I strive to be professional in my employment pursuits. I am close to many of my colleagues and very fond of my private clients, which sometimes makes it harder on me to just do the somehow negative tasks in front of me and explain or deal with the occasionally strong emotions of the other players in that slice of the business world.
A self-employment business client is caught up in a shitstorm and has been needing a lot of extra time and support from me this month. It has caused some friction and stress, because my schedule is pretty full during the first quarter of every year anyway, but unless I literally cannot carve out enough time to do the work I am reluctant to say no. Since he is a great client, typically a pleasure to work with, I have rearranged my evening and weekend work schedules and pushed through to get what he needed completed within deadlines.
Unfortunately a good outcome is not forthcoming. And that makes it harder for me to muster genuine positive energy and enthusiasm to continue to push through and do my job. I am a professional, though; I actually push harder and expend more effort in hopes of finding a better solution to resolve the problem.
This morning I gave up my sacred exercise block for a conference call (client is presently buried in snow on the other coast) and in a moment of stress and frustration his temper flared and he snapped at me about the quality of my recent efforts for him. Professionally and intellectually, I understand he is frustrated, unhappy, and under stress with the issues he is facing. The comment was an emotional outburst and not meant to be taken personally. However, words matter. Personally and emotionally – someone says in very plainly that I am doing a “shit-worthless job for them” in the matter at hand, it is nearly impossible for me not to take it personally. I was very much taken aback by his vitriol, particularly as it was not a one-on-one interaction, and while he has since apologized in text (after we hung up I had to run through the shower and get ready for my day job so did not answer the telephone when he called me back), my reply was neutral. I know further discussion is warranted – he lost his cool and said things that felt far more like a personal attack than disappointment or distress with my work product. Unfortunately now is not the time; he has far too much on his plate and it is not a conversation I wish to have by phone.
Sometimes I wonder if I am tough enough to be self-employed and to take the flak that occasionally flies from an executive’s mouth. My emotional response made me glad we were not sitting in the same room, because it is far easier to maintain my composure and rein in my own temper being alone in my office. Once the call ended, though, I had the angry cry and the raging inside my head of how dare he treat me so poorly.
Cooler heads do prevail. I know he knows his show of temper was inappropriate and directed at the wrong person. I also know I will overcome it. But I have learned (the hard way) that to allow this sort of disrespect toward me even once sets a bad precedent for future interactions, so we need to have a calm, grown-up discussion about what he said, how I received it, and why it should not happen again, particularly when it is a meeting with other people. If that conversation does not proceed as I hope, then our professional association will have to end. I know it is a luxury to not having to tolerate being disrespected or abused by someone paying for my services, and I know I am fortunate to be able to cut ties and not be stressed about income and paying bills.
But I hate when my days start like that. Possibly why I would rather be at the gym, presently my happier space. Something to look forward to tonight, even if the tradeoff is being in the club at an unusual, potentially busier time of day. I will make it work. Plus M is cooking tonight, so one less thing to think about.