The “I’m So Busy and Important” Game

Today at work, we sent final files of something to be printed. You’d think that, as a former editor/publisher, I’d be used to it, but this day doesn’t bring out the best in collaborators. By this point, you can’t stand the sight of whatever you’re publishing, you’ve been looking at it and wrangling over it so long. The idea of finally being rid of it is tantalizing, but I hate that sense of resignation— there will be mistakes in it, no matter how much effort I, or anyone else, put in.

So it wasn’t going to be a good day no matter what. But there’s a phrase that seems to come up too often in this situation. Some variation on “hurry it up— you’re making me late for [insert personal obligation here].”

I have no objection to the fact that my coworkers have personal obligations, but let’s review: I heard that at 6:03 p.m. on a Friday night, two hours after I left for the day and had spent more than an hour reviewing electronic files, after my plans for the day had been revised so many times I lost count, after having been put in a position to work the last two weekends on them, after the files that were promised to me at noon yesterday arrived after 4 p.m., after I spent three hours between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. last night reviewing these files, and reviewed them three times today alone. After a team of people (including me) have spent months editing this content since May. Is the presumption that the rest of us don’t have personal obligations that this interfering with?

I used to get this from another colleague. She had to leave by 3 p.m. to be home for her kids, so she’d promise the printer (without consulting me) that I’d stay to receive files they sent over in the late afternoon. Most often, the files would arrive after 6 p.m., and she’d expect to be able to review them when she got to the office at 7 a.m., so I’d find myself in bed past 2 a.m., reviewing bluelines of books (in one case 400+ pages) we were publishing, then running in early so she could return the files by noon.

I fully respect people’s family lives and personal lives, I do. I just resent the implication that my time is less valuable than theirs. These situations are avoidable, almost without exception. Another option back in the day would have been to set a limit with the printer that we needed at least 24 hours (or one full business day) to review the files, so if we received them after close of business, they would not receive them by noon. In the current situation, we (and by that I mean “people who don’t include me”) completely redesigned the publication twice in the last two weeks. Either more front-end planning or greater restraint/a limit on post-layout tinkering would have gone a long way, here.

My single-girl friends and I have had this conversation and said our married or parent coworkers take unfair advantage and make assumptions about our availability to work late. And that has definitely happened too often to be a coincidence. But in tonight’s case, the person who dropped the line is unmarried, and several of the people (myself excepted) who were being ordered about are married and/or parents. So let’s assume, for now, that it has nothing to do with your relationship or procreative status.

Can we all just agree that this behavior is bad form, no matter who does it, and strive to knock it off?

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3 thoughts on “The “I’m So Busy and Important” Game

    • Thanks— the situation is something of an occupational hazard, and my paycheck still cashes, so it’s fine. I have stronger boundaries than I had back in the day (hence my leaving early, though the files hadn’t yet been sent) and I’m clearly still learning that lesson. Some of the reason I’m getting the dog— “oh, sorry. Got to let the dog out!” because I privilege other’s commitments over my own. But that’s my brain damage. To stand there and say “you have 30 mins to review this document that I’ve repeatedly and extensively personally delayed, because the reviews that you’re doing as part of your professional obligations are cutting into my me-time” is entitled in the worst way, and made me angry enough to set me off.

  1. Pingback: Set in My Ways | Adventures of Auntie M

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