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Getting Along at Your Client's Site

Tips for Dealing with Permanent Employees Who Hate Independent Contractors


When you consider moving from being an employee to an independent contractor, you weigh all of the pros and cons, considering new challenges such as accounting, insurance, and the risk of being out of work. One challenge new IT contractors sometimes don’t consider is dealing with the negative feelings and the cold reception they sometimes get from a client’s full-time employees.

Building relationships at a new client site is challenging enough, and when employees already have a negative pre-conceived idea of you, you will find yourself starting from behind. So how can you deal with these permanent employees and their bad attitudes, while also building a productive working relationship?

Start by understanding why they resent you

The employee failed to understand your situation and made assumptions, so don’t intensify the issue by falling into the same behaviour. Although you may not agree, keep their point-of-view in mind and consider these reasons that your client’s FTEs may dislike you and your fellow independent contractors:

  • They find out that their company, who they’ve been loyal to for many years, is paying you a lot more;

  • Employees have to deal with the entire job, including office politics, performance reviews, training sessions and admin tasks, whereas contractors get to do only the core work;

  • Independent contractors come in, do the high-profile “fun” tasks, then leave the IT employees to “clean up the mess” and do the grunt work; and,

  • By nature, independent contractors are experts in their field so tend to be more focused and productive. If management hasn’t communicated the IT contractor’s role properly, this is threatening to employees.

Take the highroad and start building that relationship

Depending on the scope of work in your technology contract, odds are you will need that good report with employees if you’re going to be successful, so start building it immediately. It’s up to you to be the grown-up, positive person, so try some of these tactics:

  • Communicate well, especially when explaining your role and that you’re not there to take their job;

  • Be generous of your time by offering training and mentoring;

  • Avoid coming off as a jerk, patronising, or acting above the employees. This can happen unintentionally when trying to pass on your knowledge, so be selective of your words;

  • Stay out of office politics or exposing lazy employees. Simply do your job and help the employees look good; and,

  • Refrain from talking about money or answering their questions as to how much you make. Where figures do get exposed, take the time to explain all of your extra costs. If you do make significantly more than employees, avoid flashing your success in front of them.

Some people won’t change. They’re bitter, disgruntled employees who are going to despise you no matter what you do or how hard you try. Like every other person you come into contact with who is like this, don’t put energy into them. Your options are to put up with it for the duration of your contract, work from a different location (home office?) or, if it’s really bad and you’ve explored all possible avenues with no end in sight, start looking for a new contract.

Do you have experience dealing with permanent employees who didn’t want you in their office? Is there any advice you would offer to a new contractor?