I met with a very sweet Twitter friend of mine the other day for lunch, and it turns out, she's working with an old client group of mine from years ago (though, not the exact same client).... and wow, I looked back at my experience with that team and I shake my head. There were some major learning experiences I took from that. Hmmm... shall I tell you the story of Arry's Worst Two Months as a Consultant or shall I tell you the Lessons Learned by Arry, first?
The Story: Arry's Worst Two Months as a Consultant
Now, I've been a consultant for almost a decade - and I've done pretty well (so far). Hard times as a consultant involve crazy (militant) project managers, insane weekly commutes to various cities, long hours, understaffed teams, hard-to-please clients, and ginormous hurdles on projects. No, these two months I had were THE worst. I was brought back into this group by an old client of mine (let's call her Jane) - her career was on the fast track and it had been a few years since I had worked with her. She had accomplished a lot and now had a hundred person team reporting to her. She brought me on because of my special skill set to work with her newly minted group manager (for fun, let's call him Chester) who now had reports. He was a seemingly nice guy - older, grew up in upstate New York, seemingly introverted... She asked me to help him hone his skills in management, moving his projects forward, and bring collaborative teams/people together. ... Unfortunately for me, Chester did not see me as something he needed nor wanted. Begin ... Arry's very unhappy two months.
Oh gosh, I'd say those were the roughest two months of my consulting career. I cried almost every other day in the bathroom, on the way to work, on the way home from work, ... it was miserable. Trust me - I'm emotional, but rarely do I cry at work (tho, the poor people that saw me in the bathrooms there would probably disagree). I should give you some examples of what it was like. A) To give you an example of how just unprofessional he was: in a meeting where there were people in the room and on conference call, if he disagreed with whomever was speaking on the phone, he'd mute the phone and then say something like, "well, they can all just fuck off." (whilst making a hand gesture similar to that of a man ... jerking off.) B) To give you an example of how seemingly insane he was: I met him for our first one-on-one meeting and gave him my "hello, I'm here to serve you and will do my best for you - these are things our boss, Jane, would like us to make some progress with, ..." to put myself "out there" first. I asked him what he thought... and he looks blankly straight at me and says, "What the fuck's wrong with you?" ... Yea, that's what he said word for word. I even asked him to repeat because I was so shocked. He goes, "you heard me, what the fuck's wrong with you?" ... Not so hot for a first meeting with a new client. Hostile. C) This is probably one of the funniest - but at the time the most humiliating, examples - to show you how just rotten of an asshole he was: two consultants including me, and two clients including Chester, go to lunch. We put our things down at a table and go get our lunches. This table was one of those tables that was a booth-style - four people could sit at it, but two people are on the inside, and two people are on the outside. Consultants put stuff on the inside. Clients put stuff on the outside. Clients got back to table before the consultants did. Client gets up and lets other consultant slide into his seat. Chester ignores me and continues eating his lunch. Yea, not getting up. ... I roll my eyes, shrug, and walk over to another table to eat. Consultant asks the other client to get up again so that he can join me for lunch. ... Yea. Wow. Right? Wow.
Lessons Learned by Arry
There were some major lessons that I learned during those two horrific months. Major lessons. Here they are:
1) Some clients are not worth the trouble - it's okay to fire your client (hopefully your employer will agree and support you)
2) If you come across an asshole client (or situation), if being accommodating ("survival mode") doesn't work, be a super asshole back. ~SUPER~ asshole. Grab the situation by the balls and stand your ground. Take control. Bang louder than him/her. Shout louder than him/her. Do not allow yourself to get run over.
3) It takes a long while to heal from a toxic situation like that - give yourself room to detox afterwards.
4) NEVER EVER EVER EVER let anyone, any boss, any person tell you NOT to make contact with YOUR OWN FRIENDS or contacts or clients. NEVER EVER. Remember, when in ANY abusive relationship, the abuser will isolate the abused from their network. In this situation, I was clearly mandated NOT to make ANY contact with my old client (who was his boss), Jane. BIGGEST REGRET for me.
5) Shit happens. Learn from it. Move on.