When I was in high school, I had a job at a restaurant. At one point, being a mature 16-year old, I wanted to quit. I didn’t just want to quit. I wanted to tell the boss off and storm out of the place.
I was talking to my dad about it. He told me that I shouldn’t be burning bridges like that.
As a consultant, you get a unique array of seating arrangements. It’s rare for a client to give their consultants a corner office with a view. About the only corner office you’ll get is the cubicle in a high traffic area.
In most cases, a consultant is seated in a project room with a number of people; fellow consultants, competing consultants and client employees. I’ve sat in team rooms with a few as four people, to large ones with as many as fifteen.
You would think, by the time we get through twelve years of primary education and four years of college, that we’d be able to deal with criticism. After dealing with critical parents, siblings, teachers, coaches and strangers, it should be part of our DNA.
But no matter how much criticism we face in our lives, it’s still hard to take. It is a consulting skill that every consultant must learn to master.
Most of the clients I’ve worked with have been rational people that are easy to work with. But I’ve had to deal with a few that were completely irate with me. Consider the following:
I once forwarded a document from our off-shore development center to a client for him to review in a meeting the next morning. The mistake I made was, not only did I not review the document; I didn’t even open it to see if it was a document. The next morning, he called screaming at me because all he could see was special characters. Something happened with either the version of the software or the transfer of the document that caused it to be unreadable. I went to meet him to talk face-to-face and he cussed me out in the hallway outside of the conference room of his scheduled meeting.
Few companies hire consultants to be scapegoats. The primary reason consultants are hired is to help the company solve a problem, take them in a new direction, or to provide a service that they don’t have the resources to do themselves.
It hasn’t happened often, but I’ve worked with some very unreasonable clients. Either they have exaggerated expectations of their highly paid consultants, or they know that they can get away with abuse without the threat of us going to Human Resources. I’ve never taken it personally and I’ve found that if I look closely enough, I’m not the only target for these people. Continue reading Keeping Your Cool Under Pressure→