A strange thing happened to me this week—twice. I’m wondering if this is the new norm. I had two first-time interactions with female representatives from two different companies. Each woman explained her poor customer service and tardy attention to my needs by providing me with details of her children’s lives.
There are many business contacts and vendors with whom I have long-standing associations. We might interact only a few times a year, but over the course of years a relationship develops. When, last week, one of these men apologized for not responding rapidly to an email, I appreciated his letting me know that his father-in-law’s passing led to his missing work. I was able to send condolences as well as dismissing any concerns that his work ethic was slipping. It was appropriate for him to share personal information.
The two instances this week, however, were completely different. In one case, the company’s agent explained that she might be late for a one-time appointment if her daughter’s doctor visit went too long. Excuse me? As a human being and a mother, I appreciate that doctor visits are unpredictable. That has nothing to do with me as a client. Surely, she should have informed her company of her dilemma at which point they might arrange to send another agent in her place or they could choose to call, apologize and reschedule. As it was, the agent kept me waiting for half an hour.
The second instance was with a company’s representative assigned to my account. In this case, we are at the beginning of what is meant to be a protracted working relationship. After following up when I did not receive a timely response to an email, I heard back. While the email started with an apology for not responding and ended with an assurance that our account mattered, in between our representative explained how many children she has and how, obviously, they keep her busy.
I don’t get it. Is this the new professionalism? After socially and financially engineering our society so women both choose to and are forced to work, are we dropping the illusion of expecting the same level of service as a man provides? Has ‘equal pay for equal work,’ which at least sounds fair even if statistics are manipulated to make a case for it, devolved into an open and outright acknowledgment that what is demanded is actually ‘equal pay for lesser work’?
I greatly appreciate motherhood. I appreciate many things including caring for elderly parents, community involvement, charitable work, devoting time to strengthening marriage, hobbies and play. I think that life works better when a man and woman combine their talents and time to build a unified family, social and economic life. Our society has chosen over the past few decades to reject that idea, insisting that one person can do it all—work, raise children and still find time for other interests.
As this idea is shown to be impossible, my experiences this week suggest that we may have moved to the next level where we admit that family and work demands often conflict. Is the new response to basically say, “Tough luck” to those who depend on functioning businesses, throwing another hand grenade at America’s tottering economy?
Was my experience simply a (I hesitate to use the word) coincidence? Are you also finding that the lines between personal and professional are blurring in a disturbing way?
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