H is for Hopeless

HLast Fall I was doing some subcontract work and was assigned to work with a client who was (at least in her own mind) “high-profile”.  Her actual claims to fame were mediocre at best and dubious as a baseline.  A few days into our working relationship it was very apparent that “high profile” really meant “a royal pain in the posterior”.

Our first weekly check-in call was spent with her reciting a litany of all the shortcomings, sins and transgressions of her previous assistant.  Ok, I figured, let her get that out of her system and we can move forward.  Oh how naive I was!

I put together the first newsletter for her, sent her the link to take a look and let me know if changes needed to be made. She emailed back that everything was “a-ok” and to go ahead and send the newsletter.  20 minutes after sending the newsletter I get an email.  In a nutshell it was  “OH MY GOD! HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? YOU’VE MADE ME LOOK HORRIBLE!!” and then my phone rings and before I can pick up I am getting a second call.  She had called the agency I was working through and she was calling me herself and she was LIVID.

So, I quickly log in to look at the newsletter and, sure enough, it’s a MESS.  Formatting is horrible – 2 sections completely squashed together, about 8 different fonts, none of the links work correctly and… not at all as it had looked when I scheduled it.  Puzzled, I looked at the revision history and found that there were 2 logins, after my having scheduled the newsletter. Apparently the client had been in and “made some minor edits”.

Meanwhile, the agency I was working through is screaming at me that I’ve damaged their relationship with the client and the client is screaming that I’ve made her look like a fool to all of her subscribers and then I pointed out to both the agency and the client that the newsletter was edited after I’d scheduled it and I had no idea it had been edited. Client denies my assertion.  I take and send screenshots of the revision log. Ooops, guess who didn’t know the revision log even existed? At that point the agency simply said to me “don’t let it happen again” and the client fell silent. This should have been my first clue that rational interaction was hopeless.

In hindsight, I should have walked away then.

Over the next few months I was accused of not sending emails (screenshots proved otherwise), not scheduling broadcasts to go out (screenshots proved otherwise), not doing things I had been told to do (screenshots of “draft” emails, still sitting in her outgoing mail proved that she had never really told me to do those things… sure she’d written the email, but she’d never sent it, so I had no way of knowing things needed doing). Eventually, someone in the agency got in touch with the previous assistant who said that yes, she had been through all of those things with that client and so had a string of assistants before her. She was a serial complainer – and pleasing her was a hopeless endeavor.

About 4 months in, as I was writing the email to the agency to ask to be reassigned, I was told that she’d given her notice that she was unhappy with the services provided and would be moving to another agency.  The agency I worked with then threw me under the bus in attempt to retain her as a client.  Completely disregarding that I had been able to prove that everything she’d accused me of doing or not doing was a complete fabrication, they apologized for my “woefully unprofessional performance” but…she had her mind made up. And I had MY mind made up and resigned.

Bottom line? Go with your gut. Even if you need the money, sometimes you have to cut your losses and walk away.