Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole


DEAR HARRIETTE: I have been working with a small business owner on a very exciting project. I was clear about my role, and I even got it defined in writing -- I have learned that small vendors often try to get people to do more than they are contracted to do. Sure enough, that's what is happening now. Twice already I have been asked to pitch in at the last minute and help out with responsibilities that are not in my purview and for which I am not being paid.

I hate to sound like I will work only for money, but I do not have time to get sucked into extra duties without pay. I am a freelancer, and I need to work on getting more clients rather than extending my duties beyond what was agreed originally. Do you think I am being stingy with my time? -- Making Boundaries, Shreveport, La.

DEAR MAKING BOUNDARIES: It is very important to create boundaries about roles and responsibilities in business. When you put these details in writing and review them with your clients, you create a better chance of remaining clear as the project gets underway. In some instances, it makes sense to pitch in and do more. Many projects start in a particular way, and additional needs are discovered as time goes on.

That does not mean, however, that you are beholden to fulfill them. What you can do is renegotiate your contract. Or you can put your foot down and say that you are available only to do what is outlined in your agreement. Sometimes stepping away from extra roles is required for an employer to realize that he or she is attempting to squeeze more out of a relationship than is appropriate.

Be kind and be clear. This will allow your employer to evaluate what the needs are and how he or she intends to fulfill them moving forward.

DEAR HARRIETTE: Your advice to "Stressing About Summer," the teen interested in simultaneously mitigating the tension between her and her father and experiencing an "amazing summer," lacked an obvious way to accomplish both: volunteer work. Every community has opportunities to help others. The teen should consider volunteering at a homeless shelter, working at a food pantry or preparing food packets for charities such as Feed My Starving Children. As another example, almost every community has opportunities to help senior citizens. Everything you do for them brightens their eyes, including playing an instrument, bringing in a pet, playing bingo, sharing treats, engaging in conversation or working with event coordinators on special events. Another suggestion is to contact groups that coordinate children's activities -- scouting programs, day camps or children's church schools.

The opportunities to help others are endless. If you don't know where to go to locate the people in need, contact the city or county, a school or a church. This can help the teen with the relationship with her dad and will provide her with many hours of heartwarming joy, leading to an amazing summer and memories to last a lifetime. -- Helpful, Washington, D.C.

DEAR HELPFUL: Volunteering is great on so many levels. Thank you for the reminder!