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We have a new relationship with a consulting firm that provides X service to our company. Unfortunately, this relationship has not gotten off to a great start; while the consulting firm is themselves generally well-respected and good at what they do, one of the technical resources they have assigned to our project has proven difficult to deal with.

In particular:

1) This individual struggles with relaying things via e-mail in a professional manner- e.g. saying "Z feature is terrible and must be changed right away" rather than "Z feature requires improvement, and should be a priority if possible for (reasons)". This has proven especially abrasive as the resource is so new to our company/ecosystem that, for example, they do not yet understand why Z feature was originally built in that manner or even what control we have over its functionality.

2) This individual struggles to stay on-task; again, we have hired this firm to provide X service, but have received several e-mails from this resource (often aligning with the tone in 1) that pertain to areas far outside their original scope of engagement. Ultimately, we had a very specific reason for bringing this firm aboard, and the fact this resource is spending time/effort concentrating on what I would consider frivolous pursuits is concerning.

As of this afternoon, we've firmly clarified 2) with this resource and their lead, reiterating our expectations and needs. However, I envision a response from the resource that aligns with what I describe in 1), and have yet to find a way to adequately address that aspect overall.

  • 10
    Suggest you stop calling them a resource and start calling them a person. – user1666620 Aug 10 '18 at 22:01
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    Sounds like it needs to be discussed with your account manager. – Laconic Droid Aug 10 '18 at 22:03
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    Well, what goal you have in mind when telling you want to "deal" with this? – DarkCygnus Aug 10 '18 at 23:11
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If you don't like the way they are talking to you, tell them straight up that you are not a verbal punching bag for their ego, that you are paying them for their skills and not their attitude and that they need to be more diplomatic. Also tell them that they might not like the way you have set up certain utilities and processes, but they were born out of specific needs and constraints.

  • It is probably better not to respond to an abrasive style by an abrasive style. Factual, assertive, and unambiguous yes, but not abrasive. – Captain Emacs Aug 11 '18 at 7:15
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If you're unhappy with the service a firm provides then you talk to the account manager about it. They can chat with the firm and work out a resolution (or termination of services).

Any cheeky answer would be quietly met with looking for a new resource and looking at termination of service options. You should be doing this anyway as preparation. It's much better to go engage in discourse with your homework done, and clear alternatives if your wants are not met immediately. It gives you a very clear advantage and strong position and puts the otherside off balance.

I've cut short meetings talking to arrogant techs who were horrified when they realised I had already worked out an alternative solution just in case, that didn't include their puffed up ego's. I assume they would have faced some discipline afterwards when their company realised they'd lost a revenue stream. But that wasn't my concern or aim.

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That's very easy really.

  1. Pinpoint who is in charge of the cooperation with this agency if you aren't that person. Talk to them about the problems.

  2. If you are in charge of this cooperation, don't talk to the "resource" themselves. Instead talk to the person on the agency side in charge of the project.

Also I would advise you to distinguish the tone from the content in 1). If the "resource" is advising something wrong because of their lack of knowledge, that's a huge problem. But the tone itself should be brought up only if it's really rude or unprofessional. Every one of us has a capital to spend. We can only bring up a definite number of problems, otherwise we will be seen as troublemakers. Don't spend it on petty things.

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Before I get into some options, may I suggest to develop a thicker skin?

Read emails isolating objective facts from subjective opinions, no matter how harsh they may sound via email.

You may still voice critique about unprofessional or insulting remarks to that employee and their superiors but how far you go with this is dependent on your personal position.

Are you in a high position of authority within your own company with decision power ?

A)

If so, lay out any legitimate reason for why an implementation is rough or sub-par (if you feel that explaining yourself might better their understanding of your setup) and emphasize that you're aware of the issues and that they will be prioritized according to necessity.

Tell the technical person that some of their remarks had upset or somewhat set back / irritated your employees and you hope they'll chose a more diplomatic approach in their wording if you really feel they were off in tone.

If further communication is not to your expectations, request another liaison directly from upper management of the consultant company if you've personally dealt with them before and / or are allowed to contact them.

Should you remain unhappy with how they treat you as their client(!) you may terminate their contract or threaten to do so.

B)

If you're not high enough in the hierarchy of your company and / or have no decision power you may still explain your reason to have the implementation as it is etc.

Be careful not to inadvertently reveal any trade secrets.

You may also voice your concerns about their tone in the email and your expectations regarding the cooperation between you two.

Include your superior(s) in this discussion and inform them about your concerns.

If communication remains behind what you consider workable, tell your superior(s) that you wish to escalate this problem up the chain within both companies to keep / instate an effective and productive workflow.

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