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Family circumstances: do you tell your clients?
Thread poster: Marion Rooijmans

Marion Rooijmans
Netherlands
Local time: 18:55
English to Dutch
+ ...
Jul 18, 2007

Dear colleagues,

I was wondering how much you tell your clients about your family circumstances. For instance, do you tell them that you a) will not be available due to the death of a relative, b) will not be available due to family circumstances, c) will not be available.

What if you had a serious illness but would still be able to work (but less, due to treatment)?

Thanks,
Marion


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Sonja Tomaskovic  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 18:55
English to German
+ ...
Death of family member Jul 18, 2007

When my father died earlier this year, I told all my clients about it. The response was very positive, all came back at a later time and offered me work.

I also told them before the death of my father that he was terminally ill and required special care, and that I would not be able to work as much as I did before.

Nobody ever complained, on the contrary. The news were met with a lot of understanding and respect, all of my clients remained in contact with me and always enquired how much I would be able to do for them.

Sonja


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 17:55
Dutch to English
+ ...
Same as Sonja Jul 18, 2007

In my case, it was my brother-in-law.

For a period last year, I had to move up to Lisbon and look after him as he was divorced and I was the only one with the flexibility work-wise to do so.

Since I had to often stay up all night with him and/or go most days to the hospital for his chemo, pain consultations etc, it was inevitable that I had to cut back on work.

I identified a number of clients (around five) that I could not afford to lose (my "inner circle") and only took work from them. They knew what was going on and why I couldn't always accept but remained loyal and gave me "right of first refusal" on the jobs they would normally assign to me.

I invested in a PDA and made a point of always giving them very quick responses to job offers by e-mail so they weren't kept waiting.

I merely told others I needed to take a leave of absence for personal reasons and said I'd be in contact again when I was able to accept work. There was no need to divulge more to them.

My brother-in-law died last August.

I had no problem picking up where I had left off once I felt ready to go full out again and notified everyone.

A vida continua ....





[Edited at 2007-07-18 08:23]


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:55
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
I do Jul 18, 2007

Marion Rooijmans wrote:
I was wondering how much you tell your clients about your family circumstances. For instance, do you tell them that you a) will not be available due to the death of a relative, b) will not be available due to family circumstances, c) will not be available.


Personally (or: in my culture) I feel that the death of a relative is none of my client's business. In the case of a death, I would remain vague and say that there has been a family emergency.

However, if I'm about to be unavailable for two hours because of a dentist appointment, and I'm busy negotiating with a client, I'll tell him the truth. It is more believeable to tell a client in mid-negotiation that you'll be away for X reason, because then the client knows that you're not just avoiding him.

One has to be careful with giving away too much personal information (because the client might not want to be involved), but on the other hand it is good if the client knows that you are a real human being with real other activities.


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 18:55
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
Reduced availability Jul 18, 2007

Lawyer-Linguist wrote:
For a period last year, I had to move up to Lisbon and look after him as he was divorced and I was the only one with the flexibility work-wise to do so. ... I identified a number of clients (around five) that I could not afford to lose (my "inner circle") and only took work from them.


Good idea. When it comes to reduced availability for a long period (instead of complete unavailability for a relatively short while), I would also inform all or most of my clients, and reveal as much personal information as I see fit.

Your approach of giving more personal information to your inner circle, and only vague information to your outer circle, is a good one, IMO.


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megane_wang  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:55
English to Spanish
+ ...
I do too... for "obvious" reasons :O Jul 18, 2007

I don't like to give too much information about my private life but, as Murray says, we are all people, not machines. And, fortunately, we have family, friends, and other things to do outside our jobs.

My experience is that, it's always easier and safer to tell the truth (even though it's not necessary to tell every single detail to an occasional customer, either!!!).

The world is so small... you could be attending a funeral, or simply going to sing in a church for a 50th wedding aniversary and find your customer there!! Both things have happened to me.

Fortunately, on the second case I had told I had an important engagement scheduled that day !!! **blush**

Ruth @ MW


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 17:55
Dutch to English
+ ...
Thanks Jul 18, 2007

Samuel Murray wrote:
Good idea. When it comes to reduced availability for a long period (instead of complete unavailability for a relatively short while), I would also inform all or most of my clients, and reveal as much personal information as I see fit.

Your approach of giving more personal information to your inner circle, and only vague information to your outer circle, is a good one, IMO.


Thanks Samuel, I think divulging more to the "inner circle" stems from the fact that after working wth those for a number of years, you inevitably develop a closer relationship with them and so they desrve more than vague details (without going into every detail).

And, although I'm careful to keep things professional, the support I received from them over that period was invaluable and means I'm always going to feel more disposed to take their jobs in future.

They wouldn't be or remain in the "inner circle" if they didn't pay well and on time, so their support is just an added incentive to keep working with them.

Groete
Debs





[Edited at 2007-07-18 09:51]


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 11:55
English to Russian
+ ...
I did too Jul 18, 2007

Between Oct 2002 and Feb 2006 I had to live between 2 countries - I flew to Russia to tend to my mother and back to the US ~every 2 months, and in the end spent about 6 months in Russia with only one December trip to the US before I was able to bring my mom with me back to the States. I didn't lose a single client. Obviously, I had to cut my interpretation work in the US and switch to translation only when in Russia, and in the final 2 months I almost could not work at all.

Everybody was very supportive, my prime client had actually worked around my schedule to assign me for my routine interp shifts within my US windows. The other one called his Moscow connections and they in turn called me with interp job offers. Unfortunately I had to decline because I had to sit with mom after her first operation but I will always remember my clients' compassion and support with the utmost appreciation. BTW, I am talking about agencies.


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Mervyn Henderson  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:55
Member
Spanish to English
+ ...
Or fake it Jul 18, 2007

Depends on the customer and how well you know them.

People are human and react with solidarity to human problems. My assistant had no hesitation in using this last year. We’re well organised here, but one of our more, er, neurotic, busy-busy customers – let’s call him X, the kind who rings up every hour to check on how it’s going, reminding you how important the deadline is etc. - had given me a text which, as I ploughed through it, turned out to be nightmarishly technical with format problems to boot, and to cut a long story short I wasn’t going to be able to make the deadline.

As the phone rang and I saw X’s number on the screen, I said to Idoia, “Oh no, now I’m about to be made to feel two inches high, it’s 4 o’clock now, and I’ll never make it for 5 pm.”

“Don’t worry, said Idoia, “I’ll talk to him.”

She put the call on loudspeaker and we heard X say, “Hello, is Mervyn there, it’s about an urgent job, very urgent in fact, I just wanted to make sure it’ll be OK for 5, but really 4.30 would be better, or even 4.45. It’s urgent, you see, very urgent …”

Idoia smiled at me, mouthed “Urgent” to me, then stopped smiling before she spoke. “Oh hello X, I’m afraid he’s not here at the moment. A really difficult morning we’re having. … You didn’t know his grandmother died, did you?”

I tried not to gasp, but my jaw dropped an inch or two, and I waved my hands at her, mouthing “No, no ….”

But X had already gasped himself – “Oh no, I didn’t know, oh that’s dreadful”, we heard him say.

“Yes”, said Idoia, “yes, she died in Ireland. And he can’t go to the funeral.”

X was aghast. “Oh no, oh no, oh, really, the job can wait, in fact, it’ll be OK tomorrow, or the next day even, it’s not actually that urgent, er, tell him I’m really sorry, won’t you?”

She thanked X and came off the phone. “Well, you’ve got another day at least. OK?”

“But Idoia, how could you do such a thing, lying to him like that?”

“Pardon me, but I haven’t lied to anyone”, she said firmly.

“Yes you did, you told him my grandmother has died”.

“No, I said your grandmother died. Preterite. And she did die, didn’t she? Years ago. In Ireland. She died.”

I thought about this. “OK, I can see that, but then you said I can’t go to the funeral in Ireland. That’s got to be a lie.”

“But boss, it’s true that you can’t go to the funeral in Ireland because there isn’t going to be a funeral to go to, is there? I told X it was a difficult morning too, which is true, but it was him that made the connection between the two things, not me. Come on – you know how people are about their grandparents here. He’s given you a break. he’s forgotten about your job already. And you know how he is – he worries about your job for no reason, he wants your job right now, quickly, on his desk, so he can have more time to worry about something else.”




So I suppose if it’s the real thing, why not tell them, instead of leaving them wondering about your motives?


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Parrot  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 18:55
Member (2002)
Spanish to English
+ ...
It's cultural, I guess Jul 18, 2007

Still, I have no qualms about citing major disruptions covered by the national Workers' Statute (death or hospitalisation). Understanding that these are not faked)

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Marion Rooijmans
Netherlands
Local time: 18:55
English to Dutch
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Worst thing you could do Jul 18, 2007

Mervyn, what your assistant did is the worst thing you could do, IMO.

First of all, you lied to a client, no matter how you put it. He had the impression that your grandmother had died recently and there's no way he could have understood that she died years ago and that you couldn't go to a funeral simply because there was no funeral. I doubt this client would send you new jobs if he ever found out.

Second, I think it's very disrepectful to use the death of a relative in the past for the mistakes you make now. You accepted the job, couldn't make it on time and that's YOUR mistake. You should have told this client the deadline was too tight, that you misjudged the amount of time it would take you, or whatever reason it was that you couldn't make it on time.

Last, your story might have been funny in an off-topic post, but this was a serious question and the people who've replied so far, have shared real stories. They took care of people who were seriously ill and for me, that's a very good reason to inform their clients of their reduced availability, regardless of what they actually tell their clients. In addition to being disrespectful to your grandmother, I think you're being disrespectful to these people as well...

Had that been my assistant, I would have sacked her.


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Daina Jauntirans  Identity Verified
Local time: 11:55
German to English
+ ...
I tell them Jul 18, 2007

I told a client about my grandfather's passing and she was very understanding. I was also able to take a 3-month maternity leave and return with very little hassle.

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Patricia Rosas  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 09:55
Spanish to English
+ ...
in Mervyn's defense ... Jul 18, 2007

Mervyn Henderson wrote:

Depends on the customer and how well you know them.

...
"Oh hello X, I’m afraid he’s not here at the moment. A really difficult morning we’re having. … You didn’t know his grandmother died, did you?”

I tried not to gasp, but my jaw dropped an inch or two, and I waved my hands at her, mouthing “No, no ….”



I agree that I wouldn't normally lie to anyone (I hope), but in Mervyn's case, a lie was exchanged for a lie. The client was lying by saying the job was urgent. That simply wasn't true. Anyway, his story made me laugh!

The staff members working for one of my valued clients sometimes "exaggerate" their deadlines. But I've put it into perspective: they know they can count on me, and when I turn in my work, that'll be one less "ball in the air" they have to worry about on big complicated projects.

When I was hospitalized briefly a couple of weeks ago, I told them about it immediately, and they showed immense solidarity and concern.

So, I think the bottom line here is that you have to approach each situation individually; no "hard and fast" rule can really apply.


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Nikki Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 17:55
Partial member (2003)
Spanish to English
Tell the truth Jul 18, 2007

When my father died, I was in the middle of a largish project. I phoned my client (agency) immediately, told them what had happened and they told me to send the unfinished translation as it was. I was then able to leave on a plane back to England from Spain that very evening to be with my mother.

I have a very good relationship with the vast majority of my clients and I have been working with them for years. When I had a medical problem about 18 months ago, which I would rather not go into detail here, I told some of my clients because I had to cease work immediately and again send unfinished work back (same client as with my dad) or tell them I would not be able to start projects I had accepted.

I find that in most cases in life, honesty is the best policy. And if you tell the truth, then at least you don't have to try to remember who you told which lie!


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redred  Identity Verified
China
Local time: 00:55
English to Chinese
+ ...
Private Jul 19, 2007

Nowadays the Blog is popular, it means private life can be exposed via the net promptly. Do you think a private matter is told to a client as same as a Blog frankly speaks out your inner heart to readers you don't know hidden somewhere in the globe? Though honesty is someone's motto, a client is merely one of sources you make a living, he/she is not your maiden gal, he/she would not inquire your private life in return.

[Edited at 2007-07-19 01:46]


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