How To Politely Reject A Work Thing
November 30, 2018 11:11 PM   Subscribe

I've been asked to dip into a project and promote it at no cost to myself, but helping Person A lower on the career ladder. Thing is, Person X is also collaborating with Person B with whom I have had bad dealings. How can I reject the proposal politely when I'm known for mentoring and helping out young talent? Details below.

I work in a small industry where it's normal to hype and promote others' work, where people collaborate on short-term projects, and everything's very centered around your network. I happen to be respected within my industry, I've worked hard to get to where I am, and my industry connections are great. I like mentoring and helping others to reach new clients and build their careers.

Last year I finished a big work project. I had hired Person B to work on an important part of the project. Person B delivered sub-par work, was rude to their supervisors, and eventually busted out leaving me with a hole in the budget (not a BIG thing, but still huge enough) and sorting out the chaos meant we had to postpone the delivery of the entire project for 3 months. I was not happy and Person B caused a lot of stress for the entire team.

Now Person A pops up and asks me to hype up their project and be a part of their project (the task is a couple of hours' work, tops). Normally it's a no-brainer for me if I can see the potential in someone and the project sounds fun. However, taking a closer look at the project I can see that Person B is heavily involved, the project's been worked on while Person B was formally employed by me, and they would benefit financially from my endorsement/involvement.

I'm not planning on going "omg, I don't want to get involved because bad blood between Person B and myself" because the industry is so small and gossip runs riot. I also don't want last year's project to be dragged into any mess. Likewise, I don't want to be associated with Person B in any way, shape or form.

How can I reject the proposal politely when I'm known for mentoring and helping out young talent?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Sorry! Maybe next time?
posted by kate4914 at 11:25 PM on November 30, 2018

I would love to work on this with (true) but I'm just not able to right now. (also true) I would be very happy for you to ask me again next time, so please do. (if applicable)
posted by mewsic at 11:43 PM on November 30, 2018 [18 favorites]

"Thanks for asking! I'm not in a place where I have the focus for this right now. Once your project is over, why don't we sit down and see if there is a way we can collaborate in the future."
posted by frumiousb at 2:19 AM on December 1, 2018 [8 favorites]

Mewsic has it. You are VERY excited to work with them, but unfortunately you can't work on this project right now (no reason given). And then make it all about finding another time to collaborate with them. You're offering your support to the person without supporting the project.
posted by gideonfrog at 9:15 AM on December 1, 2018 [4 favorites]

Go ahead and do it.

Because if you don't, person B will probably guess why, and may conclude they need to start downing you in self-defense, and since there is a chance person B is doing that already, working on the project may make them relax a little and dial it back.
posted by jamjam at 10:13 AM on December 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Person B is in no position to down anyone. Their name is mud through leaving an entire team in the lurch and they now need OP for his reputation and the financial benefit they'd bring to the project. Plus OP was B's former employer, it sounds like overall they carry a lot more industry weight than B, who sounds like a lazy pipsqueak.

There is no way OP should feel beholden to an ex employee who ran out on a job and is now looking to capitalise on the same person they screwed over by using his reputation to make money off! Gracefully bow out using one of the many nicely worded phrases already given, and don't worry about B mouthing off. If B is smart, and your industry is that small, they will keep their mouth shut or risk sinking their entire career. They're just lucky so far you're more professional than they are.

Plus, if the industry is that small, people already know that B left you high and dry - they can read between the lines and know why you're not working with him again. Hopefully, Person A knows that Person B is unreliable, especially if they are that heavily involved in their new project, otherwise their project could be at risk too.
posted by Jubey at 1:51 PM on December 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Also, if this project was progressing at the same time as yours, and B was working on it while he was employed to work for you instead... you've already contributed massively to its success. Now they're asking you to do it again! Absolute cheek. I'd ask for a commercial share of the project. You paid for it!
posted by Jubey at 1:56 PM on December 1, 2018

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