The Work Ethic

Last week, I had arranged to pay for services from two different parties who were both scheduled to make a house call on Saturday. I was a little worried that they might show up at the same time, but it wouldn’t have mattered, as they would’ve been nowhere near each other.

When Saturday came, I received automated messages regarding my appointment with the first party. The company would be sending an independent contractor out between 8 and 11. All good and well. I hadn’t received any confirmation from the second party, so I decided to wait a few hours before reaching out. When I did, she asked for my address and offered to come out when she finished working. (I was only expecting a house-cleaning quote.)

Unfortunately, the contractors who had been assigned to fix my garage door never showed up. There was no word from them, and they didn’t arrive late. For whatever reason, my appointment was simply forgotten. I had to file a complaint (which was annoying and tedious), at which point the company in question rescheduled me for the following week when I wouldn’t even be available. At that point, I canceled. The whole reason I had scheduled Saturday was because I would be available.

As if that weren’t bad enough, my second appointment stood me up as well. She didn’t contact me to reschedule or explain; she simply blew me off. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt, since she was a private individual working for herself. Perhaps there were unforeseen circumstances that prevented her from coming; she might have had a family emergency, which made her forget all about it. So I waited a full day before sending her another message. All I asked is whether or not she was still interested in the job; she had every right to cancel, after all. But far from getting an answer, I was completely ignored. I still don’t know why.

This isn’t the first time it’s happened. A former supervisor once gave me the number to a roofer she knew, but when I sent him the information he requested, I never heard from him again. In the same way, my family has often made appointments with people who just never arrived. Upon touching base, we’re usually told something like, “I ran out of time.” These so-called professionals are usually in business for themselves, so apparently they feel no obligation to follow any kind of protocol. Never mind that people like us are rearranging our schedules so as to meet them. If they change their minds, we’re not even afforded a phone call. My dad knew a plumber once who seems to have fallen off the face of the earth. We’re still not sure if he died or just skipped town.

Why am I saying all this? Because it reminds me of the best example I learned from my dad: if you make a commitment, you should keep it – and if you can’t, have the courtesy and professionalism to let them know. There’s an old cliché (typically attributed to the parents of teenagers): “Couldn’t you even pick up a phone?” In this day and age, it’s often easier than that; my would-be cleaning lady only needed to answer an IM.

There are few things I’ll boast about, but my work record is one of them. Most of my former managers and supervisors would speak very highly of me as an employee (and otherwise, I’m happy to say). So I take it personally when someone lets a small thing impact their performance or reliability. I’m glad none of my jobs ever required me to keep appointments (as I forget things too), but if I were going into business for myself, you can be sure I would learn how. If I couldn’t, I would at least have the decency to communicate my shortcomings. If I’m hired to do a job, I prefer to honor that trust.

Case in point: I recently took a remote job that didn’t turn out as I’d hoped. For two months, I was getting paid to do subpar work at a job I didn’t enjoy. For the first time in my life – and I chalk this up to working from home – I wasn’t really doing my best. The job was so stressful and irritating that I found myself working only to meet a quota (especially after deciding that I wouldn’t stay on). I was happy to quit for several reasons – one of which was my own peace of mind for doing a crummy job.

I’ve worked other jobs that I hated. When I left my first, it was on bad terms, and I still gave them two weeks’ notice. (Instead, they just took me off the schedule, but it was their decision.) I did the same thing when I worked in retail, and people were confused when I continued showing up for the remainder of my two weeks; anyone else would’ve simply quit. Even when my longest-running employer announced I would be terminated for not complying with their foolish new policies, I continued to do my job and stayed at my station for the entirety of my last day. (To be fair, I didn’t get much work done, as I spent most of it saying goodbye to coworkers; but at least I didn’t wander off and take a nap. I wouldn’t have felt terribly guilty, given how I was treated after seven years. But I digress.)

This wasn’t meant to be a rant. I’m not trying to shame anyone or hurt their business. But last Saturday was a major frustration for me because the same thing happened twice for no good reason, as far as I can tell. It was thoughtlessness. My only point is that we should have more consideration for others, especially when they’re giving up their time and money for services we’ve offered. If we don’t care about them, we could at least think about the people who recommend our work. How do we make them look when we fail to keep our commitments? What does it do for their credibility when we don’t live up to the reference we were given?

Maybe they all had good reasons. The problem is, I have no way of knowing and no reason of my own to think so. This is about more than just failing to show up. It’s about not even bothering to tell me. So please… just don’t leave people hanging.

And if anyone knows a good plumber, please tell my dad.

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