As a business and workplace author and speaker, I’m always getting asked about how to cope with getting fired, or how to fire a wayward employee. But no one ever talks about the best way to cut ties with an individual you’re working with as a client or a partner.
In my native world of public relations, the idea of firing a client who is paying you is virtually unheard of. You simply put up with the abuse no matter how severe. Talk to any business relationship expert, however, and you will surely hear that this is not a good situation for anyone.
Provided you have had a heart-to-heart conversation with the problematic person and their negative or counterproductive behavior has not improved, it may be time to part ways. Otherwise, the financial compensation will quickly be overshadowed by a vicious cycle of toxic conversations and hurtful actions.
So how do you extricate yourself in a professional manner? Tough as it may be to stomach, the most mature approach is to meet in person. A public location is probably safest because having other people present will likely prevent an unseemly outburst.
Jotting down notes in advance can help you come across kind, assertive, and concise. Write down your ideas for tying up loose ends so that you don’t forget them in the stress of the moment. If the client/partner tries to persuade you to stay, hold your ground, but if you want to save face you can leave the door open for a business relationship in the future.
The more incendiary the relationship, the easier this conversation may be to have. It will likely be more difficult if you and the client are on friendly terms, but for whatever reason the engagement isn’t working. If this is the case, assure him or her that you have enjoyed the partnership but circumstances dictate that you need to move on.
Have you ever had to fire a client or partner? How did you handle it?