Here at Kingsbridge Contractor Insurance, we recently had a conversation with an IT contractor that gave us insight into a scenario that we think may be fairly commonplace. How to be assertive when contracting.
The contractor told us that a couple of projects she had recently worked on had overrun past their deadline due to her clients holding things up internally. This was due to things like long turnaround times on sign-offs, delays in providing information and other hold-ups. She said she felt as if she should have pushed back to her clients, reminding them of the deadlines and asking them to speed things up. However, she didn’t feel confident to do this as she is a contractor and didn’t feel she had the same influence as a permanent employee.
So, we’re here to tell you what we told her: never be afraid to be assertive.
You’re there because you’re an expert
Remember, you’ve been hired as a contractor because you’re an expert at what you do. You might not be a full-time employee of the company but they need you in order to get their project rolled out.
But we do understand that pushing back can be daunting, especially if you don’t have a naturally dominant personality. So, how to do this in a way you feel comfortable with?
Identify sticking points early on
If you know there are points where the project could be held up while you wait for sign-offs and approvals from higher up the internal management structure, agree deadlines with workable turnaround times with your client in advance. Agree that if you deliver a milestone by a particular date, it needs to be signed off within a certain number of days or else the project will be delayed.
Let’s assume you’ve agreed five working days as a turnaround time for sign-off, giving adequate time for your work to be put in front of various managers to look at. If you’ve not heard anything after three working days, you could send a friendly reminder to the relevant stakeholders to ensure they remember the deadline. Make sure you point out that once the deadline has passed, there could be delays to the overall project. Offer to talk stakeholders through your work if that will speed things up.
If, at this point, someone lets you know there will be a delay, so be it, but you should reiterate that this may result in days added on at the end of the project.
Once the deadline has passed, if there has still been no sign-off or feedback, send more urgent reminders to stakeholders, letting them know that the project is now behind schedule. You could even include a revised completion date (based on if they get the sign-off to you in the next 24 hours) and what the cost will be in terms of your fee.
Doing this does a couple of things. Firstly, it hopefully gets the project moving again. Secondly, if there is an overall delay to your work as a result, it means there is ample evidence to demonstrate the cause of that delay, just in case there is any dispute further down the line.
Remember, being assertive and direct at work is not a negative trait, it’s something that’s necessary in ensuring you’re able to do your job to the best of your ability.