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Being "dismissed" from an agency
Thread poster: J Chae

J Chae  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 11:31
English to Korean
+ ...
Mar 4, 2009

The economy's in bad shape. That's not enough: I've recently been "dismissed" from an agency I had been working with for two years. Let's start with the end.

...we have decided that we can no longer provide you with work. This is not due to the quality of your proof, but rather to the manner in which you responded to the feedback. We are... (omitted) ...and we will not accept rude treatment of... (omitted) ...we have to work as a team and respect one another at all times. We feel you have not demonstrated that respect.

Please accept this as your notice of dismissal. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors.


Now that was flagrant. How did this happen? Here's the story.

A week ago I received an evaluation report from this agency, which result unfortunately I couldn't agree with. "The evaluation found that your English comprehension and knowledge of your native language were not up to standard," now that's a whoah, but that's still ok. It's not the first time I faced jumpy observation. More problematic was its underlying reasoning. It provided some evidence, sure but nothing that could lead to such insulting (yes!) observation.

So I made a polite reply, saying that unfortunately, the evaluation was unacceptable and here's why, blah blah blah. They provided an evaluation, but I couldn't accept it, what's the big deal? I thought it was done so and we could move on. I was wrong.

The agency replied back. "I'm afraid we will not change the result of our evaluation. Based on this file, your English comprehension and your knowledge of native language are rated not up to standard." Great. Hold my temper.

This time, I made it clear and in details concerning the why the evaluation was unacceptable. Quick recap, this is a DVD subtitling agency and what I do is translate or proofread films and TV series. The film subjected for evaluation consisted of 720 subtitles. I did the proofreading, corrected 78 subs, and 5 subs among them were, according to the agency, "literal translation & errors." To me, "Literal translation" was by far the funniest, because if mine was "literal", the initial translation was obviously "creative". Errors? Beats me.

So maybe I went a bit overboard. Shortly after sending my second refusal, the agency replied with the above "dismissal notice".

Let's relax. I would like to ask your opinion before going further.

Can an agency dismiss an independant translator?

Honestly, I don't think so.

The economy's in bad shape. I'm in pretty bad shape too, but that's a joke compared to this agency. "We wish you all the best in your future endeavors" Oh, come on.

Sorry for the long posting. Below is my final reply, please feel free to comment.

...One thing I will have to clarify in the context of your attitude is that you are not in the position to dismiss an individual translator. You must listen to this very carefully - please don't misunderstand, I'm as much sincere as I do care about you - between you and us, we are only bound independently. Thus you can best terminate the contract, with or without reason, as we initially have agreed; but we are not your employees. You hold no obligation, and you hold no authority save for the clauses stated within the agreement. Neither do we. Imposing submittance, agreement and responsibility beyond respectable level is clearly unacceptable, and I fear you have committed a serious breach in the given context, either knowingly or unknowingly.


PS. That's a shame I was urged to keep my head low; honestly, there were little I could do face to the agency practicing authority over the translators. The best was to depart beforehand - strategically, I missed my turn. Too bad.

J.

[Edited at 2009-03-04 02:26 GMT]


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Kevin Fulton
United States
Local time: 11:31
German to English
Without taking sides ... Mar 4, 2009

I can see why you might object to the term "dismissal." Basically the agency was "terminating" your relationship. Perhaps the agency was trying to avoid using that term, which might be interpreted as being more harsh.

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QUOI  Identity Verified

Chinese to English
+ ...
Going further? Where? Mar 4, 2009

Well, they certainly can't dismiss you as you are not their employee. However, they can terminate your service contract if there is one and if there are grounds for doing so. They can also stop giving you any work. In short, they can get rid of you for whatever reason, may it be unfair and unreasonable.

So don't take the word "dismissal" literally. It's just a shorter version of "You pissed us off and we don't want to deal with you anymore". By the way, it sounds more official.

[Edited at 2009-03-04 03:53 GMT]


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:31
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Was this the first time you got negative feedback? Mar 4, 2009

You said you have been working for this agency for two years. I am wondering how come, that they realized just now (after two years) that "your English comprehension and knowledge of your native language were not up to standard"???
Am I misunderstanding something? Or are you outsourcing work and this one was done by somebody else than the previous ones?
Just curious...

On the other hand, look at the bright side of this "dismissal".
If they did not want to work with you anymore, they could just simply stop sending work to you, without saying anything. In that case, you would still be under the contract you signed with them, and would stay like that probably forever.
However, now, that they "dismissed" you, the contract is no longer in place, so if you had any confidentiality or non-compete clauses there, the countdown clock starts ticking now...
(I am referring to clauses that prohibit you from working with THEIR clients for x number of years after terminating the contract.)
Keep that in mind, you never know what direct clients may come your way in the future.


Katalin


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J Chae  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 11:31
English to Korean
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Before furthering my story, of course Mar 4, 2009

Well, before furthering my story of course.

Ray wrote:
Well, they certainly can't dismiss you as you are not their employee. However, they can terminate your service contract if there is one and if there are grounds for doing so. They can also stop giving you any work. In short, they can get rid of you for whatever reason, may it be unfair and unreasonable.


To answer to your opinion: That's correctly so, Ray. Official? Sure.

Not that I take this literally; I'm also willing to end this contract for once and for good. My opinion is, this agency would still want to have the authority to dismiss.

It is difficult to deal with an agency who thinks if a translator comes up with an argument, that's straightforward "piss off", though.

Katalin wrote:
You said you have been working for this agency for two years. I am wondering how come, that they realized just now (after two years) that "your English comprehension and knowledge of your native language were not up to standard"???


Was this the first time I got such feedback from this agency? Yes, Katalin. I don't do outsourcing, so maybe my ability has deteriorated by age, who knows. And yes, it's an excellent news indeed compared to what might have come inversely.

J.

[Edited at 2009-03-04 04:35 GMT]


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Anna Sylvia Villegas Carvallo
Mexico
Local time: 10:31
English to Spanish
I've also been sent to hell... Mar 4, 2009

...due to my bad mood (and I've learned the lesson). But, believe me, it is not the end of the world, as this keeps spinning round.

Turn the page, or take a turn for the better. That's all you can do.



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Giuseppina Gatta, MA (Hons)
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
Completely agree Mar 4, 2009

Carvallo wrote:

...due to my bad mood (and I've learned the lesson). But, believe me, it is not the end of the world, as this keeps spinning round.

Turn the page, or take a turn for the better. That's all you can do.



In Italian we have a say, which may sound connected to religion, but it actually means something else: "Morto un papa, se ne fa un altro" (If a pope dies, we'll elect the next one"), referring exactly to the attitude Carvalho explained in his message.

You'll find other agencies, they'll find other translators, where's the problem?


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J Chae  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 11:31
English to Korean
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks Mar 4, 2009

Hola, Carvallo.
Ciao, Giuseppina.

I'm not so desperate, believe me.

I'm in some way upset due to the way translators are considered by some agencies. But what you're saying is true: let's turn the page. I'll find other agencies, they'll find other translators, problem resolved.

J.


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sarandor  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:31
English to Russian
+ ...
Unfortunately for us, it's a buyers' market.. Mar 4, 2009

I understand how you feel. But like they say, one door closes, another opens!

J Chae wrote:

I'm in some way upset due to the way translators are considered by some agencies.


What kind of 'evaluation' was it - a test, or just comments from a proofreader/editor?


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J Chae  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 11:31
English to Korean
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Evaluation based on my work(s) Mar 4, 2009

The agency says it was a regularly managed evaluation, based on a random selection of my works. The last (and the questionable) one was done on my latest proofreading, by the way.

So far they claim the evaluation is done with the assistance of in-house employees and other peer translators' comments; I happen to know one translator working with this agency, and when I asked his opinion about this evaluation personally, he confirmed the result was plainly outrageous. Why? because in fact, he was part of the evaluation, and here's what happened:

Agency - Please take a look at subtitle #2 and let me know if this is correct.
Translator - Well, strictly "pre-Islamic" and "ancient-Islamic" is not the same, but...
Agency - So this is wrong?
Translator - ...but is this relevant to the story? I mean, does this play a key role? How many times "pre-Islamic" is mentioned besides #2?
Agency - Just in this one.
Translator - Then it's okay, even better for the audience.
Agency - But it's wrong, you said. How about "(something she made up spontaneously)"?
Translator - No, no, listen, don't try to play with a language you don't know. Let's just stick to the original translation.

No, I'm not making it up. Besides, there were four other subtitles the agency reported "wrong", but the translator was apparently unaware of them; how did they get the peer comments, I only wonder.

[Edited at 2009-03-04 05:47 GMT]


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Narasimhan Raghavan  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:01
English to Tamil
+ ...
In your place I would have dismissed the agency Mar 4, 2009

I would have written to them, "I, on my side, dismiss you as my work provider".

By the way, how about reporting them to the Blue Board? This will clearly state that you will no longer work for them by giving them a rating of 1 and fully describing the circumstances. Even the thought thereof makes me happy.

Regards,
N. Raghavan

[Edited at 2009-03-04 05:51 GMT]


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Katalin Horváth McClure  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:31
Member (2002)
English to Hungarian
+ ...
Yeah, civilized business relationship is expected Mar 4, 2009

J Chae wrote:

It is difficult to deal with an agency who thinks if a translator comes up with an argument, that's straightforward "piss off", though.


I agree, mutual respect and civilized conduct is necessary in any business relationship.


Katalin wrote:
You said you have been working for this agency for two years. I am wondering how come, that they realized just now (after two years) that "your English comprehension and knowledge of your native language were not up to standard"???


Was this the first time I got such feedback from this agency? Yes, Katalin. I don't do outsourcing, so maybe my ability has deteriorated by age, who knows.


Well, I asked this, because something must have changed if they all of a sudden have quality complaints. Possibilities that I can think of:
1. New, young project manager possibly with an inferiority complex who gets defensive very easily - if this is the case you could try going to his/her supervisor or straight to the company head. It happens sometimes that new employees (PM or accounting people) don't have the right idea of how their own company operates...
2. New reviewer, possibly overly zealous - in this case you can present your arguments - which is what you did, I guess.

What is still not clear to me is how things turned out this way, because from your description I understood you received your reviewed translation with the assessment that it is not up to "standard" (- by the way, is there a defined standard at this agency?), did they tell you at that point that they don't want to work with you anymore because of the assessment?
It seems to me if an evaluation that they apparently care about gives the thumb down, that would be a reason for ending the contract. They presented it as their reason is not the negative evaluation, but rather your attitude...
So, if we turn this around, that means if they give someone a negative evaluation, and the translator says "I am sorry" or doesn't say anything, then it is all fine and they keep working with him???? Sounds strange to me...

Anyway, it looks like you are better off without them.

[Edited at 2009-03-04 05:54 GMT]


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J Chae  Identity Verified
Canada
Local time: 11:31
English to Korean
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
That's feasible Mar 4, 2009

Sure I would, Narasimhan. Thanks for your suggestion.

It seems so, Katalin. As far as you keep your head low and submit yourself to their evaluation, you might be granted to keep working for them. Or maybe not, I can't tell since I haven't been there.

One thing I can tell, though, is that the agency wasn't motivated in listening to my objection. Maybe they could've ended the contract anyway, or they could've given an excuse to lower my rate. (Every April or so, the head HR office routinely adjusts the translator's rate.) Which, by the way, would've been impossible without my consent.

[Edited at 2009-03-04 06:12 GMT]


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Aniello Scognamiglio  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:31
English to German
+ ...
Translators and agencies are business partners Mar 4, 2009

Narasimhan Raghavan wrote:

I would have written to them, "I, on my side, dismiss you as my work provider".

By the way, how about reporting them to the Blue Board? This will clearly state that you will no longer work for them by giving them a rating of 1 and fully describing the circumstances. Even the thought thereof makes me happy.

Regards,
N. Raghavan

[Edited at 2009-03-04 05:51 GMT]


Hi Narasimhan,

I never get tired of pointing out that freelancers are small enterprises. They are not provided with work, the work does not knock on their doors. Employees are provided with work, and every now and then they are laid off.

Translators with an employee attitude (I am not talking about you but in general) are treated like employees.

Of course, a freelancer cannot be dismissed. Translators and agencies are business partners, and so are translators and direct clients. I fully agree with J Chae that many agencies do not respect many translators. The question is why? The answer can be found further above in my comment. But it is also true that many translators do not respect clients.

Best,
Aniello

[Edited at 2009-03-04 10:11 GMT]


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Tomás Cano Binder, CT  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 17:31
Member (2005)
English to Spanish
+ ...
We are not perfect! Mar 4, 2009

Some time ago one of my best customers sent me a review done by the end customer, a world-class European company. In many cases, end customers think that something is a mistake and change their minds when explained the reasons for that particular transation, but in this case they were plain right about a couple of things I should have done differently.

This happened after about 4 years translating the same kind of documents for the same end customer! They even wondered whether I had subcontracted that piece. It was quite a blow. I had to admit that A) I was not careful enough with a difficult translation and B) I should have reserved more time for that kind of difficult text.

So the task list system in our team was changed to add a calculation of the time the translation could take, based on the difficulty and the language pair of each piece. This has helped us better reserve an adequate slot of time for each job.

All in all I am happy that the end customer complained, as it helped me improve.


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