• Valérie Gillet

Working with people you don't particularly like on difficult projects within impossible timeframes



Episode 1: Not my cup of tea, but hey


Recently, I've worked on a complicated translation project with a PM I didn't find particularly easy to work with, within a tighter than Madonnas's lifting deadline.


As a professional, I am flexible and quite easy-going, except when I have to work with people who tend to use the kind of passive-aggressive and condescending tone we usually see in young PMs: polite and almost overly agreeable, but who keep pinpointing the smallest issues and mismatches in a constant struggle to ascertain pristine quality.


Those overachievers are very quick to detect anything that's not to THEIR taste before the end client actually has a first look at what's submitted. It's a back-and-forth of revisions and editing before the first draft is even delivered to the client.


This is problematic for several reasons, one of which is the constant assessment we content providers have to submit to. It’s a great source of learning when you’re 25, fine when you’re 30, a bit annoying when you’re 35, and insufferable when you’re over 40.


What do you do when you have to deal with a 26-year-old brainiac fresh out of uni who sends you a bullet-point list of each tag you forgot to copy-paste, term you translated slightly differently than in the sacrosanct termbase and double space you left behind on a 15k legal translation which you had to slave on over the weekend and deliver faster than what’s humanly possible?


Personally, I usually don’t do anything. If I don’t like the person and the work was so urgent and intricate that I’ve almost had no sleep over the last few days, while one of my kids was throwing up, the other one had to be driven all over town and my flat is bordering insalubrity because I’ve been working 15 hours a day for months, I just accept that’s the very best I could do considering.


If the 24-year-old PM who goes through the autorevised translation I had to deliver in record time in a particularly shitty format at a very average fee was expecting Émile Zola meets Virginia Woolf for badly written original content for the web, how can I argue my case? I will never win and we will never see eye to eye.


If I tend to reply politely to this kind of professional behaviour in general, it's because those PMs don’t stay long and I also move on to other projects and clients.


I’ve been through dozens of rookie Project Managers who think they’re the best thing that’s happened to translation since St Jerome. They all end up either leaving their job to become freelancers or changing course.


Because in the end, who has time to be picky with senior translators for €1500 a month while being harassed by relentless clients?


I know what I’m saying: I’ve been an unsufferable 25-year-old Project Manager myself.

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