I arrived at work yesterday morning and noticed my telephone indicated I had a message. As I settled in I listened to it and just sat there fully absorbed until the entire message was over. As I share this person’s message, pay attention to your own reaction, and then I’ll give you some background to her story.
“Good morning Kelly, I wanted you to tell you myself that I am not actually working for _______. I know I had told you I was in my last message, but I’m not and I wanted you to hear it from me first. I was to have started on Monday last week, but called in and told them on the Monday that I’d like to start the next day instead. It’s only 20 hours per week, and they seemed fine with that. The reason between you and me is that I had a cheque waiting to pick up and wanted that to buy some things for the job. The next day I called in sick because of my allergies. The phoned later in the day and said they just went to the next person on the list because they needed someone committed to the job. I just wanted you to know.”
So what are you thinking and feeling? As for background, the woman in question has not worked in several years, has in the past disclosed an addiction to alcohol, and is getting ongoing support for that. She was most recently in a group of job-seekers I was working with, and at my suggestion applied for this job with a social services organization in the area. It is a 20 hour per week, 7 week contract position, which would be over at the end of the year. The position was one she was qualified for and interested in.
Now yesterday I made the decision to give myself the luxury of a day before attempting to contact her and respond, even though no direct request was left to call her. This is primarily because I wanted to think through my answer, and sort out the measured response from a knee-jerk reaction.
Part of me just shakes my head and says in exasperation, “Really? You’ve got to be kidding! I’d hire someone else too!” Then there’s the other side of me that pauses to consider her insecurities and demons and wants to give her some leeway because she’s been out of work so long. Could it be that she has been out of work so long that she’s forgot what commitment is? Or is it something else going on like a fear of work itself?
I shared this with a colleague who knows the person as do I, and he said, “Doesn’t part of you just want to throw up your hands and say, “There’s nothing I can do for you anymore?” I know he doesn’t really feel that way, but that was his immediate reaction, and as I say, part of me agreed.
What makes it frustrating for me personally is that I know she would have done well, raised her self-esteem in the process, had a little extra cash for Christmas, had some 2013 employment history to add to her resume, got a solid reference in the process, maybe have demonstrated her worth to secure a second contract with them if available, and what it would have done for her own self-image would have been remarkable. As it is, I fear it may reinforce the negatives or worse yet, perhaps she’ll defend her actions and learn nothing from the experience.
So why share this at all? It serves as a stark reminder to applicants out there that employers need people they can count on to perform work they’ve agreed to. If you go to the trouble of applying for a job and interviewing for it, you have to be prepared to then follow through and do what you said you would. Your reputation, and those of the people you used as references is depending on it.
I know myself if I was a reference for this person, I would withdraw my support if I knew the whole story, because I could no longer vouch for the persons professionalism, commitment and self-discipline. However, as an Employment Counsellor working with her in the past, I know she could benefit from ongoing support and a review of the decisions she made and the consequences of those decisions. In order for this to be a learning opportunity, something has to have been learned and carried forward. Otherwise, this experience is just unfortunate and may be repeated.
But her life isn’t my life; and the decisions she made were hers alone and she has to bear the consequences of those choices as I say. No one should be tossed aside and rejected outright, and I’ll invite her to talk over her experience and see if she’s ready to move forward rather than regress. Disappointing for me personally, but then again, it’s about her isn’t it – not me at all; and that’s a lesson I’d do well to share with you.