Is Simple Courtesy Really All that Difficult?

I have been, or at least I thought I had been, a volunteer webmaster for an organization. I was given this job about a year ago when the previous webmaster, a friend of mine, realized that he didn't really have time to to the job. I offered to step in and was given the job. I was set up with the necessary server accounts and permissions. I started to get sent occasional website or listserv updates which I processed within 12 hours of receipt, replying back to the sender when the update was made. Then, without any advance communication, the entire website was moved to a different host. After a week of unreturned e-mails, I finally was given notice that I would actually be co-webmaster because someone else would be needed to "handle the technical end of things". This was really amusing given that I seemed to be quite capable of handling the tech stuff at the old site. I was immediately suspicious, but let it go.

You see, Technical Guy, while being completely overbooked at work is geographically local to the head of this organization. I, on the other hand, am in a separate time zone and at least seven states away. Communicating with me requires adding an extra fifteen keystrokes in the To: field of an e-mail or adding a 3-digit area code when dialing a phone number. This may have been my downfall. It appears that while Org Heat claimed to be going call me "in the next couple of days" because it's important for me to know what's going on, he never really meant that. That's really the only explanation I have for a complete absence of communication. I sent e-mail about 7 or 8 months ago indicating that I needed to kept in the communication loop about changes to the website (like perhaps finding out about a move BEFORE I make changes to the website and discover that none of those changes were retained when the site got moved to the new host because I made the changes on the old server). I actually got a phone call about that, but that is the *only* time I ever received a phone call and even it didn't come without prompting.

When the website moved, I found out about when I made changes to the .html code on what I thought was the current server, loaded up the webpage in my browser and discovered the site was down. When I called my friend who used to host the site he told me it had been moved. That's when I noticed the error message gave me a new host company. Don't you think it might be important to let your webmaster, even just the measly little co-webmaster, know that the site is moving BEFORE it moves so that the move can be seamless? Apparently not in the Org Head's universe. In his world, the site goes down for three days and it takes another week for the links that were broken to get fixed. And a week to get me access to the server at all, then two more weeks before I can actually edit or upload files to the server.

The phone call I received after the site host change fiasco consisted of apologies for poor communication, statements that this lack of communication would be changing, statements that my contributions were definitely valuable and that Org Head would be the only contact I would be having in the organization so I should absolutely not contact the other webmaster at all. The last bit sounded a little fishy to me, but I let it go. I was told that I should expect regular communication. I guess I should have asked about the frequency of said regular communication.

The organization newsletter came out a few weeks later and announced to everybody that the webmaster is not me. I didn't even get listed as co-webmaster. I sent e-mail asking just what the deal is. I got nothing back except an e-mail saying Org Head was busy but would call me Real Soon Now because it was important that he talk to me. That call never came. I sent e-mail to the organization listserv in answer to an unrelated question and said that I had taken over the webmaster job from previous guy. I got e-mail from Org Head saying that I was not allowed to post messages to the listserv without his permission. Definitely getting an icky feeling about this now.

At the organization's annual meeting, I decided to not attend the awards ceremony as I was tired and not feeling well. I got a phone call from ex-webmaster friend telling me I needed to go down there because I was going to get a BIG award. So I haul myself down there where I am given the highest award in the organization for "significant contributions to the organization and on the web". (My "contribution" involved adding half a dozen classes to an educational program schedule and changing some mailing addresses. Not exactly significant when put next to the other winners who have taught hundreds of classes in a year.) As the award is handed to me and shortly afterward, Org Head says he really wants to talk to me, that it's very important that we catch up and let's meet tomorrow right after lunch. I see Org Head at lunch. He says he'll come find me in 15-20 minutes. He doesn't. He doesn't even have the courtesy to call me when en route to the airport to tell me that he can't meet with me. I get an e-mail a week or two later saying "more important things came up." Ok, I might buy that more important things came up, but I don't buy that he was so incredibly busy that neither he nor his "secretary" could tell me that there was a schedule problem. Since the conference in July I heard exactly nothing, despite the fact that in July I was going to get a phone call in the "next week or two."

This past week I decided to follow up on the observation that I hadn't received any e-mail to the webmaster or listserv manager e-mail addresses for several weeks. Being not a complete idiot, I had observed that there were numerous updates to the website that I had neither made nor been told needed to be made. I also noticed that the listserv was set to emergency moderation status, presumably for some reason, but not for any reason of which I was aware. First I sent test messages to the admin e-mail addresses. They never arrived in my inbox. So I sent e-mail to Org Head asking what was going on since it was my understanding based on our last conversation at the conference that I was doing this job.

What I found out was that Org Head had decided just tfat very day (isn't that convenient) that my services were no longer needed and that it would be easier to have the website done "in the organization". (Keep in mind that the organization consists of Org Head and Secretary. They couldn't tell a server from a PlayStation and probably think that Linux is the character in Peanuts that has the blanket.) Apparently there have been all sorts of problems with the website and the listserv, but nobody saw fit to include me in either the problems or the fixes. In any event, my "valuable contributions" are no longer needed.

I only wonder how long it would have been before Org Head decided to get around to telling me that I wasn't actually working for him any more. The only reason I any communication at all was because I asked what was going on and could I please get put back on the e-mail redirect for the admin messages.

I will be sending back my award next week. I didn't earn it and I have done exactly nothing for the organization since it was given to me. It was a bone thrown to me because Org Head felt guilty. Giving out an award that is unearned degrades the value of the award and the contributions of everybody else who did actually earn it. I don't deserve to have it and its completely meaningless anyway. They might as well have it back and give it to someone who does actually make a significant contribution to the organization.

Nothing like getting fed a line of BS about how great and wonderful you are and "we'll talk real soon now because you're important" only to find out you really aren't important enough to bother calling at all or to be told the truth, even when something actually involves you. My entire life I've been told I was important at the same time people's actions showed me that I really wasn't important at all.

(Update: The Org Head has informed me that we'll have to agree to disagree about common business practices. He says it's completely normal to change things up and not inform the involved parties. As for the rest, he has told me in e-mail that I "have my own history and assumptions and he can't change that." I guess that means I'm delusional and imagined the e-mails where he indicated we would be communicating, therefore this whole mess must be my fault.)

Apparently the world is set up to point out to me that I am, in fact, a doormat. I do my very best job and I am used, knocked to the ground and walked upon. I'd like to think I'm a good person who deserves to be treated with common courtesy and politeness like everybody else on the planet, but apparently not. There is something about me that apparently teaches people that I should be manipulated and used, then strung along with lies until people get whatever they want from me. If I protest, I am blamed for whatever happened. If I ask what's going on, I get thrown aside and nobody looks back. I do not seem to merit being treated decently. I get it now. I am a nobody and nothing important. Yay for me.


Stefaneener said…
Sounds like a really rotten day. Does this sort of stuff happen all the time?

My spouse has this sort of interaction following him around and it happens in enough varied situations that I'm hoping he'll spend some time searching out his part in the dance. . . but I'm not holding my breath.

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