At least several times a month I get some kind of "free" thing in the mail. Mailing labels with my address. Free notebooks with my name inscribed on them. These "free" items come with a plea from the sender: Would I consider donating to "Doctors Without Mercedes"? (Or something like that.) If not, I am assured, I can still keep the "free" labels or cards.
But to me, this kind of stuff isn't really "free." It comes loaded with guilt. If I throw it away, I'm adding to the landfill problem. Of course, I didn't order the labels, but they're now my problem since "ANITA BRUZZESE' is emblazoned upon them. Or, I can contribute to "Save the Chipmunks" and hope that my $10 or $25 covers the cost of the labels I don't want, and saves a chipmunk or two.
Only here's the big problem. Once I contribute, I'm sunk. Because from now until the end of time, I will receive lots of free stuff I don't want and be asked to contribute.
This is often a painful cycle repeated in the workplace. There is the mother who is selling her chocolate bars for her daughter's band trip to Washington, D.C.. Or, the father who is helping his child sell magazines for school. The young co-worker who wants you to sponsor him on a 22-day trek across the Serengeti to raise money for orphaned zebras. The photo of an emaciated kitten in the breakroom with a note of "contribute if you want....no obligation!" along with (of course) that pledge card and envelope.
Oh, geez. If you contribute, you're caught forever in the endless cycle of "Well, I contributed to Nancy's niece's field trip so I should be fair and contribute to Bob's charity cookie walk and then I should buy wrapping paper from the boss's daughter...."
As long as I have been in the workplace, someone is hitting me up for money for "a good cause." And, I usually contribute because, let's face it, how can sleep at night thinking I didn't save a baby zebra?
But in these tough economic times, when most of us are hanging on as best we can, isn't it time to give our colleagues a break? Stop asking for money. Stop saying our co-workers "don't have to contribute" when you know they feel obligated to do so or you're going to rat them out to the boss on some trivial matter, or conveniently forget to give them an important message.
Let's let our colleagues focus on hanging onto their jobs, worrying about their mortgage and spending a few bucks on an iced latte as a treat instead of bugging them to buy one more magazine they don't have time to read.
How do you feel about contributing to causes in the workplace?