27 August 2009

Divided by a Common Language

I am SO American.

I try not to be, but I swear I can't help it.

I really, really do try, when dealing with workmates and vendors/agencies in England, to lower my voice, slow down my speech, avoid random cultural references (a feat unto itself) and to sound apologetic At. All. Times.

As the Poster Girl for calm restraint and clear communication...it seems I am a miserable failure.

At least when dealing with one, particular vendor agency. A new agency that apparently doesn't deal with many American clients.

So these guys are supposed to write stories for me. They interview my customers - across Europe - and then write up articles based on those interviews.

Like I said, this group is new, and they came recommended by someone in our UK office. I had to cut loose the old agency because they were JUST too damn expensive. Honestly, ridiculously expensive and their work wasn't that stellar.

Now I know why they charged so much - they employed American-fluent staff members who always understood, perfectly, everything I asked for.

Apparently they were highly-skilled, bi-cultural anomalies worthy of the price tag.

So, the New Guys: I asked them, weeks ago, for an outline - they sent me a first draft.
Apparently English high school and American high school are so completely different that Brit kids skip the critical Outline step in the term paper process and go straight for the kill.

They don't understand why I want an outline. "Why would we waste time on an outline?"
I don't think they have to understand...just humor me and do it.

I sent them all the information for the current project nearly a month ago. I got the first draft (in lieu of an outline) yesterday. Yesterday. I've been begging for something - anything - in writing for two weeks. They didn't realize I was in a hurry.....

I sent them information, in German, about a German customer and they interviewed my German sales rep in...German. Then they wrote the paper in English.

What am I missing here? The old vendor received information in French, interviewed everyone in French and wrote the paper in Freaking French - for a French-speaking audience. I assumed (red flag) this was common practice. You write the paper in the language of the customer. It's the way everyone else has always worked.

Clearly, and I am not being sarcastic, this is my bad. I did not communicate to the New Guys that I wanted the paper written in the language in which every bit of research was submitted. My lack of communication. I admit it. I assumed, and that never ends well.

So the account rep - who has been on holiday lo these many weeks - just called me. He was defensive and explanatory and going on and on and on without taking a breath until I thought he might pass out on the other end of the phone. Silence. Thunk. Sirens.

Right in the middle of his second marathon justification I said, "Stop...Derek....Stop, Derek. StopStopStopStop! You can stop. You don't have to defend what you've done. Let's just fix it."

Silence. Oh, God, he's had an aneurism.

"Sorry?"

"It doesn't matter that I expected one thing and you thought I wanted something else, just translate what you have and resend it. Next time, we'll know better."

"Sorry?" Again with Apology-as-Question. Who the hell is this guy? Doctor Who?

"Derek. The information I sent to you was in German, the interview you conducted was in German. I assumed the paper would be written in German. But I never specifically asked you if it would be delivered in German. My miscommunication. It doesn't matter. Let's just fix it."

"Oh. Right. Okay. And, actually, that bit about an outline? That actually makes more sense than the way we currently do things."

"You're welcome. Now go buy Nigel a drink, and bill it to me, before he kills himself."

"Right. Well, okay then. We'll have the translated version to you by Tuesday.

"Fair enough. Now we know."

"Indeed." mumble-mumble-mumble.

So now I can't decide if I need to send an email stating, "Okay, here's what I want: Step one. Step two. Step three." so there is no further confusion...Or if that would send poor Nigel absolutely over the edge?

Which is worse? Over communicate and risk sounding like a condescending bitch, which at this point, if I said, "lovely weather" I'd sound like Eva Braun.

OR hope they understand now? But if they get it wrong again, it will be my fault for NOT reminding them to wipe their asses and we'll be yet another week behind schedule.

(See, that's the sarcasm I work so hard to suppress. If only they knew me, I'm sure they'd appreciate the Herculean effort.)

Christ on a bike...Is it 5:00 yet?

3 comments:

Merisi said...

I feel for you! ;-)


I was listening to the news this afternoon, there was talk about a new bachelor degree, in language arts. It took me a while that they were talking about creative writing.

fatboyfat said...

Put something in writing. You're the client, after all. You're calling the shots.

But what is this mystical 'outline' of which you speak?

Le laquet said...

Ah Derek and Nigel! Such solid names :o) And ditto FBF - outline???