People Management

Things you definitely should not do when working @ client’s HQ

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I returned last week from a business trip to Brussels, where I had a chance to observe some junior consultants. While the whitelist of good behaviours could be endless, there are a few big DON’T-s that add up to a much shorter list and doing these things will have a negative impact on your image and career. Here’s what you should never do when working from the client’s office:

1.     Don’t gossip. Sooner or later, during your visits, you will be “invited” to share some internal info about what people do and what they are thinking / saying. If ethics isn’t your strongest suit, just keep in mind that answering this invitation will take its toll on your chances to promote. Nobody wants someone who gives away inside info, so easily, in a position with more access to information.

2.     Don’t argue with your colleagues in front of the client, nor with the client. Never. It’s unprofessional. If you’re part of a team, act like it. Any disagreements can be discussed in private or escalated internally.

3.     Don’t turn #business #travel into a job hunting opportunity. First of all, it’s disloyal. Second, the contract under which you are working may prevent the client from recruiting you, so you will just put yourself in an embarrassing position. If you are skilled enough and the contractual relation allows it, most likely you will be invited to apply for a permanent position. Basically, it’s like someone invites you over a coffee and you say you would like to move in – you’re not there yet 🙂

4.     Don’t access social media, preferably not even personal email from client’s workstations. The client is not paying you to browse your Facebook or other personal accounts. Besides, all enterprise traffic is monitored, especially anything containing attachments. Use a smartphone for these things; we all have one.

5.     Don’t ‘stalk’ people in order to talk to them. If they are busy, leave and return. Ideally you should have an agenda and set up time boxed meetings before your arrival. Even some of these booked #meetings will get bounced or cancelled, so imagine the chances you have chasing people around.

6.     Don’t cross cultural boundaries. Despite the huge amount of info, people rarely read about the do’s and don’t-s of a foreign culture. As a rule of thumb: don’t play with other people’s “toys” and avoid touching others (except for a handshake when you are introduced). Personal space varies from one society to another. Just use your common sense.

7.     Don’t blame people. Blaming is not criticizing. Blaming is subjective and person-oriented. Criticism is objective, specific, focused on facts and a form of feedback. Even if you have to escalate, there’s a huge difference between: “Olivier did not fix the environment after 3 days” vs “The environment has been down for 3 days”. The reason for it could be: failed patching, service discontinued for non-payment, DoS attack, over allocation of the staff meant to fix it or anything else. Don’t be so fast to point fingers.

8.     Don’t mistake after-hours get-togethers for a night out with buddies. Know your limits – internal information is not a conversation topic with a client, no matter the setting. This applies also when dealing with other subcontractors on the same project. Don’t get fooled: informal meetings with higher management aren’t that informal if you’re not in the same league. You may like the saying “work hard, party harder”, but a hangover the next day is not excusable.

9.     Don’t make discriminatory jokes or remarks (xenophobic, homophobic, gender based or any other type). It should be common sense. When you are coming from a conservative country / society where most of the population shares the same views, orientations, structure, it’s easy to offend others without even realizing it. It’s not just about those in front of you; your remarks may be offensive to their spouse, relatives, children or friends. This sort of offenses are easily remembered and will impact your work.

Based on your experience, what would be number 10?