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Not showing up at a work event is career-limiting behaviour

On a sinking rowboat bailing is probably a good thing to do, but the kind of bailing we are writing about is what the New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks calls last-minute bailing on a commitment. In “The Golden Age of Bailing” he says, “You just pull out your phone and bailing on a rendezvous is as easy as canceling an Uber driver.”

The rationale behind most bailing is the belief that the other person “probably won’t mind.” However, before you bail, ask yourself: What is the impact on my relationships and reputation?

If it’s a work bail

Cancelling or being a no-show at a work event is career-limiting behaviour. For example, we were teaching a networking session for an accounting firm, and as part of the setup the internal organizers had placed all the name tags on the table for the employees who had registered. At the end of our session, the two organizers, both of whom were senior managers, made a comment about the name tags left on the table: “We see these same names all the time. They say yes and never show up.”

If it’s a networking bail

Bailing on networking events, whether you are going on your own accord or as a representative of your company, leaves a negative impression. One vice-president of a financial institution reminds his team, “They (your leaders/managers) may not notice you when you are there, but they’ll notice you when you are not.”

If the bail has a backstory

We were travelling to do a speaking gig in Winnipeg and wanted to meet up with a colleague (and friend) while we were in town. We could have taken a flight home right after our conference keynote, but since we had planned dinner with her we had booked an extra night. A few days prior to our arrival, our colleague bailed. Rather than just grumble about it between ourselves, we let her know (in a nice way) that we had extended our stay to see her. She then shared her reason―an unexpected childcare issue. It was an easy fix. She suggested we come to her home, and we ordered pizza. Sometimes you have to let the other person know that you have made an extra effort to see them.

If it’s a friend bail

A once-and-a-while bail on a friend is understandable, but the “I got a better offer” (no matter how it’s phrased) is something most people see through. And the lazy bail, that’s one with no excuse, is bad form.

There’s a recovery for most bails

If you are the one who bails, then it’s up to you to restart the connection. Be sincerely apologetic and reschedule at the other party’s convenience. If you suspect that they have made an extra effort, try to show up. If you were a no-show at an event, let your manager know the reason why. Make sure it is a good one!

The karmic reason to avoid bailing

Dale Burghall, manager of business development at PCL Constructors Inc., says that whenever he is on the fence about whether to attend a certain event, he finds that when he does go, it is usually the time that something very good happens. Perhaps it’s the Law of Showing Up?

Gayle Hallgren-Rezac, Judy Thomson and Darcy Rezac, principals of Shepa Learning Company, are keynote speakers and authors of Work the Pond! Use the Power of Positive Networking to Leap Forward in Work and Life (Penguin/Prentice Hall). They teach the skills of networking and communication to corporate clients, universities and business associations. Please sign up for their free weekly networking tip, it’s always under 200 words.