Everyone hates this scenario. Its presence pervades all lines of work. You are with a colleague, and you observe this person behaving badly. What thoughts race through your mind (I don’t know you; are you drunk; did you forget your medication)? More importantly, what is your reaction? Not your knee-jerk reaction that will certainly bring you down to his hideous level. What demeanor will you display when confronting the individual?
Some time ago, this ugly situation happened to me. Names have been changed to protect the guilty (as well as my company from litigation). One of my interpreters (let’s call him Zac) had an emergency and was unable to perform an assignment that coming Monday. Instead of calling me, Zac called another interpreter, who we shall call Vero. Vero had another assignment and she made arrangements for another interpreter, “Pat,” (who just happens to be an ATA Certified Translator) to cover, and she called me to explain what happened Sunday evening. My company is not in the custom of sending interpreters we have never met to an assignment, but this is an emergency. So far, everything seems kosher. Until Monday morning.
The interpreter, “Pat,” wants to know how much this assignment pays because he charges X amount in his area. I’m at a hearing and I cannot speak to Pat. My secretary is advising him how much we are paying, and Pat says that’s not good enough. During a break, I send a quick e-mail to Pat, copying my business partner. Therein I explain how much we pay, and when he can expect to receive his check. After all, why on earth would you accept an assignment without knowing what the compensation is? And after you have accepted it in blind good faith, are you now going to decline the assignment because the money isn’t good enough?
Pat said that he was a certified translator, did not enjoy doing interpretation, and that the rate of pay was unacceptable. Mind you, this diatribe is occurring two hours before the appointment. Finally, 65 minutes before the assignment is to take place, Pat responds with this:
“I can cover the appointment for you as an independent contractor working directly for the lawyers at $X per hour and give you a $40 finder’s fee. I’ll present the situation to them in such a way that they know you did your due diligence.That’s the best I can do. If these guys find out I did a job for $Y an hour they’ll want me to do all my future jobs at $Y an hour. Let me know what you think…”
What do I think? A $40 finder’s fee? Does this miscreant believe I was born last night? For crying out loud, I’m from Brooklyn! If Pat thinks this is an acceptable offer, I’ve got THREE bridges in Brooklyn to sell him, along with Manhattan Island, and it’s not going for $24 today. I have never met Pat. I don’t know him from Adam. Do you honestly think I was going to let this individual hold me hostage at the 11th hour?
We called our client and explained exactly what happened to Zac (who will not be used by us again) and Vero. I apologized profusely and explained that I understood that if she never wanted to do business with us again, I could relate. Then, my business partner called Pat to tell him that the deposition had been canceled. Pat then told my partner that he could have done it for $Y. Too late, dude, you’re on my excrement list now. The client accepted my apology, and two weeks later, the deposition was rescheduled and Vero covered it. I managed to keep it together when my certified colleague behaved poorly. Did I learn something from this event? Yes indeed. More about that later.