This transcription belongs to Episode #18: Violet Femm’s introspective story turned into the ultimate learning experience in real-time here for us by Our Beloved Host, Morgan Friedman, and Violet herself. Please watch the complete episode here!
Morgan (Host): Hey, everyone. Welcome to the latest edition of client horror stories, and I’m very excited to have Violet on today. No, not Violet from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory; I always mix that up. We were just chatting before, and she has a great story, so let’s jump right in. Violet, welcome to the show.
Violet (Interviewee): Thank you, thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure to attend and share my horrors with everyone.
Morgan (Host): We make mistakes so that others can learn from them and hopefully make different mistakes.
Violet (Interviewee): I am terrific at making mistakes, so yes, yes!
Morgan (Host): So yes, let’s talk about today’s mistake. First, tell us the context of the story, and then what happened?
Violet (Interviewee): Well, you know, what’s interesting about this particular client that I wanted to discuss is that it was just a storm of little things that built up along the way that made it just absolutely miserable to support this client. One of the biggest pieces was that they were a third of the company’s revenue.
So this company had many clients, but they had this big fish that was a third of their revenue, and so they got pushed around a lot. They did set up some processes and take advice from the client who worked sometimes, but a lot of times, it just helped us lose money, and self-respect/ It was difficult supporting this particular client.
Morgan (Host): This is a good preface to the story because I think the main client isn’t a fish but is a well, and the danger or the risk of having a well client is that it’s too easy for them to crush you. They know they’re a third of your revenue, so they can easily pressure you and take advantage of you. One of the biggest challenges of any agency or any small business is to diversify your number of clients.
Violet (Interviewee): Right, well, the company was really happy to have this client because name recognition is huge. They could tell their other clients or prospective clients, “Oh, well, we’re already working with this particular company. They have 3000 different sizes, and we’re able to support that. So, of course, we could handle your shop of 600 stores.” You know, I mean, it was a good way to sell, but being their account manager was brutal, it was really brutal.
Morgan (Host): I like the meta-analysis before we jump into any of that. What’s interesting is that clients who are not just wells, but who had name recognition. They know they have name recognition, so they can use that to their advantage to constantly renegotiate, get better terms, more work for free, and lots of other fun things that people think they can get away with because they often do get away with it.
Violet (Interviewee): They do, and you know, what’s interesting is we’re talking about a company, we’re talking about 50 or 70 different contacts that I had at that company that all pulled this shit, all pulled this attitude, and all pulled this like pushed us around because they could and because they knew that it was dynamic. It was difficult to deal with because it wasn’t like, “Oh wow, this client is really terrible.” It’s like, I would say 70% of the people I was dealing with were just unkind and difficult.
Morgan (Host): You know what’s good about the buildup is that it’s getting me excited. It’s whetting my appetite for the story that’s about to come. But that’s also a good point because often what happens to these horror stories, there’s one bad person. You get a bad CEO, and he makes it miserable for everyone or a bad Account Manager on the other side. But when you have a culture where it’s three quarters that people are like this, then it makes a terrible situation unsavable.
Violet (Interviewee): Yeah, that’s exactly what it was. I wasn’t exaggerating by saying that I was dealing with 50 different people because on my way out, when I got a new position, I had to basically document and keep track of every person that I dealt with, what we worked on together, and their contact information. I checked it, and there were nearly 70 people that I dealt with over two years, and the vast majority were just not fun to work with.
But it really taught me a lot of patience, so when you try to look at the bright side, it was like an account management boot camp. I even told that to the CEO when I left. I was like, “Thank you so much for this opportunity. I feel like I had 15 years of account management experience,” because I’ve worked that many hours, I’ll tell you that I worked that many hours. It was insane, and it was one of those 12 to 14 hours a day. Maybe had a Saturday off, but I always worked the holidays because a lot of stores and retailers are open 24/7 365, right?
Morgan (Host): That definitely sounds like a good learning experience. So let’s jump in; what was the context, and then what happened?
Violet (Interviewee): Well, I think one of the really good examples is when dealing with the procurement team, and I think you already mentioned working with procurement, and they’re like getting you down to the very slim margin, right? They did that to us so frequently that we were bleeding out because we would work on these projects, snd not only were we giving them based on bargain prices for all of our services and products, but they were also refusing to pay us in certain scenarios.
Let’s say that a technician was on-site for longer than they were supposed to be. Let’s say that this issue would take one hour to resolve, yet the technician was on site for two hours. Well, because there were multiple problems, right? But still, they would refuse to pay for those two hours. They would pay the one hour agreed, but there were so many of those issues that were just losing so much money. It was very difficult to argue against that because our contracts weren’t necessarily in the place to protect us, in my opinion. We didn’t have a legal team, which probably hurt us.
Morgan (Host): Okay, so there are a couple of useful gems in there, so let’s take them out. First is the importance of good contracts and a legal team. I think this is a classic problem that small businesses have because you don’t yet have the money to hire a big fancy lawyer. But when you get a huge client, then they will take every line in the contract to their advantage. So I think the lesson is when you get clients, it’s worth disparaging for a lawyer even if you think you don’t need it. But I feel like that lesson, well obviously, it’s so easy to miss because you don’t realize what’s happening as it’s happening.
Violet (Interviewee): It can seem that this company I worked for just didn’t get sued a lot or didn’t have to fight for their contract language to stand up. I don’t know; it just seemed strange that we were never really engaging a legal team or legal contact. I know that now because I’m in a position where we have a huge legal team, and you check with legal on pretty much everything, right? Any question regarding the contract that the client’s trying to push back, you’re like, “Well, let me check with legal.” But we didn’t have that, and it was more like, “Well let me check with the CEO,” and he made decisions based on emotion and based on wanting to keep this client happy.
Morgan (Host): So, to go back to the procurement, one lesson is the importance of lawyers. Another lesson is there’s always how much you’re paid in theory versus how much you’re paid in reality. Like “Oh, the technicians get X dollars an hour, but if the procurement manages to not pay you for half of the hours, you’re like effectively getting paid at 50% of the rate. I think a lot of people think about the paper official rate and not the real-world rate that they’re actually putting in.
Violet (Interviewee): Right, and if they wouldn’t pay us for that extra hour, we’re still paying our technicians. So even though, yes, we did mark up the cost of labor per hour, it wasn’t really enough. They decided to pay us for an hour, but the technician was there much longer.
Morgan (Host): Yeah, and when there are like thousands of technicians and sites, and the procurement only paying for half of it, it’s like suddenly that eats away their money very quickly. Before we move to the next aspect, tell us a bit about your experience dealing with procurement because a lot of people that run small agencies or just small companies don’t even know what procurement is.
Violet (Interviewee): Okay, can I? Just one moment?
Morgan (Host): Yeah, I’ll use this opportunity to drink some water as well. You need the internal strength to get ready to talk about procurement.
Violet (Interviewee): It’s just a little bit of a scratchy voice, and that never sounds good on a podcast. Well, procurement tends to be a department within a corporation that manages all contracts as far as new work, new opportunities, new projects, and new vendors. They are the ones that will negotiate the pricing negotiate the red lines within the contract, and they tend to be a hardline.
It’s interesting because, let’s say that I have a client and I deal with their IT department all the time and even the CIO, but I don’t get to talk to the CIO if I’m dealing with procurement. They act as mediators because they don’t allow me to go to the CIO and say, “We want to give you the best price, but you’re pushing hard on us.” You can’t really have that conversation with procurement because they’re just ice cold, and they don’t care because they are just trying to get the best deal for the company that they’re representing, which is their job, but it makes it difficult for smaller companies to be competitive or even get work.
Morgan (Host): The department that you work with sees the value and sees how awesome you are. But to the procurement, they only look only at the cold cash and their job. It’s a whole department to be as cheap as possible.
Violet (Interviewee): Yeah, I mean, it’s a brilliant strategy, and t’s a great way to set up a business if you don’t want people making decisions based on relationships, I guess, personal relationships, or even working relationships.
Morgan (Host): Okay, so procurement beware. That’s the lesson, the redline from the procurement section. So let’s talk about the core work that you did as the account executive. What was it that made you feel that dealing with this client is particularly painful?
Violet (Interviewee): Well, I think it was definitely the client. But it was also the way that the company I worked for set up the role because they were responsible for every single pillar of business under this client. This client had new store construction, they had a brick fix, they had software rollouts, they had special events, they had all these things that were broken down into huge departments, yet one account manager was supposed to orchestrate and support all of it. So any problems would shoot up for many of those areas. It just made for a very long to-do list and a very long engagement with the vendor manager.
The vendor manager was probably at the end of things. I started to like him, but man, when we first worked together, he made my life a living hell. That task list was like 70 items long, and I’m like, “I don’t know when I’m ever going to get to do this and make these improvements where he’s trying to make a strategic, but then I’m getting all of these tactical items that I can do nothing about, except for sharing it with the CEO. So I needed a lot more support, I think, as far as the role. It should maybe be split across several account managers. I think that probably would have been more productive and maybe a better experience with the client. Maybe I’m a little jaded because I just spent so much time, energy, and sweat like I never quite got up that hill.
Morgan (Host): Okay, so let’s unpack that. I think there are a few important points in that. First, it sounds like you had a job of like four different people. Well, part of this is like, “Wow, the client was a disaster.” And, like 75% of the 70 people that you’re with are disasters. It also sounds like your boss and your company could have had four different people, but you’re so confident that they piled it all on you, making your life miserable.
Violet (Interviewee): Well, that was the role when I started, so I think that was the format that they had for account managers. No matter the size of the client, they’re going to have one account manager. We did have a program manager. That program manager reported to me and then had several project managers reporting to him, but I didn’t have other direct reports that worked as contractors for this client.
So not only did I have to deal with client-facing issues, but then I had a whole team to try to help develop, manage, and they were actually sitting in the company client’s offices doing work inside the client’s offices, which made it very awkward. But it was also very interesting because we had that in like we would find out certain things because we were in those offices. It was just such an unusual relationship, not one that I was used to
Morgan (Host): One of the lessons there is that companies often define roles in certain ways. “This is what the account manager does.” But as the company grows or you have clients that are different than your usual, you have to change the role in order for the client. So as part of the breakdown, one of the problems on your company side was that roles weren’t changed and instead, more piled on you. The second point to come out of what you’re saying is the vendor manager giving you a never-ending task list.
Violet (Interviewee): He was never happy.
Morgan (Host): So this is actually a really good one, and some of your points haven’t come out in your previous podcasts, including this one, and I like it. I feel like task lists are fundamentally overwhelming for anyone because they kind of take away your humanity. “Hey, you’re a robot. You’re a form of thing that you just need to be a robot and to be complete.” To add to that, it’s that never-ending, always growing, it turns from you losing your humanity as a robot to you feeling overwhelmed in a no-win situation.
Violet (Interviewee): And it doesn’t allow you to be strategic at all. My role was supposed to be strategic to get more clients and have the clients engaged and happy and secure more projects, secure more work, any type of opportunity we were open because it was a technology company, retail technology that I worked for. The world was very large as far as what they could help this client do. They could help at their particular stores, but they could also help with their corporate offices. So it was there was a lot of potential for that relationship, and I completely agree with you. If they had changed the account manager role and may be developed a few more areas of support, it probably would have improved, definitely my experience, but also just even the relationship with the client and probably our ability to be more productive.
Morgan (Host): That makes sense; this is a good one. I like the warning of never-ending task lists. I’ve seen it with myself where like it leads to my own feeling of blowing up. One question, so far from the ears of the listener or the eyes of the viewer watching this podcast, what they’ve heard so far is okay; you have a big client who would pay for all the hours and give you really long task lists. While those are frustrating, it’s not yet the painful experience, and they haven’t yet heard the pain that you’ve been through. I always think what’s powerful about these little examples is that’s where the best and the strongest lessons come through. So you have a difficult client, who wouldn’t pay, who gives you a big task list, so maybe we can talk about some specific moments in dealing with them because that will make the lessons very vivid.
Violet (Interviewee): Totally, I agree. I do have several specific moments for you.
Morgan (Host): Let’s go. Do you need some more water to prepare for the stories? Because I’m going to.
Violet (Interviewee): So one specific example is around the project management of their seasonal activity. Basically, they needed more equipment in their stores in order to make more sales, terms more to customers, that kind of thing. So my company was selected to basically install that equipment to make sure it’s running, make sure it’s up, the whole maintenance piece, you know to send back broken things, send back fix things, make sure that those that get installed, and it was just a lot of little moving pieces to the business of you know, equipment and inventory.
Anyway already a stressful time, right? The holiday season. We got a little behind on the project and the program manager that I had at the time went out, leave of absence, the day before the client realized that we were very far behind on the project. Like we had probably, I don’t know, maybe 700 sites left out to roll out, and we certainly did not have that number. I mean, we had like a handful of project managers, so we’re supposed to handle each and every site in detail, you know, to make sure the technician gets there. Did they install? Did they have any issues? Did they, you know, checklist down, and with this program manager stepping out, I have to step into that role.
So I essentially was overarching, trying to run this project, and the client came to me and said, “You know, can you please tell me if your company can really do this and accomplish it in the next three days?” Seeing my project managers, how stressed out they were, how miserable they were, and how they were already working more hours than they should have, I said, “I don’t think we could do it.” So they brought in another vendor to help support the opportunity or the project of the rollout of this equipment, and I got into a lot of trouble with the CEO and the VP of operations.
They were so unhappy with me because I allowed another vendor into the relationship, but I knew we were going to fail. I knew that; I mean, we still managed to fail by; I don’t know. I think we got up to like 75% ready to go once it was Black Friday. But we still had a bunch of sites that just did not have the equipment they needed. I spent a lot of time working on reports manually to share with the client about each one of these visits. You know we’re at X percentage of completion; we have these kinds of problems at these sites. I mean, it was very detailed, but also very manual. I ended up working a 36-hour workday.
Morgan (Host): 36-hour workday?
Violet (Interviewee): Because now was when the project started, and can you imagine if I said, “Yeah, we can handle it?” I don’t even know; it probably would have killed me. The reason I worked so many hours is I stayed up all night trying to get this manual report together for each and every site that we visited, that we installed equipment at, and I had two people helping me, but given the number, the sheer number we had to go into the system and check to see what the status of the visit.
But what happened wasn’t pleading. It was just so manual, which made me stems back to we definitely needed better software, maybe do that type of reporting. But yeah, we were essentially acting as the computers. I want to say that it’s not necessarily the client’s fault here. Even though it is a horror story, it was an awful experience, and our employees felt really abused. It could have been managed; I think that once again, the company that I worked for just didn’t have a close watch on the project that was going downhill. Also, unfortunately, I mean, you know, maybe the main issue is that they weren’t the right people in the roles, and there weren’t enough people in the roles to support what this client is asking us to do. So I guess I’m discovering that it’s really not the client; it’s been this company this whole time that has made my life bad. Well, admittedly, I knew that company was very hard on me, but I took it all out on the client because it was, you know, directly related to the client.
Morgan (Host): That’s a powerful and important realization; the worst client horror stories tend to be the ones where the client does something bad, maybe kind of naive or maybe they’re an asshole, but then you or your company, or the pressure from your company response in a way that makes it worse, the two feed off of each other. So the worst client horror stories are actually at least 50% about yourself and your company as well.
Yeah, I just think that “The client and my own horror stories” is just less catchy than “Client-horror stories.” But I want to make some observations on this instance that you just shared. First, wow, I’m glad I wasn’t in your position. But that’s pretty powerful, like having to work 36 hours a day with this enormous pressure of like a massive rollout by Black Friday, like massively behind of the deadline. On top of that, what’s difficult about that for you is you’re in a no-win situation because you know that the company will fail unless you say, “Yes, bring in another vendor,” but if you bring another vendor, massive competition because your competition has the end to come in. There’s no way out for you.
Violet (Interviewee): I was in the middle of that horror story of trying to gather all the details around these visits, you know, doing this manual work, and the VP of Operations calls me and chews me out. He was like, “Did I hear that you allow and you told this client that we weren’t going to be able to finish this project and we needed some help?” I was like, “Yes, and because that is true. Your program manager just went on a leave of absence, and she’s the one that was kind of running the show. She has the most experience, and unfortunately, she wasn’t doing a great job, and that’s why they got so behind on the project.” But probably it was due to some of the lead grabs since, you know, she needed a break.
She was just completely busted. But anyway, right in the middle of me pulling my hair out, she calls to chew me out about letting the client go to another vendor. Once I got off the phone, I burst into tears, and I told my husband that I was done, I was gonna quit this job, and I mean, I was like ready, I would have had more of an 18 hour day rather than a 36 hour if I quit then when I flipped out. But my husband, of course, is like, “Well, let’s sleep on it.” I didn’t sleep on it, I stayed up all night and worked on this shit, and I came to terms with the fact that there’s just no way of quitting your job; you just can’t do that easily, especially if you don’t have great savings like myself.
Morgan (Host): Right. So one question; when you told your boss, the CEO, and the VPS at your company that you will never make it, you probably raised the alarm bells to them earlier because it was fundamentally their responsibility to say this, ideally not at this point but earlier than this like, “Oh, we’re not gonna make it. We need to put more resources and or something else.” Why do you think that never happened?
Violet (Interviewee): We had already pulled so many resources from each potential area that actually support because we had a call center that actually would support the technicians calling in. We would support the store managers that are calling in and trying to troubleshoot equipment, and you know, it would have been great to have a big team of those individuals to be able to like maybe do the project management piece, but it was right in the middle of the hot season, and we were slammed.
There weren’t any additional resources. I am probably at fault for not immediately running to them and acting more out of desperation by answering the client quickly on, “Yeah, give us some help,” rather than trying to connect with the VP of ops or the CEO when they were free to have this conversation about whether or not we can support this project that we’re already far behind on. I guess I made a decision that maybe they could have supported; maybe they could have given me a better advice on how we should keep the entire project to ourselves. I just didn’t see it, but I just didn’t see. I didn’t see it, so I didn’t ask.
Morgan (Host): It also feels like a powerful example of when companies get in over their head, where the company is already pulling all of these resources, and everyone’s working at max, there is this optimism, “Oh, we can pull through. We’re working hard, we just need to work hard for another week, and then we can do it.” But sometimes, that’s just not possible.
Violet (Interviewee): It’s not, and you know, because the VP of ops was so disappointed in me and called me out on it, I was like, “Oh man, I really messed up, I really messed up. I should have never made that quick decision.” But I had the client breathing down my neck, and they were like, “Do we need another vendor involved today because this stuff needs to be done tomorrow.” I didn’t feel like I had that space to ask, but I also probably reacted emotionally out of desperation. Anyway, my that little act of desperation cut into my annual bonus that year. That was the reason that I didn’t get my full bonus, and they cited that as a reason.
Morgan (Host): Wow! It sounds like the assholes weren’t only at the client’s company but at yours as well.
Violet (Interviewee): Yeah, well, they were also just very frugal, perhaps. I don’t know, but that was painful.
Morgan (Host): Yeah, so this is a powerful example of why the situation was a disaster in all in all directions, and we’re going to do lessons from it. I’d love to hear another example of a challenging moment to bring out these lessons in vivid detail.
Violet (Interviewee): One of the biggest challenges of that role was having to manage the warehouse inventory because we held a lot of this client’s inventory. The client, of course, wanted to know where everything was when it was got there, you know, when was it installed, when did it come back, how long did it take to fix all those things? And this warehouse was enormous, and they had many more clients than just this client. So you know, sometimes the inventory got a little mishmash, little mixed up, sometimes people that were working at the warehouse forget to scan in certain things.
A lot of it was manual, which was also one of the big issues here; I think I already mentioned this before. It was kind of a software concern because we didn’t have the right software to really make our lives easier, especially in the warehouse. We’d have an entire store would close, and this company would send out a couple of technicians to pack up every single piece of technology that they have in store and send it to the warehouse. Then the warehouse had to account for every single piece of equipment that arrived. Well, without official scanning, it required a bit of manually punching in numbers, and you know, mistakes definitely happen in those scenarios.
I believe they fixed that issue before I left, but it was messy, it was a nightmare, and the vendor manager expected me to basically fix the inventory problem. He wanted me to fix the problem with us not being able to tell him where their equipment was and how much they had on hand. He wanted a very specific report that we had someone working with him, and in other companies, when a client is requesting a report, typically you put a statement of work together, right? And you charge them if there’s scope creep; well, in this scenario with this client, we just didn’t do that. We did not charge them for certain things, such as creating a report. We could never quite get it right, though, and one of the main individuals working on the report would spend his entire 40 hours a week on this report, just to meet on Friday to review it to make sure that it was what the client was expecting.
But we always fail. We always fail because the vendor manager would change his mind, kind of like, “Well, I know asked for this, but could we do this? I’m really after this.” So then we would go back the very next week and try to recreate that same report with his little tweaks that he was never quite satisfied with. I think if we had the right kind of software, we probably could have accounted for what he wanted, but we never charged him. We never charged him for those hours and hours of work for this report that never went anywhere.
Morgan (Host): So there are a couple of powerful points about that, which is people often think about contracts or statements of work like they’re useful because they make sure you’re paid for what you do. But what this example is bringing out there is another reason why contracts and statements of work are really powerful, which is’ limit and define what you’ll do including the success criteria that the client will use in order to decide “Okay, this is good you’re making it happen.” So it’s not only that you were not paid for that work, but because there is no contract, it gives the client the ability to say, “No change this, do this, do that,” so it would just keep on going and going on forever without a clear way to end.
Violet (Interviewee): Yeah, there were no parameters making that request. More than likely, a document is usually drawn up, and it’s so specific, super important. It’ll be like, “These are the following fields that you want. You have the pricing of the number of hours that are scoped out; you have the client sign it.” But if they go beyond, they want something else, that’s another change control.
That’s an addition to what they’ve already agreed to pay. So yeah, it was unfortunate. I really wish I could have done better for the CEO and, I don’t know, maybe calling those kinds of things out. But there was almost an understanding that this is the way it is. This client runs the show; we give them whatever they ask for, whenever they ask for it, and thank you very much. I never really felt like there was the opportunity to be like, “Yeah, should we be charging them for this?” They even got us to pay for their travel to come down to the warehouse to do an inventory check for their own stuff.
Morgan (Host): Wait, your company, paid for them to go see the warehouse of their own stuff?
Violet (Interviewee): Yeah.
Morgan (Host): I want to give props to their procurement department because they really were able to extract every little dollar out from you guys.
Violet (Interviewee): That kind of stuff, and this was interesting because this was done outside of procurement. That kind of stuff was the relationship stuff like, “Hey, could you ask the CEO with maybe he paid for so and so’s the ticket to come and work with us on the inventory?” So there were already maybe two people going, and the company was gonna pay for theirs, but they asked if we could pay for additional people, that kind of thing, and we did. We also paid to take them out for every single meal the entire week we were there. The coolest thing about this job is they like to take the client to fine dining restaurants, and I could order any wine I want. I was a complete alcoholic that entire two years, but I drank some really good wine. So silver lining!
Morgan (Host): “I had a miserable job with a miserable client that drove me crazy and I hated it, but I got awesome wine.”
Violet (Interviewee): Well and really, really nice meals, you know, paid for that I didn’t have to pay for. Not restaurants that I would normally just choose to go to, so yeah, that was one of the nicer points of the job. But now, working for a company that is not a small company, is a major corporation, they do not forget it. You can’t even charge a cocktail on your Amex. Forget it; you’ve got to justify every single dime that you used when you were traveling. Treating the client takes like pre-approvals, so again yet another huge gap in how this company was managed. I mean, not a lot of complaints there for me because I got to drink good wine.
Morgan (Host): So yeah, it’s interesting that this didn’t come from procurement but from the listener’s side. I think it goes to your point that you open the podcast with that company have cultures, and there is just this culture that permeated the kind of just squeezing and getting every little bit out, which apparently they did.
Violet (Interviewee): There is some weird set of circumstances, though, to where the vendor manager worked with a lot of other vendors, of course, you know, I think we’re not just his only problem. So there were other vendors that did the same type of work that we did, but he preferred working with us. I have no idea, probably just because he can push us around, but there were some weird things that happened where we were bidding on a job, and he accidentally sent me what this other company was fitting for this particular job and asked me to just deleted. I deleted it, but it was after I saw it.
Morgan (Host): I liked that you put assembly and air quotes.
Violet (Interviewee): I don’t know. On the surface, I think he really did enjoy working with this particular company, you know, and because the CEO was very charismatic and I enjoyed working with him, but yeah, those kinds of fishy little things, or a couple of things like that that happened that I wasn’t sure how to take. This isn’t even on the line of unethical; it’s like across the line and crosses the finish line actually of unethical.
These circumstances were just so new to me; I had never dealt with something like that before. So I did tell the VP of ops, “Hey, so and so sent me this you know the quote from this other vendor.” Maybe ethically, I should have kept that to myself. I don’t know; I think I was so angry at the client that I was just looking out for the company at that point. Not sure where; however, I want to justify it for myself.
Violet (Interviewee): Okay, so from my eyes, I’ve accidentally said things I shouldn’t have far too often. In other words, in any negotiation, and not just negotiation, managing people, managing clients, it happens. There are things that would be really, really helpful for the other person to know, but you just can’t say. However, knowing that we’re all human, and thus we make mistakes, I can’t say how much the competition is bidding for; I can be a human and make that mistake and very quickly apologize for the mistake. You know, of course, he did that on purpose as a way to let you know that, “Oh yeah, these other guys are bidding low.” And by the way, even more cynical, I don’t think I’d be more cynical than I am, but apparently, I can. Like it could very well be that the bidding for those guys wasn’t even the real bit. He probably just lowered the number by 20% and then shared that.
Violet (Interviewee): Yeah, I kind of went on with it because it seemed shady. It definitely seems shady. What’s interesting is that he sent me this email, and I didn’t see how it was relevant to me, so I might probably file it away. But then he was like, “Oh, hold on, you know, I didn’t mean to send you that.” And I was like, Oh, really? Scroll down.
Morgan (Host): Now I want to see it.
Violet (Interviewee): I mean, he could have just let it go like, “Hey, please disregard.” I probably would have just deleted it, though; interesting.
Morgan (Host): If you think about it out loud, he had to have given you a fake much lower number because that would actually protect his own ass morally. If he told you their real number, as you point out before, that’s unethically crossing the line by revealing conversations from someone else. But if he just made up a number and introduces them, obviously for his advantage, if it’s ever leaked that he did this, he can’t be blamed. He’s like, “I didn’t tell her that number. I told her something completely different.” So he didn’t reveal anything.
Violet (Interviewee): That is such a good point; I never looked at it that way. But hey, great learning experience, and there were quite a few situations where someone sent us an email that they do not mean for the client to see or for the vendor to see, that kind of stuff that really helped a lot at that job. So when I started at a different company, the company had you confirm any time that you sent an email outside of the company.
Like you’re sending an external email to this person, should it go to this person? You know what, I think that this company that I worked for before should have made that part of their process. That would totally save a lot of issues.
Morgan (Host): What’s interesting about that is that I have an email address at my main client’s company at their corporate email, and they had an alert. Like every day, all the emails, and I was like, “Why do you always have this for every email? I never thought it was useful.” But your point is really good. There are just a lot of people who are careless in this sort of way.
Violet (Interviewee): Yeah, and of course, things still happen where you send, I don’t know. It’s still happening, but it’s a much better safeguard than what they had before. You know, we had a situation where, the small company that I worked for, they had trouble keeping a CFO, so the role of their VP of finance was kind of a revolving door. One of our clients that we’re dealing with, and it wasn’t the client that I normally dealt with, was emailing back and forth with the client and another vendor.
They didn’t realize that one of our employees was on the email, and they were just completely talking trash about this company, and they’re like, “Well, who’s the flavor of the month?” you know, as far as we introduced a new CFO. It was a long chain of just condescending and horrible comments about this company; that thing has not happened in my current role because I think that everyone just assumes that they need to be professional. They’re dealing with a professional vendor or even a client. It’s always been really interesting, definitely crossing the line of unprofessionalism at this company, on both sides, on the vendor side, and on the client’s side.
Morgan (Host): These are lots of really, really good little details that paint a toxic picture. I’m happy you got out, and I hope you’re enjoying your current job.
Violet (Interviewee): It was a very interesting learning experience for sure, and even though I was only here for two years, I felt like it was a real-life lesson. You can learn one in two years; you don’t even have to be in a job that long to really learn these things.
Morgan (Host): What would you say are the most important lessons that you learned in these two years?
Violet (Interviewee): Well, I already knew that the client is always right. I mean, that’s fine, I already know that, right? But to the degree that they were right, that tested my patience and my anger; it actually improved my level of professionalism and my acting skills. I think I never responded the way that I actually was feeling because a lot of things really made me very angry. I just kept it down, but I don’t even know if that’s a good thing that I learned. But it does help in the world of business for those individuals who are just starting out. There’s a role you sometimes have to play, and it’s not you.
Morgan (Host): Being able to be a good actor is a superpower, and like all superpowers, it can be used for good or used for bad.
Violet (Interviewee): Very true, very true, but it was frustrating that that’s the superpower that I had to try to use it. Maybe I wasn’t even that good at it. It’s probably clear that I was fuming with those pasted smiles on my face, you know, but I did. Moving on to a different job, I learned how to let those client things go, like I want to hold on to these things that would make me angry, something that the client said or did that I felt was unprofessional or just plain rude, I would hold on to that forever.
I would retell the story to 10 of my friends and perpetuate that anger in my system. That kind of stuff, I don’t even hold on to this job because what’s the point? I just don’t let it get to me any longer, the job just wasn’t that important, and I let the drama get to me. So I think I learned how to separate my emotions from dealing with work issues, just in general.
Morgan (Host): That’s actually a great way to wrap this up, but that’s also a very powerful life lesson, where I think part of growing up, adulthood, and maturation. You know the stereotype of like the young college kid that’s angry about everything, the injustice in the world, and fighting to change the world. But as you get more experienced, you realize when you’re angry over everything, ultimately, you can’t change the world, and you’re the one that suffers.
Violet (Interviewee): Well, everyone around you as well.
Morgan (Host): Yeah, that’s right. You, your friends, and your family because when you repeat the horrible stories 20 times, repeating the same story, they suffer with you. Also, part of growing up is learning to let go of these things.
Violet (Interviewee): There are some stories that I held on to from my current role, and they are just outrageous, you know, or I find them funny. I mean, they might have upset me early on, or because it was such an outrageous request, but then I saw it as funny and shared it because it was funny. So it definitely has changed the way I at least talk about work as well.
Morgan (Host): Yeah, so there’s always outrageousness, and in a way, we kind of look for that outrageousness; it makes a lot of this fun and worthwhile. But I like the word that you used before; I’ve used the same word, “drama,” where it’s easy to get wrapped up in the drama, but getting too wrapped up in it is destructive. For me personally, this is one of the lessons not just in my professional career but in life. Relationships, friends, family, girlfriend, and so on, that it is really easy on drama and turning yourself stoic takes a lot of practice.
Violet (Interviewee): It does; perhaps it happens a lot in your 40s
Morgan (Host): I am in my 40s, and I’m definitely better at dealing with the drama and letting it go than I was 10-20 years earlier.
Violet (Interviewee): For your listeners, don’t give up hope because it’s not something that happens overnight, right? You do have to live through that and learn your lessons before you get to the point of being able to say that it is no longer important.
Morgan (Host): Yeah, I agree with that, and this is a great high-level note in order to end it. Thank you for taking the time, Violet, these were powerful stories, and at least they helped you grow up.
Violet (Interviewee): I think that’s what we learned today; it was almost like a self-discovery. You are my psychoanalysts, so thank you very much. I didn’t even have to pay you for the hour, right?
Morgan (Host): Come for a podcast to educate younger versions of ourselves, leave even some psychoanalysis. This is the way it rolls here.
Violet (Interviewee): It’s fantastic, thank you so much.
Morgan (Host): Thank you for your time Violet, and thank you to everyone who is listening. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
This transcription belongs to Episode #18, please watch the complete episode here!