My Customer is the Problem

Here’s a question from one of our readers on

The person I have problems with uses the line that he is my customer and because of the position I have to work with him. I am looking for the question or response when he makes this statement. Thank you

Answer From Our Coach / Trainer, Jennifer Yuhas:

You refer to your customer, is this person a consumer, or an “internal customer” in the form of a coworker/contractor? In either case, this relationship in no way negates everyone’s right to a respectful working environment.

What sort of problems do you experience with him? Is he discourteous and disrespectful in his requests for service? Are the requests he is making unreasonable? If that is the case, confidently and professionally assert that changes could be made on his end. Examples of this include the following “I want to provide the best service possible to you, in order to do that we need to have these requests stated clearly in a timely fashion.” Or, “Emails which are accusational or hot-tempered will be returned to the sender, and the requests will be processed when they can be sent to us in a professional manner.” And, “Shouting, profanity, and name-calling are not productive and will not be tolerated by our department. We are working to provide the best customer service possible and expect our colleagues to take professional responsibility to maintain a productive working environment for everyone.”

Has your situational awareness been clouded by these troublesome interactions too? If you have slipped into immediately reacting to his presence with resistance or eye rolling you’re doing yourself no favors. Repeated negative interactions can begin to wear us down and we can get complacent with our own professional standards. Make sure that you are above reproach in your initiation and responses to him. If you have slipped, you’ll need to start the conversation asserting your rights by recognizing this and committing to also raise your standards.

If resolution between colleagues is fleeting, your supervisors may need to intervene. Your group may benefit from teambuilding or training in recognizing and appreciating differences in communications styles and how each position works together for the same mission. This may help your “internal customers” understand the needs of your position better and lead to innovations that serve you both.

Jennifer Yuhas is a Senior Consultant / Trainer with Avitus Group (formerly The Growth Company). She possesses an extensive background in executive coaching, negotiations, liaison work, team building, and group processes. She has led several teams since 1995 and most recently served as the Negotiations Strategy Lead for the Alaska Delegation to the Pacific Salmon Treaty, and the Joint Pacific Alaska Range

Complex (JPARC) Airspace Planning Negotiations Lead for the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. /


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