Pretty much every business out there has clients. Perhaps the more specific label you’d give them within your business would be readers, consumers, renters, patients, students, patrons, customers, or guests. But at the end of the day, they’re your clients, even if they’re rude clients. And they have a giant impact on both the success and enjoyment factor of your job. Lately, a question that’s really baffled me is why are some clients total jerks?! It’s so frustrating!
Somedays I just can’t make any sense out of it all. Those of you who are regular readers know I’m normally not one to rant. And even when I rant, I try to keep my composure. But today I just need to get some of my frustration off my chest! And I have a feeling a lot of you will be able to relate.
I’m Not Godzilla, I’m Nice!
I consider myself a nice person. Yes, I still have moments that test my patience, especially when I’m stressed, but I think overall I could be described as friendly and approachable. I genuinely like to help people. I dislike raising my voice in anger, I’m always trying to look for the positives, and I think I’m pretty darn patient with most things. I’m not mean, abrasive, rude, or disrespectful. So why do some of my clients think it’s okay to treat me like crap?!
I can’t get into the details of my work or who my clients are, but you can trust me when I say their behavior is out of line. It’s so frustrating, and thankfully dealing with these types of incidents isn’t an everyday occurrence. But unfortunately it does feel like it’s happening more often now.
Why Are Clients Rude And Irrational?
Setting my bewilderment and shock aside, I’ve come up with six possible explanations for my rude clients irrational behavior. I have no idea if they would ever admit to their faults or agree with me or not, but I think my reasoning makes sense. In my own experience, being nice is the best way to get good customer service after all. But obviously they don’t think so. Sigh. Why can’t we all just get along!
1. Just Having A Bad Day Or A Miserable Life
One simple explanation for some of my rude clients having an outburst is they’re just having a bad day. Ok I’ve been there. $#!^ happens sometimes. Sure, I get that. But that’s still doesn’t make it right or professional to take your own emotions out on someone else. Especially since I have NO idea if they’re having a bad day if I haven’t done anything wrong. Some people are so cranky! Sheesh.
What I’m trying to do is work harder at controlling my own emotions. Maybe karma is dishing me what I’ve done to others in the past, I don’t know. We’ve all taken out our stress, anger, and frustrations on others before and it’s a really bad habit to develop. We can end up hurting our loved ones this way, even when that’s not our intention. So we need to be the most careful with them the most.
If I’ve got my own aggravating issues to deal with, I pick several items from my list of 60 ways to reduce stress fast, and isolate myself until I’ve calmed down. Now if only our clients would do the same!
Maybe we’d also have fewer rude clients if we got to know them on a personal level, not just business. For example, if I knew my client was going through a nasty divorce, fighting an disease, or dealing with frozen pipes and a broken water heater, I’d be much more understanding to their emotions. And I’d also be willing to show more support, lend an ear, and try to comfort them. Easier said than done of course.
2. When It’s Your Fault
Among my 6 reasons for rude clients, the most logical explanation of a client getting upset is when it’s your fault. If you lost or sent them the wrong order, gave them bad data, missed a deadline, or if something broke, of course they’re going to be mad. That still doesn’t mean it’s okay for them to be rude, scream, or make you feel like a squashed bug. But if it’s your fault, you have to own up to the mistakes and fix all the problems.
I’ve had to do this and it’s not easy. Whether it was the fault of someone in my team, another department, or myself, I have to take the hit as a manager. It’s the tough part of having more responsibility, but it is what it is. At least when we did something wrong, I can understand why the client is acting out.
The best thing you can do in these situations is rectify the situation as quickly as possible. Figure out if you can compensate your client in some way, and then put together steps and procedures to avoid a recurrence in the future. A lot of times that’s all clients want to hear in these situations – that you’re taking preventative measures so the problem doesn’t arise ever again.
3. Stuck In The Past
But what really irks me are clients who are stuck in the past. Some of my rude clients will rehash things from 1, 2, even 5 years ago over and over again. Do they really think our memories are that bad that we need to be reminded once a week of things that went wrong that long ago? Sometimes I so desperately want to burst out “Get over it!” Arrrr lol.
The past is behind us folks. And if we’ve already made changes to improve things, clients are not helping anyone by staying stuck in the past. Change is good. It’s not always easy, but it keeps everyone moving forward. And forward is where we all need to focus.
But some people are extremely stubborn and think they need to make others feel like crap. Maybe that’s to make themselves feel better, or maybe they somehow think they’re entitled to make others wallow in verbal abuse…. (pounding my head on the wall) …. Well, if you have clients like this, my best advice is to build your own ammo. Have a list of stats you can rattle back at them about all the improvements that you’ve put in place since each of the old incidents. Karate chop!
Some blowups come down to miscommunication. I’ve had this happen a decent amount of the time. Emails get misread or aren’t clear, details get left out, things are lost in translation, interpretations are different, you name it it’s happened. Early in my career I used to think communication was easy in business, ha!, but experience has taught me it’s actually quite a challenge.
Even though we have more forms of communication now than we did 30 years ago, communication still breaks down quite a lot. Sometimes we have so much information we don’t know how to process it because it’s overwhelming. Other times we leave people out of the loop either by accident or not realizing the importance of their involvement.
Most of the time things are a lot easier to clarify and discuss over the phone. But sometimes you need things in writing to be able to prove what was agreed upon later on. This is usually the case with rude clients who tend to be crafty, daft, and devious. It’s a delicate dance and usually takes a bit of both formats to limit risks of miscommunication.
5. Arrogant A**holes
My sixth reason for rude clients is rather sad. It’s pathetic, but some people are just arrogant a**holes. I don’t know how they got this way, but somehow they did. Maybe it’s because they’ve never been treated this way so they don’t know how it feels to be on the receiving end? Or perhaps that’s the primary way they’ve been treated so they think it’s acceptable and normal behavior. Neither circumstance makes me feel any better!
It’s hard to build strong relationships with people who are pompous and conceited. I don’t have any friends who are this way, because those aren’t qualities I admire or respect. And let me be clear that arrogance and confidence are not the same. I find it really tricky dealing with people like this, because to get someone to stop being arrogant, you have to put them in their place. But how do you do that with a client? I will not sink to their level. If you have experience dealing with this please tell me how you did it!
6. More Money, More Demands
As I was preparing to write this post, I was thinking to myself, “why has my list of nice clients shrunk so much over the years?” I didn’t remember dealing with this many rude people in the past. And then it hit me – money. Money can do really bad things to people. The more money that’s at stake, the more demanding and stressed people get. It’s no mystery that the higher you climb, the farther you can fall.
As my clients have grown, so have their complaints and behavioral issues. It’s good from a profitability stand point that they have more money to spend, but it’s bad on the enjoyment factor of working with them. It makes me wonder what they would be like if they suddenly shrank or doubled in size. Are their attitudes and behaviors so ingrained in them now that they’ll never be nice to work with again?
When It’s Time To Cut The Cord
Outside of these difficult client interactions, I like my job. But I admit it’s really hard getting yelled, talked to in a condescending manner, and having someone intentionally make you feel worthless, especially when most of the time they’re overreacting. Being in a client service oriented business certainly has its challenges.
I’ve definitely grown a thicker skin on the job, but I admit I’ve had to fight back a few tears before because of these rude clients. Fortunately most of the time I’m able to just brush off ill-mannered and irrational behavior. But I must say, if the frequency of these types of interactions continues to increase, the enjoyment factor of my job will be in major jeopardy. Right now these outbursts are occurring 1-2 times a week which isn’t great, but is manageable. If that rises to 3 or more though, I’ll have some serious considering to do about staying with this company because I don’t think these client relationships will be severed anytime soon.
Further reading: How to deal with difficult clients in business
Untemplaters, what are your thoughts on why are some clients total jerks? How often do you have to deal with difficult, rude, or crazy clients? Why do you think some people think it’s okay to treat people like dirt? What advice do you have on coping with bad clients?
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