Recently, several incidents make me question what many in the world consider refinement and elegance in regards to the work environment. What just truly considers as professional behavior stands out in my mind through my work as well as the image I hope to convey through my own work ethic and reputation. However, it also comes into play as we build our business.
Frequently, I see people not thanking others for their time. It’s not very difficult to acknowledge one’s presence or to type an email advising one received work. One example standing out in my mind is how my husband and I were approached to “partner” with another professional organization in our community. They informed him the project was needed the next evening and he rushed to prepare and be present for photographs for over two hours. We both were as I assisted with a second camera. Since this was to be a trial for us, we knew probably no pay for the time we offered. However, after the event was complete, my husband waded through about 1,500 images, editing, perfecting, and deciding what were the best. This took him a considerable amount of time. During this, the organization called us almost the very day after the shoot, stating no pressure, but just curious how soon they could have a disc of the final product. Again, we were not being paid for this. Add in as well that my husband was ill and I also have a full-time job separate from the business.
Needless to say, we did our best and he had the images completed in two days. We offered to upload them to a locked, password protected gallery on our site, but the organization instead preferred a CD of the images delivered to them. They also requested a bid from our business, stating they would send us a job description to help. The husband burned the images and raced to their business location. No one was present despite a sign on the door saying they should be open for business. He left the disc in the mail slot with a note and we waited…. AND WAITED we did. I finally sent an email asking if the disc was received after almost a week. Two days later I eventually heard it was and that they wanted to meet with us, but still wanted our bid. We again requested the job description and received no reply. So, I created a bid for us based on what I knew my husband and I put in. I emailed it off. Two weeks passed and still no reply. On the third week we were told there was a board meeting to discuss the budget and we’d hear more. Well, here it is about eight weeks later and no reply, no payment, no acknowledgement, nothing. Only the insult of seeing on Facebook that another photographer is back snapping their images with not one bit of an acknowledgement.
This isn’t the first snub. We’ve been expected to come at the last minute and photograph events and then just provide the work at no charge repeatedly, promised press and publicity in the end. However, nothing again. Because we said no to a project one week prior to our wedding when asked after months of preparation to suddenly change our portion with one month notice, somehow we were just left out in the future, no letter of thanks, no word in reply. Any time we appear to mention a fee, and really our fee is little compared to most, it’s as though we’re asking for too much. This is not just a hobby. This is our business, our livelihood. I’m sure if we walked into those businesses and requested their services, they’d appreciate a willingness by us to pay their fees or to at least acknowledge them in return.
This brings up just what is professional. Common courtesy is simply professional. Acknowledging those aiding you even if a reply to an email or a word that the bid was not a good fit for them is a good rule. Some type of acknowledgement too that an email even is received, even if just to say really busy at the moment but did receive it, is appropriate. I pride myself in returning calls within 24 hours, of acknowledging all emails, even if just with “thank you,” following receipt. If someone asks for my services I go above and beyond the call of duty to be sure they are satisfied. When is it ever appropriate to just take that for granted? What is so difficult in extending a simple, “thank you?” Even if we were not accepted for our bid, some type of an acknowledgement is expected. Let us know.
The more I see of how people fail to follow basic common courtesies, the sadder it makes me. However, I will never stop offering those common courtesies. To me, that is professionalism. Never ever expect a fellow business man to just offer their work without any payment. That payment doesn’t need to be monetary. My husband and I don’t mind helping out other organizations. But if we do, at least show us the courtesy of an acknowledgement or just being courteous back. That’s why I say common courtesy is just being professional. Without that, we live in an ungrateful world, a world where people grow cynical and find it hard to work with others.
Common courtesy as professionalism brings far more refinement to life. It’s why I choose to honor it every day. When we lose that, we also lose manners and a sense of dignity. Without that, I’m scared to think of where our world is headed.