Dealing with difficult people is incredibly frustrating. Some people are just super cranky and moody all the time – you never know how they’ll react. Others are awkward, weird, power-tripping even with no experience, or straight out crazy. But what do you when you work with someone who’s a micro-manager and is making your life a living hell? Make things easier on yourself by learning how to make people happy all the time.
Today’s post is from a freelancing friend of mine, Lauren, whom I recently met at a networking event. We both do similar types of work and really hit it off. We got to talking about work stuff and the challenges we’ve faced with clients and coworkers over the years. It can be incredibly hard to keep your cool as a consultant at times but she’s got a few tricks up her sleeve. Here’s her take on how to make people happy all the time.
I’ve got to admit, I’m a little masochistic. I seem to put myself in awkward and frustrating situations a lot at work and in my personal life. As a freelance writer and musician, I’ve come to embrace pain and rejection! Every experience, good or bad, has the potential to be a treasure trove of good material. Creating is so much easier when you’re emotionally charged up. I’ve had people throw me under the bus, say one thing and do another, big whig me, and so much more. It’s been awesome!
Smile And Say: Yes, Sir! Yes, Ma’am!
In my journies as a freelancer I’ve learned that when you have a lot of freedom, you can start taking your freedom for granted. And that’s not a good place to be. I don’t ever want to forget how fortunate I am to work from home most of the time and decide which projects I want to take on. I used to only take on easy work, but now I also chase after the challenges. The positive of dealing with pain and overcoming frustrations is it makes everything else feel so much more pleasurable.
One of the main ways I keep all of my clients happy is being a “yes-woman.” This helps me not lose sight of how lucky I am to have freedom – I can always choose to drop the client and move on to the next if I really want to. And when you don’t have a set paycheck every month, earning money when opportunities arise can take a priority over pride.
Writing is a very individualistic endeavor. If you put five writers in a room and ask them to write about a narrow subject like “how to tie your shoes,” you are guaranteed to get five very different results. One of the keys to being a good editor is not to squash a writer’s creativity, but offer suggestions to improve the message of the post. But when you work for an editor who has practically zero writing experience, they don’t appreciate creativity and can be incredibly micro-managing. Such has been one of my freelancing roles for the past eight months.
Play By The New Rules Even When They’re Ridiculous
Part of writing a good post is also pairing it with a complementary picture. When I first started this gig with my micro-manager, I had the freedom to choose pictures at will that fit with the content of each post I wrote. But several months ago, I was given a ridiculous 10-point guideline by the graphics department on selecting pictures. Their site already has a screwed up design with non-standard image size requirements and now it’s crazy hard to pass the quality control test based on these new guidelines. But they are great guidelines because they are written by people whose profession is to produce beautiful imagery, right? To not follow or listen to them would be stupid.
After failing to pass “inspection” on two image options for one of my recent articles, I was beginning to get frustrated. The images I chose totally matched the tone of the article I wrote and edited. Who knows the personal feel of an article better than the author, right? I felt as if the tail was wagging the dog where the picture was more important than the actual content. If I was working for an art or photography blog, then of course the images would be most important. But I reminded myself I’m working for a site where written content is King. I could have objected to their objections about my picture selection because it suppresses my creativity and motivation, but instead I said, “happy to change” to be as accommodative as possible.
Offer Suggestions, But Don’t Expect Great Results
So instead of complaining, I came up with a solution. I suggested the creator of the 10-point picture bible create a repository of acceptable pictures. This way, writers like me no longer have to spend lots of time finding the perfect picture, and the picture police are always satisfied with the images that are posted with each article because they chose them! Brilliant!
My suggestion was a little judo move. It used to take me sometimes 20-30 minutes to find the perfect picture. Another writer literally took one hour once to find what she thought was the perfect picture. But with an image repository, all of our time as writers spent searching for pictures would be freed up to focus on writing more content. The graphics department will be happy because they can control which images goes out. And the writers will be happy because we won’t have to waste time finding a picture, which half the time gets rejected anyway!
But guess what? The graphics department that created the picture guideline for us writers NEVER ended up creating the image repository! They had egos big enough to tell people what pictures to select with their articles, yet they were too lazy to put together images we could choose from, despite rejecting all of our pictures! Then the creator of the picture bible just decided to quit last month too. Classic!
Don’t Forget You’re Expendable
When you are an employee or a freelancer, you are expendable. Always remember this. You can be thrown to the streets with the next bin of shredded documents at any time. The more you need the money, the more you must be respectful of the hierarchy of power and know your place too.
Because I like money and have come to embrace pain, I laugh my ass off in private about how ridiculous my difficult clients are and happily take their money. Plus it’s nice to mindlessly follow directions sometimes. I still get to make plenty of decisions on my own as a musician and CEO of my own company. I also strive for autonomy in a creative environment with my clients, but I know my place. When I’m not the boss, I don’t call the shots.
Plus, in the creative industry, it’s highly likely that a boss you hate will soon get replaced. Some of my most difficult clients have gone through multiple restructurings and can’t seem to keep management seats filled. One of my past bosses who coldly squashed my creativity was quickly pushed out. Turns out I wasn’t the only one who could tell she didn’t know what she was doing.
Grin And Bear It…Then Laugh About It…And Keep On Going
The key to making everyone happy is to do as you’re told. Whether that person has the relevant experience to tell you what to do is beside the point. If you want to get paid, respect authority. Even if you are older, have more experience, and think you’re smarter than your boss, suck it up and do as you’re told if you want other people to be happy. There’s a reason why you are getting a paycheck.
I tell myself to suck it up every single time I feel life isn’t fair because life is seldom ever fair. Winners don’t complain. You’ve either got to shut up, or move on.
I wrote this post to share how to make other people happy all the time, not you. Always doing what you are told will probably make you pissed off and miserable after a while if nobody ever asks for your input. But, because you are making other people happy, other people will start liking you. And when other people start liking you, you can get paid more and get promoted. And eventually you can come out of your cell and play. Or who knows, your evil boss might just get fired!
There’s something comforting about being told what to do. Being in charge of critical decision-making can be incredibly stressful and not everyone wants that type of pressure. This is why a lot of people don’t want to be entrepreneurs. Instead, they’d rather enjoy the confines of their cubicle, be told what to do, collect a paycheck, and relax on the weekends. Entrepreneurs on the other hand practically work 24/7.
My job as a freelance writer will always be somewhat difficult because it involves consistently creating something from nothing for someone else. I naturally write from experience and in my own voice, but sometimes I have to put my mic on mute and let their voice carry over the loudspeaker.
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I’ve been blogging since 2010 and it has allowed me to break free from the corporate grind to travel, work from home, consult for companies that I like, and do so many more things I’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t. The income is relatively passive as posts I’ve written years ago are still being found through Google and generating income. What’s better than making passive income and creating a valuable asset you can one day sell for a multiple of annual income? There’s not a week that goes by where I’m not thankful for starting this site!
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