You may be aware that The Alliance of Professional Health Advocates maintains a list of mentors – people who have worked in private advocacy for long enough, and who have become successful enough, to be willing to, and able, to mentor advocate wannabes – those of you who want to become the best advocate you can be, but understand there are limitations to your knowledge that will get in the way of your success. Our listed mentors are professionals who are paid for their expertise, education, and advice by those who want to learn from them.
Hold that thought.
We all know there are people “out there” who think they are – or at least behave as if they are – entitled. Entitled to anything at all – entitled to park in a handicap parking space (when they aren’t handicapped), entitled to move to the front of the line, entitled to help themselves to something they should be paying for, even, simply, entitled to interrupt or even bully others.
Their attitude is, what I call, YOM: You Owe Me I call such insistant bullies YOMs.
Almost five years ago I wrote my first YOM post: YOMs and That Sense of Entitlement which focused on patients / potential clients who try to bully an advocate or care professional into helping them, or at the least, into providing them with information for free. They feel entitled to that help – but they are not. The post focuses on typical demands of advocates, and how advocates can respond to them. The bottom line is that no advocate should be bullied into doing anything s/he does not want to do for someone who is not a client.
Now, back to our mentors.
In a conversation recently with one of our mentors, she lamented that she has been contacted recently by advocate wannabes who are behaving like YOMs – as if they are entitled to her time and expertise. Here are two examples:
- She receives emails telling her (not asking!) to “call me next Tuesday at 11 am so we can talk more about this.”
- During phone conversations, advocate wannabes tell her that since she’s a mentor she should be sharing this information or that information, even though they are not contracted to work together. As if she owes them her time to help them for free.
Of course, hearing her frustrations triggered memories of my own. This happens to me all the time! Now, I enjoy spending time on the phone with people who are members of the Alliance. I’m very generous with my time for members; that’s what I’m here for! But I actually spend more time on the phone with people who are thinking of joining to help them get started. I might spend up to an hour with them…
… but then they think nothing of calling me back over and over again with more questions, demanding more of my time, even though they never actually joined the Alliance. Or they send me long emails with a raft of additional questions, demanding my time to answer them. (What’s my response? See below.)
Just like yours – my time is precious. It’s the only thing I have to make my living from. While I don’t mind a brief phone call to talk about someone’s capabilities and possibilities for becoming an advocate, I’m more than a little appalled when they decide that somehow I owe them MORE time when they have never even followed my suggestions from our original conversation, including the recommendation to join the Alliance (which would mean I’ll make more time for them – see above.)
At the very least, it’s rude. At the most, it’s unprofessional. In a new profession where we are working hard to establish ourselves as professional above reproach, there is just no room for that sort of expectation.
They are the advocate version of a YOM. They have no right to more of my time when they don’t follow the advice I give.
Nor do the mentors they contact owe them anything! Nor should those mentors be expected to follow through to satisfy rude demands.
If you run into problems with a YOM, no matter whether it’s a YOM-like attitude from a patient or an advocate, there are solutions. You can find some of them in the previous post about YOMs.
Anti-YOMism solutions are about being the professional you are, and taking command of the situation yourself.
Advocacy is a helping profession. But “helping” isn’t the same as being a patsy. And “profession” demands that we command respect.
Here are some additional ways to counteract YOM-ism:
- Never do what the YOM has demanded. If a YOM says they want you to call next Tuesday, don’t. Instead, if you care to talk to the person at all, set a date and time of YOUR choosing. That gives you the opportunity to establish that baseline of “I’m willing to give my some of my time, but it will be on my schedule, not yours.”
- If your phone rings, use your caller ID to evaluate whether you should answer it. I have a limited number of people I’ll actually answer my phone for. Others leave messages and (as requested in my greeting) their email addresses. Sometimes I’ll phone them back, but it’s more likely I will email them to tell them that it’s more convenient for me to answer them by email (on my time.)
- If you receive a demanding email from someone who isn’t a client, don’t give away the answers to their questions. Instead use it as a possible opportunity to engage with them as a paying client. Remember – you don’t owe them anything. Don’t give away the farm.
- Set up a phone number for your business that only takes messages – that you never answer – giving you the opportunity to call back at a time that works for you, not on the demand of a ring.
- If someone becomes too pushy, no matter whether it’s in email, by phone, or even in person, walk away.
Letting a YOM walk all over you does nothing to help either of you. Only YOU can put an end to the YOMs in your life.