The Persuasive Power of Saying “Yes” to Clients
By Andrew Chalmers.
‘Tis the season.
As 2019 closes, I hope that all of you have enjoyed a year full of progress, ambition, and success stories. A few weeks ago, as the holiday season engine started revving up, I was reminded of a unique and somewhat distressing client scenario that I often faced in the month of December.
I worked as a job developer in a not-for-profit agency for over 10 years and it’s safe to say that the role offers you a unique insight into how clients react to different situations. “Positive” is not always perceived as positive by all, I discovered. Often, I worked with youth and in my first year I was amazed by certain behaviours. Clients would work incredibly hard to get a job, they’d start work, but then, they wanted to quit.
Yes. They wanted to quit. Why?
Clients who had started jobs in late November or early December suddenly realized that being employed was perhaps not the best thing that could have happened to them. It was like getting socks as a Christmas present from your Gran when you were a kid.
“Oh! These are great. Nice colours, Gran!”
Meanwhile, in your head, you’re taking them back to the store pronto or planning a “re-gift.” (Yes, I re-gifted as a kid. Please don’t judge me.)
So, why did these individuals want to quit? These once happy clients were getting used to work, many of them for the very first time, but there was something overshadowing their happiness — the allure of festivities all around them. It was a universe of non-stop parties and seasonal hijinks. It gnawed at them, like a man on his 8th mince pie. Their friends had oodles of time off and were going to parties, attending family get-togethers, and generally socializing like the Kardashians.
“Working on Christmas Eve? I didn’t know I had to do that.”
All this fun and none for them. So, how did they react? They decided they wanted to quit. Easy. Then they would come to see me to let me know what they wanted to do. I had to resist the immediate urge to say “NO!”
I’d listen to their stories of missed partying (I can’t remember the last time I was obsessed by partying or even invited to one) and then, shaking off these feelings of being the last elf on the shelf, I tried to steer the client in the right direction.
Soon afterwards, I was presented with yet another Christmas resignation wish. “I’m going to quit. Should I?”
I said one word in reply. (Talk about Christmas generosity, eh?)
Cue a client’s shocked face. Here I was, the champion of encouraging clients to be motivated, reliable, and dependable — the bloke who always said, “Your first week is crucial!” — basically saying, “Sure, jack it all in.”
“Quit??” Cue the client with an expression as if I had just chopped down their new Christmas tree.
“Yes, but before you do, let’s do a spot of time travelling to January — cold, gray, blustery January. Home of the most depressing day of the year, or so I’m told. All of the holiday employers are now very quiet, business has slowed down, people are not hiring, the rush is over, the weather can be unpredictable leading to less spending, which also affects hiring.”
The client would look as if I had stolen all of their Christmas presents, but they were thinking.
Feeling like Scrooge, I would continue.
“Then, let’s think about how you feel. You didn’t have a job, then you did, then you didn’t. How does that make you feel?”
This was a key question that would really get the client thinking. The progress that he or she made in securing employment had had a tangible and very positive effect on their emotional health. Navigating through a challenging interview to secure work greatly impacted overall well-being. The positive effects of this massive win would most likely vanish when the individual found him or herself unemployed in January, a month that is not that motivating or exciting to begin with.
My Christmas cheer continued….
“What about your financial obligations? Did you get used to having a paycheque and being financially independent for a while? What effect did this have on your family, friends, and the people around you? How will you feel if this changes?”
The expression on the client’s face would say it all. Confidence-wise, it would be a huge loss.
The decision to suddenly quit a job is often an emotional, impulsive one, especially when clients have limited career experience. December is the most exciting month of the year, buzzing with a unique appeal. This can often have a distracting effect on a client’s perspective, encouraging short-term impulsive gains while neglecting long-term ambitions. It is our responsibility to show clients the road ahead, making them aware of the dangers of taking a wrong turn.
So, at this stage we have explored the emotional spin offs of saying “yes” to quitting. By taking the client on a visualization journey into the future we allow them to see the effects of their decision, to pause, reconsider, and — fingers crossed — decide to stay employed.
Usually, when we help clients see their long-term situation, they’ll act in their own best interest.
I’d conclude the imagined trip into the future by asking, ”Do you still want to quit?”
Thankfully, in the majority of cases, the answer would be, “I don’t think it would a good idea now.” They seemed more reflective, and sometimes relieved. They had imagined the possible road ahead and decided against making the negative journey — a journey that would be one step toward short term pleasure and about 153 back for long-term ambitions, positive mental health, financial security, and professional well-being.
Sometimes this seasonal predicament would reveal other issues or problems that the client was having. It created an opportunity to discuss and create proactive solutions that would help reassure the client and keep him or her in the job — an opportunity that the client really appreciated.
As the old saying goes, there is no time like the present. In these seasonal scenarios, the best gift I could give the client was encouragement to embrace the present and the opportunity to stay on a positive path.
Merry Christmas and happy holidays to you all. Shine bright!
Andrew Chalmers is set to launch his career coaching company, “Ace the Interview,” a venture that aims to bring coaching and interview support to as many people as possible. Working in nonprofit employment support for 10 years, Andrew observed that in an age of ever-increasing reliance on technology, many clients were losing the art of conversation. Combining holistic approaches with more traditional interview coaching practices, he designed and developed training programs to help clients build confidence though mastery of face-to-face communication skills that get them hired. Andrew has written over 10 screenplays and scripts for numerous television pilots. He believes that everyone has a story and that skilled and caring career development professionals are privileged to be able to assist clients in becoming the stars of their own story.