Facebook Yoga: Should You Fire the Client?


There are clients you love, clients you hate, clients you wish you had, and clients you wish you’d lose.

But are there clients you should fire?

That’s the crux of the news that Facebook axed a contract yoga teacher because she had the temerity to “give a woman using a cell phone in the front row in the middle of class a disapproving look.

While yoga teacher Alice Van Ness didn’t have the foresight to drop Facebook as a client before she got whacked for not permitting folks to disrupt a yoga class with cell phone usage, perhaps she should have.

All of you (me too) who get paid to do something get paid to do a job. Teach school? Educate kids. Drive a bus? Facilitate transportation. Analyze stocks? Pick winners, avoid losers; make the best investment decisions you can for your clients.

And if your client doesn’t want you to do that job, you get a quandary. Do another job (cell phone yoga?) and get paid, or apply reasonable standards and suggest that the client should find someone else.

Sometimes, though you can see it coming and you “help” the client take a pass on you before you end up in paid hell.

Last week a prospective exec coaching client called to talk working with them. The issue? Their CEO said the would-be-client’s communication skills were not too hot, and it was an issue with not only the CEO, but the board as well.

The would-be client’s take? The CEO was a nice person but a lousy CEO; the board – some people who I know of professionally – was made up of a bunch of people who just wanted to hear what they wanted to hear and nothing else.

The would-be client shared a letter from the CEO that frankly was well written, and pretty specific about what needed to be fixed. The response to the CEO which he also shared? Choppy, disjointed, and kind of a jumbled mess.

All smooth sailing in terms of working together until I suggested that I sit down with him, and also sit down with the CEO separately before I took on the assignment to determine if I could be of help.

The thank-you-no-thank you email from the would-be client that I received next was not a surprise. Pricing and method, they said, had became an issue. My hunch? The potential client was looking for a coaching ally and someone who would support their point of view, not someone who might help them with a dose of reality and push for upskilling and behavioral change.

So while I got likely missed a paying client I couldn’t help, in the case of the Facebook yoga teacher it’s sometimes a case of breaking with a client whose expectations you can’t meet.

And while we all (or at least most of us) work to earn a living, sometimes living well is ducking – or firing – those clients who seek what you can’t provide.

Life Back West is an occasional set of writings focused on ways people, teams and organizations can be both more effective (doing the right thing) and more efficient (doing the right thing well). More about executive, career and team / leadership coaching services can be found at the “About J. Mike Smith and Back West, Inc.” sidebar or the “Hire Me” tab above. You can also read an online interview with me at WhoHub, as well as participate in my learning community courtesy of KnowledgeCrush.

Photo credit: “yoga” by kpishdadi


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