close to us who are *habitually* tardy.
Personally, I have come to accepts it and know that this rarely changes in an individual, whatever the reason. I'm puncutual, so i'm the one for whom it is a burden, and I see no point with being upset anew. "We know the customer," I tell my kids.
As to being late, for some it's cultural. I remember my ever-punctual father's shock when he was posted to Buenos Aires and discovered that Argentines feel being on time is rude. An hour late is proper and shows generosity with the way they intend to give of their time! so there's that, also.
But my post was a mini-rant about being dismissive of assignments that do not involve pay, by people who would never do this if the task was paid for.

Evelyn said...

Promptness was a given in our family growing up. My father's view was that keeping a person waiting when you've agreed to meet them at a certain time is stealing--you're stealing their time and time is valuable. But I do understand that promptness can be viewed differently in different cultures.

Johnell said...

Such good points. Thank you for the reminder.

Jenni said...

Although I've had some wonderful critique partners over the years (and do so now), I've encountered this a lot with critiquing. It can be very frustrating to have someone "ghost" you when you've put a lot of work into reading their work. But there's not a whole lot you can do about people not fulfilling their obligations. Usually I just move on (with note to self not to exchange with them again).
Good reminder not to be that person.

MirkaK said...

I realize we've veered off your original topics, but in a way it seems apropos. Yes, time is variously elastic in different cultures. I've experienced it around the world and gotten accustomed to it. I used to have disagreements with my husband because he is assiduous about punctuality. He drove me crazy about getting to someone's home for a party or dinner or whatever. But we'd arrive promptly and the hosts weren't even ready, so that wasn't good either. I explained repeatedly that being on time is certainly important and necessary in his office, but one has to be looser when it comes to non-professional matters. Over the years, he has eased up. And I, of course try to be on time so isn't driven crazy either!