The Aloof Consultant

Written by lewsauder

April 2, 2012

Aloof Consultant

The Aloof Consultant

I once had a new consultant join my team who entered the client site as if he owned the place.  He was expected to share a cubicle with a fellow consultant but refused.

“I need a desk to myself to spread out.” He exclaimed.  In fact, he lobbied to get an office with a door to himself.  The client’s managers didn’t even have such a perk.

An aloof consultant

That was just the beginning.  This aloof consultant claimed to be a database expert and criticized every aspect of the client’s database design that was different from his own design preferences.

He didn’t last long.  My firm recognized the problem early.  They tried working with him to no avail.  The client’s patience with him wore thin quickly.  As soon as we could find a replacement for him, he was removed from the project.  The firm tried working with him further on his attitude, even experimenting with non-client-facing assignments, but they finally ended up letting him go.  His arrogance cost the firm more than they could reap from his skills

Client focus

Over the past couple of years, I’ve written at length about clients that mistreat consultants.  I felt it was time to address the other side of the coin.

Clients that pay high hourly consulting rates sometimes demand and complain to the point of making a consultant’s life miserable. The consultant often feels they have no other choice but to grin and bear it.

But why would a client take the same grief from a consultant?

Why put up with an aloof consultant?

Sometimes a consultant has a deep knowledge base of the client’s business that the client feels is indispensible.  The client may be willing to put up with an arrogant attitude to yield the benefits of the knowledge they get from a specific external consultant. They justify that it’s the price of a knowledgeable advisor.

Still in other scenarios, the consultant is placed on a pedestal like a rock star and the client is too star struck to recognize it.  This “Charlie Sheen Syndrome” causes some clients to feel as though the consultant is arrogant because he is so good.  Or maybe they think he’s good because he’s so arrogant.

But even if the client puts up with a conceited “rock star” consultant, they may be willing to put up with him for just the minimum of work they feel they need him for.

They may be going to the consultant’s competition for other consulting services when there is a more down-to-earth alternative.

And for every aloof consultant who gets his share of clients, there are many others who either don’t get work or don’t get as much as they could, if it weren’t for their condescending approach to the client.

Client expectations

Clients usually pay premium rates for consultants.  In return, they should expect to receive valuable knowledge or services.  A consultant should be confident in their delivery of those professional services, but spare the client the brazen attitude.

See my related post: Dealing with a Condescending Client

It’s good for the client, good for the relationship and just good business.

If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at

As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.

Lew’s Books at Amazon:

Project Management 101
Consulting 101
The Reluctant Mentor

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