The Causey Consulting Podcast

What to do with a Backstabby Client

January 25, 2024
The Causey Consulting Podcast
What to do with a Backstabby Client
Show Notes Transcript

There are plenty of articles about backstabbing coworkers, office gossips, and nightmare bosses. But what happens if we as business owners or professional freelancers onboard a client  who turns out to be a backstabber or a giant gossip? What then?

My experience with "Billy" the Backstabber taught me some important lessons.


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Transcription by  Please forgive any typos!

Welcome to the Causey Consulting Podcast. You can find us online anytime at And now, here's your host, Sara Causey.


Hello, Hello, and thanks for tuning in. In today's episode, I want to talk about how to deal with a backstabby client. Now, there's plenty of information out there about how to deal with backstabby, coworkers, office, gossips, managers from hell, and so on. Because let's face it, at one point or another, we have probably all had a boss that we could not stand and would rather is not have been working for. But what do you do? If you are a business owner, or a professional freelancer, and you bring somebody into the fold and realize, Oh, God, this was a bad decision. I thought I had properly vetted this person. I thought everything was copacetic. And now I'm finding out that it's not, what do we do, then? disclaimer here that I usually give. This is not advice of any kind. I don't know your unique situation or your business. I don't tell you what to do or what not to do. You have to make those decisions for yourself. I sit here and I opine for your entertainment only. And that's it. My belief. And what I endeavor to do as much as possible, is to suss information out on the front end, if somebody appears to be problematic from the introduction, that's a huge red flag. Typically, when you're on the first phone call, or the first Zoom meeting with someone, it's a little bit like a first date, people are going to be better behaved. So if they are letting their freak flag fly, if they are demanding, if they are bossy, if they are rude if they're making inappropriate comments in the introduction, you know, damn, well, it's not going to get any better from there. If that's them on their best behavior, what will they be like on their worst behavior? Well, me personally, I'm not going to stick around to find out the answer to that question. If somebody behaves poorly, from the very beginning, I would rather cut that person loose. What can be difficult with these backstabby gossipy type clients, however, is that some of them have a well orchestrated facade, they have a persona that they're presenting to you. And you may not know that what you're seeing is a mask until further into a project or further into an assignment when the mask slips off. And you realize, oh, God, oh, no, I shouldn't have come here, I shouldn't have done this. Or worse yet. Everything goes swimmingly until you get to the finish line. And then when it's time to have them sign off on the final deliverable, or it's time to solicit feedback or testimonial from them, that's when it all goes off the rails. Or you find out that John Doe on this project has been going around behind your back and telling the other workers on the project terrible things about you, as he's smiling to your face, and acting like it's peaches and cream, he's going around to other people involved, or maybe even other clients that you know, in common, and saying nasty things behind your back. Something else that I personally can't stand is when somebody is fake religious. And they'll sit there and tell you they go to church and they love the Lord and they're they've got this halo around their head. And then meanwhile, they act in a very, very ugly manner. But these are ways in which somebody can fool you. smile to your face, stab you in the back. And as I have said before, I prefer if somebody is going to be a stabber stab me in the front, stab me in the chest, let me see the knife coming and let me know it was you. Because if you sneak around behind my back, that's like rubbing salt in the wound. And I'm not just going to take it sitting down. So I had this conversation recently with a friend of mine because I experienced a weird gossipy scenario, like what I'm describing, where I had been dealing with someone, naturally, I'm going to have to be vague. I can't get into specific details, but I'll do what I can here. Now I've been dealing with this person, and I will just call the person Billy. not his real name. But Billy was like that Billy had a fake Halo and wanted to tell you how nice he was and how sweet he was. And things seem to be going pretty well on this particular project. But toward the end of it, that's when I found out that Billy was actually saying some pretty negative things and and just gossipy petty. type things like you might expect from a high school kid. And it really disappointed me. So I was talking to a friend about what happened. And we got into a sort of philosophical conversation, because I have this like consortium of friends that are either all business owners, or we're all professional freelancers. And we get together from time to time, sometimes just to gripe to have like, an a stitch and bitch, if you will, like how sometimes people that sew or knit get together and have a stitch and bitch, I can't believe a client did this. I candidate said that, can you believe it? What is up with people? And then other times we just spit ball ideas around? Hey, a client asked for this. Have you ever had that happen before? How did you handle it, and so on. And so my friend was like, you know, sometimes in life, you just have to lay down and take your beating. Sometimes you can get up and fight back and you can win that battle. And then other times you can't Other times, you just have to lay there and take it. It's not pleasant to have to take your beating. But sometimes you do. I was in the space where I was like 5050. I'm like 50% of me wanted to have a confrontation with Billy and call him out on his stuff. And then the other half of me was like, Maybe you just need to let it go. He was this a situation where I need to stand up and fight? Or is this a situation where I need to lay down and take the beating? I'm not sure. I had to really work it out in my own mind. But fortunately, this scenario had a happy ending because I was able to have a private conversation. And the other person involved brought up what Billy was doing and what Billy was saying, because apparently they too, were concerned that Billy was turning into a giant gossip and carrying tales about people that might not even be true. It worked out. But there are those times as a business owner or a freelancer where you're going to have to stand at the precipice or stand at a fork in the road and decide, is this a point where I want to try to fight back or is this a point where I'm going to have to lay down and take the beating and just let it go. And unfortunately, with clients that turned out to be gossipy, that turned out to be backstabby that can be a tough decision to make. There's an article I found from service provider Pro on their blog titled five signs of bad clients and how to deal with them. And I want to read their list off to you because I feel like it has some good information. Number one is bad clients request special treatment. So if you've just on boarded them just started the process, and they're already asking for you to roll out the red carpet for them. That's a red flag, forget about the red carpet, it's a red flag to is bad talk about other service providers. Now see, this goes back to the idea of somebody being a gossip, somebody being a backstabber, and I see this sometimes with staffing and recruiting projects, because, or really anything that's HR related. Sometimes people want to get into their tails of Whoa, I hired a recruiter and that person was lousy, they couldn't actually fill any of the jobs. We hired an interim HR manager and she didn't know what she was doing. And we feel like she over promised and under delivered. It's tempting as a freelancer or a business owner, that's offering the solution to that problem to get in the thick of it, and to ignore the red flag that's happening there. But listen to me, in my experience in this life, which has been several decades now, I won't say how many put but more than a couple. If they'll do it with you, they'll do it to you. That same person that sitting there MAC MAC about how bad somebody else was, trust and believe. If you don't do everything to kiss their behind, they will turn around and do the same thing to you. Number three, you don't see eye to eye on anything. Yes. Now see, this is something that I can look back on. When I first had to start interfacing with Billy on this project. That is absolutely something that I see clearly, in hindsight, he and I were on completely different planets. Hell, we might not have even been in the same galaxy. I think that Billy and this is my opinion. It's my read on the situation. I think Billy was a sexist. And I think he just had that attitude of men are always smarter. Men are natural leaders, men automatically know how to run a project better than women. It doesn't matter if the woman is better educated if she has more years of experience. The man just ipso facto by the by the nature of his extra appendage has made him better capable of being a project manager. I look back on it now and I can see that. So if you're in the onboarding process with somebody if you're having that introductory call, and it's oil and water, be really careful there. Number four boundaries are never respected. This should go without saying but there are freelancers and business owners who will allow clients to call them at all hours to email at all hours to expect a response at all hours.


It's your business and it's your choice for me if somebody is calling or emailing at 3am. And they think that's appropriate, and they think I need to be awake to answer them, Houston, we've got a problem. Number five, the relationship becomes too personal. Now, this is one that I was keen to point out. Because sometimes with these gossipy backstabby clients, they want to get all in the cut. They want to know the things that they're really not supposed to know. Because think about job interviews, there are a host of questions that you're not supposed to ask legally. In the US now it's different overseas, there are different laws internationally, and this podcast goes out across the globe. So your laws may be different. But for those of you listening in the United States, there's a host of questions that are illegal, you cannot be getting into these questions about age, about national origin, about whether or not somebody's married, whether or not they have kids. But I've found with the gossipy and the backstabby types, they want to ferret that information out of you. And for them knowledge is power, they want to figure out that information to potentially use it against you. Oh, well, I mean, Sally, Sue is probably going to be too busy to take this on. Because you know, she's got five kids, oh, you know, Brian is probably not going to be able to work on this very well, because I heard he's going through a divorce, they will take your information and use it against you to try to make themselves look better. So be really, really careful. And they might even try to lure you into sharing that information by offering up something about themselves. Meanwhile, it may not even be true. But this was a characteristic that I noticed with Billy, Billy would talk a lot about his wife and children. And he would do it. And then sort of be like, well, here's my information about my family. Now, what about you? Why don't you tell me about your family? You know what it's like? Well, that's not really germane to the project, dude. So just be careful. I'm not saying you can't be friendly, or that you can't talk about anything personal. You just want to have a little bit of a guard up, because these people, they're manipulative, and they're crafty, and you want to be on guard for that. There's also a top 10 list for Matt olpin skis blog. Hopefully I'm saying that right. If I'm not maybe he'll he'll let me know. I'll drop a link to all of these, of course, you can check them out for yourselves. The title of his blog post is 10 signs you're about to work with a difficult freelance client. And I love this first introductory paragraph here. I've worked with just as many bad clients as I have good ones. I've also had to fire a few clients and a few clients have fired me. Freelancing is a whirlwind of passion, bliss, beauty, suffering, agony, high risk and glorious reward and quote. That's it. If you are talking to somebody and they're telling you that they never had a bad experience, they've never had to fire a client. They've never had a project go sideways. Bull, either they haven't worked very long. And they don't know what they're doing yet. They don't have their sea legs yet. Or they're blessing you. Because if you've been in this business long enough, you have had some bumps and some bruises. You have gotten saddled up with some people that you really, really wish that you had never met. You've had some things that didn't go your way. So I really applaud him for just admitting that. It's true. So here are 10 red flags that he talks about number one is they want it done super cheap. Yes. Two is they want it done super fast. Three, they asked you to polish their work. Now one of the things you have to look out for with that is, well actually, there are a couple of things that are coming to my mind. One is you may have to wind up trying to clean up somebody else's epic mess, and it's going to take a lot longer than you think it will every flipping time. Another thing is their, their perception is well you're not going to work that hard because most of the work is already done for you. And that can that can just be bad news for they communicate poorly. Five, they nitpick. Yes. So Billy was a nitpicker. And this was one of the things that I should have caught on to earlier on. But I thought that Billy was just the kind of person that's like a numbers person. And I thought once he has that numbers that mathematical side of his personality satisfied he'll settle down and go away. No, wrong answer joke was on me. Be careful with these clients that are like net The needy, Nancy, the nitpicker. I've talked about that type of client on the podcast before, just just be careful there, they can and sometimes will drive you bonkers. Number six, they won't work with a contract. Definitely have to be careful there. As lawyers like to say a verbal agreement is worth the paper it's printed on, which is nothing. So be really careful. You do not want to put yourself in a situation to do a crapload of work, and then not get paid for it. Everybody thinks, well, I'll just hire a lawyer, or I'll call a collections agency. Yeah. Wait until you get the bill. Wait until you see what doesn't happen when you do that. Number seven, they've had bad experiences before. Yes. So this goes back to the gossipy part of it. This goes back to if they'll do it with you, they'll do it to you. If they're sitting there telling you that every freelancer or every business owner, every HR person, every recruiter, every accountant, every IT guy, whatever insert profession here, everybody we've ever worked with before has been a jerk, everybody we've ever worked with before has been an incompetent turd. If they're telling you that everything has been bad, or even that most experiences have been bad. That's a potential red flag. Number eight, they want you to do spec work. Now that means they're going to have you submit some type of sample or submit a start to the project before they fullblown hire you and pay you any money. I went through a debacle with that early on, when I didn't really know any better, I felt like it would be a good idea to get some practice. And it would be a good idea to get some templates built out that I could come back to. And in that respect it was because for this particular spec work job that I did, I did build out some templates that I have used over and over again, and that have served me well. So I can't sit here in good conscience and say it was a complete waste of time. However, I can say the spec work that this company asked me to do did not lead to any money in my pocket from them. I really felt like they used me. And they got what they wanted free of charge by you know, asking me for spec work. Number nine, they promise you future work. Now that's a big one. This is another lesson that I had to learn early on. Because I would quote a rate based on whether the project was going to be ongoing and Long Term versus a one off short term job, which is not a bad idea. If you're doing a one off short term job, you want to get paid as much as you possibly can. Whereas if you're going to build a relationship with that client, and they're going to be your client for six months, a year, 18 months, 2345 years. It's a really different ballgame. totally different ballgame. But the problem is unscrupulous people will always get on the phone with you be like Well, yes, of course we want a long term relationship. Of course, there's a promise for the future. Why if this works out, we'll have something else for you lickety split, and they could be lying through their teeth and know that they're lying through their teeth, just to get a lower rate from you. So lesson learned on that one for me. Number 10. They give you a bad vibe. Yeah, I agree with that one too, you have to do your gut check, you have to be willing to slow down. Because in sales, we can get happy ears. And the same thing is true just generically being a freelancer or being a business owner. When we see a prospective new client, and we know we could solve their problem, we know that we're a great resource of help to them, we can sometimes ignore all of the other factors. And if your gut instinct is there's something off about this person, there's something off about this company about this project. In my opinion, you would do well to consider those things. So to come back to an earlier point, the only person who can decide whether you're going to have to stand up and make a thing about it, or you're just going to have to let it go and consider it a lesson learned is you. Prevention is worth an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In this situation, I would say an ounce of prevention is probably worth about 10 pounds of cure. Because once you're in the thick of it with a gossip with a backstabby client, then you also have to think about am I going to have to fire this person? Am I so offended? Is the situation so bad and unsalvageable that I'm going to have to fire them? You want to be cognizant of what you've signed? Have you signed some kind of contract that obligates you long term? Are you working 1099 where they're free to go and you're free to go at any point in time, you're gonna have to be aware of those things. Because you don't want to get yourself in hot water legally. So it's better if you can determine these things at the front end instead of getting hooked up with somebody like Billy that's going to go around and trash talk and make gossip and make high school drama for people. Stay safe. Stay sane. And I will see you in the next episode.


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