Respect Begins With Each Other
By Christy Lamagna CMP, CMM, CTSM
I was the head of corporate events and travel for a tech company in Silicon Valley in early 2000. I managed a global team of professionals who managed over $5 million a year in event spend. We did great work, were paid well and, for the most part, loved what we did. When the internet bubble burst and 9/11 happened, we were forced to let droves of people go. My entire team was dismantled. I was crushed. Between survivor’s guilt and the uncertainty of the company’s future, it was a difficult time.
An independent planner had been calling on me for months looking for work. I had a full staff and didn’t need help but welcomed her to check back every few months. She called after I had let my final remaining team member go. I shared with her what had just happened, and her response was an enthusiastic, ‘That’s GREAT! We can finally work together!”
When I told her how offended I was by her insensitivity, she apologized profusely. She sent me flowers the next day and our relationship continued but I never forgot that moment or how it made me feel. Sadly, I think we all experience that feeling of insensitivity a lot more often these days and from more than one source.
Here’s why. Our industry is plagued with stories of frustration about not being respected for what we do, lack of staff, impossible deadlines and workloads and glass ceilings that are pitifully low in our industry. We look to our supervisors, clients and vendors, and colleagues, placing the blame of this disrespect at their feet. If only they treated us better, our professional lives would improve.
The truth is many of us are the worst culprits of this bad behavior and others are simply following our lead. We engage in power struggles within our offices, work in silos in fear that someone will steal our ideas or take credit for them and we tend to be very guarded about the colleagues we allow into our circles. Inter-departmental struggles are common and a prevailing sense of protecting one’s territory overrides genuine collaboration and bonding with co-workers.
We are not selective in who we treat poorly. Our behavior spills into our client/vendor relationships too. When hotels mandate their in-house partner for audio visual services, thereby eliminating our right to work with preferred vendors and simultaneously putting smaller companies out of work, we don’t push back on the hotels or stand up for the production companies with enough force. When hotels cut commissions by 3%, corporate planners move on to the next topic because it isn’t their problem. It may affect their company but not their paychecks, so it’s not a ‘real’ issue.
Industry associations, publications and media outlets expect content for free in return for exposure. So, the speakers who you paid to hear at your last event? That registration money often isn’t passed along to the experts you are paying to hear. The organizations who allegedly champion our industry and the advancement of its professionals won’t pay the thought leaders for their expertise.* Media outlets generate revenue from advertising dollars but won’t create budgets to pay writers for the content the ads sit beside. So, it comes from the top and we all seem to follow the leaders, consciously or not.
We treat each other with a profound lack of respect and are then offended when it happens to us. Think about it; if corporations start to outsource, would it not be comforting and empowering to know that the industry as a whole is going to take a stand? When venues only allow their preferred florists to work within their space, wouldn’t it be the right thing to do to stand up for the artists who create our florals?
We provide billions of dollars to the economy each year and touch billions of people in positive ways, yet the way we touch each other is often derived from competition, jealousy and indifference. Why should we expect more from others when the industry itself continues to cannibalize itself?
Speakers and writers need to get paid. Industry associations need to stand behind us when hotels cut commissions or corporations try to outsource or give admins our jobs. We need to collaborate with each other, not compete. Until we stand together, we are all at the risk of being left standing alone.
Want to take a positive step towards the industry’s future and the way we interact and stand up to the rampant disrespect we all both endure and likely engage in? Email me. I have ideas and would love to hear yours. Christy.Lamagna@strategic.events.
*I am not paid for content I provide for Corporate Event News but I do receive visibility for my business.