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I came across a part time e-commerce project through a friend of mine. She said I would need to meet with her partner who is a decision maker and discuss things with him further.

Everything seemed to be very interesting and the project would bring a good amount of money for me.

However, after meeting her partner I began to dislike almost everything about that guy: he is arrogant and aggressive when he speaks. During our initial discussion he made me feel as if I owed him something!

Long story short, as much as I like to take this project (due to financial reasons) but I am anticipating there will be a lot of drama working with such character therefore I am thinking to say NO to her.

My Questions:

How can I diplomatically inform her that I am rejecting their project due to her partner's attitude?

Do I even need to mention about his attitude, or just say no to her without any further justification?

  • 31
    Everything you say should have some point and has consequences. What goal would you be trying to accomplish by telling her about his attitude? What consequences do you think saying this might have? If you just say no without any justification, what implications would that have in terms of her considering working with you in future? Is there maybe some middle-ground between those 2 (yes, there is)? – Dukeling Jul 17 '17 at 12:50
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    Where are you located? How forward you are with people is quite culturally dependent. If you are talking about US/Canada both Jason and Pete's answers are great. In other cultures these approaches could be too forward or understated. – Myles Jul 17 '17 at 17:44
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    For clarification is this "business partner" or "life partner" (or both) ? How diplomatic you should be depends on this. Also consider having a face to face with the partner to see if he's just as obnoxious. Sometimes people need time to loosen up. – StephenG Jul 18 '17 at 0:52
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How good a friend is she? If the partner's attitude is something that may cause future problems for the business I would suggest mentioning it to her and what gave you concern.

Outside of that, I would just leave it with "After meeting with your partner I don't think that I would be the best fit for this project".

124

"No." is a complete sentence.

Despite the mantra from Hollywood, a good attitude, kindness, generosity, etc... tends to make one more successful in business. Given a preference, people would rather not do business with a bombastic personality. You should not feel guilty about feeling this way.

Saying something like:

The project may have merit, but Johnny is not the kind of person I like to do business with.

This should be seen as kind and might help her understand that choosing the people we work with is an integral part of keeping sanity at work.

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    Agree. It may also confirm to her that Johnny isn't a good fit (which she may know already, but be in denial of), and that her project may run smoother without him. – PeteCon Jul 17 '17 at 13:18
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    Sounds an awful lot like "it's not you. it's me." – AffableAmbler Jul 17 '17 at 15:40
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    @AffableAmbler isn't it more like "it's not you or me, it's him"? – LangeHaare Jul 17 '17 at 16:30
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    @LangeHaare True--if op didn't care about diplomacy, I'd probably say "drop the extra baggage and we'll talk." – AffableAmbler Jul 17 '17 at 16:33
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    Perhaps "it seems to me that I would have some difficulty in maintaining a productive business relationship with Johnny." – Technophile Jul 19 '17 at 18:13
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Just speak your truth. Let your friend know that speaking to her business partner made you uncomfortable and that you feel that working with him will present an undesirable challenge to you. If she's your friend, then she'll understand and thank you for being up front about it. If she's NOT your friend, she'll become offended or try to push you into doing it anyway.

Sometimes all the money in the world isn't worth the headache of dealing directly with a crappy client. Kudos to you that you've recognized this early. So now it's time to stick to your guns and let your friend down gently.

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    I especially like your last paragraph. Life is too short to work with people you do not want to work with. – Christiaan Westerbeek Jul 17 '17 at 22:01
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    This. For some reason the truth seems to be commonly dismissed as an option when it is generally the best option for everyone involved. – rooby Jul 18 '17 at 0:14
  • @ChristiaanWesterbeek "LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO WORK WITH PEOPLE YOU DO NOT WANT TO WORK WITH" - simply awesome – Jagz W Jul 26 '17 at 6:44
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“Sorry, I don't think it's a good fit.”

You are probably going to have issues if you either give excuses, or much more detail. Keep it short and minimize the space for things to go bad. That's all you might need to say—and might be what's best.

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    Its a full answer. The OP is probably going to have issues if they either give excuses, or much more detail. Keep it short and minimise the space for things to go bad. That's all they might need to say - and might be what's best – Stilez Jul 17 '17 at 22:33
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    @Stilez Your answer would be better if you include that comment in it. – kapex Jul 18 '17 at 11:22
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    The fact that you need to explain yourself in that comment indicates that it is not really a full answer. The additional explanation would probably make all the difference though. – Mad Physicist Jul 18 '17 at 18:45
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    I like this despite @Kapep's point because this is all the explanation that you give the friend. :) – Wildcard Jul 18 '17 at 22:30
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    @Stilez: you need to move your comment justifying why this is IYO a full answer into your answer. Since some will disagree. – smci Jul 19 '17 at 13:04
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If it's a friend that told you about the contract...Well you probably should tell what happened as a friend rather than as a professional.

Tell her what happened and why you don't feel like working with this person since you don't feel there's gonna be a match. Be careful to properly choose your words, you might go like :

He seemed kind of aggressive while talking and wanted to constantly remind me that I owe him the contract, which felt odd, so I don't think this is going to work out, except maybe if I get to work with someone else on the contract.

6

How can I diplomatically inform her that I am rejecting their project due to her partner's attitude?

If you must mention the reason behind your refusal, then consider the following:

Thanks for taking the time to discuss project XYZ with me and introducing me to your business partner. While the project is interesting, during the meeting with your partner I found that our style of communication doesn't mesh well, and I don't believe I'm a good fit for this role in your team. Thank you for the opportunity, and good luck in your endeavor!

It conveys what you want - that the issue isn't with the project, but with the existing team - without speaking negatively of any individual. Obviously she doesn't have this issue, so calling him out as a jerk, or someone with a bad attitude isn't her experience, or if it is she's learned how to transcend such communication patterns and still get work done.

Even if it is a significant problem, or if he's truly a jerk or has a bad attitude, you don't necessarily want to call it out, partly due to your limited experience with him, but also because it's not your place to ruin their business relationship.

Do I even need to mention about his attitude, or just say no to her without any further justification?

You do not need to mention the real issue. If she digs for a reason then you may want to bring it up, depending on your level of familiarity with her, but there's also the issue where she may be bringing a project to you for your benefit. She may not actually need you, and it is possible that her partner is unhappy with the situation and was unable to completely hide it during the discussion.

Thanks for meeting with me about your project. I'm not going to be able to accept it, but I wish you luck with it!

There's no need to volunteer more information. If she really, really wants you to work on this project she will press for more explanation, and after a discussion it's possible you may come to an agreement you can both live with (that involves less contact with the other person, perhaps).

If she's doing you a favor she will drop it immediately, unless she's a close friend and is really interested in helping you out financially - then she'll probably press for more info, but directed towards your financial state and what you plans are to rectify it.

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I think saying, "I don't think this project will be the right fit for me." is answer enough. Then, if your friend asks for the why of it, that opens the door for elaboration.

If you're open to working with someone else within the organization, as you indicated above, I'd note that as well. Doesn't mean they can't bait-and-switch you once they get you on board, so I might specify the points of contact in the contract.

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    The one line answer does provoke the friend to ask for details, but why complicate the things? Also, without the details the answer makes an impression that the issue is with the topic starter, not with the friend's partner (which is not the case). – Igor Soloydenko Jul 18 '17 at 16:22
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Because you can't ask her directly to just sort it out somehow, means she's not your friend but an acquaintance. This changes things a bit. It means that no matter how you sugar-coat the "No" it's her partner and there's a chance it won't go smoothly with regards to future references. That is, you are essentially delivering a message that it's his "personality" that you dislike, and if they are friends, (and most likely they are very close) you can (or worse - can't) guess how a person with that kind of attitude will receive it.

This project most likely has a time-frame, and if you've 100% decided to decline, then perhaps you are not able to free up your current schedule to take this project at this time.

Another alternative is "drama surcharge". Don't mistake this for some sort of "retaliatory" measure. If you have two clients with similar projects, yet one requires much more of your time/energy than the other. Wouldn't it be fair to charge extra for this? (Of course, without explicitly mentioning this) You are not selling lumber. You are offering services of your mind, where you and your product are one. Some people have no understanding/respect for that. The more difficult the client, the higher should be the surcharge they pay. It's quite fair, just like working overtime and getting paid extra rate. Don't be afraid to incorporate this surcharge into your total quote. Of course if this interaction severely impacts your self-respect/feelings maybe it's not worth it no matter how much extra you charge.

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If you're concerned with it, there's no diplomacy needed. Simply explain "look Sally, your friend seems pretty arrogant to me. Therefore I would rather not participate in a project so long as he is as well". Don't be soft. Just get to the point.

None the less, there's a difference between confidence and a butthead (generalizing as you've described him). Perhaps he's confident and you're simply not used to that, and you're intimidated by that. Give them a chance. If you need the money, you'll do what it takes and deal with whoever you need to, to make money.

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    this could be a point but doesn't answer the question, as OP seems to have already made a decision -> How can I diplomatically inform her that I am rejecting their project ? – OldPadawan Jul 17 '17 at 15:41
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    There is a HUGE difference between confidence and arrogance! – comxyz Jul 17 '17 at 15:53
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    @Benjamin There is also a greater difference in how different individuals define those two terms. I think that PiGuy88's advice is sound. Everyone wins if the OP gives the partner the benefit of the doubt. – Michael J. Jul 18 '17 at 18:08
  • Thank you Michael J. I am going by dictionary definition. – PiGuy88 Jul 18 '17 at 19:13

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