130. Where ya been?


Appreciation is a funny concept. When you  buy a house, you hope it appreciates or increases in market value. The appreciation of material goods is measurable in dollars, right? Depreciation would be the loss of market value. So just plain ‘preciation is about value. I suppose precious comes from the same root word, and what do you know? Dictionary.com says it does. I really appreciate such a speedy and helpful tool.

Oh, but feeling appreciated is something a bit trickier, I think. In this feely meely bag of refined emotions, appreciated requires an appreciator whose appreciation matches that of the object of the appreciation. If my wife appreciates my paycheck, but I want her to appreciate my steadfast caring, then we have a problem. I feel unappreciated when it’s really a case of misappreciation. Can you appreciate the problem here? This is the problem with words– sometimes they glom together like legal terms in a law book, and they lose all their magical powers. We twist and torture language when we will it to do our coarse bidding, whatever that means.

A lady I know has been waiting to hear about a likely promotion at her workplace. Although she has done her incompetent superior’s job for several years, when her superior resigned, her agency advertised the job and interviewed a bunch of folks. What the heck? These folks were interviewed for the job she has been doing without any formal recognition. No thanks involved here, no sirreeebob. No appreciation of the high value this woman delivers crisply every day like the New York Times on your door step. Even more ghastly– she had to interview alongside these candidates for her own job. Can you imagine? In the middle of the group interview there is a problem that needs her attention. “‘Scuse me, Layla, it’s Bob the slender vendor. He needs that invoice for the insurance agreement.  He says it’s critical.”  So Layla excuses her self, puts out the fire (does her vacant superior’s job), and returns to the interview to swing at the job piñata that HR holds on an old mop handle. “Now Layla, what would you bring to the job?” says Bill the balding, near sighted director of HR. He must be near sighted because he cannot see this redwood among the ferns in front of him.

[Layla internal monologue, “You pus dot idiot! You spineless pimple of a man! Stupid is not stupid enough a word to stick on your forehead like a prophylactic band aid to warn off onlookers! Ignoramus of ignominy…. no, go robotic on him. He likes robots.”]

“Well, Bill, I have several ideas about how we can bring greater efficiency to the department. First….”

Appreciation in the above scenario is less likely than an asteroid hitting a migrating hummingbird at rest on the Brooklyn Bridge on the 4th of July. It is merely a theory of a theory of a vapor. And so Layla goes home feeling emptier than the wine bottles in her trash. How is it that so often those who have a gift to give are incapable of giving, and those who so desperately crave the gift cannot pry it loose from the unconscious giver. That was a long winded question, deserving of a question mark. (?) The result is something like burying grandma with all her jewelry on, sealed will in her folded hands. In short, a waste.

How difficult is it to say this, “Layla, I know you labored beneath the burdens of Cynthia’s incompetence, and yet you pushed on for the good of others. You did not sabotage or undermine her; rather, you covered her deficiencies and treated her better than she deserved. Therefore, since you have been doing her job surreptitiously for three years, it is now yours, effective yesterday. We don’t need to look beyond you. That would be insulting and dishonest.”

The other day I called one of my contract EAP companies. I have worked for them for nine years now at the same rate. Meanwhile, the price of everything has gone up. I decided to tell them I needed more money or else I had to terminate the relationship. The one provider relations lady told me that her company ran annual thorough market research and determined that “we are happy with where we are”. Not having much to lose, I agreed that they should be, but that is also the problem. “I’m not happy, and since this is still a relationship, would you like to meet my needs so I can be happy with where I am?”

(I embellish but don’t lie.) “Sir, we can’t do that. Although we value your contribution and really want to keep you in the network, we’d have to give all our providers an increase, and we can’t do that.”

“Okay, well it has been nice working with you. I have nothing but good things to say about your company. How about we break up on July 1?”

“We hate to lose you. If you reconsider… Medicare is paying less and Obamacare is a nightmare…you could wind up with less across the board… think of volume not per hour return… ” And I wondered if I could get another band aid with “Stupid” printed across the top side for this person’s forehead. Would she hold onto her position when another company offered her 25 to 50% more return on her time with all other factors remaining the same?

“Ma’am, I did all my considering before I made this phone call. Adios.”

I went to the next network and simply faxed a termination letter. I got an engaging e-mail response. “Can we negotiate a higher fee?”  I replied that I’d be interested in negotiating but I did not think they’d consider my figures. I gave them a number; they told me no. That was simple. “We really appreciate your service…”  The Doors song, Love Her Madly, rings in my ears… Don’t you love her as she’s walking out the door? It sure doesn’t feel like appreciation. “I so appreciate you now that I can’t use you to meet my needs.” That is like the criminal who claims to be sorry, so sorry that he was caught. Aha! I now know what I meant by “doing my coarse bidding” in paragraph two.

The next day I called the final EAP network to say that I was closing out the relationship. I spoke with Nancy, who asked why I was leaving. I explained the difference in pay scales and she assured me that she understood and asked if I’d consider a higher fee. I asked what the fee would be. She gave me a number that equaled a 17% increase over the old fee. “Fair enough! That will work for me.”

I went on to tell her how the two other networks reacted to my requests. She was not surprised. “Unlike our competitors, we actually like our providers.” I had to agree because her words were pre-confirmed by the action of my pay raise. It’s pretty simple. The concept is appreciation. After ten years I am worth more. HR Bill, are you listening? Never mind. Some folks never get it and so are left in a place of self imposed static mediocrity…”like you’ve done a thousand times before.”

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