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Part: IV People Who Ask Too Much > Learning to Let 'Em Go: The Demanding Client - Pg. 73

73 Chapter 21. Learning to Let 'Em Go: The Demanding Client You've probably heard the expression from the popular song "The Gambler": "You've got to know when to hold 'em; You've got to know when to fold 'em." Well, you've also got to know when to "let 'em go." In other words, know when to stop the game or walk away--in relationships, not just in cards or financial deals. That's what one of my clients--let's call her Susan--discovered when a long-term social relationship that evolved into a work relationship broke down. Susan, an administrative assistant in a big com- pany, got used to seeing Anna socially at parties, at an after-work pub, and at occasional Chamber of Commerce mixers. Soon they were friends, talking about personal experiences and parties, and Susan told Anna about her plans to develop a career doing public relations and advertising, initially alongside her current work. A few months later, when Anna, who worked as a training consultant, hoped to start a training program for executives and managers on motivating and rewarding em- ployees, she hired Susan to help her with the marketing campaign. At first, the relationship seemed like a match made in heaven. When Susan presented her PR and marketing ideas and wrote marketing copy, Anna raved about them. She used superlatives like: "You're the greatest!" "You've got a real gift!" and "You write that so fast and well!" Between con- versations on marketing and PR, they also took time to chat about the latest parties and gossip. "I'll deduct that time from my billing," Susan said, never wanting to take advantage of the friendship they shared. Over the next months, Anna became a more and more demanding client. She called Susan to ask for a few minutes of advice every now and then, and when Susan added these to the bill, Anna got angry. "You're nickel and dime-ing me. That's no way to treat your customers." So Susan backed down, not wanting to hurt both a client and a friend. Another time, Anna had a rush project, and when Susan said she could do it in place of another project, thinking Anna would appreciate her effort, Anna yelled at her, saying: "Are you trying to make me feel guilty that you are giving up work for me?" "No, no," Susan protested, apologizing profusely to placate Anna's feelings. After all, they had been such good friends, and since Susan was just starting her PR­advertising career, she didn't want to make any mistakes to offend her first client. You can probably guess where this is going. Again and again, Anna criticized something Susan was doing, and Susan tried to smooth over the relationship by apologizing and sometimes adjusting the bill. The climax finally came when Anna had still another PR deadline. After Susan gave up a week- end and worked hard to meet it, Anna complained of mistakes, which Susan thought were due to unclear instructions from Anna and an outside vendor Anna hired to assist on the project. But when Anna wanted to schedule a conference call to discuss exactly what went wrong with the outside vendor, Susan backed down. "Can't we just agree there were communication breakdowns and split the difference?" Susan suggested, not wanting to engage in extended recriminations over what happened. But Anna was insistent. "No. How can I pay you anything, if you won't discuss what went wrong?"