Work… Value…?


We’ve been chasing a client for payment for a few months now. Over a million dollars’ worth of development work has been expended to make their system compliant with a suite of legislative changes. Also, their service agreement is way overdue and they have not committed to a renewal.

So some 3 months ago, my big boss wanted a memo on options. I worked on it, discussed with my boss and submitted it. The big boss discussed options identified with other big bosses and we then drafted a letter seeking payment or meeting. My draft was kicked around and the relationship manager tried all sorts of tricks to keep the letter at bay.

The relationship manager is based in another state, as is that client. They maintain close contact and for a substantial debt that is undocumented in terms of potential dispute, the lack of formal communications was not desirable.

After tossing back and forth for 2-3 months, last week we settled on a letter. The commercial manager was a bit caught up in a cross fire between legal and client relationship management and in seeking not to rock the boat, acceded to the latter’s demands for a softer letter than we at legal would have preferred.

Sadly, the signatory – one that sits near the very top of the echelon – signed both versions of the letter. The dilemma of which version to be sent out (the instructions were that the letter had to be sent by such and such a date) was compounded by a raft of emails circulating amongst that commercial manager, her boss who was on study leave, my boss who had a million other matters on his plate, and that client relationship manager.

I know my boss would have wanted me to stick my head in and hold my own. I did. I said legal had always wanted the first version. That the signatory signed a second version meant an executive decision was taken to allow a second, softer version to go out.

I knew, from the moment that commercial manager came to me late on Friday last week, that this was going to swill with no value-add. I wasn’t going to take another drink from this chalice. If the top man was going to sign a second version of a letter legal had recommended, a decision had been taken to allow something other than the legally recommended version to be sent. Decision taken, move on. And yet, the signal which came back was that the fact of a second letter having been signed did not mean the first version could not still be the one to go out. So why was a second version signed? Who would decide which version is to go out? Isn’t that decision sealed by the signatory ie a second version could go out without batting an eye lid because much labour had gone into the first version anyway?

I understand now why this place has such a high turnover of staff, not least in the legal department. But…I’m here to do my job during the stipulated days and hours. So I will do so… and leave all such dramas to those who like to be part of such things…

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