There’s no good way to deal with nightmare clients, than to make your entry strictly professional
Damilola Ogunremi, aka Darmie O-Lujon, is on her blog weekly to chat with readers about their romantic, family, financial, and workplace problems. An edited transcript for this week's chat is below.
Damilola Ogunremi: Good evening. Let's get to it.
Q. Cheated and Feeling So Broken!: Her insults and violent actions toward me and my services had been going on for weeks before I reacted. I applied to this woman’s establishment a year ago to offer my services. A few months later I got a call, and I went for an interview with a sample contract. I spoke with this woman. She has such a colorful business in a nice environment with top clients. But she complained her business wasn’t booming. She spoke of how her staffs bad mouth her to clients and, they took their business somewhere else. She listed so many challenges the business was suffering and, how she desperately want to shut it down. She presumed the ground her business is established, has occult influence which is preventing the business from booming. She cried and, I felt really sorry for her situation. How do I help this type of client? I asked myself. Imparting good values is much more important than the money I make on my job. So I reduced the charges on my services. She was happy! She read the contract and then, said I shouldn’t worry about getting it typed, that her secretary would do the typing for me.
Exceptions I have never made before on my job were made for this woman. I allowed her to skip many materials she should have bought to aid my contract and, was doing photocopying from others ‘materials. Ever since, I related to her as an older sister. Gave her subsequent free advice on how the business could move forward then, went as far as speaking to some of my friends who are professionals in her area of specialization and, could help improve her business. These people I contacted for her hesitated. She cried some more and, I called a pastor of mine to pray for her.
The first rock hit when I shared the good news of gaining this woman’s business with colleagues on my job. They spoke of how she cries to get good labor for cheap and, never pay. Once I went to work the following week, I shared the bad news I heard about her from than five colleagues. She cried, said they lied against her. I let things be and then, went about my work. Shortly after then, some of the staff started saying, I would soon leave like the others. I didn’t pay mind to them.
Time passed for this woman to pay for the advance and the balance of the services I was providing her business. However, I didn’t want her to give me money in hand like I was some house help. Regardless, I wanted things to be done professionally. So, I approached her from the contract signing angle, also reminded her that her payment was due. Each time, I approached her she told me there was no money available and not to worry, that the secretary would type the contract. Shortly after then, I started noticing she bought unnecessary things for her establishment. A person just needed to mention her competition use this particular material and, she would run to buy it even when she doesn’t know what it is used for. She sent people to establishments like hers for visibility studies. When they return with impressive report on the establishments, she claimed her competitions are ahead of her in the business, only because they are using black magic.
With all of this needless expenditures going on, I was forced to request for my money and, let go of the contract. Just then, she claimed I have not being doing my job! I was patient with her. I asked how she came to such conclusion, and then, she said everyone in her establishment told her so. When it was time to go provide my services for another week, I didn’t show up. She called over and over, I didn’t answer. I replied with the text message that said I was done working with her. She replied saying when she made it tomorrow, where would I hide my face? She sent me such a response over a professional matter? It was then I began to realize I was in for a nightmare contract. She sent many more horrendous messages until I called her. She promised to pay my money after the phone call and, I went back to work with her.
Once she made part payment, she stopped summoning me to her office for her usual complains and, my advice stopped. I thought nothing of this change or the silence. I just let her be. And that was when the insults and the violent actions toward me started. She unleashed staffs on me to inspect my services and rubbish it. But I was doing my job with extra effort, so I stomached their shenanigans, provided them anything they asked so she couldn’t nail me at all in this area.
My contract was coming to an end. I sent her a strict professional reminder to balance her payment for the contract. She threw tantrums and called me names. Afterward, she called me to her office, analyzed my services so far, and rubbished it. I had tears I won’t let spill behind my eyes. I regretted bringing myself so low for this woman to stamp on. The principles of my job require that I am extremely respectful on the job. In spite my silence and selecting my few responses carefully, this woman went on attacking my services, my so called help as she called it and, personality. Since she won’t stop with the attacks, I put her in her place at once being professional nonetheless.
I became so broken that I wanted to leave everything, the money and just walked away, but my husband made sure I finished with my contract then collected my money. How do I deal with this kind of client in future? I have been a bitter person since my experience with her. I resolved never to help any client again. My husband said this isn’t a right decision.
A: Of course it is not a right decision to make. Businesses require empathy, kindness, understanding and help; you just need to know how to offer them in business, to avoid getting crushed liked this. The signs for the nightmare clients are always there from the beginning. Your story shows that this woman’s vision and mission for her establishment is precarious. Clearly, she got into the business for instant profit making purpose, which explains why she always want to give up at any point she is faced with challenges. She cries to contractors every chance she gets for cheap labor. Who does this in business? She talks low class in business matters, tell lies, becomes irritated and inhumane when it is time to pay for the labor she has requested. Again, who does this in business only a nightmare client? While competition is healthy in business, she is a bad competitor. How can a person think his competitions are only better than him not because of their hard work, but black magic?
You made a huge mistake, so my advice is you make a professional entry in future, and leave it at that no matter what happens. When you encounter clients who are going through challenges, and feel you should cut down your charges, do it with an agreement in place. Don’t wait for any secretary to type your contract, do it yourself. Ensure the contract is signed before you execute the service you promise. Be firm. If you have advice which can help a client’s situation perk up, proffer it maintaining a strategic alliance, strictly professional relationship. From what I gathered from your story, it appeared to me that many times in her office, you had joked and laughed your head off forgetting you are on a job. It is true that people want to do business with those that are friendly, but you must do this with carefulness. If you have extra help for a client, like when you called your pastor on her behalf, wait until you are invited to render this sort of help. Although I don’t encourage offering help like this, however, when you do render them, maintain distance and be professional.