I'm hoping that someone with experience with this type of behavior (on either the receiving end or giving end) can tell me whether or not I should feel threatened by this, or if I am probably just reading this wrong. Again, everyone, including this manager, has expressed that they are very happy with my work. I just don't understand the constant "shots" being taken at me for being a contractor.
On one hand, you don't want to be removed from the assignment and on the other hand, you don't want to be somewhere where you feel undervalued. However, it's not likely that you'd be replaced because it takes time to train and ramp up on a 6 month assignment. Replacing you costs the recruiter and the client more money in the form of time and projects missing deadlines while the replacement learns the ropes. It's not ideal.
Question 1: What leads you to believe that the intent behind your manager's regular comments about you are threatening? The tone he uses when he states that you're a contractor is key. Is he using a sarcastic or demeaning tone?
Question 2: Did your manager hire you or did someone else hire you? Do they have the authority to let you go or is that someone higher up? This could help understand whether or not he has resentment for you being there.
Question 3: Does your manager say "He's just a contractor" or does he say "he's a contractor" - the word just is definitely demeaning.
Question 4: Are you a career consultant or are you hoping to land a permanent job soon?
Question 5: Has your recruiter stated that the 6 month assignment has potential to go perm or is this truly a short-term assignment? If there is a slighted chance of going perm, maybe your manager feels threatened.
Regardless of whether or not your manager intends to make you feel uncomfortable, you're feeling it. Here are a few options to think about:
Option 1: Address it Directly
"[ManagerName], I think of myself as an extended part of your team focused on supporting your departmental objectives and projects for as long as I am needed, and I'm really excited to be here. I've been a consultant for XX years and have worked on a lot of challenging projects. During this time, I have observed how permanent employees can have preconceived opinions when they hear the word contractor and frankly, it makes me feel uncomfortable when addressed as one. Would you be open to introducing me as a 'consultant through ABC IT Agency' or as one of your [Job-Title-Here]s through ABC IT Agency?"
The keyword here is "uncomfortable". He needs to know that how he's referring to you is making you feel uncomfortable. If this were to escalate, this would be an important statement to refer back to with a witness in the room (most likely your recruiter).
If this continues after you have brought it up and you're not comfortable with the situation, then you now have intentional harassment i.e., an unwelcome behavior from your superior that is causing you to feel uncomfortable and could impact your performance on the job.
Option 2: Talk to Your Recruiter
Assuming you have a good recruiter (and not some rookie or recruiter who is only in this business for the money), it's their responsibility to ensure you are in a healthy work environment. They should be calling the client and you at least bi-monthly to see how things are going and address any small issues or misunderstandings before they become big issues/misunderstandings that cannot be fixed. If you have a good relationship with them, bring it up in your next conversation with them. At the very least, this ensures you brought it up for the record, should your manager escalate his behavior even more.
You can ask your recruiter not bring the issue up to your manager at this time; that you prefer to handle it on your on and will update him/her after you have addressed it.
Option 3 (and my favorite) Stop letting it get to you:
So your manager thinks of you as a just a contractor. So what? The higher ups think you're great and that's who you need to impress and build rapport with. Stay visible, build rapport with the execs and just smile when your manager refers to you as a contractor because his opinion doesn't appear to have a lot of weight. Many professionals who work on assignment do so because if frees them from having any attachment to the politics or drama that a permanent employee has. Just look at your manager as a means to an end and let go of the feelings you have about being called a contractor. Needing to put you in your place has more to do with his insecurities and lack of self worth than it has to do with you.