Three-Part Series on Managing Toxic Clients
Steps to avoid or mitigate a toxic client relationship
This article will explain:
Pre-emptive practices for avoiding or putting an end to malignant client behavior before it begins
The following steps should already be part of your workflow/processes from start to finish, regardless of client toxicity or behavior.
1. Establish a zero-tolerance policy
Fat Cat Design has a zero-tolerance policy for abusive, toxic, or degrading treatment, dialog or communication. Establish one of your own, and set forth said policy early, as soon as the client treats you with noxious or abusive behavior.
2. Identify the warning signs
Be cognizant of toxic behaviors from clients who fail to comply with your zero-tolerance policy.
- Unprofessional, abusive, or disruptive communication
- Verbal abuse or foul language
- Unreasonable demands
- Refusal to take part in the project processes, and blaming you – the provider – for setbacks
- Command deliverables outside of the project scope or contract
- Disrespect or disregard your qualifications or expertise
- Reject your qualified feedback without dialog
That’s when it’s time to take your leave from the client and project.
3. Take steps and actions
- Reiterate your zero-tolerance policy for abusive, toxic, or degrading treatment or communication.
- Document all communication
- Convey your exit
- Be respectful and courteous
- Refer the client to other providers
caveat: do not put other providers in harm’s way
- Provide client-owned files
caveat: contingent upon payment of ALL receivable invoices; and client-owned files ONLY
- Express gratitude and wishes for success
After all, as design professionals, our priority is helping clients succeed.
When a client exhibits toxic, abusive, or disrespectful behavior, your only solution may be to walk away to preserve your integrity, business, and emotional well-being. Taking this necessary step is not giving up, quitting, or throwing in the towel. On the contrary, it’s an act of strength, professionalism, and self-preservation.
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