You Gotta Know Your Roles: I Know Mine, What Are Yours?

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December 19, 2013 by Jim C.

I recently had a conversation with an employee who asked me if I liked being a landlord and my response was “Yes, sometimes.”  It made me think of what it was that made me say “Yes, sometimes” instead of just “Yes” or “No.”  When I expounded upon my answer I said that some tenants were good ones and others were just too much work.  This led my thought process to my employees (past and present) as there are good ones and then there are others that are just too much work.  If you deal with people in a work setting you probably know what I mean.  

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone (you and me included) knew our roles?  For instance, as a tenant my role should be to:  a)  pay my rent timely as agreed;  b)  Have pride in my living quarters;  c)  treat my neighbors with respect;  d) return the property to my landlord in the condition I received it.  This to me is a model tenant.  Unfortunately, the model tenant is few and far between.  I question why that is?  Maybe I was brought up differently than most, but I doubt it. 

As an employee my role should be to:  a) Show up for work on time and every scheduled day; b) Show up looking presentable and dressed appropriately for the job; c) Give my employer a full days work (for a full days pay of course!); d) Work/play well with my co-workers; e) Take pride in doing my job well and doing my part to make the company successful.  I find most employees do two or three of these regularly and maybe just one or two well.  I’m very pleasantly surprised when I see an employee doing four and possibly five of these well. 

As an employer my role should be to:  a) Provide a positive work environment and the tools to make the employee succeed:  b) Pay a reasonable wage with the opportunity for advancement and a higher wage:  c) Show gratitude to the employee for a job well done; d) Offer employee benefits to aid in their quality of life, i.e. insurance, pension, vacation; e) Offer stability and job security to each employee.  Can I honestly say I do all of these all of the time?  No, but my role as an employer should be to strive to that level.

As a debt collector my role should be to:  a) Collect debts for credit grantors who need a third party to intervene on their behalf; b) Represent my company as one that operates in a professional and ethical manner; c) Treat consumers with respect and dignity; d) Adhere to all laws (state & federal); e) Counsel consumers to help find reasonable solutions to resolve the debt; f) Provide credit grantors with knowledge to minimize their delinquencies.  This role has become second nature to me as I’ve been doing it for 30 + years.  It is also a role I’m very proud of due to the many thanks received along with payment of the debt.

Another role I deal with daily is that of a debtor.  I am a debtor and you too may be a debtor if you owe someone money.  As a debtor (myself) I know my role is to:  1) Pay my debt: 2) Pay timely; 3) Pay in full.  I try to fulfill my role as a debtor, but I must confess here that I have occasionally forgotten to pay by the due date.  This would be very infrequently and when brought to my attention it is corrected immediately.  I can’t say the same for other debtors in my life, who when billed for a debt it is ignored. Of course not all debtors fall into this category but those that do will eventually find this is not the “role” they wanted to play out.  They find their credit reputation is blemished and their debt has grown due to penalties for late payment.  My “role” here is looked upon by them as the “bad guy” bill collector.  But, if you look at it from the creditor role perspective, I’m the “good guy” bill collector. 

I could go on and on with various roles:  In marriage, as a parent, as a friend, as an elected official, etc.  Each relationship has its roles that make it great, good, bad or otherwise.  The question remains:  Do you know your roles and do you know how to act and interact with other people?  A good friend of mine pointed out that it’s not just about knowing your role or imagining that you do, it’s about developing it with other key players whatever the situation may be.  This is very, very insightful!  Understanding our roles and developing those roles will lead to clear expectations, and when that is obtained we can be much more balanced and content in life and with those whom we choose to share it with.

For me, roles are developed from my 50+ years of existence.  When I was a child I observed my parents and learned from them.  In school I developed relationships with teachers and other students.  I learned how to work in groups to reach a common goal.  I learned that hard work and study would bring me success.  When I married I learned I wasn’t the boss (all the time or at home any of the time).  I learned that a loving marriage was hard work, maybe the most difficult work there is, but nonetheless worth it.  As a parent I learned that there is no greater joy than raising and loving children and giving them the tools to be successful and productive citizens in the world (i.e. Role Models if you will).  As a human being I’ve learned that others around me can sometimes use a helpful hand in life, and my life will be better if I share what I have.  Maybe the most important thing I have learned is that happiness isn’t found outside, but rather from within and all of the roles will be dictated to some extent by this.  So, the question begs to be answered by you:  Do you know your roles?

Jim Cox is Vice-President and co-owner of United Credit Service, Inc.

Founded in 1950, United Credit Service, Inc. is a full service revenue cycle management and debt collection agency in Wisconsin providing highly effective, customized one on one management and recovery solutions for our business partners. Visit our website at or call 877-723-2902




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