So it was with this commitment to professionalism that I approached one such meeting with a particularly “earthy” client a few years ago, even though I knew their apparel might be something less than Armani business casual. They were literally ditch diggers, hauling in heavy equipment to bore trenches for underground cable, lines, pipes and more. Not folks that one would assume would be particularly delicate in their sensibilities.
I joined the agency team (with whom I was working at the time) for the meeting in the expansive, airy conference room. Upon their arrival, the clients shuffled in, two men and a woman who, with all due respect, looked well-suited for their professions. The woman took five steps into the room, stopped dead in her tracks and announced in a snarky, holding-my-nose-I-smell-horse-turds-voice, “I CANNOT stay in here. I’ll DIE!”
She then promptly turned on her heel and stormed out. The agency director hurriedly followed her.
Her co-workers shifted uncomfortably.
“Is she okay?” I asked.
They cleared their throats, “Sure,” one of them said. “She’s just…sensitive.”
Several moments of awkward silence passed until the agency director returned. He dialed a number on the conference phone at the center of the table, switched on the speaker and the woman’s voice answered. The meeting commenced with her disembodied voice contributing from somewhere in the bowels of the agency.
When the meeting ended, I literally ran into her in the hallway.
“Are you okay?” I asked, genuinely concerned.
“Sure,” she responded. “As long as I steer clear of you.” Then she stormed off.
The agency director phoned me later that afternoon, explaining that the client had “an extreme sensitivity to certain aromas, perfumes and the like.”
Now I’ve never been one to marinate in flowery scents, and I DO bathe on a regular basis, so I couldn’t fathom how this woman could have been so violently affected by my “aroma.” The only thing I’d done that morning before arriving at the agency was to use a small amount of lightly scented hand lotion. And while I don’t discount some folk’s sensitivity, her rude behavior made me wish wholeheartedly that I’d indulged in a garlic/onion pizza and Cuban cigar right before attending our meeting.
Have you ever encountered a rude client or business associate? If so, how did you respond?