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Managing Professional Relationships

There are roughly two ways to manage professional relationships:

  • Fear

  • Trust

When I worked as an employee, most professional relationships were based on fear. The majority of people were treated as if they were still kids at school. One almost had to ask permission for everything and prove oneself whenever a finger of doubt was pointed at them.

As a freelancer, however, I've favored professional relationships based on trust. Still, some clients attempt to treat freelancers as subordinates. There are also freelancers, especially newcomers, who will submit themselves to anything a client asks for.

Unlike most employees, freelancers have a unique gift – the power to say no. We may pay more taxes and get fewer benefits than employees, such as paid time off and medical coverage, but have the freedom to choose our clients and conditions.

I've heard through colleagues that some translation agencies ask their providers to show proof of work. That is, they demand translators to prove how far they are in a project.

I know myself of certain agencies requesting that you use their own translation tool. While that might look harmless, they're likely monitoring every action you take when you're using their software.

But what's truly the ultimate motivation in these cases?

My answer is that they don't trust their providers.

If I were a company's employee and had a number of benefits, I wouldn't mind so much showing proof of my work as I do it or being tracked by default. My guess is that tracking your employees at work is the norm today.

When you're an employee, you often have to accept a series of conditions that may not be ideal; yet, they may balance out with certain perks.

Still, I'd prefer a trust-based approach!

When you work for yourself, the rest of the parties are equals. Nonetheless, that can be hard to accept for those who are starting to freelance. The subordinate mentality and the need to please may be hard to shed.

As a freelancer, I am my own boss and will say no to things that I can't entirely agree with. For instance, I believe that no one has the right to surveil me as I work. If you don't trust me and don't have any evidence to support your choice, I won't work with you.

If a potential client has decided beforehand that they don't trust you, why bother? You have nothing to prove to a stranger. Fear-based relationships are toxic relationships, and you don't want to be in one of those.

If one party has concerns over the other party, the best is to have a conversation. Then, one can decide whether that relationship is worth pursuing/keeping or not.

Some people will justify fear-based behavior saying that trust must be earned first. However, we can't build genuine relationships if we're expecting the other party to fail us sooner or later.

People who we trust may fail us at one point, but it's not right to make others pay for the mistake that an individual made at a specific time. Patterns exist, but personal circumstances are unique. Instead, it's best to have a plan B readily available when unforeseen events happen.

At times, we may not even have a plan B, and that's okay as long as the experience helps you learn something valuable. A trial and error scenario may be our only option in those cases.

When it comes to any type of relationship, there's always some risk involved. The key is to minimize it as much as you can and accept that no insurance in this world will cover all risk variables.

When you manage with trust, people work better and live happier lives.


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