What should you do if someone you’ve hired behaves like a bully?
Particularly if you haven’t done your homework before choosing a service provider, there’s a chance you could experience problems that include a contractor pushing for more money, reacting with hostility when told of a problem, or threatening to sue, file a lien or abandon a project.
Confronted with objectionable behavior, you might be tempted to respond in kind or you may feel intimidated and leery of taking action. My advice is to meet hostility, aggression or lack of logic with calm, professionalism and reasonableness. For example, if a service provider yells, maintain your composure and focus any arguments rationally, based on what you have in writing.
It’s important not to ignore odd contractor behavior, because it could signal problems with job quality or other issues. For instance, a contractor who pressures a client for payment in advance of the schedule outlined in the contract may not be paying subcontractors and suppliers, who in turn might file liens against your property.
If possible, talk with any subcontractors when the contractor isn’t present. Ask if they’re getting paid or if there are other problems on the job.
You might directly ask a contractor why he or she is behaving in a hostile or rude manner. It’s possible it has nothing to do with you or that there has been a simple miscommunication or misunderstanding.
The best way to avoid problems is to thoroughly vet prospective contractors. Narrow your search to companies that have positive reviews on a trusted online site, are appropriately licensed and insured, and work from detailed contracts. Take time to contact references.
But if you do find yourself in a troubling situation with someone you’ve hired, consider these tips:
c Document everything, even conversations, but interact as often as possible through email so you have a written record.
c Make sure you’re dealing with the appropriate person at the company. If a project manager is the source of the problem, for example, contact the owner.
c If you believe the contractor presents an actual threat, contact police.
c If the contractor is licensed, file a complaint with the state licensing agency, which may try to help mediate the situation. Or, you can file a complaint with your state’s attorney general office.
c You can fire a service provider who’s in breach of contract. Consider consulting with an attorney.
Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care. Visit Angie’s List at angieslist.com