Have you ever been in a situation where the customer or client has made your life hell? Where they perhaps sent an e-mail copying the world and accusing you of everything except robbing Fort Knox? I have, and it felt so unjust, unfair and just plain wrong. How do you know when confrontation is inevitable?
It is a situation like this that can put the client relationship and your job in jeopardy. It is too easy for your boss to throw you under the bus and blame what appears to be a bad relationship on you. Therefore, in a situation like this it is imperative that you move swiftly and confidently to establish the facts and emotions that have triggered this.
Very often it has nothing to do with you, but as you are the main line contact, you are the only one in the client’s line of sight and you become the target. You often become the sacrificial lamb to achieve a bigger target.
People that do this cannot be trusted. So be cautious with them now and forever. However, in a situation like this, I would suggest that this is when confrontation must happen. Because even if they were right in their accusations about you, an email to you and management should not be the way to handle the issue. The issue has to be discussed and resolved as quickly as possible before negative action is taken.
Of course, there are reasons for such behavior. Here are five:
- They are right.
- They just don’t like you.
- They are using you, as pointed out earlier, as the sacrificial lamb to get an action.
- They feel vulnerable and are switching the attention to you.
- They are being politically pressured.
This happened to me once, and it was not pleasant. Boris sent an e-mail to key management in my company accusing me of stone walling him on pricing. I spent hours wringing my hands over how unfair and unjust it was and kept reminding myself of how I had put my heart and soul into helping the client and, in particular, this person. How dare he treat me like this?
Then I went through the possible reasons for his action and based on my five reasons above, I realized that 1,3,4 and 5 applied. I had been stonewalling, but under management instructions and I had provided reasons. As a result, he was not getting his own way and had promised HIS management that he would, and had not come through with his promise.
After a weekend of sleepless nights and thinking about what to do, I decided on a plan of action. I would confront Boris, but carefully, diplomatically and succinctly. I liked him, and his friendship and our relationship was important to me.
At our next meeting, which would include others, I asked to see him for 10 minutes on our own before the meeting started. He agreed and I told him very somberly and truthfully the effect the e-mail had on me. I felt betrayed and that all the effort I put in on this clients behalf wasn’t valued and this e-mail had now put me in a very awkward position with my company.
Boris was appalled and genuinely had not realized the impact of what he had done. He told me he was merely trying to get my management’s attention but at the same time prove to HIS management that he was in control.
A very revealing and sincere discussion evolved, after which he sent a follow up email, which explained that he did not believe this was something I had done to make life difficult, but that he felt my company needed to resolve the situation with a change in policy and procedures.
Confrontation is sometimes inevitable but depending how it is done can be a strength not a weakness. While sometimes it is unavoidable and inevitable, confrontation can often build trust and respect.
Confrontation must be planned and well thought out before hand. Using solid arguments and sincere communication. However, confrontation should never be an immediate reaction to something, as it will be just seen as frustration and anger.
After this incident, my relationship with Boris got stronger and we became even firmer friends which lasted well after we both left our respective companies and up to today.
Have you had a situation when confrontation was inevitable?
Have you got any situations that would best be served with confrontation now?