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Matt Page

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Why don’t employees like me?

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As a consultant, you walk into the office and notice you’re one of the first people on the job.  You throw on a pot of coffee.  You sit down at your desk, boot up the computer and get back to work on a deliverable you’d been up late working on the night before.

Slowly your co-workers, or the “employees”, drift into the office talking about the morning traffic, their relaxing evening of television, some upcoming sporting event or just to complain about the coffee.  You ignore the drone of voices surrounding your workspace and keep plugging away.  When they finally do get down to work it’s nearly break time and, before you know it, they are back up milling about.

Yet there you are, head down at your desk and pushing forward.  You feel like you pretty much carry the team.  So, why don’t they like you?

Okay, admittedly there are a lot of generalizations in the depiction above (I concede there are hardworking employees and lazy consultants) but, as consultants, I can imagine that many of you have been in similar situations; and, for some unbeknownst reason, you felt the ire of the employees.

There are a few things that consultants need to remember when on site: 

  1. You get paid a lot! Now you and I know that a significant portion of your rate is dedicated to corporate taxes, expenses (lawyers and accountants), taxes on salary, insurance, benefits for family, saving for retirement, saving for between contracts, etc. Employees don’t see these costs to being a consultant. All they know is that someone gets paid 2-3 times what they are paid for the “same” job. You can try to educate them all on the cost to being a consultant but you’re lecture will likely fall on deaf ears. Just understand where they are coming from and move on.
  2. They believe that you are the same as them. Employees often don’t see the difference between themselves and the consultant who comes in to get a project done. If you’re doing the same job you’re the same, right? Not necessarily. There are times where a consultant is hired just to fill a void but more times than not that consultant is brought in because they have experience outside of what the employees can offer. Meaning the jobs might be the same but the product is wholly different.
  3. You may be an “outsider”. Consultants, in theory, are brought in to perform a task and then go. The task could be a matter of days to a number of years but you are not a permanent fixture. Some groups take the time to welcome in a consultant as they would a new employee while others will make no effort on your entry or exit from the office. In the latter case, don’t take it personally. They treat all consultants like that; it’s not you, it’s them. Really.
  4. Have a thick skin. You are there because there are problems. When you point out those issues, likely one of the employees will be a fault for not having properly done their work. Nobody likes their faults being pointed out to management, especially by a know-it-all consultant who gets paid too much. It’s also not going to score you brownie points with the team because they are now worried that you are going to uncover one of their errors. That’s why you need the thick skin. You need to be willing to point out these errors and accept the disdain of some employees, otherwise you’re doing yourself and your client a disservice.
  5. Lastly, some of the employees will not like you! Aside from the reasons above, in the workplace there is a diverse group of personalities. Not everyone gets along! Be professional and do what is best for the client.

Just remember, you’re only there for a limited period of time and your commitment is to providing the client with a working solution.  You will step on toes along the way.  If you are not finding and fixing others’ problems, you are not doing your job. 

Don’t expect a pat on the back.  Your reward will come when your current client gives you a glowing recommendation to a future client, earning you more business.

This post is not to justify you being insufferable, arrogant or belligerent on client site.  It’s just a reminder that you’re not there to make friends; you’re there because you have a particular set of skills…

Make sure you use them!  Your business and reputation rely on your results.

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As the Director of Professional Services for MGIS I am fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work with our clients, prospects, consultants and network partners on a daily basis. I have been hands-on and successful with finding, writing proposals and placing resources through TBIPS, TSPS, SBIPS and THS, along with private sector clients. I am always excited to meet new people to discuss the challenges they face and strategies for overcoming those barriers.

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