Last week I got a call from a paralegal who asked me to provide a proposal for a mock trial for a commercial case. She told me that, although she’d been a paralegal for 25 years, she had never shopped for a trial consultant. I walked her through the process, provided her with information on Magnus, and explained things a “first timer” needs to know. She obviously had this task dumped on her and she had a very limited grasp of the case, as well as what she was asking. And, what she was asking did not make sense. Her boss, the lead attorney, threw some words at her and they did not add up to me. Because we, at Magnus, pride ourselves on custom designing research methodology for each case, I always need to speak with one of the attorneys for clarification, to ensure that what I propose makes sense. When such a conversation does not happen, the likely outcome is not positive! When she was not forthcoming in arranging a conversation, I wrote a letter and emailed it to the attorneys involved (and to her). Because I got no response, after a few days I followed up with a phone call to the attorneys and to her. In response, I got a terse email saying the client decided to… “go in another direction.” This is the backstory to this post. In business, including law, words and phrases creep into the lexicon that really make no sense. Think about it, what does “go another direction” mean? Which direction? North instead of south, east instead of west? Going left, instead of right? And, my favorite, the wrong direction, instead of the correct direction? Using indirect language is problematic. One can say, “they decided to hire someone else” or something similar. This whole encounter seemed like it was one in which she was being disingenuous from the start; it seemed a choice had already been made, and they were simply covering their bases (I want to use another word there…) by appearing to get 3 bids. I could not prepare a proposal given what she told me. It would have been wrong for the case, and wrong of me, to propose something I knew was wrong. I suppose I dodged a bullet in not wasting time preparing a throw away proposal, but as you can tell, I feel the need to vent about being “used” in this way, and about the inane use of terminology like “go in another direction” when that does not correctly describe the situation.
If you think about it, and I certainly have, “We are moving in a different direction” or “We are moving in another direction” is meaningless drivel. This statement has somehow become common when it comes to rejecting job applicants, consultants’ proposals, and people, in general. In preparing for my part of David’s post, I have read several articles about the inappropriateness of this form of rejection. Some writers have referred to it as “soul killing,” while others have de-coded its meaning as “you suck.” One consultant reports wishing he had a dollar for every time his proposal has been rejected in this dismissive manner by a prospective client. In general, “We are moving in a different direction” must be something that is taught in corporate and legal arenas as a nice way to inform someone that their proposal, resumé, or other effort is not good enough and/or that someone else has gotten the job. I don’t know the origin of this phrase, but it is meaningless to me in that it provides no basis for the rejection. It would be preferable to be told that Magnus’ proposal is too complicated; Magnus’ price is too expensive; one of Magnus’ competitors already has a relationship with the client; or any one of a number of real, instead of politically correct, reasons why David’s hard work in preparing a proposal (at the prospective client’s request, of course) is being summarily rejected without much consideration. It is interesting to me that people who feign politeness do not realize the impression they make on others. To be told “We are moving in another direction” is rude, condescending, and unprofessional. I agree with one author on this subject that we should cease and desist from using this dishonorable method of not hiring someone.