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Are You Sometimes A Prima Donna?

Posted by on Feb 22, 2012

I have to own up to something. There are times when I’m one of the biggest prima donna’s in the world. I don’t mean Italian opera singer (or necessarily any Italian or singer for that manner, but it was the first definition in the dictionary) that has to be the center of it all. I actually don’t even mean having to be the center of it all. I mean the second definition from Merriam-Webster: “a vain or undisciplined person who finds it difficult to work under direction or as part of a team“. That’s a shame, but also a necessity; let’s talk about it.

One of my favorites,
Kelly Rowlands

Most of you know I do a lot of writing. Writing is basically a solo occupation, whether you’re writing for yourself or someone else. Unless you’re a script writer of some kind it’s just you and your resources; that’s pretty much it. Even though most of the time you’re writing for yourself, there are times when you’re writing for someone else because they’re paying you. In those times, you’ve actually negotiated whether you’re going to write for those people as much as whether they want you to write for them. It’s an important distinction to make, and I’m going to make it by telling a story.

Back in December I was asked if I could provide some content for a site whose focus is the same as my main income occupation; not giving any details. Because I knew the guy, I said that I would set up a one month contract at a reduced rate so he could get an idea of the types of things I would write, and if he and his new company found them acceptable then we would negotiate a new contract based on my writing rates.

The assignment on the other side was tasked to someone other than my friend, and I have to admit that this guy kind of immediately got on my nerve when he told me when he wanted the content. It wasn’t at the same time I’d agreed upon with my friend, and I could have ignored it, but during that period I didn’t have anything else to do, knew the field anyway, and wrote 10 articles in two days. I thought they were pretty high quality articles, not my opinion but deep stuff, and I’ll admit I was proud of them. I was also proud at how fast I’d produced them, and felt that I had over-delivered for a client; that’s how small businesses should perform, wouldn’t you agree?

I sent them out earlier than they’d been requested as well, thinking the guy would appreciate it. Then… nothing. No acknowledgment of receiving them, nothing about what he or anyone else thought about them, and worst of all, no payment. Now, because it was my friend, someone I’ve actually worked with over the years, I knew he’d take care of me. However, it was now someone else I didn’t know, and I wasn’t pleased with any of it.

After 3 weeks I contacted the guy & asked if he’d received the articles, and then asked about being paid. He wrote saying he did receive the articles, nothing else, and said I had to send an invoice to get paid. I had never had to send an invoice to my friend before but this is kind of a newer business and I guess that’s how they run things. Still, I was irked that I hadn’t been told this beforehand; it’s not in the contract after all.

I immediately sent the invoice and then I waited… and waited… and waited… Nothing. I did finally hear from my friend who apologized that the company hadn’t paid me and that he’d just heard about it, and he said the check would immediately be coming, out of his private account yet; that’s just not right, but I appreciated his looking out for me.

Then came an email from this guy basically saying they wanted more articles, and that was that. Nothing about the previous articles, nothing about how many, and I didn’t like it one bit. I didn’t like it because I don’t see someone asking for more articles as telling me whether what I’d given them before was good, bad, or what they wanted. As someone who went above and beyond, I thought I deserved to at least have that acknowledged; come on, at least a thank you for what I’d done before right?

That part, the acknowledgment part, makes me a prima donna. In a way, writers aren’t supposed to care what people think about what they write. However, business people are supposed to care, and maybe that’s where things fell apart. So many people in business, especially those in leadership positions, don’t believe that they ever have to give praise to anyone. They feel that people go to work and if nothing’s ever said to them and they get paid, that should be enough. They have no problems telling people what they did wrong, but telling people that they do good… nada.

I’m not that guy. Y’all know I also do leadership and motivational training, and when I wrote this article on my business blog last year titled Why Positive Motivation Is Needed, I wrote this line: “Daily encouragement can make people feel good and make them want to work for you as hard as they can.” Who here doesn’t believe that if you heard that on a consistent basis, especially if it was true, that you wouldn’t feel good and work harder?

This is also why we blog and love blog comments. Whereas there are a lot of people that will tell you that it’s more important to get business than it is comments, which may or may not be true, it’s the camaraderie, the recognition of our hard work and dedication to our blogs and our audience that we’d like to know is appreciated. In a way, the want of comments makes us all prima donnas. This is why I’m thankful when I get “real” comments on this blog; I like knowing that in some fashion I’ve touched people, whether they agree with me or not. I’m betting you do as well.

Who else is willing to own up to their inner prima donna? Come on, you know it’s true. 😉

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Darn you for writing such good posts that I want to respond to Mitch – lol. I disagree, your response isn’t prima donnaish – it’s a request for common courtesy and feedback about your professional input. How do you know what he liked/didn’t like if he doesn’t take the time to say? You could assume you know because he wants more, but that’s a bit of a stab in the dark, kind of like second guessing or an attempt at mind reading, and in my experience it usually ends up badly. He’s being unclear in his expectations by not giving feedback – yet he wants your input for his business. His actions are those of a foolish, rude, arrogant man and a poor leader.
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February 22nd, 2012 | 7:18 PM

Thanks Sue. Actually, I’m not even sure the guy’s a leader, but I do know I wasn’t happy overall with the non-response across the board. That and the taken for granted attitude I felt came with it. I may lose the writing gig, but I’ll keep my dignity.

February 22nd, 2012 | 11:26 PM

I agree with Sue. I don’t think you were acting like a “prima donna” Wanting to be acknowledged just for the sake of being acknowledged is what I call a “prima donna.” Now that might be me—and I’m blaming it on my parents because I am an only child 🙂

Not sure why you’re not able to see my latest blog post but I do have one there.

February 22nd, 2012 | 8:21 PM

Thanks Bev; as you know I’m an only child myself, and of course always want to hear good stuff, but hearing something helps as well. I’m not sure why your link isn’t showing either; CLuv is wonky sometimes I’ve noticed.

February 22nd, 2012 | 11:31 PM

Mitch, you get comments because your blog is unique in many ways. Another reason is that you have actually turn your blog into something similar to discussion board and excellent way to communicate.

About the first part, I think everybody will be able to reach success if it is possible to multiply and have few clones, because there will be always understanding. I have never been much of team player and when i have had “normal” job, I have always been team leader or manager, even at the age of 17. I pretty much don’t like working when the chain is too long, one of my latest projects, I was managing a web developer, data processor and graphic designers. The first one was extremely slow, graphic designer was extremely basic but fast and data processor was pretty much irrelevant in the equation, but at the and it appeared that the first one was slowing everything, the designer had to rework everything. By the way when there was “Destiny’s Child”, Kelly was also my favorite.

February 22nd, 2012 | 8:54 PM

Carl, the way to good team management is setting priorities, judging only on the work and not the personalities, and encourage, encourage, encourage. And if one person isn’t cutting it then replace them; nothing personal. But if people don’t know what’s good or bad they can’t get things done properly.

February 22nd, 2012 | 11:34 PM

Showing the right direction, can help many times, no matter it is business or even personal relationship, but actually for the second one may be more difficult. In the time I was in graphic design and animation business, very often even customers were confused and didn’t know what they want, but guiding them was the key to find the right path.

February 23rd, 2012 | 8:28 AM

I’m with you Carl. One can let people just go off on their own and hope that they can continue to motivate themselves and produce what you want or maybe every once in awhile offer them something, even if it’s just a quick “way to go” or “thank you”. Just something to let them know you’re paying attention and appreciate what they do for you. The contract that just ended for me writing wedding articles, the guy let me do whatever I wanted to do but always told me how much he appreciated what I was doing for him. That was great and that’s all it took.

February 24th, 2012 | 1:45 AM

Yes I do agree with you in some points and what I feel you don’t act like prime donna. Every body has their own attitude and living style. So it depends how you act. Thanks for continuing a great discussion. I will be certainly back.

February 23rd, 2012 | 3:38 AM

I appreciate you for looking inside yourself and discovering something you did not like. It takes a big person to admit they have flaws. People who do not know me might think I am non social, which is the opposite because I did not talk to people I did not know in CA, because it was not safe.

February 23rd, 2012 | 4:23 PM

Actually Michael, I’m not sure I owned up to flaws as much as owned up to the reality that I like appreciation as much as the next person, but at the very least I want feedback.

February 24th, 2012 | 1:46 AM
Sherry Barnes:

I have been in busines for year the guy behavior was unacceptable. You were well within your right to do what you did . He was not only arrogant but dishonest by not ensure that you were paid for your articles . To top it off he then has theaudacity to ask you to write more article without apologizing.
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February 23rd, 2012 | 11:34 PM

Thanks Sherry. Luckily I did get payment but on the other side I really think I feel a sense of loss in a strange way, almost like I’m just a content producer and nothing else. Nope, I don’t think so.

February 24th, 2012 | 1:47 AM

That trait is common to all creative people; we all want to be recognized for our efforts. I think it is more of the dominant side of the brain. People like the guy tend to view things as it’s all business.
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February 23rd, 2012 | 11:45 PM

And in a major way that’s just so wrong Kaitlin, because every business book you read talks about business motivation either of self or of others and how it brings about the most positive changes.

February 24th, 2012 | 1:49 AM
Reeha@printer toners:

I don’t agree to one point that you are acting like prime donna. other points are acceptable for me. great post. great post for discussion. amazing topic you choose.
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February 24th, 2012 | 1:06 AM

Hi Mitch, well, I don’t see you as a prima donna with this case. 🙂 I think you have all the right to get angry because your work wasn’t acknowledged and you were not paid, then they just requested for more articles? That’s quite ridiculous and if I were you, I’d get angry, too!

February 24th, 2012 | 6:40 AM

Thanks Aurea. I did get paid finally but nothing else to this point, which is kind of disappointing but I guess that’s just how it goes sometimes.

February 24th, 2012 | 1:21 PM

If Capo di tuti Capi is right, I am the prima di tutti prima donni. Permanent, no apologies.
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February 24th, 2012 | 9:47 AM

LOL! Funny as it seems, I actually know what you said here and I’d agree with it. You certainly are the lead in your own blogging story, that’s for sure. 🙂

February 24th, 2012 | 1:22 PM

Mitch, that’s not being a prima dona at all. You’re just wanting them to stick to the agreement that was on paper. That’s just good business sense.
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February 24th, 2012 | 12:47 PM
Cristian Balau:

Hello Mitch. I had this kind of clients before and decided to drop many of them after our first deal. As you I like communication and some feedback after I deliver.

Unfortunately lots of clients have the idea that working online is some kind of joke and they think you have just them as a client and somehow they are making you a favor.
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February 25th, 2012 | 7:46 AM

Cristian, I think it’s more than just working online. I think all of us have something that we find hard to value properly. For instance, you go get an oil change, how much do you think you should pay? Here, it can range from $14.95 up to $60, depending on who’s doing it and the how they do it. If I went to someone and said I’d charge them $40, they’d have an interesting time trying to figure out if I was either cheating them or giving them a nice deal.

February 25th, 2012 | 2:16 PM

I do not see you as a Prima Donna either Mitch. We all want to be appreciated for our work and when I was in corporate America I use to tell my managers the same thing. I’ll do a much better job for you if I know I’m appreciate. The money is nice but I want to enjoy coming to work and doing the job.

How are you suppose to know that what you provided for that client was spot on if they didn’t tell you. I would assume it was since they wanted more but he didn’t pay you yet so asking for more, you had every right to be upset. Hell, I’d be upset but I’m that person who will say something about it. I know, that doesn’t always bode well with others I’m afraid.

Great job Mitch, I’ll tell you my friend. I have no doubt you’re a class act when it comes to your profession and I’m sorry you have to deal with people who don’t appreciate you in that respect.

Maybe some of these people ought to watch the Undercover Boss and actually get out there and do some work right beside their employees. They might have a different opinion by the time their day is over.
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February 25th, 2012 | 3:31 PM

Thanks Adrienne; I love that show! I think I wrote about it on one of these blogs as well. I actually did mention it & haven’t heard back yet, but I expect to one way or another. I always gave feedback to employees when I was an every day employee and it generated a lot of loyalty, even when you weren’t telling them what they wanted to hear. but it was always about the job, never personal, and it was how I delivered it. I didn’t want anyone to ever be scared to come into my office, whether it was because I called them or because they wanted to say something to me.

As for the rest, I like to think I’m a class act, but I have to admit that sometimes holding on to one’s morals as it concerns business limits the amount of business I get. That’s a shame, but so far I can live with myself.

February 25th, 2012 | 5:04 PM

Sigh… you do have the right to throw a fit. In my case, I didn’t bother… Didn’t get my money back either. It’s the past. Lesson learned – Throw a fit next time!
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March 8th, 2012 | 12:06 PM