Wednesday, February 8, 2012

End it Already - by Becky Blanton

Reposted from Social Work PRN's Blog (follow link above):
I had a good friend and co-worker years and years go who I admired for one thing — his ability to end something quickly. Rodger was 20 years older than me and he had a knack for knowing when something or someone was just going to waste his time, resources or energy, or if they were worth hanging in there with because ultimately they’d come through. To my knowledge, he was never wrong.
Rodger never fretted, worried, weighed pros and cons or tried to rescue anything or anyone. Once he uttered the words “End it already,” we knew he was done with whatever it was he was working with. It didn’t mean the person; place or thing couldn’t be salvaged, only that he had decided it wasn’t worth investing his time, energy or resources on it or them anymore. Rodger did not pursue lost causes, or high demands on his time and energy. He knew what he was willing to invest and what he wasn’t and he wasn’t afraid to say “No.” He knew what he was worth, what his time was worth, and what kind of investment he needed to get on any work he did. He had, as they say, excellent boundaries.
Last week I put in a bid on a job with a new client. He read my proposal, checked my 30 plus testimonials from clients and sent me an email. All my former clients, except one, had rated me a perfect 5.0 score on 25 points of service. The one client in question had given me 24 out of 25 for a 4.9 score on time. I had delivered the job two days early, so it was an error they made when registering the score, but the job service won’t allow you make changes, so it stuck. It was the one imperfection, although not a true imperfection on my perfect record. He said, “Boy, that must have cranked you off.”
In my head I could hear Rodger saying, “End it already,” and telling me to walk away. But I didn’t. For the next 3 hours we exchanged 2-3 emails an hour while I answered questions, offered advice, tried to reassure and help him find solutions while I encouraged him to make a decision on his project. “We’re 90% sure it’s going to be you,” he said. “But we’re still looking at other proposals.” Eventually I looked at the clock and at the dozens of non-committal emails and the man’s demands and complaining and I ended it. It was decent money, but I was over it already. I kicked myself for not stopping sooner.
Looking back, I recognized a lot of signs, things Rodger would have noticed immediately — things that he would have said, “End it already” to. If you tend to be someone who has trouble “falling in holes,” ( ) here’s a checklist for spotting trouble before it gets its hooks in you:
Pay attention to the first remarks, the first conversation and first impressions. If you’re in a job interview, at a party, on a first date, meeting a client for the first time how you’re treated is as good as it gets. My first clue was this client’s first, and unusual comment about how something very tiny “must have cranked me off.” He focused immediately on what he saw as a fault. Considering that dozens of other people had given me perfect scores and everyone had high praise, he came across as supercritical and focused on the negative. He said nothing about the positive remarks and rave reviews. Clue one.
Notice if your boundaries and value are respected. I established a time frame and said, “If you can make a decision on this and hire me by this time, I can do this job by your deadline.” The client blew off my concerns with time, but kept insisting on quality on a rush job, while expecting a lower price. Clue two.
Listen carefully and trust your gut. Does the other person hear your questions and concerns, or are they focused only on their needs? Does it FEEL good to you when you think of proceeding, or do you feel a bigger rush if you imagine yourself saying “No.”? I definitely felt relief when I imagined withdrawing my bid and I was right. I felt immediate peace the instant I hit “Send” on the withdraw button. Clue three.
Notice if the price changes. This doesn’t mean the financial price — but the time, energy and resource price. Is the person changing the rules and terms of the agreement without checking with you first? When the client doubled the scope of the project without asking if that was doable first. He was focused only on getting what he wanted, when he wanted it. Once he extended the scope to something beyond what I was willing to commit to, I withdrew. Clue four.
Cut your losses. Studies show that the more we invest in a project or person, the more likely we are to keep investing in them rather than cut our losses and run. Determine ahead of time when you will pull the plug and “end it already.” For me it was a set amount of emails and time invested without a firm commitment. I am willing to be helpful, but beyond a certain point my help becomes billable. Without a commitment to a contract I cut my losses. Clue five
Define your deal breaker. Deal breakers are the things we’re not willing to compromise on when we buy something, agree to something or get involved in something. A deal breaker for many of us is abuse of any kind. Others will tolerate occasional verbal abuse, but not physical abuse. Any abuse is a deal breaker for me. That includes over the top comments, sneers and responses to a civil email. Clue six.
More than the peace of withdrawing a bid (the first time I’ve ever done that ever) was the relief I felt at realizing that I could end it already, and will do so again should the need arise. You don’t have to please everyone and just because you start down a dead-end road doesn’t mean you have to hit the cul-de-sac before you turn around. Learn to “end it already.” There’s a difference between changing your mind and giving up. You don’t win gold stars for finishing if all you succeed in doing is beating yourself up, violating your boundaries and feeling bad about finishing when you wanted to walk away. To every thing is a season, and when it’s time to end it, it’s time to end it. Walk away. There are some things that can’t be salvaged and some things that shouldn’t be salvaged. Either way, the solution is the same. Cut your losses and leave.