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End a Business Relationship and Keep Your Cred

Saying goodbye is never easy, but breaking a commitment is even harder. It’s not always possible to continue with a particular project or business relationship, so a time may come when the project manager will need to ‘suck it up’ and make the hard call. A post by David Wakeman to the Voices on Project Management blog suggests that if broached correctly, the PM can save considerable face in the process of dumping the project client.

Blame Yourself

It’s me, not you… is the popular line heard in TV and movies dramas. Essentially, this is what Wakeman recommends you say to the business partner:

“I’m sorry, but I just don’t have the ability to deliver the work to you in a manner that you have grown accustomed to” or “I find myself at a point where I don’t feel my presence best serves the project, and I think a new set of eyes is going to be helpful to getting things back on track.”

The most important point to consider is that you are in the wrong, and the break is an attempt to make amends (positive versus negative framing).

Present Alternatives

Don’t leave the client with their mouth open wide, a bouquet of flowers slipping from their listless grasp. If possible, recommend to them alternative means by which to continue their project goals. Perhaps you were uncomfortable in the relationship, but a less experienced and more eager firm might jump at the chance to serve the client’s needs.

Manage the Fallout

Trying to control the inevitable fallout of the breakup is futile. Instead, try to manage a negative ‘ripple effect’ of bad PR with as much positive spin as you can muster. To that end, it might help to issue a general statement of apology / intention to clarify your position on the matter for all knowledgeable parties.

Read the full blog post at:

About Eric Anderson

Eric Anderson is a staff writer for CAI's Accelerating IT Success. He is an intern at Computer Aid Inc., pursuing his master's degree in communications at Penn State University.

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