Today, I saw a T-Shirt that I wanted instantly. It said, “I’m a lawyer. I’m here to defend your ass. Not kiss it.” That prompted me to republish a blog post I wrote on my personal blog about a year ago. Without further ado, my thoughts on narcissistic clients, circa June 30, 2013:
Not too long ago, I was on the phone with a [former] friend. She started the call with the polite inquiry, “How are you doing?” But when I actually started to answer, I was cut off after about one sentence. (This was especially offensive because my answer was, “I was in a serious car accident and cannot walk–“.) Then she launched into, essentially, “Me, me, me… me, me, me… hold on a minute…, OK, I’m back… me, me… I, I… me, OK?” So we stopped being friends.
I’m in a service industry dealing with very stressful problems for my clients, so I expect a certain level of neediness. After all, I am paid to listen to their needs and then provide them with solutions. But occasionally, I will attract one who goes beyond needy: the narcissist. The hallmark of the narcissist is that, once they are in a dominant position over you (i.e. they have hired you), everything is all about them and their needs, to the point of disrespectfulness or absurd clownishness.
I do not know why I attract narcissists to my practice (and my personal life, it turns out). It happens about twice per year. But I have become increasingly skilled at flushing them out quickly because they are bad for business (and my personal life, it turns out).
Why You Should Get Rid of Narcissists as Your Clients/Customers
- They will waste your time. A narcissist cares only about himself or herself and what you can do for him or her. This means they will not respect your time. They will demand you be available whenever they want, and will not respect your schedule.
- They tend to be drama queens/kings. Because narcissists are ego-maniacal jerks, they do not get along well with lots of people. They may also cheat, steal, sue, scheme, rant, blame, manipulate and cry. A narcissistic client will not hesitate to call fifteen times in an hour or cry about how suicidal she is because you are charging her for your services, and life is just so unfairly picking on her.
- They will not work cooperatively with you. A narcissist thinks they are superior to everyone. That includes you, their mere servant. In large part, if you are working for a narcissist in any capacity, unless you are of sufficiently “important” and high ranking social status (i.e. you are the President of the United States of America), they will look down on you. Your advice, opinion and recommendations may be taken — but they will equally be argued with, disregarded, nitpicked or demeaned.
- They will not pay you. A narcissist (who does not have money to burn) will demean your work and use that as an excuse to not pay you. After all, you were not available whenever they demanded. And they had to tell you how to do things. And they could have done it so much better. And the whole thing is so unfair and annoying to them, the universe’s perfect son/daughter. So why should they pay you?
In short, the amount of profit you make off a narcissist will rapidly shrink into nothing. They will also make you want to stab them in the eye with your pen. So do yourself a favor and fire these clients/customers the second you recognize them for what they are: a selfish, ungrateful pain in the ass.
It took me a while to really relish the firing of bad clients. At first, I hated the idea of getting rid of any customers at all. I did not understand that I could not please them, no matter how hard I tried. Over time, I have learned that the numbers do not lie: these clients cost my business money. It is not a good business decision to keep customers who soak up all your profits with their pain-in-the-assery. Think of it this way: would you pay to work for this person? No? Because that is what you are doing. Spend your time finding a different customer. Or go to the beach. Or take a nap.
For many reasons, narcissists are toxic people who will suck the soul out of you and your business. If you recognize any of the above behavior patterns, end it now. Politely inform your narcissistic customer that you are not the right person to serve him or her. Your bottom-line, employees and significant other will all thank you profusely.