How to behave at work: don’t be an asshole

Work No. 398: ‘Assholes’ by Martin Creed

Just recently I’ve had two encounters with some not-to-be named businesses that have provided utterly rubbish customer service. I won’t bore you with my old lady grump rant. I will bore you with this post on how to behave at work I have been inspired to write as a result.

I know that there’ll be a bunch of you thinking “what an annoying, condescending prat” when you read this. Ah well. But seriously don’t you get mad when you purchase goods or service and you are treated like a piece of dog poo on the shoe of the supplier you purchased from? I do.

I have been working in client facing roles for a very long time. I’d be lying if I said some days I wouldn’t rather punch myself repeatedly in the face than go to work.

Thank you doghousediaries for this piece of awesomeness
Thank you doghousediaries for this piece of awesomeness

Or that I wouldn’t rather live in this cool cabin in the woods and go on the dole.


Or that I was always super-awesome at my job. There have been times when I would totes psyche out at the dick who asked me to do something. This would happen mostly when I was young. Or tired and hung over. Or stressed out. Not great. But I can’t take these occasions back now. Each time it left a bad taste in my mouth and taught me a good ole life lesson. And now I’m too old and tired to argue with anyone.

I’ve had plenty of time to get the hang of this working gig in my 25 year career. What I have discovered is that there is a simple formula to success:

Don’t be an asshole to your clients/customers/business partners.

Sounds simple, yes? Well isn’t it amazing how many businesses can’t get this fundamental basic.

If you treat your customers very well, not only will they pay their bills (ensuring you can buy that cute new handmade necklace on etsy), they’ll be loyal AND on top of that they’ll recommend you.

This tidy little summary by Forbes outlines the six key reasons why you should provide great client service

Case in point. A man I might just happen to be related to has been running a successful business for a long time. The business was started by his father and has been in operation for over a half a century. Not bad, huh. There was a time when a particular customer of his was in some financial bother. None of the other suppliers would deal with this company. My bloke says ‘sure I’ll sell you some gear.’ But he lays down a few rules and a caveat that their current bill has to be paid off at a certain amount per month. So while other suppliers don’t get their accounts paid, my fella gets his bills paid, makes a friend for life and also sells more product. Clever.

Another person I might just happen to work for, is a wonderful and very astute business owner. Her core philosophy is to treat clients with the absolute highest level of client service at all times, to deliver a fantastic product on time and budget, and to be utterly respectful to her client partners. This smart lady has never had to advertise and word-of-mouth has kept her small business not just afloat but highly successful, for almost 15 years.

Here’s some things I have learnt.

Say ‘yes’.

It’s always better to start on a level of positivity than put up roadblocks (of course if your customer wants you to teach his poodle to soar through the air like a bird, you may need to politely decline, and back away slowly, he sounds unhinged)

Treat your clients how you want to be treated.

Remember that no-one likes to be spoken to rudely, to be emailed in a shouty manner or generally disrespected

Work with customers you like.

This is of course not always possible, but there’s no harm in searching out clients who have the same values as you or are in aspirational businesses. Otherwise just tell yourself you like them 😉

Learn to accept criticism.

Sometimes clients give you feedback you weren’t expecting, or that isn’t positive. Be graceful, accept the feedback with your head held high and become a bloody good problem solver.

Build a bridge.

Over your ego. If you work with clients, they usually want you to do stuff for them. And sometimes they have unrealistic expectations. Get over it, that’s a client’s prerogative. If they say jump, get that butt off your chair and bounce, baby. But remember that there can be a fine line between unrealistic and downright obnoxious. Your customer never has the right to bully, exploit or abuse you. If you feel something like that is going on, say bye-bye.

Be thankful.

Unless you’re independently wealthy with a tasty trust fund to live off, your client is your livelihood. Be grateful to them.

Do what you’re good at.


If you are not happy working with people (of all shapes and sizes, attitudes and knowledge levels), find a new career. If you don’t like people, it’s most likely you aren’t going to be great at dealing with customers. That’s cool. Go and get some life coaching, find your thing in life and enjoy doing it!

Written By

Gillian is a marketing savant and brand strategist with over 20 years of experience in above and below the line marketing, digital strategy and creative direction. She is an exceptional people person who loves to collaborate with clients every step of the way to achieve the best possible outcome. Gillian is also a successful makeup-artist and make-up obsessive who loves to share her tricks of the trade and help women to look good and feel great.


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