So, one of my friends re-posted a tweet on her ‘gram account yesterday that caught my eye. It was from a husband talking about his wife’s night of crafting, where 2 of her 3 friends backed out of the evening 30 minutes before they were to show up. He called this ‘bail culture’ and proclaimed that it is the ‘worst part of our generation.’ (To which generation this person identifies, I know not.)
What intrigued me was the name tag he put on this horrible habit of ours — quitting last minute as #bailculture.
I honestly used to think that was just an Indiana thing or a ‘Midwest Nice’ thing (like, we’d prefer to be passive aggressive and say yes to your face, but we really mean no). Whatever the root cause, when planning events, one should count on at least half the people who signed up for something to not show up. It’s maddening and insanely frustrating to meeting and event planners around the world — this high percentage of ghosters — but it does seem to be rampant in our culture.
Why have we accepted bail culture?
On one hand, it’s one of the highest forms of rudeness, in my opinion. It’s like a last slap in the face for trying to be an organizer and doer of something — only to get a last second and sometimes even smug, “thanks but no thanks, I’m not coming” text or email. (Especially for organizers — really, we’ve got 100 guests who actually showed up — do you think we’re sitting around waiting on our phones to coddle your excuses for your last second dropout?)
On the other hand, I’m the first to admit that I’ve done it myself in the past. (Honestly, mainly out of self-care reasons, like overcommitting in the past and being a high introvert.)
Through this post, I’m going to provide some suggestions on how to cut this bail culture out like the metastatic growth that it really is…. Ready?
How to Cease and Desist Bail Culture
- Thank people for the opportunity: I generally try to thank people for thinking of me when presented with a new opportunity (even if it’s something I have zero interest in pursuing). But I always appreciate that people thought of me. I try not to forget that before I say or do anything else. Timing can be a huge factor here too — sometimes there are cool opportunities that come my way, but I’m too bogged down with other things that my answer is not a “No,” but more of a “not right now.”
- Stop overcommitting: This is one of the hardest battles I’ve fought in my head since I was a child. I was that nerd in high school who took the extra classes (zero hour, anyone?) and tried to be a part of every club or group out there to rack up the experiences and live my one and only life. Because, I truly wanted to experience everything all the time. But now, I’ve wrestled with my inner demons of saying yes to everything and come out on the other side as a ruthless editor. I know I just cannot do everything anymore, so I have to be very, very careful what I say yes to. And if I don’t say yes in writing, it didn’t really happen.
- If you call the meeting, you don’t cancel: If you’re the friend who wants to go out for drinks and catch up, or you’re the person who calls the meeting, never, ever bail on it. If you’ve committed to the universe that you’re going to make something happen, then honor that commitment. If for no other reason — for your own reputation as a doer and ‘get things done’ person, and someone who finishes what they start. Now, I get that force majeure may happen in rare instances, but that should be like 0.1% of all your meetings. Like fires, floods and acts of war should really be the only excuses for canceling on someone especially if you called the meeting. I can state with alacrity that the next time one of my contacts asks for a second meeting after they bailed the first, it will be ignored or they’ll flat out get a ‘No thanks’ from me. Because…time is the one thing we never get back. And my time and yours is worth more than a solid gold bar.
- If you call the meeting, you own it: Providing meetings and events is not really a democracy. Meaning — if you want to do something, you need to own it. Do it right. Be either 100% in or out. You’re never going to please everyone, so make sure you’re pleasing yourself and putting out a quality product or event if your name is on it. (Again, this goes back to being careful about what you say yes to…). And, I’m about to go counter to bullet 3 — if you call the meeting, and you’ve got nothing to say — then admit it and admit that you should cancel it. Be really watchful of not only your calendar, but others’ calendars as well. Never, ever be accused of wasting people’s precious time. (In fact, I personally think that should be a crime in many jurisdictions.)
- If you’re organizing the shindig, never be afraid to charge something for it: People love free, but they also love skating on free. If you sign up for something without any skin in the game, you’re much more likely to bail on it. That’s why it’s important for you as the organizer to charge for your meet up. It’s not so much about making money; it’s more about making sure people are committed to showing up. I find freeloaders love to bail on meetings the most. You never, ever want to be that guy.
Friends don’t let friends make horrible social faux pas like supporting bail culture — regardless of what generation someone identifies with…we’ve all got to start respecting one another’s calendars. I know it’s all the rage to tout kindness right now — but shouldn’t that begin with respecting others and their time FIRST, since time is the one thing we never get back? To me, that is the kindest gesture of all.