What is the best approach to a difficult high paying, high maintenance client who is bullying your people?

Mark Goulston
2 min readJun 29

Dealing with difficult clients can be challenging, especially if their behavior is causing distress among your team members. However, there are strategies you can employ to mitigate the issue:

  1. Open a Dialogue: Set up a meeting with the client to discuss the situation. You may need to tactfully bring up the impact their behavior is having on your team’s ability to deliver the best results. Frame this in a way that it’s beneficial for both parties — if your team feels respected and valued, they’re likely to perform better.
  2. Set Clear Boundaries: It’s important to establish the right kind of relationship with clients. Make sure your team is firm about reasonable working hours, appropriate communication, and respect for their professional expertise.
  3. Show Empathy: Try to understand where the client is coming from. Are they under pressure? Are they struggling to communicate their needs effectively? Sometimes, showing empathy and understanding can help deescalate the situation.
  4. Provide Training: Equip your team with the necessary skills to handle difficult situations and people. This could include training in negotiation, assertiveness, and communication.
  5. Incentivize and Support Your Team: High maintenance clients can be stressful for your team. Make sure you’re providing them with appropriate support and recognition for their efforts. This could include acknowledging their hard work, offering stress management resources, or even providing a bonus for dealing with particularly challenging clients.
  6. Consider the Financial Implication: High-paying clients can be crucial for your business, but if they’re causing harm to your employees, it may not be worth it. Evaluate the financial implications of retaining versus losing the client, including potential turnover costs if employees decide to leave due to the hostile environment.
  7. Engage Mediation or Legal Advice: If the situation is severe and the client’s behavior could be considered harassment or bullying, you may need to consider engaging a mediator or legal professional to handle the situation.

Remember, it’s important to maintain a professional demeanor throughout these processes and always strive for a solution that balances the needs of your team with the requirements of the business.

Mark Goulston

Dr. Goulston is the world's #1 listening coach and author of "Just Listen" which became the top book on listening in the world