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3 Ways to Avoid Toxic Client Relationships

A warning sign
Even business relationships can turn toxic

I met with a client earlier this week – let’s call him “Dave”.

Dave talked increasingly over the last few weeks how 1 particular business relationship was really “getting him down”

It was becoming toxic.

Despite Dave’s best efforts, always doing the right thing, going above and beyond his obligations, his client was never happy and made it feel like everything was Dave’s fault

If you’ve ever experienced 1 of these relationships, you’ll know firsthand how profoundly it can impact on your mental health.

Ending toxic relationships professionally is a must and, when you do, you might expect to feel a sense of joy or relief, right?

Wrong! (probably)

Ironically, ending a business relationship – even a toxic one - can feel like experiencing a death in the family. It’s actually a form of grieving

Sounds bizarre but it’s true

Ok, back to Dave – I told him about the experiencing death thing and gave him some reading material on Kubler-Ross or "grief" curve:

The 5 Stages of the Grief Curve:

1️⃣ Denial: Initially, you might second-guess your decision, wondering if you've done the right thing.

2️⃣ Anger: You may feel anger towards the situation or the person involved, venting frustration.

3️⃣ Bargaining: Trying to salvage the relationship, you may consider compromises or solutions.

4️⃣ Depression: The realization of the finality can lead to sadness and mourning.

5️⃣ Acceptance: Ultimately, you come to terms with the necessity of ending the toxic relationship and begin healing.

Dave’s going to read about Kubler-Ross over the weekend and by Monday, he’ll start to understand why he feels the way he does.

Will he be “back to normal”?

I doubt it, grief is a process and a very personal one at that. Plus, everyone grieves differently, it'll probably take some time.

Good luck Dave 🤞

3 Ways to Avoid Toxic Business Relationships

An older man wearing glasses and sitting down
The late Lord Weinstock: CEO of GEC

1. Talk to your team - canvas your team; gather their collective opinion and act on it. They will feel valued and will respect your leadership even more as a result.

2. Talk to the Client - tell them how their behaviour affects the team - they may not even realise the impact they are having

3. If all else fails and you cannot resolve your differences, end the relationship, professionally; it's not worth it.

Lastly, remember the words of the late Lord Arnold Weinstock:

If there's 1 thing worse than no business, it's BAD business.

Caveat: if it's a very large contract, you might even consider bringing in a third party intermediary to mediate. I took part in this process with EDS and a large Telco customer and it really helped prreserve the relationship.

Sound Familiar?

If you're concerned that 1 of your business relationships is turning sour, get in touch with us before it actually turns toxic.

Message us at


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