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The company I work for has a contract with a consulting firm to manage ERP functions. This relationship with the consulting firm has been ongoing for at least five years. Over that time, we've always had one specific consultant that is assigned to our account. Most of our dealings with the consulting firm is done through this individual. We work closely with them to solve problems and complete tasks.

I've only been with the company for three years, but over time I've noticed that our lead consultant speaks slower and slower. He will pause after every two or three words, take a moment, give me a long drawn out "uhhhhhmmmm" before continuing for another two or three words, rinse and repeat. This makes communication very slow and frustrating for everyone involved. I know this because our staff discusses it from time to time. For the most part, I've just put up with it. I assume it's likely a medical disability or some speech impediment.

This creates a major problem for me. I have full responsibility to assign tasks for the consulting firm and to sign their invoices. I've noticed that perhaps we do not receive the full benefit of their services, and their work has been a bit under par. I'm not exaggerating when I say a sentence that I could say in perhaps 4 to 5 seconds could literally take our lead consultant 75 to 90 seconds to say. Their rate is almost 200 USD/hr. Before, my frustration just came from my impatience and this slowing me down, having to talk to him for much longer that I think is appropriate. But now I'm starting to get emotional when I see the amount of time it takes for them to do something and how much I'm paying for him to stammer and say "umm" for 80% of the time.

Normally I feel like I can suppress my frustration pretty well, but this morning I lashed out a bit while on the phone with him. I said "C'mon man, get it out, I've got things to do". I felt ugly, and I'm not proud of that, but it's obvious to me now that this is a much bigger issue than I thought and something needs to be done.

My question is, what are my options? Is there something wrong with me? Do I need to learn more patience? Should I talk to him? Ensure that he is getting speech therapy that they need? Should I have the consulting firm adjust their rate to accommodate the time difference? Should I discuss with the consulting firm and request a new consultant? Should I cancel the contract and move on to a new consulting firm?

Update: I apologized later that same morning in a private face to face discussion.

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    Is communication via E-Mail / issue tracker a possibility? – pmf Apr 19 '17 at 13:45
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    I suppose that could be one option. But responses to emails can easily take 3 -5 minutes even with somebody sitting at their computer expecting the email. That is much longer than just waiting out the 1 to 2 minutes for them to complete their sentence. I suppose over a larger discussion I could begin to see the time benefits to that. But even being in IT, sometimes it feels necessary to have face to face discussions. – Oxymoron Apr 19 '17 at 13:49
  • Did you read the part where I said I was responsible for their performance? The projects are my projects, there is no removing myself from them. – Oxymoron Apr 19 '17 at 16:27
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    My wife stutters. so badly that I have a hard time listening to her sometimes due to my own issues. I can tell you right now that lashing out at that person is not going to get you anywhere at all, and in this case it is highly unprofessional of you, and could even slow the other person down more. Perhaps use a chat program (Skype, etc) to type instead of talk. This alleviates the email delay. Also, you do need to learn patience. IT is a hard business for that, but it is possible to exercise restraint and learn that your emotions and impatience have to be set aside for the team as a whole. – SliderBlackrose Apr 19 '17 at 17:06
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    Feeling like you are not getting good value from a consultant is a big deal and if you are for real that a single sentence literally takes over a minute (and not that it feels like over a minute) that leads to some costly conversations. You should have addressed it with his firm before it got to the point of lashing out. What you did was ugly and you do owe that individual a sincere apology (face to face if possible). On the other side you owe it to your employer to get reasonable value for their dollar, if this relationship isn't delivering that then it's time to explore possibilities. – Myles Apr 19 '17 at 19:19
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It would probably help to generally discuss it with the consulting firm, in a way as positive as possible. I assume you don't want to get him fired, but you need some positive change of the situation. You are of course in no position to require to know about his medical details. If you don't feel close enough to talk to this person themselves about the problem, then you should not feel entitled to suggest any type of therapy (they might already get).

In the end, you are paying for his time. If you do not feel you get your money's worth anymore, you need this to be discussed, even if it is based on a disability.

Lashing out for sure is not going to help the situation. In case it is a speech impairment the pressure and stress might very well make it worse.

Consider the time you worked with him. Has his insight been valuable to you? What is the reason you and your colleagues have put up with the problem so far? Then you might not want to loose that. Discuss different ways of communication, and potentially a lower billing for time spent with vocal communication (but probably not for his general work).

If there is no reason to put up with it, you are of course free to request a different consultant or change the firm completely.

  • I agree with you that I am in no position to discuss their medical details. Probably shouldn't have mentioned it, I just want to find a solution that benefits everyone. – Oxymoron Apr 19 '17 at 14:11
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You can do one of two, possibly three things.

  1. Apologise to the account manager and put up with the slow speech.
  2. Ask the firm for a new account manager.
  3. Cut ties and find a new firm to work with.

It's not your fault you got impatient but you probably shouldn't have lashed out like you did, but it's also not their fault either. You have work to get done and you may be against deadlines however they might have developed an issue with their speech in which case can't be helped and they might be trying their best.

On the flip side they may just be bored and not interested in the work or conversation and not putting any effort into what they're doing, in which case you may want to find a new account manager or new firm. It's up to you what you want to do with this situation really, whatever you feel happy doing.

You could talk to the account manager and apologise and talk it through and explain your stance on the situation but I'd advise against it because there's too many variables for that to potentially work out well for the both of you without wires being crossed and it turning into negativity.

Assess the situation right now and decide if this company is worth working with and whether you'd benefit from a new account manager or talking it through with the current one to resolve the situation between the two of you.

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    "It's not your fault you got impatient and lashed out like you did", no that's definitely OP's fault! I can understand him/her and maybe I would've reacted in the same way, but it's definitely not professional behavior! – Artery Apr 19 '17 at 14:00
  • @Artery it may have been harsh but it's not as bad as it could have been. I'll edit. – user66194 Apr 19 '17 at 14:04
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    Regardless of my decision, I plan to apologize to the them. I am ashamed. – Oxymoron Apr 19 '17 at 14:06

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