Friday, November 20, 2009

Ahead for Business (knot)

A few years back my friend J asked me to play a small cafe with her. She said 'It doesn't pay much but I'll be happy to split it with you'. So I played the gig. Afterward, as we were packing up to go she thanked me for being there but didn't pay me.

Call that strike one.

A couple of years ago she asked me to build a frame for a Mexican string art portrait that had belonged to her father. I was reluctant to try it but did some mental math and told her it'd cost fifty dollars. She told me to go for it. I spent $12 on cedar, $18 on a piece of non-glare glass and spent around four hours making the darn thing. When I delivered it she thanked me but didn't offer to pay me. She propped it against the wall of her living room, behind a rocking chair (and noticed a few weeks later that the glass had gotten chipped and bitched at me about it but I ignored her).

Call that strike two.

J has used me as her 'man about the house' for a number of years and there have been numerous occasions when her nit-picky ways have caused me a great deal of stress but she paid me well enough, most of the time, and I actually like her. I'll admit that the attraction was most sexual in the beginning but it didn't take long for that to fade to a sort of fraternal fuzziness. By now she's more a sister to me than the one biological sister I have left.

A few weeks ago she offered me a job helping to take care of an older couple who live about an hour away from here. She offered to pay me for my travel time as well so I happily accepted the offer. After a few days work I thought a great deal of the folks I was helping to care for and found it a joy to be there for them. Circumstances have arisen which made it necessary for the family to hire a 24/7 nursing firm but the contract isn't final and, because the nursing firm is neither licensed nor bonded, J and her crew (among whom I am numbered) are under consideration for taking over the job. I was on the phone with J this morning and wanted to discuss some thoughts I had about making our rates more competitive. Somewhat coldly, she insisted 'that's between me and them'. I believe that I correctly interpreted this to mean our rate structure was none of my business. Well, I'm content to be an indian and have no desire to be the chief but my trust for J is already an unsteady, provisional thing.

I decided to call that strike three.

I resigned, via email, a few minutes later. In a reply, J asked me if I didn't think I was being destructive. I didn't respond because I don't think she'd understand anything I said but, from my perspective, my behavior was preventative. Nobody will screw you over faster, or more thoroughly, than family.

Managers who believe that information is proprietary are, thank goodness, self-limiting. Keeping secrets from your employees is like taping their mouths shut, handing them a saw and crawling out on a limb.

Wasn't that a good analogy?

If you want people to respect, trust and work for you, begin by respecting, trusting and working with them.