The Bitch is Back

Lately my normally silent inner bitch has become a lot more assertive. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s all that time at the gym. Or perhaps it’s because people just keep pissing me off.

Mostly I’m an easy-going guy. I do, however, have standards. Leave me a phone message–I’m going to call you back first chance I get. Send me an email–I’ll respond as soon as I can. Tell me something is due Friday at four–I’ll get it to you by three on Wednesday.  I don’t know any other way to be. That’s just how I roll

Increasingly I find I’m the exception rather than the rule..

When did returning phone calls and responding to email messages become optional? I’m not talking about chatty personal calls and emails. I mean work-related messages about joint projects, collaborations, and team efforts. Given the pervasive presence of smartphones, you’d think people would be more rather than less responsive. Nope. Judging from the lack of responses, apparently I’m now flying solo much more than I knew.

When did deadlines become arbitrary? Based on my experience, a significant portion of the population now believes deadlines are for everybody but them. In recent weeks I’ve been frustrated by people ignoring deadlines for reports, paper submissions, payment of conference registration fees, hotel reservations, and camera-ready papers and abstracts for proceedings and conference programs. Hey–I’m talking to you, not everybody but you.

There is a good reason for any deadline I impose, and I always provide plenty of notice. Sure, I build in an extra day or two for possible delays and laggards. But after that, failure to get stuff in causes real problems for me. If I don’t get copy to the printer in time, we won’t have the materials when we need them. Late reports mean I have to work nights and weekends to get the summary report completed on time. Ignoring deadlines is just plain rude.

For years, I accommodated slackers, laggards, and people with time management issues. Now I see that in doing so, I’ve simply rewarded undesirable behaviors and encouraged people to think ignoring messages and deadlines wasn’t a problem. No more.

Last week, I sent email messages to half a dozen professionals letting them know their papers would not be published because they’d missed the deadline–by more than three weeks. The old me would have given them a few more days. The new me knows it wouldn’t have made any difference.

If I say I’m going to do something, you can count on me to get it done. I’ll be on time, and will have done any homework or preparation the task requires. And whether it’s critiquing manuscripts, conducting a workshop, presenting at a conference, or dancing in a flash mob, you can bet your bottom dollar I’m going to do it to the best of my ability. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right.

When people miss deadlines, show up unprepared, or do a half-assed job, it pisses me off. And when I get pissed, the inner bitch comes out. Lately she’s come out so much I’ve had to name her. I call her Ragna.

Ragna stays at work, where she’s needed. I guess if push came to shove, I could unloose her at home. But mostly, there’s just no need for her here in…

My Glass House

4 responses to “The Bitch is Back”

  1. I’m curious, when you told those people they missed their deadline and would suffer the consequences, how did they react? Were they ok? Did they respond at all? I ask because I would hate to see you getting so frustrated over people who don’t even seem to sweat some of the stuff that bothers you – shame on them. Now, it’s time for me to make a confession. I am late for everything. I’ll pause as you decide whether we should continue on in the blogosphere together. I wish it wasn’t so but I think that part of it has to do with my not being able to say no. I do everything for everyone at the expense of myself sometimes but then, I end up running twenty paces behind myself. It’s frustrating for me and for them. There’s a lesson in there somewhere and I’m pretty sure that it’s attached to my backbone. The good news is that at least I’m aware of it and that’s half the battle. Still friends?

  2. Mairzee, since you are working on the problem, we can still be friends 🙂 Reactions came in over the next several days and consisted primarily of apologies and acceptance of the fact that there are consequences for missing deadlines. That other people don’t sweat this stuff speaks more to their professionalism (or lack thereof) than anything else. Learning to say no is difficult. The trick is to do so without ever actually saying no. For example, when someone asks me to write something for them, I’ll say I’d be happy to if they could provide an outline for the contents. They never do, but I didn’t say no.