Friday, April 23, 2010

"It's Not My Job!"

The manuscript was ready to go. The deadline for having it to the publisher loomed. But the photos had yet to arrive from the original photographer. She had not responded to any of my (many) e-mails regarding the high-res photo files I needed for the book. So, to make sure she got my e-mails and understood what was needed, I called.

In a nutshell, she had no intention of sending me the files I needed. She also had no intention of contacting me to say so.

You see, she was terribly upset that we hired a different photographer to finish illustrating the project. When I asked if she really thought that the photographs she sent me were enough to correctly illustrate the entire project, she replied that it wasn’t her job to decide such things. She took the photos that she was told to take. (This is not entirely true, as -- in addition to the numerous shots that were unacceptable for reasons that ranged from incorrect framing to inept composition -- entire sections of requested photo illustrations were missing entirely.)

I didn’t point out that the client who “told her to take photos” was the same one who had hired her in order to get the benefit of her experience. I also didn’t mention that, though it wasn’t MY job, I would have been happy to provide her with a complete list of what was needed to illustrate the book. I could have even drawn her little storyboard-like pictures, if she had only told me she didn’t have a clue.

In any case, the manuscript went out. While I generally prefer to compile everything and send it to the publisher in one comprehensive package, this one was minus a certain photographer’s contribution. The publisher was aware of the situation and as a result of “Miss Not My Job,” the editor of the project, another photographer, the expert for whom I was writing, AND I got saddled with extra work.

Be careful about playing the “It’s Not My Job” card if something is not done. If you are going to play it, be sure that it is tempered by cogent communication to all parties concerned. Also, be aware that few people in a big project do only what their “job” entails. A successful project comes about only with the support of team players.

Don’t be in a hurry to narrowly define your “job.” Not only is it self-limiting, but it can also stall a project or close it down altogether. Oddly enough, a myopic job description often accompanies someone who is overly concerned with who gets credit for what. That, too, can stop a project in its tracks.

Doing something that is not your job is not a bad thing. It can teach you new skills (like photo editing, for instance). It can put you in touch with professionals that you might not otherwise interact with. It makes you a more integral and important part of the project team. And – who knows – you might discover that you actually enjoy what you’re doing.

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