Commitment: You’re In Or You’re Out


As an Employment Counsellor, I counted on to run workshops and lead presentations on a daily basis for those seeking employment. There are all kinds of people who attend these workshops and there are varying levels of commitment, interest and motivation to actually look for work amongst those who attend. Over the years I’ve come to understand that.

I think by the way for anyone new to the field of Social Services or as a reminder to those of us who have been in the field for years, it’s important to remind ourselves that despite our own level of commitment to serving the unemployed, it’s equally important to recognize that each person attending is an adult and responsible for their own choices. This is one of the key principles to adult education; and is a marked departure from teaching young students in schools; kids can’t just get up and walk out when they wish.

So back to my experience interacting with job seekers attending my workshop and their varying levels of commitment. One of the key things I do that is different from my peers is make a personal phone call to those that are considering opting into an intensive two-week job search group. This way, I can go over the expectations with them and I offer them the opportunity to express any doubts or concerns that might impede on their ability to attend. Point blank, I ask each potential attendee the question, “Are you able and willing to commit to this two-week block of time from 9:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. on a daily basis?”

Now if the answer is negative to the above question there isn’t any point to continuing with further details of the program, so it’s a pretty upfront and early question; one that is consistently asked of each person.

So you can imagine my surprise when every now and then someone approaches me in the actual workshop to either ask of me or inform me that they need time off from job searching to do something or attend something. Such was the case this past week. Yes I was in the room with all the participants when one gentleman said he wanted to speak to me about Eid.

Now he identifies himself as a Muslim and says that Eid being the equal of Christmas to North Americans, it’s an important day of celebration. I of course know where he’s going with this statement; he’s about to ask permission to miss time and stay home. Sure enough, he asks for Eid off to spend with his family. The fact it is Eid doesn’t really matter to me; the request is for time away from the full-time job search I invited him to attend and to which he committed to attending each and every day for the two weeks. Eid isn’t something that would have come up suddenly and unexpected; it’s an annual event; and I agree an important celebration; even being Muslim has nothing to do with it as I see it.

So how much time off he is asking for? The entire day? Half a day? I was shocked when he asked for ½ an hour; he’d arrive at 9:30 a.m. instead of the 9:00 a.m. start time I hold everyone accountable for. I agreed immediately as a show of compromise; after all, he’s an adult and I believe we are all responsible to make our own decisions. “What I will miss is mine to lose” he stated to me, and he was right.

So what happened the following day? Well, he didn’t show up at 9:30 a.m. nor at any time during the entire day. He didn’t email, phone or send his message in any format whatsoever. I was left to wonder if he was going to return at all on the following day, and I nonetheless hoped he would and prepared myself to talk with him about personal accountability, respect for me and his job searching peers.

He did call the next day and left a message indicating he wouldn’t be coming anymore; thanking me very much for the little bit of information I did impart to him. Then he indicated he had secured a full-time job in his field and wished everyone else the best.

Now I’m happy for him; I absolutely want to make that clear. I’m happy anytime a person out of work secures a job and moves towards financial independence. I can’t be entirely convinced however that this gentleman fully gets and understands what commitment is. Sure I know my employment workshop isn’t a paid job, but I do ask those attending to treat it as such. Show up at 9:00 a.m. sharp, be dressed in business casual interview attire, be focused and work hard.

I can’t help but wonder what he’ll do if and when he has another reason for needing to be away from work. How many employers are going to give an employee their blessing to miss their third day of work even for something as important as Eid? My guess is zero if they specifically asked the employee if they had anything which would prevent their attendance and then once hired they asked for time off on the second day and took the whole day when ½ an hour was agreed upon.

What are your thoughts?

 

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