My time is valuable. It is valuable to me, if not to anyone else. (In that Magnus’ clients compensate my company, and thus, me, in relatively high amounts of money, I would argue that my time is perceived as valuable to someone other than me. But, I digress.) Because I value my time and my time is available in limited quantities, I prefer to select with whom I spend my time. In addition, I prefer to choose how to spend my time. This means that, over my lifetime, I have learned to spend my time with nice people. If someone is not nice to me, chances are, that person will never have the opportunity to not be nice to me again. My philosophy of life includes wanting to spend time with nice people, not mean or rude people, and given my limited time, I frequently opt out of situations that involve one or more people who have been mean to me. David has some cousins who, over 30 years ago, revealed themselves to me by being rude, making fun of my mother’s humble home, and in general, treating me with such utter disregard that I began referring to them as “the cousins from Hell.” I learned to avoid all family gatherings where these evil cousins would be. In addition, just as my avoidance of mean people is important in my personal life, if a client of Magnus’ is mean to me (and/or one of my staff members), it will be the last time that client sees me, regardless of how much money he or she is willing to pay for another opportunity to be mean. I usually find ways to decline spending time with mean people that are non confrontational, but if I am pressed on why I don’t want to spend time with Mr./Ms./Mx. Meanie, I will reveal that there isn’t enough time available in my schedule for me to spend time with mean people. The only people for whom I have time are the nice ones, whom I enjoy being around. Enough said.
Fortunately, as we wrote in the prior related post, our clients are usually nice, professional, even kind and friendly. We all know we’re working together for a common goal and egos usually stay in check. But, there are exceptions. I used the example of a particularly toxic client we once had who, with our help, achieved a significant verdict for his/our common client. Working with him was stressful. His team was fine and even nice; how they persevered with his verbal abusiveness is incomprehensible, but they did. Everyone on the Magnus team who was in contact with him was offended by his abusive tone and language. He had subjected all of us, not just Melissa and me, but all of us to foul rants using all sorts of language, perhaps unfairly, often attributed to “sailors.” Turns out, he also did the same thing with the area law firm serving as local counsel, to the point that several of that law firm’s staff quit rather than continue working with him. A short time after that verdict he called to hire Magnus again. We were actually surprised as we took his abuse as a sign he didn’t like us. Turns out that his abusiveness was normal for him. But, it was, and is not, normal behavior. Our staff was upset when it happened and the thought of subjecting anyone to that again made it, on the one hand, an easy decision to turn down his engagement. (On the other hand, it is never easy to turn down work or money – don’t get me wrong. We haven’t had to do that except for with this one jerk.) As employers, Melissa and I realized we could not subject our staff, much less ourselves, to his behavior. So, I had the unpleasant task of calling to tell him we were not willing to work with him. It was not as if I could just say “we have a conflict” – I tried that, but he pressed for details and I told him the truth. I told him that his behavior and abuse had traumatized us all – no one wanted to work with him. He was, briefly, speechless, then he went into a rant including “You don’t f…ing want my money because I use bad language???” He unwittingly proved my point and brought the call to an end shortly thereafter. Over the years in these posts we’re discussed the good, the bad, and the ugly – this is one of the ugliest and it was disappointing to turn down lots of work and money from this client. But, was the only choice.