Consultant Seeks Advice
post # 457 — October 26, 2007 — a Client Relations post
A consultant sent me this emaial, soliciting advice:
Last week I spent a couple of days with group within my client’s organization. The group was all male with one female. I was appalled by the pre-pubescent behavior of the males towards the female. I’m a former Marine, played football in college, I’m not unfamiliar with male environments. Their behavior towards their own female staff made me uncomfortable. My test is that I don’t want to put our employees in an environment in whichI would be uncomfortable putting my wife or daughter.
But, it’s a really big client. And, my desire to back away from this client is being challenged by others.
Our first, agreed-upon principle is that our employees come first. Great employees, who are truly experts in their area, are harder to come by I think than clients. This is an interesting test of our application of our principles.
Any suggestions about how best to handle this would be appreciated.
Ian M said:
Perhaps the consultant in question is demonstrating his own prejudice towards women, one that assumes that women need protection?
Firstly, this situation is only a compromise if the client’s staff behave inappropriately towards his employees. He can’t assume that this will happen, after all, the client’s staff may treat his employees differently. Secondly, he shouldn’t second guess what his employees find acceptable or not acceptable, if they’re as great as he says they are, then his staff can work out for themselves what is offensive and intrusive.
I would encourage the consultant to speak with his staff, mentioning that he found the client environment difficult, and stating that he would be prepared to back any consultant that found the situation in any way discomforting professionally or emotionally.
If the client does prove to be a problem with his staff, then your consultant’s only option is either to a) walk away, or b) to find a consultant who can meet the client needs and who is less likely to be offended by their purile attitude.
Lecturing the client on their behaviour is not an option, it won’t change their behaviour and it won’t generate a positive view of the consultant’s company. If the consultant is really smart, he might find a way to do some research into the purile team’s customers and what they think. If the team’s customers think that their attitude is a problem then he might be able to introduce some form of professional workplace training into the project.
posted on October 26, 2007