Re: Other Clients from Hell

Subject: Re: Other Clients from Hell
From: "Kat Nagel" <kat_nagel -at- rte -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 8 Jun 2000 11:23:11 -0400

BTDT. As a freelancer, I ran into this more often than I care to
remember. Companies that do that sort of thing usually fire the
in-house writing staff and hire outsiders who have less invested in
the reputation of the company.

Disclaimer: My suggestions below are based on the assumption that
you're dealing with a truly unethical company. Today's business
climate means that even reputable companies occasionally run into
clients that demand unreasonable delivery dates. Reputable
companies will give you the support you need to make reasonable
compromises between schedule and quality, and will protect you if
the client gets nasty.

My first encounter with slimy business practices such as you
described---which I was too naive to handle well at the
time---prompted me to talk to my lawyer and work out this general

1. I keep working on my part of the project, meeting my deadlines.
This buys me some time.

2. I express my concerns to my immediate manager in every team
meeting and status report. (Express your concerns in writing, and
keep copies offsite. Frequent written status reports help, here.
So does offering to write the meeting minutes <grin>.)

3. As part of #2, I give my standard speech on professional
responsibility and ethics, and ask for a change in the way we're
handling the project.

4. When that doesn't work, I ask (privately, but in writing) for a
written opinion from their legal department on the liability issues.
Sometimes that scares 'em into changing their policy enough for me
to do a deal with my conscience.

5. If #4 doesn't help enough, I send the HR rep an email or memo
asking about Errors and Omissions coverage in their corporate
business insurance policy. Does it cover individual employees as
well as the corporation? If the HRcritter is typical, it will call
the insurance company to find out. Insurance companies purely HATE
this sort of thing, and will start asking hard questions of Pointy
Haired Bosses.

6. When the fallout from #4 and #5 brings the inevitable PHB
response---"shut up or leave"---I make a decision based on the
degree of ethical discomfort and the state of my finances.
(Mortgage companies and automobile financing companies don't care
about your ethics. They want their money on time and will take
nasty steps to get it.)

While I was freelancing, I kept my resume up-to-date and maintained
a home-business insurance policy with limited E&O protection. Full
E&O coverage costs Big Bucks in this part of the US, and is usually
outside the budget capabilities of the typical techwriter. I still
keep my resume live (one never knows...) but I've let the insurance
policy lapse, now that I'm a captive employee again.

Kat Nagel, Senior Technical Writer
Real Time Enterprises
kat_nagel -at- rte -dot- com
...who doesn't expect to see that kind of problem at this company.
These are GOOD folks.

----- Original Message -----
From: Scottie Lover <iluvscotties -at- mindspring -dot- com>
> what would you do if you were
> a consultant specifically directed to do things you knew were
> wrong?

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