In-house Team + Contractor = Contention?

A recent SXSW podcast titled “The Holy Trinity of Web Design” dealt with the issue of contention in projects consisting of in-house teams and contractors. Contention is especially apparent when both sides are technically sound and experienced. As a contractor, querying why things are as they are or suggesting new ways of doing things could be seen as being critical to the in-house team who do not see any problems with the way they are working. The situation is a hard one to be in; recommending new approaches that add, what they see as unnecessary, work is a big risk take and not taken in good measure.This is something that rang true to my personal experience. In most cases I had to prove my technical expertise on a topic before I could gain the respect of team members. Once that respect is gained, the contention reduces and they are all ears.

So here is my advice to those who are currently in this situation:

  • To the in-house team: You need to keep in mind the reasons you employed outside help in the first place. Contractors are in a position to contract as they have proved their technical grounding and come in with a wealth of knowledge and potential to tap into. Do not waste that potential! You should also be happy a contractor is voicing their opinions and going out of their way to suggest improvements which will benefit the company as a whole.
  • To the contractor: You must not be too pushy or overly critical of everything. Respect current processes that are in place, even though these processes may be inefficient. On critising give practical advice and action points. If there is action to be taken offer to be the initator. This will come in favour as it demonstrates you’re being constructive; not just critical.

In the end it really is down to respect from both parties. If either side feels disrespected what started as an enjoyable gig could turn out being a political battle.

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