A long-standing client asks to start a new project with a different manager.

I do full-service data science consulting and contracting. Occasionally I get a web project which I have the background to either manage or lead. I have project management processes, create low-fidelity mock-ups, and write specs for backend and frontend integrations, and a good reputation as an engineer. My clients are easy to work with, and all my business is by referral.

When I get a new client, I start with medium/smaller projects and vet them to get a sense of what they are like to work with. I also have a minimum level of engagement that filter out clients that are worthwhile for me, so I’m somewhat selective at this stage of my career. So many nightmare stories, though, to learn this.

I have a client that I value quite a lot and have been working with for over a year. They are great and respect my work. This client asked me to send an estimate on another project, so I did, and it was accepted. I’m still in the planning phase of the new project, so I’ve only had two meetings to talk about scope and planning with their other manager.

The person they have managing has a real problem talking over everyone else when they speak, and for me, I don’t put up with this, but so far, I’ve had to be diligent with my boundaries in these meetings. It’s a lot of work to constantly manage the technical details while also fighting for space to talk and to say, “I’m not done yet; please hear me out.” At one point in the last Zoom call, the new manager told me to “stop talking” and told me there was no time to talk about the budget details of specific line items (of which the meeting was about), so I called them out and explained that the options deserve to be stated so the cost can be assessed since they impact billable development hours by a 3rd party — I’m not attached to the outcome but a decision has to be made because there are different tradeoffs. Then, just five minutes later, their phone chimed, and they said, “just a minute, I need to take this.” This was only the beginning, and this person the client chose to “manage” fit the criteria of the overbearing-micromanaging-type that sees everyone as an extension of themselves that won’t accept boundaries. The red flags are piling up.

Since I vet new clients thoroughly, from experience, I avoid projects with unprofessional people, as described above. There’s a lot more to say, but I’ve decided that this doesn’t work for me. Usually, what I do in these situations is bow out of the project with “something in life came up that prevents me from taking on this work” and give a referral or solid list of suggestions. In this case, I value the relationship and the other team at the client’s company that’s ongoing.

I would appreciate some advice on handling this situation diplomatically from other points of view.

Thanks in advance!

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