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I'm an independent contractor for company X. There was a certain ambiguity over whether a final product had to contain feature A. I produced them containing feature A. I liaise with person 1 and 2 in company X. Officially, person 1 is in charge but I also work with person 2 so he is semi-officially in charge.

When I delivered the product, person 2 told me the products shouldn't contain feature A, which meant that I would have to redo the products with no additional compensation (which would take a significant amount of time). I then had a discussion with persons 1 and 2 and person 2 advocated that I should produce the products again without feature A, while person 1 appeared undecided. We did not make a final decision.

When I approached both persons 1 and 2 again, person 2 told me to keep out of the situation and to trust him and person 1. Puzzled, I told him it would be better for all involved to discuss a solution, and he said that he told me to stay away because he was looking out for me.

How should I handle this situation? Getting additional compensation for redoing the product is not an option.

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    "When I approached both persons 1 and 2 again, person 2 told me to keep out of the situation and to trust him and person 1. Puzzled, I told him it would be better for all involved to discuss a solution, and he said that he told me to stay away because he was looking out for me." - This is confusing. Where is the mysterious 3rd person? Or are you saying person 2 told you to keep it from person 1? Why did person 1 ignore that person 2 told you to ignore him? Very confusing. – Dan Sep 10 '18 at 18:10
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    How are you being paid? By the hour, or fixed price for the job? – DJClayworth Sep 10 '18 at 18:35
  • We need a new tag acceptance-phase for these questions, please contribute to this – smci Sep 12 '18 at 0:43
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Officially, person 1 is in charge but I also work with person 2 so he is semi-officially in charge.

That means person 1 is in charge. Person 2 is not.

Getting additional compensation for redoing the product is not an option.

All the more reason for you to convince person 1 that feature A should remain.

Incidentally, this is why contractors typically charge by the hour instead of by the job.

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    And, if you're billing by the job, make really sure that what "the job" is is written down and agreed to by both sides. – David Thornley Sep 10 '18 at 19:47
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    @DavidThornley 's point is quite good. In college, I learned about someone who would work, then get orders changed, and changed again, and changed again. And he oversaw a project, and eventually had to recommend just cancelling the project, which happened. And he documented the reasons why, and the conclusion. And he got paid for every hour of this, and people were happy with his continual involvement. The reason that worked so well for him is because he got paid for time, even when someone decided to have requirements change. – TOOGAM Sep 11 '18 at 2:23
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The first mistake was in working on an ambiguous task. What did the written contract say you had to deliver? That's what you deliver - no more, no less.

The second mistake is to have multiple bosses. Talk to Person 1 and establish who is your SINGLE point of contact for this work. Direct any other people to this first person for questions which would change the scope of work. You can work with two bosses, but only one of them should be in ultimate control of the work.

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    The question was “how should I handle this situation?” not “what did I do wrong to get myself into this position?” – KRyan Sep 11 '18 at 1:58
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    @KRyan How to handle each part is followed in this answer after naming the mistake. To fix the ambiguous task mistake, be confident in delivering no more and no less. To fix the multiple boss mistake, talk to Person 1 and establish who it is. – Davy M Sep 11 '18 at 4:53
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    @KRyan Both paragraphs follow the process of mistake => (implicit) negative effect => solution to negative effect. That's a valid answer to the question, which answer both handling the current situation and how to prevent it in the future. – Flater Sep 11 '18 at 14:04
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    This answer would be more clear if it contained a sentence spelling out the (currently implied) solution. As it stands I don't feel I can upvote it even though I agree with it--it's not as helpful as I think it could be (and I'd like to upvote it because I think it's a good answer overall). – bob Sep 11 '18 at 17:56
  • @DavyM The whole point of something ambiguous is that it is.... ambiguous. By definition you cannot be "confident in delivering no more and no less". If you could do that then it wouldn't be ambiguous in the first place. – Jon Bentley Sep 11 '18 at 18:43
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How should I handle this situation?

Get paid for what you have done and don't discuss anything else until you've been paid.

I would invoice right now for the product containing A, and ask if they want a quote to rewrite without it, then ignore anything that doesn't have confirmation of payment. Don't get into a debate about it, time is money.

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    "Don't discuss anything else" comes across as passive aggressive in my opinion. If asked, I would refer to the original contract / task order, and leave it at that. Let 1 & 2 figure it out between themselves. Other than that it's a sound advice to invoice the work that's been done and stay out of it. – ventsyv Sep 11 '18 at 14:42
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    @ventsyv I think in this context "discuss" means "have a meeting to discuss," which can easily eat up multiple hours. Even one hour spent "discussing" revisions is too much when you haven't been paid for the work already done. That's not to say you should refuse to acknowledge a ten second question with an assurance that you can discuss it further, after you have been paid. At least, that's how I read this answer. – Wildcard Sep 11 '18 at 18:39
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How should I handle this situation

Easy, you have your answer:

person 2 told me to keep out of the situation and to trust him and person 1 [...] he told me to stay away because he was looking out for me.

Let them figure it out between themselves. Easy as pie

I told him it would be better for all involved to discuss a solution

No, it isn't. It's their requirements and they have to hash it out before they come to you. They don't know who the product owner is, and your getting paid for the extra feature will depend on who they decide is the product owner. If it's person 1, he requested it so it's good, if it's person 2, tough luck. Or that's what they'll say.

In that case you can push back by saying

  • it's their problem for having unclear leadership in the first place
  • demonstrating they were both acting as product owners (through emails etc.)

It's up to you to decide if the extra pay is worth the extra hours you will put in chasing it up. Imagine if you had another gig and had to choose between doing free work and doing paid work. What would you do?

This is the end of my answer to your specific situation.


The following might not apply to you but I'll leave it here for future viewers.

Getting additional compensation for redoing the product is not an option.

What they probably told you is that they don't wanna pay you for extra work. They might not have used those words, but that's the gist of it.

Let me clarify what I mean: There's a huge difference between "getting additional compensation is not an option" and "they don't wanna pay for it". The difference is that you don't do the extra work, and it's always the former, never the latter. If they want work from you, they gotta pay for it. End of discussion.

This would apply to you as well if you had a single point of contact, but you serve many masters; it is not clear who is authorized to ask for extra features, but I'd go with whomever's signature is on the original contract.

The most common way of dealing with it is offering a service package of X hours for Y amount of money, and forcing them to be included in the original specification of work. So the client agrees to pay upfront for features A,B,C and X number of hours for things that might come up.

If a feature is ambiguous, as has been correctly pointed out, you don't work on it.

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    Please don't use code markdown (back ticks) as quotation marks. It messes with screen readers. – Kat Sep 11 '18 at 2:12
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    @Kat I wasn't aware, my apologies – rath Sep 11 '18 at 8:51
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    @rath In general, always use the "right" tool for the job, then the technology will know what to do :) #semantic – Lightness Races in Orbit Sep 11 '18 at 10:16
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    If person 1 is officially in charge, then per the contract I would (unless there's clear contractual reasons not to do this) treat person 1 as the product owner. If they internally want to work otherwise between themselves that's fine, but since this is contract work, in terms of the contract, person 1 is the product owner and that's how I would relate to them, no matter what. – bob Sep 11 '18 at 17:59
  • Your manipulated quote ''person 2 told me to keep out of the situation and to trust him and person 1 [...] he told me to stay away because he was looking out for me.'' actually changes the subject of the last part... – hkBst Sep 14 '18 at 6:25

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