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I am in IT services industry for the last 10 years, and keep traveling for onsite assignments. Though me and my team, have certain expertise in a particular field and the primary reason for bringing us into a company, I feel the 'regular' employees have a lot of things against us.

For instance, if we call for a meeting they just decline at the last minute or they just send an email that this is unwanted meeting, and they are not interested. Honestly, its tough to be onsite being a lone consultant with hardly any employees respecting or cooperating except the boss comes once in a while to check what's happening and how's it going...

In fact, I have been working per their comfort adjusting weird schedules and timelines, but still this happens and the reason for me/us to think that it is to deal with ego.

In such cases how to deal effectively with their egos, and still get the work done? Is it a good thing to go to their bosses and tell them assertively that they are not cooperating? What techniques are to be employed?

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3 Answers 3

It may not be egos. It may be several things:

  1. Is there an opposition to the project you're working on? Did the regular employees try to "Squelch" the project by stonewalling before you got there? Was your firm hired because no progress was being made internally? Find out the history of the project before you became involved.
  2. Are they threatened? Have you been made to look like their "Replacement?" I have found that talking about your "Next assignment" from time to time can make the regular employees feel much more secure. You're leaving at some point, not staying forever to replace them.
  3. Is your project sponsor having a private war with them that you're caught in the middle of? This is almost impossible to deal with at a consultant level. It needs to be dealt with at an executive level.

To be fair, you need to report what's happening to your superior in your company, and let them decide at a high level if the senior execs at the client need to lay a little "Voice of God" on the people you're working with, or if your company should withdraw because of the lack of cooperation. It is not right to keep billing them your time if you can't be effective. Depending on your role, it's probably something your senior execs at the consultancy need to handle.

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Go to your client and talk about a specific issue. Your example of people canceling attendance at a meeting at the last minute is a great one. You have spent time preparing for the meeting, and you need something to occur at the meeting, so people not attending the meeting is an issue. What can you do to ensure that this doesn't happen again? Focus your discussion on what you do and on what you are trying to accomplish. Telling the client that their employees have an ego problem is unlikely to get any kind of result that you would want.

Overall, you need to understand the underlying cause of their behavior, and try to address that cause so that they will be more open to you and your work. Your description doesn't necessarily convince me that it's ego. They could be too busy, they might not see the point in your meeting, they might feel like you being there means that their job is at risk, they might simply not like you, or a hundred other things.

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The truth of the matter is as a consultant it is your job to work with the people whom you are supposed to work. Despite the Office Space memes, most consultants are not empowered to make sweeping company wide changes, enforce their will despite objections of the staff, and call meetings where they get to tell the employees how their work will be done from now on.

The vast majority consultants are intended as temporary augmentation of staff either for a project or to provide support. In either scenario working smoothly with the permanent staff is your prime directive. The best consultants are the ones who can get along with the often contentious permanent staff and still accomplish all of the contracted goals. This can be difficult as there are some people who seem to enjoy the office politics where they get to feel empowered by taking someone else down. If you allow this to prevent you from completing your contract then this is a failure on your part.

For me, I try to start out by creating a good impression. My first few weeks I do my best to bond with the staff, I will bring in donuts, bagels, and jelly beans to share. I work to find a common interest and bond that way. And if someone is especially difficult I will try to find an ally to help me break through. It is also something you need to force your self to spend 10-15 minutes every day renewing those bonds. As a consultant I think this is the most important part of the job. When the management wants to know how you are doing they will ask some or all of the people you are working with. Having them on your side is important.

For accomplishing actual work tasks then I prefer then consult with the "experts" method. I am the expert in what I do, in my case programming. They are the experts in their business, and how the business is done there. So getting the key people to buy in to your solution is important. I find the most effective way is to show them my solution and ask for their opinion. If I do not know the solution then ask what they think. If a meeting is required to figure something out then if I can I will get one of the team to suggest or at least organize the meeting. And above all simple flaterry. Nothing outlandish but "Thank you for all your help, I don't think I could do this with out it," or "It helps me a lot to have you around to get me pointed in the right direction." This goes along way to helping keep the permanent staff on your side, which increases the chance of success for your contract.

Occasionally I will run into some permanent staff that does not want my project to succeed. The most effective way I have found is to get an ally of similar level to help me navigate that mine field. Rather than asking for help to roll over, or get around this person I ask for help in getting them on board. Sometimes it will lead to a good working relationship, and if it is truely a battle that can not be won then sometimes you can get someone to act as a shield for you.

The other important thing is to pass around the credit. Especially with manager, PM's and leads. Giving the team credit for your accomplishments does two things. First all that they really care about is that you are here and the job is getting done. You benefit not at all from extra kudos on your own back. However the people with whom you are working do benefit from your acknowledgement of their abilities and contributions to their management. This good will reflects well on you from all sides.

Finally, treat every day as though it was part of your job interview, because it is. As a consultant it pretty much is. Having a bad day as a consultant can mean you do not get offered a contract in the future. So even when you are dealing with outside stress it must stay home. Even if you do not want to work for this company again, if you stay in consulting you will be surprised where the people you meet while contracting, turn up for other assignments. I found out that I got my current assignment because I worked with a friend of my hiring manager at a previous contract and was recommended. That friend is in a city about 150 miles from where I am now.

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+1 Superb advice. Excelling in IT Consultancy means having great people skills. –  Dan Feb 21 at 21:21

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