The Little Red Hen is an old folktale. In case you don't know the story (or don't remember ) it's about a hen who asks for help planting seeds, tending the garden and making the bread. Her "friends" say "Not me," until The Red Hen asks "Who will help me eat the bread."
"I will," they all say.
The Red Hen says, "I did all the work and now I will eat the bread myself." For the most part work is shared evenly, but a co-worker who recently left, (well before his contract was over) was a not me kind of guy. For example, I was on a "team" with him to prepare materials for a class. We had to laminate some pictures for the class. There were 26 pictures in each set. While making three of the sets, I asked for help.
"Not me," he said.
Later, we discovered that this less was scheduled at the same time. Since each class needed 3 sets, we needed a total of six sets.
"We need to make another set," he said.
"I know, but I made the first set. I think it's fair you make this set."
A few minutes later he said, "I'll print them and you can laminate them."
Printing takes about five seconds, laminating can forever, so I was feeling a bit annoyed by then. I took a deep breath. "If you had helped me before, I'd be more than happy to help you now."
He persisted a few more times. Finally ,he started the work, but one of my other co-workers took pity on him and helped. In the end no one was sad to see him go, not even our bosses. However, this isn't usually how things turn out. This type of co-worker usually has a knack for looking busy when the bosses around and often get promoted.
It's not fair, but there it is. One of the reasons this happens is because co-workers facilitate the lazy co-worker by doing their work. Perhaps, it's just because the person seems like they need it or because there's a project due on such and such day.
Saying "no" can be hard, especially for women. The person will probably refer to you as "that bitch at work" with their friends. However, once you start doing someone's work, it's hard to renegotiate the relationship. I'm gong to use a horseback riding analogy here: the first five minutes a rider spends on the back of a horse, tells the animal everything he or she needs to know about their relationship going forward. Horses ask questions like "can I stop" several paces and continue to ask with increasing intensity, before they stop.
For the sake of simplicity, there are two relationships a rider can have with a horse; proactive or reactive. Proactive means the rider must recognize the question, before the horse stops, otherwise the rider is forced to react to the bad behavior after the fact. However, once the horse as gotten away with the unwanted behavior, he is more likely to repeat it. Eventually a rider will recognize the "question" and begin to say "no" earlier, but still without much success. The horse now has to progress through, "Do you mean it? Really, really, because I've gotten away with this a gazillion times. (Insert worse behaviors and even bucking and rearing.) And this is not the relationship, I agreed upon."
Every communication between horse and rider is non-verbal. So are many communications between people. We set the tone of the relationship early. For example, when my co-worker, "We need to make another set," he meant two unsaid things. "I want you to make another set and I want us to enter into a non-verbal agreement that you will do my work for me." Going down that road would mean renegotiating our relationship later on, which can often be ugly.
The more times you say "yes" the uglier their response to "no" will be. This also applies to raising children, marriage and ... every relationship. When a child or adult or horse throws a temper tantrum to "no" they're really saying, "This is not the relationship I agreed to have with you!"
M.R. Jordan is a writer, editor, sporadic blogger, and lover of beer. Lives in South Korea with her two cats, Bear and Geumbi.
Bear (Gom in Korean) then (above) now (below)
Geumbi (Gold in English)... then (above) and now (below).