We notice when you don’t do as you say.

Nobody’s perfect. This isn’t news to any of us (ever since the first time mom forgot to pack your lunch, or that awesome guy forgot your birthday even though you told him the day before). I have preached about self-care and time-management quite a lot, and you know what? I still have days where I beat myself up in my head and days where I do nothing but dick around on Facebook and Twitter and Netflix.

So, when I start talking about people not practicing what they preach, I want to make it clear that I know nobody practices what they preach 110% of the time.

But, when you’re…

  • a consultant or coach who helps people live their dreams and make a living doing what they love who balks at paying your contractors or employees a fair, livable wage
  • a life coach all about self-care who expects your team members to be at your beck & call 24/7, with a two hour turnaround time
  • a coach who specializes in unfucking money relationships but constantly haggles on prices with service providers and is always driving for a better (i.e., cheaper) deal

(Covering my ass note: none of these scenarios are based on people I’m currently working with; rather, they’re slightly exaggerated amalgamations of past experiences of myself & my acquaintances, created for the sake of examples.) 

You’re crossing into “do as I say, not as I do” territory. You might not even realize you’re doing it. Or, you might think it’s acceptable for (insert justification here). Or, you might just think that nobody will find out about it and that makes it okay.

Here’s the facts:

  • Treating other people like shit is never okay, even if you don’t realize how unrealistic your expectations are.
  • Asking people to work for free or wildly unreliable amounts of money (examples include: a very low base pay plus a very low incentive percentage, working for exposure, or “The pay isn’t great now, but it will be soon, I promise! So just work your ass off in the meantime, ‘kay?”) is also not okay. We’ve all done things like that (working for exposure or working without guaranteed income) for our own businesses, but asking another business owner to do it with the benefits almost solely coming to your business, possibly at the expense of their own business? Pretty asinine.
  • Speaking as someone often working “behind the scenes”: we do notice, and we tell others. If you’re a total nightmare to work with, people will find out. 

Most importantly, this behavior isn’t ethical, full stop. I’d like to believe that long term, it’ll bite you on the ass (less in a mystical karma-y way, and more in a “nobody will want to work with you or be associated with you because you’re douchetastic” way), but after some of the behavior I’ve witnessed people getting away with, I’m not sure’s actually true.

If you’ve got a large audience and a business that’s already successful, there will always be people willing to put up with your bullshit in return for a mystical pot of gold (whether that’s exposure, experience, or referrals). That might be cynical on my part, though I do think that eventually it’ll bite you on the ass in some form or another – I’ve seen too many epic cosmic comeuppances to believe otherwise.

In the end, it comes down to: Is this how you want to be treated? And is it congruous with what you’re actively telling other people to do?

If your answers are “no” and “no”, take a step back & take a hard look at what you’re doing.

Of course, there’s exceptions to every rule.

In general, I’d say there’s a very few, very select situations where it’s okay not do as you say:

When the arrangement is temporary.

And I mean very temporary, not “you’re going to work under these conditions until some as-of-yet-undetermined point in the future when I’ll hand you the keys to the kingdom”. Temporary like, “Let’s do a two week trial period with these conditions and a review/assessment after that.”

When everyone is incredibly clear on the situation.

The above is a perfect example of this. If you say “temporary” and you’re thinking a few months, but the person you’re working with is thinking 2-3 weeks, you’re going to run into some issues & resentment, clearly. If you’re talking about delayed payment, they need to know exactly how long the delay is and exactly how much the payment will be. If everyone involved  is super-duper clear on the situation & still feels not only okay but clean + happy with it, that’s generally a green light.

Someone comes to you.

This requires discretion because people can put themselves through some truly terrible shit in the name of getting exposure. I wholeheartedly believe that even though it’s self-inflicted, if someone comes to you with a proposal that is obviously unfair to them and could actually do them and their business a disservice, it’s your job as an ethical + awesome person to say no. However, when it works out, it can be really beautiful (see the example from Amanda in this post, of her approaching one of her favorite authors & asking to redo her site).

You don’t have to ask.

This, though it can turn toxic, is the best situation of all. When I’m working with clients who always pay on time, who are easy to deal with, who are generally kick-ass people, I don’t have a problem answering the occasional weekend email or working on something after office hours. At least part of this is because I have very clear work boundaries (specific office hours, no working or client email on the weekends, one day a week blocked out for my own business development) – which, by the way, have taken me a lot of practice to get in place and maintain – so I know when something goes against those boundaries and I can consciously choose to do it anyways, instead of just feeling vaguely obligated.

But part of this is that I work with great people who know what the exceptions to the rules are and really appreciate it when I put in extra work without being asked. And part of them being such awesome clients is that they can appreciate this extra work without coming to expect it. If you can get in that sweet spot, you’re about a kajillion times more likely to have happy service providers, creating better work and generally contributing to an awesome behind the scenes vibe at your business.

That’s how “do as I say, not as I do” can cause some hardcore suckage for behind the scenes peeps, and those are the situations in which I think it’s okay to bend the rules a bit. Anything you’d like to add? I’d love to hear it – chime in below. 

This post was part of the Word Carnival – the best little fairway on the ‘net, written for small business owners, by small biz owners! Check out the other Carnies for this month’s topic here. Especially relevant is Illana’s post, which served as inspiration for this post. 

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