When Clients Don’t Act As They Should

When you are relatively young in the office, clients can be intimidating. There’s so much suck-upmanship going on towards them that you start to feel like part of an entourage. But clients can show astonishingly bad judgment on occasion and it’s good to know how to deal.
There’s the obvious, sexual harassment problem. Chances are good that a client will hit on you during your career, even if you don’t know that it’s happening. If you are oblivious, the problem may go away, because you’re obviously not a player. Unfortunately, some clients are either not perceptive or don’t care if you’re interested and they persist. If a situation borders on harassment, Human Resources is your safe haven; H.R. professionals know the best strategy in delicate situations. Your company is legally responsible for guaranteeing a safe work environment, whether the potential threat comes from within or outside the firm.

The other client problem is more closely related to your actual business and generally occurs in service companies. In these types of businesses, you advise your client and they respond to your advice. The success of their response may directly influence the amount of revenue that both of your companies earn; but if not, it will certainly affect your company’s reputation and its relationship with the client.

Formerly, as banker, I introduced clients to private sources of capital for their businesses. The pitches the clients made to the potential investors were their 30 minute shot at a sale. If they failed, we both suffered. So I was surprised to see one of my clients smoking a joint in the parking lot before an investor meeting. Never was I so preoccupied by the seating arrangement at a meeting. I feared the slightly sweet aroma emanating from my client’s suit would waft in the direction of the investor. I quickly sat in the closest seat to the investor, forcing my client to sit one more body’s length away. I could also elbow him if he started drifting. My client performed well as he ever did. Go figure.

After the meeting though, just by letting my client know he was busted, made sure he never repeated the same performance. I suggested that he have his suit cleaned and added that next time, he might want to wait until after he asks for the money before he celebrates.