As a consultant, I’ve been given guidance to not speak to or contact certain senior employees at the firm. This really makes me uncomfortable. I am friendly and outgoing and talk to everyone! How do I handle this?

Elaine Varelas provides insights on some of the reasons why an organization would limit communications with outside consultants.

Q.  I’m a consultant at a company and was given a list of people at the company that I am not to communicate with in any way. I guess they are the top management of the company. This was a first for me. Can companies really do this? I am a people person and talk to everyone, no matter what their title or position is.

A. You have identified what your role is with the company and the type of person that you are. As a "a people person", it seems you think your style determines the behaviors that are acceptable at the company.  But the company has been very clear by letting you know which behaviors are acceptable, or not.  It seems you don't think it's okay that the company and the executives in the company have let you know that they would like not to be contacted. It's well within their rights in the organization to avoid being bombarded by people who would “love to meet with them, love to talk to them, love to pick their brain, or love to get their input” from people who aren't paying for their time. There are many reasons why senior people at the organization don't want to get involved with consultants who are brought into the organization for all sorts of different roles.

You may think this is elitist. However, if these people are responsible for bringing in revenue to the organization consider the fact that for every non-billable hour that they are subject to, the niceties of the world of work as they are often called, can have a negative impact on their performance. As a company, they have determined that this kind of organizational policy is not only acceptable to them, but one that they advocate. You may not like it. You may not think it is nice. You might feel uncomfortable, but they've done you a favor of outlining what the rules for interactions with specific people are. Your role is to accept that or to decide you can’t be comfortable in this environment, in which case you should leave.

One of the things that many people don’t clearly understand is how companies make money. Many people want to network with individuals in organizations, network with consultants, network with people in sales, network with people who have portfolio careers. What they neglect to understand is that these people aren't necessarily on a salary, and so the time that they're giving away can negatively impact their own earnings, and the success of their organizations.

People's lack of understanding about how people are compensated can lead them to conclusions that are entirely misguided. It's not that people are stingy. It's that you may have a lack of knowledge about what it is you're asking for. You can ask for a half hour of a salesperson's time, which might mean they could lose upwards of a thousand dollars of compensation. Is that a fair ask in exchange for a thank you?

These same people that are identified in your organization may have found themselves in the position of spending far too much time being approached by others. We can only speculate as to why these people have decided that they need to protect their time, and who approaches them. You aren’t an employee. Unfortunately. some consultants try to solicit more work from senior people who don't want to be put in the position to listen to a pitch and say yes or no or refer you to  someone else. Consider that their organization is protecting them, and it is not about you. If it increases their productivity and the value of their firm, good for them.