I was always taught not to worry about what people think. That’s easier said than done.
It doesn’t always work in a customer-facing scenario, particularly in the consulting world. In a perfect world, your boss would judge your performance strictly on that – your performance. It shouldn’t matter how you look, what you wear or how weird you act. Look at the final product and judge it by its quality.
Client perception is client reality
It would be nice if the client did that too. But that’s not how it works. When you’re at the client site, client perception is your reality. If you show up dressed in jeans when they wear business casual, they may develop a perception that your work is more casual than theirs too.
There is a lack of privacy when you work at the client site too. You often sit in an area where people can walk by and see your laptop screen and whatever you’re working on. Check your Facebook status for two minutes and the client manager is bound to walk by. One has to be careful about what is on display at the client.
Some clients have strict restrictions regarding what websites and applications can be accessed on their network. Others can be more permissive. Most organizations monitor web activity at a minimum.
For more information, see Client Relations for Consultants
Managing client perception
In my book, Consulting 101, I suggested visiting only websites for legitimate business purposes. While I think that’s still good advice, most companies have leeway for personal usage. It’s still a good rule of thumb to limit online work to client-related work while working at their site, whether it can be seen by someone walking by, or the tracking software.
Other behavior at the client site is just as important. If you’re seen standing around chatting with people, the client may wonder if you’re billing them for idle chatter rather than for legitimate work.
Certainly, all work and no play can make you less productive in the long run. Everyone needs some downtime. But a consultant working at a client site needs to balance that with what the client sees you doing the majority of the time.
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.