Anatomy of a Power Shift

I recently took over responsibility for a particular program. This means I review the work of consultants a lot. We don’t pay the consultants ourselves, but we provide the money to another agency who does pay them, and it’s all contingent on our review of the work. Since he doesn’t get to complete the project until I sign off, you’d think I would have some authority over the work, right?

After two projects I get a call from the consultant. “The Partner wants to have a meeting with you since we haven’t worked with you before.” The Partner is one of those fellows who has the same name as the company, so he’s fairly big.

So a week later I walk into a meeting at their office in another city. The Partner looks at me and says “Okay, W is here, get the bats out.” Right then I knew how that meeting was going to go. I almost physically felt the power shift from me to him. I have to admire him for putting me on the defensive that way from the very beginning. The entire meeting went in a similar fashion. He was condescending and smarmy and kept trying to tell me how things ‘work in the real world’. He seemed to assume I was fresh out of school with the ink still wet on my print-it-yourself diploma and treated me like the new intern. I have no idea why he would get this impression because I certainly don’t look like I’m 20 years old. I can’t match his 30 years on the job, but I have been around the block a few times. My favorite line of the meeting, “You should come down and look at a few projects with me. I like to get my young engineers out to look at the monsters we design.” How very patronizing. At this point I’d had enough and had to share with him a few of my projects he drives across on the way to work every day.

The moral of the story…….. don’t patronize someone who reviews your work. It never ends well. Call me a small person but I look at the work I get from them a lot more closely than I did before this meeting. The only reason I’m able to work with them at all is because one of his minions is my usual contact.

The next time, they’re coming to me. Home court advantage is important.


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