A friend of mine was just asked to go a field mission in Pakistan, a six-month gig. She told me, “I told them yes, but I also said I can’t get there for another four weeks. And maybe that won’t be soon enough. Maybe they’ll find someone else.”
I don’t know how to say “bon voyage” in Urdu, but if I did, that’s what I would have said.
Four weeks from now undoubtedly won’t be soon enough for the organization that wants my friend to deliver babies in Peshawar, but they’ll grumble, then send her the contract.
Over the past couple of years, helping a few different friends negotiate with potential employers, I’ve noticed that many people don’t understand that when companies say they need something (e.g. you, starting a new job in their offices) by a certain date, they don’t really mean it.
They might like to have you start “two weeks from today”, but if you need to give your current employer a month’s notice, well, that’s not going to happen, is it? Should you worry? I advise my friends not to. Honestly, the organization that is so badly run it needs you to start within two weeks is probably not one you want to work for.
Not to mention that it took them 10 weeks (or more) to make you an offer. In part because the managing director was on holiday in Switzerland for five of those weeks, and “he wants to be a part of the process”.
And of course, it’s not just during the hiring process that organizations make you “hurry up and wait”. How many times have you scrambled to submit a tender on short notice, only to wait several months to find out if your bid was successful?
One problem (the main problem?) is managers’ desires to build safety margins into their own deliverables. If I’m not certain I can rely on you to deliver that proposal as promised on Thursday, in time for my presentation to the board on Friday morning, I’ll probably ask you to get it to me on Wednesday. And if I think I may need to wade into your proposal and make changes, I’ll probably ask you to get it to me on Tuesday.
But hey, you know what? Get it to me last Friday. Just to be safe.
Roberto De Vido is a communications consultant who has lived and worked in Asia for 25 years. He is the editor of Aidpreneur.com and producer of the Terms of Reference podcast.