What If Your Client Is A Bully?
After spending decades on the sales side of the media industry, I can attest to the unwritten rule that clients need to be kept happy at almost any cost. In our industry this rule also applies to ad agencies, who must answer to clients just like the media outlets. But lately there’s growing alarm in the agency community about an increased level of client hostility which can become a professional form of bullying.
Abusive clients aren’t exactly pushing anyone down on the playground, but verbally berating an agency employee in front of others can be just as humiliating and traumatizing. In a recent poll conducted by Digiday, a startling 77% of agency respondents have experienced verbal abuse, and some have even been physically or sexually abused by their clients.
As if the bullying itself wasn’t bad enough, the victims in these exchanges usually just accept the abuse and continue working with their client for fear of losing the account or even their job if they speak up. The creates an even worse cycle of abuse in which the client continues to bully with impunity because there are no consequences for their actions.
Of course, it’s not fair to say all clients are bullies. In my experience the vast majority of clients are well-meaning professionals who try to maintain respectful business partnerships with their vendors. But for all the well-intending clients out there, even just a few bullies can hurt the perception of an entire group.