Agency assumed I would take a translation
Thread poster: Sara Mullin

Sara Mullin  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:00
Member (2007)
English to French
+ ...
Feb 21, 2008

Hi everyone,
I’ve been taking a lot of contracts recently from an agency that I really like working for, and for whom I hope to continue working. One of PMs sent me an email last Friday at 5pm asking me to confirm if I could take a short translation, due Tuesday morning. I only saw the email at 9pm on Friday and I replied that she had already probably found someone else to confirm they could take the contract... but if the job was still open, I was interested but needed her to confirm that no one else had been assigned the translation. I did not want to waste my time doing a translation over the weekend for which I would not be paid and I really thought that she would have not gone home on Friday without getting a confirmation, if not from me, from someone else.

I heard nothing from the agency on Monday, (in my mind) confirming my suspicion that someone else was doing the translation. Tuesday morning, I get a call from the PM asking me to take the translation (which is basically due immediately). Even though it was a bit difficult for me to do so, I took it, and rearranged my schedule to finish it asap.

It turns out that the PM did NOT contact anyone else and was away all day on Monday. She only found my email on Tuesday morning. In other words, the PM contacted ONLY me at the end of a Friday workday. And despite the fact that she did not receive confirmation from me, she assumed that I would take the job and then left for three days, only to arrive back to work the morning the translation was due to find that I did not do the translation.

Has this happened to anyone else?

Here I am feeling guilty as though I've let the agency down, as though I've somehow "missed" a deadline, when in fact I believe that it was the PM’s fault for assuming I would be available and willing to take the translation. Am I wrong in thinking that? Should I really have gone ahead and done the translation hoping that it hadn't been assigned to another translator and that I would be paid?

I really value working with this agency and I am afraid that they only know that the translation was not ready for the Tuesday morning deadline and therefore they'll think I'm unreliable, or will not want to work with me again.

Should I make sure the person in charge at the agency understands what happened? Not only do I hope he knows and does not consider me at fault, but I also hope this doesn’t happen again. What if I'm away and the same PM assumes that I'm doing a translation for them again? It makes me feel unprofessional to be placed in a situation like that, and that upsets me because I strive to be absolutely professional.

Thanks in advance for any advice offered.
Sara


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Hilde Granlund  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 15:00
English to Norwegian
+ ...
this is not your fault Feb 21, 2008

And unless the PM in question is a total idiot (s)he should not try to blame this on you. Quite to the contrary - they should be very grateful that you rearranged your schedule for them when the matter was cleared up, and therefore be delighted to send more work to such a serious and flexible translator.
I think I would wait and see.
If you really get no more work from them, perhaps you should contact the boss and ask if it has anything to do with this incident, and explain your side of things if it does.
My guess is that you will be getting your usual amount of work from these people, if they otherwise know that you are reliable and do a good job.


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Terry Richards
France
Local time: 15:00
French to English
+ ...
Such is life Feb 21, 2008

1) You did nothing wrong
2) The PM screwed up
3) You did your best to help them out of their own mess
4) The PM should be grateful...
5) ...but probably won't be.

C'est la vie

T.


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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 14:00
Dutch to English
+ ...
Ask for an after-hours contact number Feb 21, 2008

I wouldn't wait to see what happens.

Casually say that you'd like a number to contact someone and make sure when these type of things happen, so you can confirm from your side after-hours if necessary.

That way you're not casting anyone in a bad light, but still getting your message across.

I have after-hour numbers for all the main agencies I work with (normally the mobiles of the PMs), just like they have mine. You can then just SMS and ask: "still need me to to proceed on job xxx" or "sorry, but no way I can fit in job xxx". Make it clear it is not to be intrusive, that you will be using it almost exclusively for text messaging, but that at times it is really essential to get in touch with someone. Use the job as an example without harping on who was right or wrong.

It was a short translation, she assumed you'd fit it in, no big deal when you've been working with an agency long enough.

I wouldn't get on my high horse, or even worry too much about it, just deal with the situation tactfully and don't go over the PM's head.

Sure, she should have checked before leaving, but she didn't, it could have just slipped her mind. PMs are run ragged at times too. So propose a way of ensuring it doesn't happen again, without making a big deal out of it. Be pro-active.

Obviously, I'd only bother if it was a valued client. Not for just anyone who sends me a job on a Friday afternoon.


[Edited at 2008-02-21 12:04]


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John Cutler  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:00
Spanish to English
+ ...
Everyone needs to pull their weight Feb 21, 2008

My experience with agencies is that if you give them an inch they take a mile. In other words, once you start working with (notice I said with, not for) them, they assume you have absolutely nothing else to do and want you to be on notice 24/7.

As far as I’m concerned, any agency that sends a job on a Friday evening and then heads out for a long weekend is acting unprofessionally and certainly doesn’t deserve the cut they’re getting from the profits from the translation.

What are they getting paid for? Just to act as a relay station for forwarding translations to end clients?

My policy is to only work with agencies that are available for me in case there’s a need for consultations with them or they need to ask the client about a question I may have.
They need to be held accountable for the fees they’re charging and be just as available as they expect you to be. We’re equal partners with agencies not their employees.


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Heinrich Pesch  Identity Verified
Finland
Local time: 16:00
Member (2003)
Finnish to German
+ ...
Usually they phone first Feb 21, 2008

In such cases it is the habit to phone first and make sure, that the translator is still in office and available. So it was not your fault.

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Alfredo Fernández Martínez  Identity Verified
Spain
Local time: 15:00
English to Spanish
+ ...
Don't blame yourself for their lack of confirmation Feb 21, 2008

Don't blame yourself for their lack of confirmation

I totally agree with John.

As far as it is concerned, you could be in Hospital, translating all afternoon, or in Barbados enjoying the sun.

Do they not know what mobile phones are for, assuming they had yours?

If they 'expect' things, without confirmation, they are not worth the cut the take.

Plus, you are not employed by them. The fact that you had done previous assignment for them, DOES NOT IMPLY OR BIND YOU TO TAKE THE NEXT ONE.


Is this way how they treat their workers and employees too?

You are better off staying free, relaxed and, not stressing yourself out for other people's lack of competence.

I say!

All the best,

Alfredo


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Sara Mullin  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:00
Member (2007)
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks, I don't feel guilty anymore. Feb 21, 2008

Thanks everyone for your advice.

Yes, they have both my cell and home number and have called on occasion in the past, but not this time. I've also worked with the PM before and she has always been professional until this incident. Perhaps it really was just a case of her forgetting in the final rush of the day/week? I hadn't thought of that. And of course, everyone makes mistakes.

I just found this to be an awkward situation- I was caught between the idea of waiting to see what happened and taking a pro-active stand, all the while not wanting to point fingers, to make a big deal of it, or go above the PMs head.

And I should point out that I don't know if I'm being blamed for anything at all. And that's also why I didn't know if I should leave it, hope for the best, or make sure the air is clear.

I like Lawyer-Linguist's advice and I think I will go that route, simply because I truly value this agency and because I don't want to be placed in this situation again. If I had never worked for them before, I'd think they were unprofessional, but this incident is an exception to the rule.

Thank you again, everyone!


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Samuel Murray  Identity Verified
Netherlands
Local time: 15:00
Member (2006)
English to Afrikaans
+ ...
You are their translator Feb 21, 2008

Sara Mullin wrote:
In other words, the PM contacted ONLY me at the end of a Friday workday.


In other words, you are "the translator" to her. You should feel flattered.

I really value working with this agency and I am afraid that they only know that the translation was not ready for the Tuesday morning deadline and therefore they'll think I'm unreliable, or will not want to work with me again.


Honest misunderstandings will happen. Why did you only get the e-mail on Friday? Time zone difference? Don't read your mails just before you go to bed?


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Sara Mullin  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:00
Member (2007)
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
We are located in the same city Feb 21, 2008

Hi Samuel,
Thanks for your reply. You're right, I do feel flattered in a way. I believe that it's a two-way street between this particular agency and I with both of us enjoying working with the other. It's just that I don't like being placed in an awkward situation like that. But really, what if they were counting on me and I truly was not available nor able to check my email (e.g. I was in the hospital)? They should have gotten a confirmation that someone was taking the job instead of assuming it would be done simply because they asked one person via email if they were available. But you're right, mistakes do happen, and based on my past dealings with them, which have always been professional, this was surely a mistake. I was just not sure how to address it.

As for the time difference question, in fact, there is no delay as we are in the same city. She sent the email on Friday at 5pm our time. I had taken the day off (all of my contracts had been completed) and was out and about, so I only had the opportunity to check my email right before I turned the computer off for the evening, which was 9pm our time.


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Marie-Hélène Hayles  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:00
Italian to English
+ ...
Totally agree with Lawyer-Linguist Feb 21, 2008

I don't have the out-of-office numbers of my main clients, but it's a good idea. In any case, I doubt very much the agency will think badly of you - it sounds as if they like working with you as much as you do with them.

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Cetacea  Identity Verified
Switzerland
Local time: 15:00
English to German
+ ...
Another option Feb 21, 2008

This is definitely not your fault; no client can simply assume you're available to take on a job. However, when I take a day off, I set up an automated e-mail reply, specifying for how long I'll be out of the office. That way, clients in the same time zone know I won't get back to them until the next day, while e.g. U.S. clients can expect me to get back to them during their normal office hours (i.e. "my" evening). Of course, I do the same thing when I go on vacation.

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Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 14:00
Dutch to English
+ ...
Out of Office replies Feb 21, 2008

Cetacea wrote:

However, when I take a day off, I set up an automated e-mail reply, specifying for how long I'll be out of the office. That way, clients in the same time zone know I won't get back to them until the next day, while e.g. U.S. clients can expect me to get back to them during their normal office hours (i.e. "my" evening). Of course, I do the same thing when I go on vacation.


Yeah, important point.

I always leave these messages too, even though I check emails roughly once an hour when I'm out during the working day on a PDA.

This coupled with an after-hours contact number will ensure nothing falls through the cracks.


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Nikki Graham  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 14:00
Member (2003)
Spanish to English
Ask them to call your mobile in future Feb 22, 2008

There's nothing wrong with not being available to answer emails on a Friday afternoon. If I were you, I would ask this PM to phone you in future if you do not reply to her emails within a certain time period. My usual customers know that if I don't reply to an email within approx. 15 minutes it means I'm not at home in front of the computer and so they call my mobile. If you are in the same city as this agency, the call shouldn't cost them much, they can get a quick yes/no answer from you and sort the job out. If for any reason you cannot/do not answer the phone, the PM should assume you are unavailable and assign the job to someone else.

Personally, I would not want the personal phone numbers of the PMs, nor would I in any way want to encourage out of hours contact. I may work evenings and weekends, but that's my business and I do not appreciate work calls or emails during those times.


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Sara Mullin  Identity Verified
France
Local time: 15:00
Member (2007)
English to French
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
good advice Feb 23, 2008

Thanks again everyone. Lots of good advice.

I always put on an automated email reply when I go on holiday, but usually not when I'm just out for the afternoon. It just didn't occur to me. But, from now on, I'll definitely use that option.

A quick update- I wrote to the PM reminding her of my cell and politely saying that perhaps the next time she needs immediate confirmation close to the end of the day or the week, she should please call my cell if she doesn't hear back from me via email or can't reach me at home. I also asked if it was possible to have her cell so that I could send an sms to either confirm or say I wasn't available, while stressing that it would be for exceptional use only (I value my time off just as much as I assume she does and wouldn't abuse it).

The funny thing is that she did it again. She wrote at the end of Thursday asking if I was available for a small job due 6pm the next day and chose not to give me her off-hours number. I was out for about an hour and when I got home and saw her email, it was already after hours. She did try calling me at home this time, but didn't try my cell. And of course I didn't think to put on the automated response...

Anyway, I've done all I can from my side and will always use the automated response from now on. And perhaps one of these days if she gets herself into deep enough trouble, she'll try my cell

Have a great weekend.
Sara


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