Labor Promises and Tricks
Promises, campaigns, and tricking you into doing too much are hazards. Here’s your hazmat suit.
Promise with Eyes Open
Keep control of your pledges. Deliver on them. Folks may look funny at you but at least they’ll accept your sanity. You can’t casually slouch and slink into slipshod service, without sloughing off your credibility. You’ll be slammed. Abandoning your word would be reckless, which is why you want to examine your progress and capabilities before you offer too much and you’re forced to go back on your promises.
Anticipate. If a goal is unlikely to be met, turn the request down when it first comes up. Communicate that before anyone can think you’ll do it. If that means they’ll have to hire more help, so be it. If they don’t have the money, tough luck on them. They’ll manage. As it is, you’re sacrificing more than others are. (Don’t tell them that. Just draw the line and tell them that.)
Don’t let other people make commitments on your behalf, if you’ll only discover them later. Leave yourself leeway in your agreements, so you won’t be late or subcompetent.
Set your own schedules, or you’ll be trying to work when you’re too tired. With your own schedules, you’ll be more valuable.
Reserve your right to disappear whenever you want without notice, and be sure everyone who counts on you understands that. Collapse on your own schedule. But plan ahead, so you keep sudden disappearances rare. Red rare.
Get keys. Let other people keep theirs. Come and go as you need. When other people are tired, you don’t have to be. And vice versa.
Tricked Into Too Much
Modest goals may be achievable. These are of two kinds. Those everyone agrees to are one kind. Do what you vowed, and do it well. The other kind is when the boss doesn’t mention a critical piece of it, even though you asked questions, so you’ll be duped into saying yes. That’s no good. Correct that quick.
Important work when you’re somewhat tired can get marred. To produce with quality in that state, be methodical. Separate your projects; if you start a second one, put the first one away. Separate your procedural steps, so there’s a clear space before each and you can review what you’re about to do next. Separate documents. Separate piles of documents. Keep running notes for yourself. Cross out each note as you finish it. Double-check each step while working, not just at the end. Planned redundancy is worth the time cost. Make it harder to make a mistake.
Campaigns build up to a peak. Assignments and projects often have due dates. Enthusiasm and intensity are contagious. Consequently, the last days of a campaign or a project tend to be the busiest and longest. Rest is unheard of.
Except for you. You’re already near your max. Don’t try squeezing the last ounce. You need your margin. Ignore the cheerleading and the motivational speeches. They’re for someone else. You stick to your pace and monitor your needs. Meet all your obligations with quality. For anything else, say “no” at the drop of a hat. They’d be stupid to fire you now. They’re not stupid. There’s a campaign to win. Don’t go over the edge and you’ll help them win.
The Answer Is No
You must say “No” to any boss, right up to the top, whenever necessary. Say it clearly, without doubt. If you’re the boss, accept it immediately. Do not try to persuade or wear down their will. If you’re the one giving up almost all your sleep, you’re at the margins of your health and perhaps your sanity. You have the good sense to recognize your limits. Put a period in your “No.”
Institutions can be dangerous. Paychecks can be dangerous. Bad bosses might order you to stay awake. Easy for them to say. You need the money.
They can’t judge your sleepiness. That’s deadly.
If you’re in a union, find out the grievance procedure. If you’re not, find out how to complain. If arbitration exists without a union, that’s dangerous. If all that’s shaky, bring your résumé up to date and start mailing. If that’s out, forget all this.