Parting Ways with Your Client, Company, or Employer

Letting Go

Last week we chatted about looking for new clients or starting a new job, finding the right fit, and what to do on Day 1. If we learned nothing else from The Lion King, we learned that there’s a Circle of Life. Things begin, they grow, they age, they go away. As life itself goes, so does it go at work.

Sometimes it’s time to leave a job (just for the record, I’m not going anywhere, you have to keep reading my screed). Sometimes it’s time to fire a client. In today’s column, we’ll examine how to read the writing on the wall and how to cut the cord. 

There are many reasons for breaking up with your client or your job. I would guess that, like most relationships, it’s not the giant things that cause you to leave, but the incessant addition of small straws to the camel’s already full baskets. It’s not one big thing, but many small things, that meld together and create the reason to leave.

Setting the Right Expectations from the Start

I may or may not have a tendency to be in control of my own self. I may or may not be patient with other people who try to control my success. And, so, being unsatisfied with others being in charge of me, I started my own business. 

While providing top-notch technical support and consulting to my clients was important, what was more important was how our relationship worked. I was going to treat my clients like highly capable business owners and they were going to treat me like a highly capable business partner. And, for the better part of 25 years, that worked out well. 

Until it didn’t. Sadly, I had come to realize that no matter how well I treated my clients, people are people and a client was bound to take advantage of my delightful and generous nature.  

An All-Too-Common Scenario

Well, actually, it was my client’s husband(!) who behaved badly. He would call me at all hours of the day/night, on weekends, anytime he was off work and tinkering with her computers. He was sure he knew more than me and succeeded in repeatedly destroying many of the processes I had set up. 

He would call me up as an “emergency”, argue with me about the solution, and then argue with me about the bill when I would charge them at my after hours rate (because he “had a day job so he only had off-hours” to deal with things?). I explained and re-explained my hours and my contract numerous times. I sent him the contract more times than I can remember. 

And it finally ended when he screamed at me on a Saturday morning: I was onsite at a long-standing client’s new office setup and he was being unreasonable. He wanted to know why I couldn’t fix his self-created “problem” even though 1) it was Saturday, 2) I was otherwise occupied with someone else’s pre-planned computer, server, and network upgrade, and 3) I had no internet connection.

He told me how awful I was and how he was “the client and paid me for my services” to which I responded, calmly and slowly and softly, “You are going to have to stop yelling at me. Right now”. The next time he raised his voice my response was simply, “I don’t think this relationship is a good fit.” Those were my final words to him.

I look at everything as a lesson, an experience I can learn and grow out of. The lessons I learned are that we should be kind, we should be careful, we should be understanding, and we should always keep a sense of humor about us.

We should give users a chance, but we should not stick around when users are abusive of our time, our knowledge, or our psyche. We hope that we engage users who also have learned these lessons. We can be understanding and reflective by saying things such as “we all experience tech frustration…user and tech alike.” But taking out that frustration on IT Admins? To quote Archer, “Nooope.” 

Look For The Helpers

We are not the enemy, we are the helpers. It’s a tough hat to wear, especially when times are tough or when the pressure is on. Being IT Admins and Managed Service Providers in 2020 and 2021 has been challenging. Everyone’s patience has been tried. I have seen anger and frustration rise from clients and from business owners as well as from my consultant friends. For some of them, saying goodbye to the employer or the client is the right thing to do for everyone’s well-being. For others, taking a breath and re-evaluating their jobs, their businesses, their clients has brought insights into what inspires a person.

When it’s time to leave, to try something new, I encourage you to do so with a kind and understanding heart. Burning bridges may feel good at the time, but it does nothing to help you in the future.

But, at least in my circles, people are not leaving their jobs in droves. They’ve taken a “we’re in this together” stance and that makes me happy. IT Admins are – for the most part in my circles – feeling pretty good about how they’ve brought their companies and clients through this pandemic. 

How did you know when it was time to change jobs or fire a client? Share your discovery, your tools for parting ways, and your new successes in the JumpCloud Lounge #AdminLife channel!

Published on 1/13/22 –

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