Ever had to talk to someone about something you didn’t do?
Ever had to tell someone that you’re not ready for something you were supposed to do?
Ever had to call into work a little too late to let your boss know that you’re sick?
This is what I consider to be Weasel Work. Just like weasel words are used to pass off the need to back-up your claims, weasel work is the work you have to do to get yourself off the hook for not doing something. I dearly hate weasel work because it is a confirmation that I am breaking a promise. While most will forgive me, and a good reputation will help dampen others’ disappointment, the fact is I’m not doing what I said I would.
I had to do this today when I had to postpone a meeting because I did not set up the preparation session for that meeting.
I’m doing it again right now because I don’t have my video ready just yet. I also lost my stylus pen for my laptop this evening, which is slowing me down tonight. I promise myself I will recover it or buy a new one tomorrow!
The knowledge that I couldn’t deliver, or will let someone down is hard to deal with in the moment. I try hold myself to a high standard and that means that when I don’t measure up to that standard, there is a personal and emotional consequence. While I don’t relish the emotional self-flagellation, I am acutely aware of the failing and have to willfully put it aside. After all, there is a real world out there that has to contend with my failure (however significant or insignificant).
My policy has always been to face my failings head-on. I don’t pass-off my failures on other people and I try my best to say “I forgot” or “I didn’t” rather than soften it with “we won’t be able to…”
I feel that lying about such a failure or mistake will only bog me down in a web of lies. When I screw up, I tell others, and face the consequences. It’s worked for me so far. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy. I think that when faced with reporting failure, there are two very natural but very unhealthy ways of doing it:
- Blame an external force
- Engage in self punishment
I find the momentary discomfort of confronting my failure to be preferable to the long term denial of #1 and long term damage of #2. #1 is particularly virulent because it requires building a narrative that makes me the victim. These mental contortions require more energy than I care to expend.
So, I just fess up. People appreciate contrition, and the truth is that my high standards usually result in a good reputation that shields me from small failures. Doing right by people most of the time makes them treat my screw-ups as exceptions rather than examples.
How do you deal with Weasel Work?
This week’s lack of apparent momentum is not for the lack of work. I had a family engagement on the weekend that took quite a few quality work hours off the table 😑. Here’s some progress on my current item – an illustration that will be featured in the intro video:
And again, you can always drop by Free Drove’s Twitter for more frequent (but small) updates.
Thanks for reading!! 😆