I was recently talking to a friend of mine who’s also an independent consultant. I asked her how things were going and she said they were a bit slow to start the year. That happens as a consultant.

This also happens.

Ethics-cloud
Compfight

She said that someone we both worked with a couple of years ago called her out of the blue and said there was a possibility of a project opening up that she was easily qualified for. They went back and forth via email and set up a time to talk to each other on the phone. When that time came… nothing. The other person missed the call. My friend called a few times, sent an email… nothing; as if she dropped off the face of the earth.

She asked me what I thought about it. Unfortunately, I know the symptoms because I’ve personally dealt with the same thing over the years.

I had the same kind of thing happen to me last year. Someone called me and, after talking a brief bit of time said she could use someone like me for some projects her hospital needed. We set up a time when I could call her back because she said she had another meeting. I called her at that time and went straight to voicemail. I tried a couple more times that day, then a couple more times that week… I knew I would probably never hear from her, and I didn’t.

At the time I didn’t necessarily think it was strange because that’s happened quite a few times over the years. People will call me out of the blue, ask some questions, say they’d like to talk to me further and I never hear from them again. It’s happened to my wife and I at our house, where we’ve had people stop by to give us estimates on projects and we never hear from them again, or we’ve made appointments for them to stop by and they never come.

The thing is, in those cases you can’t take it personal because you don’t know those people. In the case of my friend, although she wasn’t close friends they had worked together on previous projects, so it stung a bit more. Still, when all is said and done, you have to give it a name of some kind.

I’ve thought about this subject in the past. At first I called it childish because that’s the kind of thing a child would do. Children are known to hide from things that scare them in an attempt to act like they never happened. In most cases I don’t like ascribing childish feelings to adults so I threw that one out.

I next called it dishonest because most of the time those folks initiated the conversation, or agreed to the conversation, when they might never have had any intention to follow through in the first place. The problem with that line of thought is that it’s hard to say someone is dishonest without knowing their motivation for not following through.

For me, that leaves only one thing, and it’s the most egregious thing I can think of; lack of ethics, or unethical behavior. In essence, the initial contact or agreement was made with good intentions, something got in the way, and instead of owning up to it you decided to avoid it. That’s intentionally playing with someone else’s emotions and beliefs; that’s unethical and shows a great lack of integrity.

This is something I’ve never done. I never tell anyone I can or will do something I either don’t think I can or will. I won’t commit to something I’m not totally sure of until I’ve thought about it for a while, and if I decide against it I’ll always contact the person to tell them. I don’t like to leave people hanging on a thread waiting for me; I feel it’s the ethical thing to do in laying it on the line. It might hurt feelings but the other option seems more cruel long term.

The way I see it, the only legitimate reason for doing something like this is if the other person died; that’s the one thing they have no control over so it’s forgivable. In every other case, at least a phone call or email could have been sent at some point.

That’s what I told my friend; it made her feel better. That’s because it’s easier to write off unethical people than those who act childish or are dishonest. The best thing is that you’re probably never going to see those folks again; personally, I can live with that.

Are my thoughts too harsh? Let me know your thoughts.
 

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