A few days ago, a lady from my yoga class, Yvette, brought to my attention a small work opportunity for this weekend.
You think I’d be pleased wouldn’t you? I was and I am. But then she went and spoiled it all by saying the most heinous word the world has ever know.
That word was…..URGENT.
And at the very second that she said it, I felt my jaw clench, my bum hole tighten, my shoulders shoot up to my ears, and a shudder pass through my entire body. My genuinely enthusiastic smile transformed into a grimace and my gaze morphed into a stony glare.
‘I’ll have to look check my diary and come back to you tomorrow,’ I replied politely as she stared back at me, genuinely confused.
‘But, I thought…..’
‘Tomorrow,’ I reiterated kindly, but firmly.
Because, I said in my head, you’re a lovely person and I certainly need to work, but let’s get on thing straight from the get go; Don’t even start that shit with me.
Because I absolutely loathe that word. As far as I’m concerned it is worse than the ‘c’ word, because at least the ‘c’ word doesn’t pressure me with it’s last minute, unreasonable expectations and threatening implications.
Two years ago, the ‘U Bomb’ was communicated to me on pretty much an hourly basis, and could turn even the most enjoyable task into a chore in a matter of seconds, hence tended to bring out the very worst in me.
‘Urgent?’ I would say, inwardly (and outwardly) bristling, ‘what do you mean, urgent?’
‘Well, tomorrow morning latest.’
‘It’s 5pm, and I’m going out tonight! How long have you known about this?’
‘Look Sista, I’ve only just heard, so I need you to….etc. etc….’
Right. Delegation. The default response for every inept middle manager who has no imagination, no idea how to manage his workload and doesn’t think ahead. And then they can blame you if it’s late and/or not perfect. Result!
And the thing is, everything is urgent nowadays, and no one expects to have to wait around for anything.
We are merely minutes, nay seconds away of buying and viewing movies or music albums.
We no longer have to rely on time consuming memos or pigeon post as we can reach people by email, text or Skype in a matter of seconds.
We can hold meetings with colleagues in different time zones and continents via video conferencing.
As for delaying gratification, it’s practically unheard of.
Want big, soft, chewy American style cookies? You don’t have to bake or get someone else to bake them anymore, you can buy them pretty much anywhere.
Craving that Jambalaya you had whilst you were holidaying in the Caribbean? Back in the day, that craving wouldn’t satiated until your next holiday. Nowadays, no problem, pop down to M&S and they do a pretty fair version of it.
Dreaming of that amazing Caramelised Orange Trifle you had for pudding on Christmas day? Well in MY day you would have to wait until the next big family celebration before you’d get to eat anything that exotic again. Nowadays? Pop into Waitrose, it’s in their ‘3 course meal for a tenner’ promotion this weekend.
I am not entirely innocent of using the word myself you understand.
In the past, I was forced to use it on, yes you’ve guessed it, pretty much an hourly basis, usually to ensure that I hit my quarterly budget or meet deadlines that, yes, you’ve guessed it, my boss dumped on me at the very last minute.
Or to chase up some poor bastard that hadn’t paid his royalties.
So I was not only the abused, but the abuser by proxy.
So you can understand why urgent is a dirty word to me.
But I am going to come across it back out there in the big wide world, so I’m going to have to learn to deal with it. But not by panicking, getting cranky or running around like a blue arsed fly just because someone on the other end of a phone tells me to move it.
Later that evening an email comes from Yvette, furnishing myself and another person with more information about the project. Helpful. What is not helpful or likely to make me co-operate is the passive aggressive nagging contained therein:
‘….and parking is situated behind the main building, but I can’t confirm until I’ve heard back from Sista………..and it will be an excellent opportunity but until I hear back from EVERYONE I can’t book the space…so if you can ALL come back to me as a matter of URGENCY…..
I’m a whisker away of telling her to shove it.
But I chill, and reply with dignity, decorum and above all, confidence and firmness.
‘Hi Yvette, Happy NEW YEAR! Thanks for letting me know about this great opportunity YESTERDAY. As I mentioned in our conversation I have an appointment that day that I need to try and move, and won’t be able to speak to the office until EVERYONE IS BACK AT WORK, as most people won’t return from their CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS until Monday 6th Jan. That said, I’ll call someone first thing Monday morning and get back to you lunchtime latest. As I mentioned, if this is too late for you, please offer the space to someone else.’
The underlying message?
Your lack of organisation or forward planning is does NOT dictate my working day. I’ll move as swiftly as I can and give you a estimated response time which I will keep to, and If that’s not good enough? Jog on. Oh and another thing? Don’t even think about nagging me on an hourly basis for it, as that shit will only bring you heartache, OK?
As, the only thing worse than someone putting urgent on you is the person who gives you a deadline then keeps defaulting on it, and lets you down, day after day after day. I have a friend who does that and it drives me absolutely crazy!
Don’t get me wrong. I understand that we all have days when there is a genuine reason to chase people up for something or other. But as far as I’m concerned they are like Get Out Of Jail Free cards or Gold Tickets, insomuch as I’ll let you have one, but if I were you, I’d keep it for genuine emergencies, as once it’s gone and you keep crying wolf?
You won’t be put to the front of the queue but escorted to the back.
The same goes the other way. i won’t use the ‘u’ word, but will ask for the earliest possible response time and either accept it or go somewhere else.
Because few things are genuinely urgent.
- A kid accidentally swallowing a bottle of pills needs urgent hospital attention, as does someone with their arm or leg hanging by a bit of tendon.
- Someone waiting for the sale of their house and the purchase of another to complete in tandem is allowed to get a bit hysterical.
- If there is a plane or train crash, the when ringing 999 the word urgent is an appropriate one to utilise.
Everything else? Not so much.
The next time you think something is urgent, ask yourself this.
- Will the world stop turning on it’s axis?
- Will the sky fall in?
- is anyone in danger?
- Will someone die?
- Is someone hurt?
- Will someone lose the roof above their head?
Well get a grip on yourself, be patient, go elsewhere for whatever it is you are waiting for or accept that you won’t be able to do what you need to do on time, as if that’s the case, stressing out will not change anything.
And if it’s your boss who’s putting this shit on you?
Find a better job with a half way talented line manager. I wish I had done it years and not months ago.
And don’t nag! For me nagging is the realm of the powerless. If ever I found myself doing it in my previous lives, I’d always try and turn it around so that I could take back my power and act without the help of the naggee.
My ex once volunteered to drive me to my dance class that evening, but when the time came, he was engrossed with something else. Then time marched on, it got later and later, it was too late to get the tube, so I begged, cajoled and pleaded with him to get a move on, and he utter the immortal words:
‘For God’s sake, stop nagging woman!’
Nagging, I thought? That’s not good. How can I rectify this?
His wallet was on the hall table, so I took a £50 note out of it and got a taxi there and back.
Suffice to say, he didn’t pull that stunt on me again. EVER.
Good things come to those who wait, my friends and the nicer and more reasonable you are to deal with, the quicker you’ll be responded to.