We’re Have to Fight, but We’re not Enemies

One of the fun aspects about being a sports fan is indulging in the theatrical component of that world which revolves around off-season, or in saucier situations, mid-season contract negotiations. Because of the 24hr news cycle that follows professional athletics, we’re often privy to the ins and outs of Player X negotiating a deal with Team Y. We get to know how many years, how much money per year and what clauses are written into contracts that haven’t even been agreed to yet. That in of itself is interesting, but the real spectacle comes when an agreement cannot be reached and a ‘fight‘ over terms ensues.

It’s at that point we may see the battle tactics from each side come out. The team can leak stories that paint the player as selfish to the media to add public pressure or they might sign a younger, less expensive individual as a supposed backup to send a message. The player can in turn suffer a mysterious injury which keeps them unavailable to play, demand a trade or make it public they have no intention on signing an extension, thus limiting the teams power to trade them. Back and forth this dance can go, at times the process becoming seemingly toxic and personal until, poof; a contract is signed. Suddenly everyone’s happy and the entire circus is forgotten by the end of the next game. It’s an odd spectacle that as fans, we’re able to brush off because a wealthy person is now making a fortune to play a game and a much wealthier person is now making a larger fortune by paying them to do so. Seems like a win-win.

What I like most about this entire process is that after it’s all said and done, there seems to be an understanding that everyone involved was doing the right thing. The player’s career might be to throw a ball, but his job is to get as much money as possible doing so. Likewise, the ownership of a team’s objective is to win games, but their job is to do so while spending as little as possible, thus making as much as possible. There’s not a bad guy in these situations. Just people with different, sometimes conflicting objectives trying to do what’s right by them.

I think we’d be well served to keep this in mind when reading about similar negotiations or conflicts at all business levels. If a tech firm suddenly changes gears and lays off 10% of their staff due to an increase in automation, and the move saves them 30% at the end of the year, then they did the right thing. Likewise, if a group of 200 employees organize a last minute strike to force management to the negotiation table during the busiest time of year and the result is a 15% increase in pay, then they also did the right thing. As long as everyone is staying within the law then I propose that we stop trying to find a Good Guy or a Bad Guy in these situation. Sometimes business forces us to into conflict even with the people we work closest with. And although we might have to fight, let’s remember that we’re not automatically enemies.

It’s Been A While

It’s been some time, too long if I’m being honest, since we’ve been able to post a blog. Sorry about that! We like to keep these as consistent as possible but the last few weeks have been filled with what feels like countless items which have kept our staff either away from their desks or swamped while at them. These are both bad and good problems to have but as far as social media is concerned, the result is the same; less time to blog.

But now we’re at a point in the year where we feel a little more grounded and can get back into the rhythm of writing and updating here. Part of what has kept us so busy in the last few weeks has been planning and preparing for some very exciting changes here at EIS which will be rolled out in the coming weeks and months. I don’t want to be too specific about any one item right now but it’s fair to say that how we do business, who we do business with and what kind of business we’re doing will all look a little different by the end of 2023. We’re really excited for what’s coming up so please make sure you’re checking back here as the updates and the usual blogs are back up and running in their usual rhythm, we promise.

Until then, we hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and has been able to kick off 2023 on the right foot. We’ll see you in a couple days with our next post and until then, make sure you’re checking out all our other social media accounts which continue to be updated on a daily basis.

Looking Toward 2023

Like a lot of business people, I’m motivated by cleanly organized, prioritized and if I’m feeling especially motivated, color coordinated lists. Whether it’s a to-do list for work that day, things I need at the grocery store or a sequence of movements for the evening’s workout, I like being able to see and gloriously check off items as I go. There’s a real sense of satisfaction in cleaning out a list.

Because of that inclination, I’m always excited for a new year to kick off because that’s yet another opportunity to make a big directory of annual objectives and get to work. I’ve been thinking about my personal and professional list for 2023 over the last couple of weeks and was just about to officially put it on paper when I had a somewhat devastating dinner conversation.

While out to eat over the Christmas weekend, I asked a friend what she had planned for the new year. She named a couple of trips and bigger life errands she needed to take care of but I pressed her to be more specific. “No, I mean what are your goals for 2023?”

She thought for a second and made reference to a vague notion of improving herself both personally and at work. My sense of disappointment in her answer must have been obvious because she gave me a knowing look and asked “OK, what’s on your list?”. At first I gleefully checked off my items but as it became clear that my excitement at the scope of my goals was clearly not shared, I lost some steam. Adding to my frustration was the fact that the woman sitting across from me is more accomplished in every measurable way yet she didn’t share my obsession for this subject matter. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore and regrettably asked a question that was both insulting and incredibly narrow minded; “How can you accomplish so much without well defined goals?”

Her response wasn’t mean in nature but it hit hard nonetheless. “If I was as focused on intricate details as you are, I don’t think I’d have the flexibility to adjust on the fly. It’s that flexibility that keeps me successful and happy”.

Naturally, I threw my wine in her face and screamed that she’s a mean hippie – kidding, of course. I slowly absorbed what she said and the conversation moved on to other topics. But I’ve thought about that perspective in the days since and I have a hard time arguing with the wisdom. I know that I have flexibility, both personally and in my work life – COVID made sure of that. But how much better off would I be if instead on using flexibility as a last resort, I put it to the forefront of my thinking? Is the vast yet specific nature of my yearly to-do list in some ways actually getting in the way of what I really want to accomplish? I have to acknowledge that it’s at least a possibility.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop making lists. I find them too useful and in a neurotic way, too much fun. But I am going to try and inject a little of my good friend’s flexibility into the contents. If you’re like me and love making them, maybe this could help you too.

Good luck to everyone in 2023 and have a wonderful New Year’s celebration!

Nice is Not Enough

Considering the upcoming holidays and the subject matter I’m about to talk about, I’m hoping that you can give me the benefit of the doubt before labeling me ‘a Grinch‘. Because, to be honest, this is going to sound pretty Grinch-y at first. With that said, here we go.

I’m not sure if there’s actually an uptick in this content or if I’m just noticing more of it recently but over the last couple of weeks I’ve seen a lot of stories or new clips that follow the same pattern.

  1. A Deaf person enters a situation
  2. Someone who knows a handful of signs surprises the Deaf individual with a greeting or phrase in Sign Language
  3. The internet loses their mind in ‘awwww‘s

Every time I see one of these videos, while I certainly share part of that ‘how nice‘ sentiment, another big piece of me cringes. That cringe comes from the fact that these stories can carry the same sentiment that a surprise announcement of a pregnancy or video of a friend visiting from halfway around the world can; look at this totally unexpected and really nice moment.

Of course, these ARE really nice moments. And in the case of a pregnancy or a surprise visit, they are equally unexpected. But when it comes to communication equality, I think there’s a danger in grouping these moments neatly into the thinking of ‘what a wonderful surprise’. Because the ability to communicate shouldn’t be a surprise for anyone.

It’s becoming less so, but the Language Service Industry and the need for interpreters in general is still an abstract concept to many people in our country. Some people aren’t really aware that interpreters exist on a professional level and for those who are, many see it as much more of a boutique luxury than as a basic utility. And that perspective is unlikely to change if our media, ESPECIALLY our feel good media, treats moments of language equality like they do a little boy getting his first puppy. These aren’t isolated feel good moments – or at least they shouldn’t be. Instead, I think of them as warm but stark reminders that we’ve got a long way to go.

Having said all that, I do have to admit, anytime a little kid makes an adult cry by using their little fingers so say hello in Sign Language, my heart also grows three sizes that day.

‘Just Walk Around It’

I was having a conversation recently with a trusted friend and I was bemoaning some of the changes that are happening in our business. He was sympathetic and echoed some very similar struggles he was having in his own business albeit in a very different industry. I was so wrapped up in my my own story that I didn’t immediately notice that he was less stressed about these struggles than I was.

When I finally noticed his ease with a nearly identical situation, I asked him about how they were handling it; ‘Don’t you feel like you just keep banging your head into a brick wall?’ He took a bit of a sigh and nodded his head. ‘Oh, absolutely. But eventually we realized that the wall wasn’t going anywhere, so we made the decision to just walk around it’.

It was a humbling exchange not only because my friend had kindly pointed out that I had essentially been approaching a problem with my eyes closed but also because the solution was so simple. ‘If you’re walking toward a brick wall, you should probably change your course‘.

This is infinitely easier to say than it is to do both because changing the way your business works is not like flipping a switch and also because we often encounter obstacles that do eventually move or that we can push our way through. However, part of being a good business person, or simply a functional human being, is to have a sense of when something has fundamentally changed and in a permanent way. If you’ve always used a particular method to solve the problem of X, that’s fine. But if the problem starts to present as Y, and your original method is having no effect, you need to consider whether it’s the problem or the methodology that’s holding you back.


I was reminded recently of the old cliche that if something isn’t working quite right, someone will ask if you’ve ‘tried unplugging and then plugging it back in‘. It’s a silly notion because of how simplistic the thinking is but its held up both in humor and persistence because of how often it seems to work. For technological reason well beyond my comprehension, it seems that giving whatever machine/appliance is having issues a brief but complete break can very often fix the problem.

With us beginning a holiday weekend and heading into the full holiday season, this made me think of how those in the workforce are very much the same way. If we’re in a funk, having issues focusing or simply feeling burnt out it can do us a great deal of good to step away and give our minds a chance to reboot.

But this is easier said than done, especially nowadays. You can schedule a vacation, block off hours away from the desk and put up your Auto-reply on your email but that doesn’t guarantee a complete separation. With so many of us working from home, the ability to get emails/texts instantly wherever you go on your cell and the ease of setting up a mobile office just about anywhere, it can be really easy to ‘take time off‘ without really taking time off.

And this, I believe, is a big problem. You can’t truly reset or allow yourself to fully relax while still somewhat tethered to your work. Otherwise the cliche would be ‘have you tried mostly but not entirely unplugging it, like let it dangle from the outlet and then plug it fully back in?‘ And since the cliche is very much not that, I would suggest the following tips.

  1. Turn your phone off. I would suggest simply leaving your phone behind for a day or a weekend but in case of emergency or more importantly the need to order a pizza, it’s great to have on you. But otherwise, power it off and resist the urge to turn it back on.
  2. Close the door to your home office. If part of your time off includes being at home, section off the part of the house that serves as a place of work. You’re not half at work, you’re fully on break. Out of sight, out of mind.
  3. Set clear expectations on your Away Messages. If people read that you have ‘Limited Access to your Email‘ then they understand that you still have some access. If, however, you ‘Won’t be able to respond until X date‘ then their expectations are appropriately aligned and you can snuff out that little voice in your head wondering if you should check your messages, ‘just in case‘.
  4. Don’t talk about work. Of course, it’s a standard question at family gatherings but the quicker you can move off your job and onto literally any other subject, like how Uncle Carl’s underground bunker is coming, the better off you’ll be. Take every moment you possibly can during your breaks to NOT think about work.

I hope everyone has a restful weekend and please, for everyone’s sake, find some time to truly unplug this holiday season.

After Hours Assistance

We’ve noticed recently that there’s some questions on how to best contact us if it’s after hours. This is pretty understandable as the industry continues to change, subcontractor’s availability flexes on a day to day basis and our roster of Interpreters evolves relentlessly. With all of that in mind, we thought it worthwhile to remind everyone how you can best get in touch with EIS at night or on the weekend.

First, let’s remind everyone of our official work day. You can always reach us at our desks M-F, 8a-5p (315-472-1383). There’s a phone tree that will allow you to contact a staff member directly or leave a voicemail if you prefer. That does not encompass our full availability though. Like most business people, our staff has their cell on them consistently so an email or text is likely to reach that employee outside of those hours. We do have lives, however, so there’s no guarantee that an email sent at 8:30p on a Friday will be seen before Monday morning at 8:00a. Please keep that in mind when considering the importance of your message.

Second, and speaking of types of message, please be considerate when contacting the staff after hours. If you’re simply updating an assignment end time, have a general question about an appointment in 2 weeks or other non-urgent issues, calling during office hours or shooting off a quick email is always best. We’ll always get back to you ASAP but we like to respect everyone’s personal time, both staff and subcontractors, as much as possible.

Third, should you be in a situation where you absolutely need to speak to someone during off hours, we’ve got a line for that! Our designated On-Call number is 315-579-0652. If you find yourself in a tough spot and need immediate correspondence after 5p, that’s your best option. Of course, if you reach out to the staff directly there’s always a good chance we’ll get right back to you, but our On-Call number is the best route for an immediate response.

Thank you to everyone who continues to work crazy hours whether that be in academia, medical or anywhere else you might find yourself at 11:00pm. We’re always here to help and hopefully this post can get you that help as quickly as possible.

Artificial Intelligence (ish)

I came across an article recently that was exploring the history of machine translations and the progress it has made. If you’re old enough, you’ll remember when Google Translate or BableFish first came online and playing with it was always fun because, well, they were terrible. The most basic of phrases would come out as absolute gibberish and even more entertaining, if you plugged the new phrase back into the system it would provide you with a word salad that was nowhere near the original sentence.

Since then, AI has come a long way and of course that’s great news. Simple phrases or even somewhat complicated paragraphs can be plugged into a system and the resulting translation will be light years closer to an accurate translation than we had in the early days, even if it still sounds a little bit like the end of a game of ‘Telephone’. And that’s what this article was celebrating; how good AI had become.

However, I found the celebratory nature of the article troubling. In it, they quoted that discharge instructions for patients at a hospital were now ‘as high as 80% accurate‘ when using a machine. This is a huge improvement, sure, but can you imagine leaving a hospital and the doctor telling you ‘OK, here’s a list of what you need to do for your recovery, and FYI 20% of this list is wrong. Good luck!‘ You would justifiably cause a small commotion until it was made very clear to you exactly what was going on.

Of course, there’s a time and a place for the use of a computer that is 80% accurate. If you’re on vacation in a foreign country and visit a local restaurant, absolutely pull out that iPhone app and order away. Worst case scenario, you get a glass of red wine instead of white. But in high profile, life impacting environments like a business meeting, a hospital or a courtroom, being wrong almost a quarter of the time just doesn’t cut it. My fear is that we’re confusing vast improvement for adequate service and they just aren’t the same.

So, until such time that the technology available has truly caught up to the experience of working with a an actual human Interpreter/Translator, please be extremely careful using AI. ‘We’ve come a long way‘ is not the same as ‘We’re there‘ and I would hate for anyone reading this to be part of the 20% of people paying the consequences for confusing the two.

Quiet Quitting and Finally Firing

A lot of industries have seen the phenomenon of ‘Quiet Quitting‘ impact them lately. And while I prefer to think of it more as ‘Putting up Appropriate Boundaries‘, we are certainly not immune to the movement’s ripple effect. Requests are more difficult to fill than ever before, Interpreters are less inclined to burn themselves out for a bigger paycheck and as a result, our jobs in the office have become far more complicated and stressful. We certainly don’t begrudge any of our subcontractors for taking care of themselves but we also can’t deny that it’s changing our day-to-day and the industry as a whole.

But instead of simply bemoaning the effects that ‘Quiet Quitting‘ is having on working world, I think it’s also worthwhile to examine what benefits that mindset might have for businesses. What is it in our daily work lives that elicits more stress than it’s financially worth?

The answer is different for every business person, of course, but I’m guessing a couple of customers, subcontractors, employees or projects jumped to mind when I said that. We’ve all got those relationships that, despite the strain they put on us, we’ve kept going through the years because, after all, business is business. But now, with resources capped in a way they haven’t been before and with subcontractors/employees choosing free hours over monetary gain to a degree we’re not used to, we have to be realistic about how we do things. Business is Business, sure, but today’s business is certainly not yesterday’s business.

So I propose that while the workforce engages in ‘Quiet Quitting‘, businesses begin to focus on ‘Finally Firing‘. What are the customers or aspects to your business that may have been highly stressful yet profitable that now, with your limited resources, are bending much more towards simply stressful? How can you streamline whatever resources you currently do have into the situations that continue to be both profitable and enjoyable? Focus on those and begin trimming anything that doesn’t fit neatly into both categories. Life is too short, hours are too precious and the resources are too limited. Let’s all try to enjoy our work.

Safety First

There are a lot of things that can keep a business owner up at night; losing a big customer, employee turnover, competition, etc etc. But for Language Service Providers, and definitely here at EIS, our number one nightmare is that we’ll get a call saying one of our subcontractors was injured on the way to, at the site of or due to a job we sent them on. Just the prospect turns your stomach a little. So, with your safety and our nausea in mind, let’s review some safety measures.

First, even though it feels like we’re living in a post-pandemic world, we’re still getting reports weekly of sub-contractors testing positive for COVID. For your own safety and that of those around you, please continue to mask up where appropriate. Also, if you’re experiencing any symptoms, please take a test before your next assignment. We always appreciate when our Interpreters push through having a bug to make sure our consumers have access to communication, but we don’t want to put your or anyone else’s long term health in jeopardy.

Second, with winter rapidly approaching please remember to give yourself plenty of drive time to any onsite assignments. We all know that Upstate NY roads can be perfect in one spot and a nightmare 10 miles up the road. Also, if you do find yourself in a rough patch, let the office know you’ll be running behind. Slow down, stay safe and avoid putting yourself in a ditch.

Third, because of COVID and weather and a million other factors, you might find yourself solo at a job which was meant to be teamed. In those rare cases where an emergency takes your team away and we cannot find a sub, you have to be your own best advocate in real time to avoid injury. Take the breaks you need, when you need them. We will always have your back should any questions come down the line about why you ‘weren’t working’ for a portion of a job.

Lastly, please remember that Empire never expects you to enter or stay in an unsafe situation. If weather is an issue, call us right away. If a customer or consumer is being abusive, remove yourself immediately and call the office right away. Whatever the case or situation, trust your instincts and if something feels off, just contact us so we can work it out together.

Thank you for everything you do and please, STAY SAFE!