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June 2, 2006


In his blog, words / myth / amper & virgule, Dick Margulis focuses mostly on writing and editing. But in today’s entry, he discusses relationships between consultant and client, and I think he summed it up most excellently:

“If you are the sort of person who yells humiliating insults at servers in restaurants, I really would rather not work with you. “

words / myth / ampers & virgule: Growing up is hard to do

And I can’t resist a sort of related story. Several years ago, during a week of private classes, the group manager (who was not attending the class) announced that he wanted to take me and his groupies (er, direct reports) to lunch. During lunch, GM asked me a sort of technical question about the best way to do something. I explained my recommendation; he didn’t like it. And from there, the conversation went something like this:

GM: “Well, I want to do it by [terrible, terrible idea].”
Me: “I’d recommend against that because [details about why it’s stupid].
GM: “I don’t care, I want to [description doesn’t improve the second time around].” (uncomfortable pause; groupies are on my side because we’ve spent two days discussing this issue and they understand implications of what GM is demanding)
GM: “I bet if I call your boss, he’ll tell you to do it my way.”
(Now I’m amused.)
Groupie: “But GM, she *is* the boss.”
Me: (mentally writes off future business from this manager)
GM: “Well, then I guess we’ll just withhold payment for this class until you agree to implement [terrible, terrible idea]. That’ll get your attention.”
Me: “Probably, but we have a pretty iron-clad contract for this class.”

Note that the Terrible Idea was a completely separate issue from the class I was teaching. Mr. GM was trying to bully me into agreeing that a future, mythical implementation should be done his way by threatening to withhold payment for something unrelated.

The lesson? Refer back to Mr. Margulis’s quote.