Remember the famous movie line, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore”? Well, that’s how I’m feeling now with a particularly hard-to-deal-with client, Jessie*. The problem now is how to deal with this person without insulting Jessie and incurring the wrath of a disgruntled client.
This blog post will be different from most because instead of doling out insight or advice, I’m seeking it.
A little background on the situation:
I’ve Got a Micromanager on My Hands
When I interviewed with the client, Jessie seem perfectly normal. Jessie was thorough about what s/he wanted, listened to my professional suggestions as to how to best reach goals, asked for and checked my references, and provided me with all the username/passwords I would need to access appropriate accounts.
There was one red flag, but that wasn’t readily apparent at the moment. Jessie commented that there had previously been another person in the role I was about to fill but that that person didn’t work out.
It didn’t take long, however, for it to become clear that this person was not a typical client. In fact, Jessie displays seven of the ten signs of a micromanager as listed on Leadership Thoughts. The other three characteristics don’t apply only because we are not a boss-employee relationship.
- Immerse themselves in the work assigned to others: My client often questions what I am doing and why I am doing it, even projects Jessie asked me to do or projects which have previously been explained.
- Look at the detail instead of the big picture: The client questions everything and needs to be told things or asked questions multiple times. The client seems unable to grasp why certain tasks lead to the company’s end goal.
- Discourage others from making decisions: My client takes several days to respond to my requests for information. At the same time, Jessie expects me to respond within minutes. Before I put a stop to it, Jessie emailed me dozens of times a day, often not allowing me enough time to read a message yet alone answer it.
- Get involved in the work of others without consulting them: I set the client up on social media forums specific for Jessie’s needs. Some of these forums require approval for membership. The client apparently didn’t like this because Jessie went and applied for another account before we had heard back about the first one.
- Monitor what’s least important and expect regular reports on miscellany: Jessie repeatedly asks the same questions and continually loses passwords. Jessie pays me for no more than two hours of work weekly yet claims I don’t keep him/her updated enough.
- Push aside the experience and knowledge of colleagues: Client has dismissed many of my professional recommendations as unnecessary or plain ignores suggestions.
- Have a de-motivated team: Jessie says s/he respects me and my work, but I don’t feel it. In fact, I feel the opposite.
When Diplomacy Doesn’t Work
I have tried discussing the situation with Jessie both verbally and in writing, and things will improve for a while then fall back into old patterns.
Jessie will often make excuses for his/her behavior, claiming to be busy parenting and running a business, which seems to imply that I am not doing those things and instead sitting around doing nothing, waiting for Jessie’s emails.
This client’s behavior has lead to me to believe one or all of these things are true:
- The client is disorganized: Jessie may be flighty or has no professional system in place for storing important information.
- The client distrusts me: Jessie doesn’t have faith I can do my job properly or correctly.
- The client has no idea what it takes to run a business: If Jessie has no idea how to properly run a business, then Jessie wouldn’t know how to best put my talents to use.
No matter the reason, it does not bode well for me. My contract does not have a set expiration date. I am not a quitter, but I often feel like rendering my resignation. After all, is one client worth more aggravation than all the rest put together? Is Jessie worth the stress?
I need a professional way of resolving this situation. How would you deal with Jessie?
- Jessie is a gender neutral name, used here to protect my client’s anonymity.