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Friday, July 19, 2013

Contingent Commitments

During the course of a month I go to several meeting and events which require advance registration (RSVP). I usually work the registration desk and find that between 20% to 40% are no shows – registered to come but do not make it.

Several people have shared their disappointment in the number of people who had indicated they were coming to their wedding, but did not show and did not even send a note of apology/explanation for their absence.

In recent post on a blog I follow, a fellow was gnashing his teeth about having taken a new job - he was starting on Monday - but late Friday he got an invitation for a second interview for his 'dream job' – what should I do, he whined.

When I ran the human resource function in my organizations, there was a small but growing trend of individuals who accepted our job offer and agreed to a start date, but did not show up – no call, no explanation – nothing except they did not make it – ever.

What is common in these four stories is that people committed to an action but a notable portion did not follow through on their commitment.

Why does this happen?

Of course there are unforeseen things that pop up last minute – boss calls an instant meeting, car overheats, kid emergency, spouse late to come home - the list goes on... This can certainly account for some of the no shows, but it does not account for the 'radio silence' in not contacting the host – even a “sorry I could not make it, something came up” shows more character than blowing off the failure to attend.

But what's the explanation for the rest to the group who did not have a personal crisis and still did not make it?

Is the idea that 'a person's word is their bond' not as valid or important today - don't make a promise you can't keep and always deliver on your promises is about personal integrity.

There now seems to be the 'contingent commitment' – it looks like a commitment but acts like a maybe. A pledge with an unstated 'except' – yes, I'll attend the event (except if I don't feel like it or something better comes along).

If someone consistently commits but does not follow through, how does that speak about their character? Would you trust them to be a key player on the team working on a high profile or critical project?

My comment back to the guy with a conflict between starting a new job and going to a second 'dream job' interview – “you committed to your new employer – show up to the job unless the employer has unilaterally changed the offer.”

Am I being too idealistic, expecting individuals to honor their word – or revise their commitment - for something as trivial as just another event? Have we gotten so busy and over-scheduled that it is acceptable to be casual about showing up?



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