Tell me again who has the poor communication skills…

Things were ticking right along for your Ms. Cleanslate. I have been doing some subcontract work and had five clients through one particular company. Was doing the same type of work for each. None of the clients are at all tech-savvy, so there was a bunch of weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth every time that we added a new task to the mix.

Finally, though, everything was humming along smoothly. Or… so I thought.  In the span of 2 days, four of the five clients asked to be assigned to someone else.  Not one of them had indicated any unhappiness to me, but apparently they unloaded a litany of complaints (I am not privvy to what, exactly, the complaints were, just that they were all related to my “subpar communication skills.”)

Yet, not ONE of these people ever communicated anything to me. They never said “hey, could we…” or even “hey, why aren’t we…”  And it turns out something I thought was a completely optional service…was something that is an integral part of things and something that, apparently, the clients had asked about months ago (which was never communicated to me by either the company owner OR any of the clients).

I went to log into the work queue website to do the next task for the one who had NOT asked to be reassigned. Hmmm, my login doesn’t work.  I contact the owner of the company. No response.

Twenty-four hours pass and I finally get an email.  The upshot of which was that everything is going to shit for this person and having all my clients bail at once has been overwhelming and just added to the stress.  I ask about the login again and get told ‘oops’ but it’s 2 days later now and the login hasn’t been fixed. So, I asked if I even still have the one client. No response.

I’ve reached out via email, instant message and via social media. No response.  Yet, I see him posting away happily on Social Media.

So, at this point I am going on the assumption that I’m “done” with this particular company.   Which is fine. Because my goal for 2016 was to dump all of my subcontract work.  It’s too much like working corporate jobs.

Understand that I don’t think/feel/suffer the delusion that I am perfect. But, when I contact clients and get two-and-three word responses and then get told that I have lousy communication skills, I’m not sure that the onus is all on me.  When I contact the company owner and simply want to know if the contract is terminated and I still don’t have an answer several days later? I’m done.

Yes, there are poor communication skills happening here. No, the skills in question aren’t (or shouldn’t be) mine alone.



H is for Hopeless

HLast Fall I was doing some subcontract work and was assigned to work with a client who was (at least in her own mind) “high-profile”.  Her actual claims to fame were mediocre at best and dubious as a baseline.  A few days into our working relationship it was very apparent that “high profile” really meant “a royal pain in the posterior”.

Our first weekly check-in call was spent with her reciting a litany of all the shortcomings, sins and transgressions of her previous assistant.  Ok, I figured, let her get that out of her system and we can move forward.  Oh how naive I was!

I put together the first newsletter for her, sent her the link to take a look and let me know if changes needed to be made. She emailed back that everything was “a-ok” and to go ahead and send the newsletter.  20 minutes after sending the newsletter I get an email.  In a nutshell it was  “OH MY GOD! HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? YOU’VE MADE ME LOOK HORRIBLE!!” and then my phone rings and before I can pick up I am getting a second call.  She had called the agency I was working through and she was calling me herself and she was LIVID.

So, I quickly log in to look at the newsletter and, sure enough, it’s a MESS.  Formatting is horrible – 2 sections completely squashed together, about 8 different fonts, none of the links work correctly and… not at all as it had looked when I scheduled it.  Puzzled, I looked at the revision history and found that there were 2 logins, after my having scheduled the newsletter. Apparently the client had been in and “made some minor edits”.

Meanwhile, the agency I was working through is screaming at me that I’ve damaged their relationship with the client and the client is screaming that I’ve made her look like a fool to all of her subscribers and then I pointed out to both the agency and the client that the newsletter was edited after I’d scheduled it and I had no idea it had been edited. Client denies my assertion.  I take and send screenshots of the revision log. Ooops, guess who didn’t know the revision log even existed? At that point the agency simply said to me “don’t let it happen again” and the client fell silent. This should have been my first clue that rational interaction was hopeless.

In hindsight, I should have walked away then.

Over the next few months I was accused of not sending emails (screenshots proved otherwise), not scheduling broadcasts to go out (screenshots proved otherwise), not doing things I had been told to do (screenshots of “draft” emails, still sitting in her outgoing mail proved that she had never really told me to do those things… sure she’d written the email, but she’d never sent it, so I had no way of knowing things needed doing). Eventually, someone in the agency got in touch with the previous assistant who said that yes, she had been through all of those things with that client and so had a string of assistants before her. She was a serial complainer – and pleasing her was a hopeless endeavor.

About 4 months in, as I was writing the email to the agency to ask to be reassigned, I was told that she’d given her notice that she was unhappy with the services provided and would be moving to another agency.  The agency I worked with then threw me under the bus in attempt to retain her as a client.  Completely disregarding that I had been able to prove that everything she’d accused me of doing or not doing was a complete fabrication, they apologized for my “woefully unprofessional performance” but…she had her mind made up. And I had MY mind made up and resigned.

Bottom line? Go with your gut. Even if you need the money, sometimes you have to cut your losses and walk away.