Too Many Hands In The Pot!

As VA’s we have all sorts of clients. Some work for themselves and others may work for someone else.  Never the less, it is our job to support our clients in whatever capacity we have agreed upon. For the most part, we have a direct connection to our client and work closely with them.  We communicate on a consistent basis and if we are unsure of something, we either email or pick up the phone and ask!  Not such a bad thing, right?  Right…for the most part.

But what happens when you have a client who works for someone else and the project you were assigned to work on not only has your input, but your client’s input and his/her boss’s input as well?  This was the situation that I found myself in today.  I have an ongoing project that I have been working on for a client of mine and it was brought to my attention late last week that I wasn’t doing things exactly as I should be.  What??? I was following all instructions given to me and asked questions as they came up, just to make sure.  Somehow, that wasn’t enough.  Come to find out, my client was new to working with the other person and the lines of communication weren’t always clear.  Therefore, what was told to him was then told to me.  Sound familiar?  It reminds me of that old telephone game we played as kids where one person would say something to someone and then that person would turn to another and repeat what he heard.  The message heard last is never what was initially said.  Fun game, but frustrating, right?  We’ve all been in similar situations at times, but it’s how we deal with them that truly matters.

For my client’s part, he owned up to the miscommunication and confusion and I apologized for any additional issues that may have arisen due to my lack of knowledge.  I didn’t have to, but I thought it was the right thing to do under the circumstances.  I didn’t want my client to get into any trouble for something that I had inadvertently done. 

When there are too many people involved in a single project it can get messy.  Not only do you have to figure out who all the players are upfront, but you have to make sure you know what is expected from all and how each individual wants the project done.  Phew!!!  

Too many hands in the pot can be a disaster if you don’t know all the details.  That’s why I try not to get involved in these types of situations as they can cause undue stress, poor communication and job performance; but sometimes it’s inevitable.  Will I continue to work on this particular project for my client??? Absolutely!  But, you can bet I will be asking even more questions from here on out so that this situation doesn’t happen again.

Have any of you experienced similar situations?  If you have, what did you do and how was the situation resolved?  I know we all could use additional suggestions for the future and I’m looking forward to seeing yours!

One thought on “Too Many Hands In The Pot!

  1. cmvanvleet

    Jennifer, that’s interesting. Because I spend so much time collaborating with large groups of people, I was a little puzzled regarding this initially. I often act as a go-between not only for my clients but also for subcontractors. I don’t often have a major issue come up (knock on wood!) so either that’s a testament to my communication skills or … I don’t know. I do know that when you have too many “bosses” in the pot – i.e. too many people trying to run the show “their” way, it can definitely get messy. Usually the owners either defer to me and my judgement and expect me to guide them or vice versa. Maybe what you’re experiencing is a poor communicator – the source is communicating well but the middle person doesn’t necessarily have good skills at that. Maybe you can find a way to work more directly with the source, so instead of a back and forth between you and the client, it’s more of a 3 way discussion so you get all the details. In any case, good luck and hopefully it’s just a temporary hiccup.

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