Monday, June 11, 2012

Doing the Right Thing--Why Is it so Hard???

Hey all,

I've got a question for all of you on this fine Wednesday.  One I've been chewing on for the last few weeks and I'm still perplexed over it.  Ready?

Why is doing the right thing so damn hard?

Now I'm not talking about seeing someone drop his wallet and making the choice to pick it up and give it back to him.  That's a moral issue between you and your conscience (God).  What I'm talking about is doing the right thing on a day to day basis with your friends, employers, business associates, etc.

For example... I've got a friend who has to turn in his receipts for work.  Not an uncommon occurrence, right?  Lot's of people have to do it.  He gathers them together, writes down the date, receipt name and amount and submits them for reimbursement.  Should be easy.

But it's not.

Each week he suffers over which receipts he should submit and what he shouldn't.  And not for the reason you'd think.  Each and every receipt he has IS reimbursable.  All show money he's put out for the company.  But he worries that if he puts too many in, the PTBs will get upset with him and he'll have trouble.

WTF?  It's in his contract that ANY work receipts will be paid for by his employer.  He's not trying to pad his expense account.  I've seen what he's submitting, and they are all legit.  But because his HR department gives employees the fish eye whenever they do submit--going so far as to make them bring in their contract and point it out to them--many say forget it and wind up eating all or part of the expenses.

I think that's wrong.  Just when did doing the right thing, in the right way become so hard?

Another case in point.  And this one has happened to me in the past.  I've got an author friend --pretty new to the game-- who signed with one of the bigger houses.  She had a lawyer go through her contract to make sure she was comfortable with all the legalese.  She negotiated in good faith and won some changes as well as lost some.  But when she signed, she was happy with the outcome of the talks.  She sent in her book and waited for the whole process to start.

And that's where things started to go horribly wrong.

She got a note from her editor saying she had to make changes.  Again, not an uncommon occurrence, but the changes she was told she had to make were not ones stipulated in her contract.  She wrote back and explained that to the editor.  Very professionally I might add.  I saw the letter.

The editor (an absolute bitch, I'll put in here) replied saying the changes still had to be made contract or no contract.  And if my friend didn't do it within the time period stipulated, they would be forced to nullify the contract.  And or begin legal proceedings.

Confused, my friend contacted the publisher and explained what was going on.  To her surprise, she was sent a note saying not to be such a DIVA.  Yeah.  In those words.  She was told to do what the editor wanted.  Gamely, my friend pushed on, cutting and pasting the part of the contract where the publisher was ignoring and explaining yet again why what they were asking wasn't right.

This time she got a reply from the editor.  A very icy reply retracting her request, but doing it in such a way my friend felt like she'd gotten a horsewhipping.  Edits came and went and the whole time the editor acted like a total snot just because my friend insisted on following the contract.  The horrors.  An author who follows the contract!!!

She also had problems with the cover art.  It was very good, but when they asked for her opinion (don't miss that part--they ASKED for her opinion) she mentioned she'd like to see the title a little bigger.  Thought it would pop more.  

You'd think she'd cut their heart out.  She got a NASTY letter from the cover editor saying she had no right to request changes.  She wasn't an artist.  She had no idea the time and effort... Blah, blah, blah.

By this time she was pretty much fed up with the company.  She wrote back, again very professionally, that if they hadn't wanted her opinion on the cover, they shouldn't have asked.  She cut and pasted the offending part and sent it back.

This time she heard nothing, but the font on the cover was made bigger.

You'd think it was over, right?  But when the book was published, they'd forgotten to put the copyright info on the inner page.   And when my friend saw that, she didn't know what to do.  Should she do the right thing and tell them?  Or let it go so she wouldn't have to listen to yet another diatribe of venom from them?

And that's just ridiculous.  Why should doing the right thing make you a pariah?

If you have the right to do something, why is it people can make us feel so guilty when we use those rights?  Whether it is a contract (you DO NOT want to get me started), working with an editor (we are partners working together for a common goal.  It's NOT personal if I choose not to use one of your edits), free speech (no, I'm not talking about stupid stuff, but just speaking out your opinions, whether it be religion, politics, gay marriage or animal cruelty), or being told something is wrong when you know damn well it isn't.

Fear has started to rule our actions and that is a slippery slope, my friends.  I have been told I'm a black and white type of person and I agree with that assessment.  But I just don't see why speaking the truth about something in work, relationships or anything else is so wrong as long as you do it politely and/or professionally.  Being afraid to do something or speak out because you a) might get in trouble, even though you're in the right, b) don't want to make waves or 3) know you'll have to fight to do the right thing, is stupid and shouldn't be allowed to go on.

Politics is a dirty business and it's everywhere.  Not just in the government.  If my author friend can't point out her contract to remind them of what's right, and is worried about what they might do to her career, that's politics.  If my other friend has to eat beans because he was too afraid to be reimbursed for expenses, that's politics.  And if I see something wrong in one of my books and point it out, yet am called a DIVA because I had the temerity to do so, that too, is another form of politics.

And I don't do politics very well.  In fact this quote, from an unknown author sums it up quite nicely...

We live in a world in which politics has replaced right and wrong.  ~ Author Unknown

What do you think of politics in the workplace or in interpersonal relationships?  How many times have you had to pull back from doing what was right so you wouldn't make any waves?  Share your opinion in the comments below.  I'm curious as to how everyone sees their world around them.

Let me leave you with one last excellent quote to share with you...


Until Wednesday when I'll be back with a fun birthday blog for you all!!!

Hugs,

CJ England
 http://www.cjengland.com/home/domeafavor100x154.jpg
Follow Your Dreams
http://cjengland.com
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/CJsaysFollowYourDreams/


23 comments:

brynneth said...

bout a government department that ignores the law, interprets it any old way it likes to run what is effectively a protection racket and threatens you with homelessness if you try to protest? The world is full of crazy.

CJ England said...

Oh yeah, Brynneth... That's politics at it's finest. Interpreting the law so they can do what they want. *shakes head*

Phylis said...

I can't point to something specific but you see it all the time and it's wrong. So wrong. When you try to raise your children to do what's right and the world around them changes the "rules" to suit their needs and not do the right thing...It's just wrong.

Kaylyn D. said...

Politics rule what I say. I am a Army wife and have to bite my tongue all the time. There have been times when I haven't and someone told my hubby to control his wife. Pissed doesn't even begin to cover it. So now I just vent to myself and plaster on a fake smile when I see people.

CJ England said...

Excellent point, Phylis. How can we teach our children to be honest and do right when the world gives us grief when we do so?

CJ England said...

Kaylyn,

Control his wife? GRRRRR.... I would have wanted to kick their balls until they squirted through his teeth!

I'm glad I'm not a navy wife. Missed that by a couple years. I don't play well with others.

Can you tell? LOL

Ray said...

I think the Diva's in the examples are the editors and their superiors. It is corporate culture. If an editor gives in to an author then the publishing house comes down on her/him like a ton of bricks. What would it have taken for the editor to explain why a change was necessary even if it gave away the little man behind the curtain masquerading as the Great Oz.

The one about slamming someone for an opinion asked for is ludicrous. It just makes the house look stupid.

This blog is great. I think the friend who is having trouble will out the editor and the house for thinking they can get away with breach of contract. I imagine they have a whole herd of lawyers and tons of money so an author would be tied up in court for years if trying to sue.

I wonder how much money that company spent trying to buy politicians.

Ray said...

Kaylyn

I live in a Navy town. Our housing association is run by active duty Navy who think they can treat homeowners like tenants in government housing.

They keep raising their mandatory dues in order to keep the lawyers happy. They have never done anything for me except to provide a community pool with lifeguards.

The sheep that attend the meetings go along with whatever new rule they want to impose. I try to ignore them as much as possible.

If I wanted to live a regimented life in my retirement I would have stayed in the Navy.

Willa Edwards said...

I agree with you CJ. I don't like politics, I'm not good at politics, but I can't seem to get away from them at work. I don't see why doing your job, and doing it well, don't count more, but there's only so much I can do about that. Apparently being honest about when things are wrong so we can fix them, makes me negative and knocks me out of the running for a promotion. But not saying anything, to me is more hurtful. Why let something wrong go on until its a bigger mess?

CJ England said...

Ray,

You'd be surprised at the number of stories I hear about publishers every week. It's ridiculous that just doing the right thing...doing her job as an author makes her--in their eyes--a DIVA. I agree. It's them that are the DIVAS...in spades!

CJ England said...

Ray, when we lived in Florida we lived in a Housing Association. It's hard NOT to if you want a decent home. But I hated it. They had people with nothing better to do but walk the neighborhood and find fault. Drove me nuts!!!

We did NOT miss that when we moved.

CJ England said...

I agree, Willa. I can't tell you the number of places I've worked where telling the truth cost someone their promotion or even their job. It is insane.

At least as an author I don't have to deal with that. Just publishers who don't have a clue. *sigh*

It's everywhere.

Ray said...

Speaking of politics, if you aren't a golfer you don't get the promotions in the old boy network. You don't have a chance if you stay and work while someone is glad handing the boss.

I only played one part of politics. I always went to coffee breaks at sea. The ship's Master and all the department heads would sit around and talk about whoever wasn't in the room. You could end up being a pariah just for not going for a cup of coffee.

The master one ship was a published author. When I wasn't taking care of patients he had me type the manuscript for his latest true tale. Some of the chapters were complete short stories like the man who was a shipyard worker in Pearl Harbor in 1941. He took a machinegun that was still wrapped in cosmoline and paper, put it together, mounted it and fired back at the attacking planes. The Murmansk run dodging submarines and having to watch ships that had been sunk and not being allowed to go back for survivors for fear of being sunk.

Markee Anderson said...

CJ...your friend is not alone. I had a friend call me with exactly the same complaints about an epub last night. I told her to drop the contract and go indie--AND make more money in the meantime. These epubs don't GET it at all...if they treat authors badly, they're out of business. Period. They should bend over backward to make authors happy.

So tell your friend, if they drop the contract, it's not the end of the world. Indie isn't tough at all, and I've helped more than one person get into it, and all of them are happier for doing so.

Good luck...and I completely agree with your article. :)

Cat Gardiene said...

Well said, CJ! It seems like the whenever the balance of power is out of whack, the "right" thing becomes more subjective. With the job market the way it is, employers have more power and seem, sadly, to be using it. The housing market... ditto - buyers in today's market are asking for things that are completely beyond the pale. The publishing example is the most amazing, since it's becoming easier and easier to self-pub and there are more e-publishers out there. It's only once she was locked into the contract and her intellectual property was no longer "shoppable" that things got ugly. Good for her for sticking to her guns. Too often "our lawyers are better than yours" ends up deciding the fight.

Thanks for the rant!

CJ England said...

Jonathon has been in that same place, Ray. Hanging out where he really didn't want to just to play the game. It's irritating that it's become part of the job description.

CJ England said...

Hey Markee,

Thanks for the info. I've already begun researching indie myself. I'm tired of the crap some of the small epubs give you. My bigger houses, Samhain / LI are great, but it seems the smaller the house, the more bitchy they become.

For those who are interested in more information, where can you be contacted?

CJ England said...

Exactly, Cat. We shouldn't have to put our hard earned cash down to have a lawyer say the same thing we did. The right thing. It makes me crazy. Ummm...crazier. LOL

Markee Anderson said...

Oh, and CJ, let me know when you're ready to take the plunge. Email me. :) We'll talk. LOL!

Markee Anderson said...

Just go to my website (www.markeeanderson.com) and my email's on there. Or I'm at www.sweettalebooks.com, where all of my emails for all of my pen names are located. Tell your friend that once she dumps the contract to email me. I can help her get started. And I do agree...the smaller the epub, the nastier. I only know of one that's kind of big that's really nasty (not the two you mention). :)

Markee Anderson said...

LOL...reverse my last two comments. They posted backward.

CJ England said...

Thanks, Markee. I'll jot it down and take you up on it. Pass it to those who ask as well.

Markee Anderson said...

Okee dokee. I just don't want to be inundated. LOL!