The competitive martyrdom of client services: the modern-day butler

Very good sir, and might I also wash your socks whilst preparing those presentation slides for you? No no, please don’t worry, I had no plans this evening and indeed I shall not be sleeping, for I know how much you rely on me. Well rest assured, I have it all in hand, you can trust in me.

Perhaps this is a poorly judged blog post, but the significance of the term “client services” is dawning on me with a terrible clarity.

I find myself consistently leaping to every whim of every client, regardless of whether I agree with the reasoning behind it, regardless of my own priorities and physical needs, and bashfully apologising to friends and family for prioritising a stranger over them yet again. Have I become the modern-day butler? Or worse, slave?

What is the psychology behind this? I find my own behaviour contemptible and gross. Do I regard my client’s needs as higher or equivalent to my own? Is their work my work? Is their life my life? Or am I, like Nancy from Oliver!, willing to put up with anything “as long as he neeeeds meeeee”?

I realise now that I am not that special type, the motherly nurturing martyr, who gains pleasure and self-fulfillment from simply “helping others”, irrespective of who that object of help might be.

Such selflessness is evident in the office, as workers strive to provide everything that is requested as fast as they can, and wear the dark circles under their eyes as a badge of honour. Colleagues talk about “helping clients out” but I want to shout that they are simply giving away a product for free. We are not angels that guard over impoverished innocent children, we are merchants who sell a product (our time) to a shrewd customer – what we do is not charity, at least it shouldn’t be.

I feel bitter and angry at the assumption that my time is worth less than anyone else’s.

My life on this Earth is short, and I shall be damned if I give it for free to anyone who I have not chosen to. I love my friends and my family, and it will be they, not a paying stranger, who look after me when I am sick and poor, and it is about time I started treating them as who they are – the most important people in my life.

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