Saying things you might say to friend can quickly sour an otherwise congenial business relationship. People who are paying you to be around rarely want to employ your criticism. And so this was the conundrum I found myself in.
I had a client who owned a morbidly obese dog. I found it difficult to deal with this because I felt that the “love” my client had for her dog was really killing him. Make no mistake the physical health of this dog was in my mind borderline abusive. Not malicious, not evil, but still abuse through neglect to use common sense. What was so obvious to me seemed not to have entered her mind. The fact that my client was also quite obese made it even more difficult to address. For her food was love and she slathered it on.
The way I finally managed to bring it up was after she mentioned it herself. I forget how the subject of her dog’s obesity came up but I took the opportunity to say something about my concern that it could be her thyroid. Thyroid deficiency results in obesity and it’s a tactful way of saying, “something must be wrong, because no dog should be as fat as he was.” It offered plausible deniability; that I could bring up my concern without the obvious implication that it was the result of over-feeding and general lack of self-control—in other words, her fault. It allowed us to discuss the issue without it being about blame, self recrimination, or offended feelings.
Sometimes it’s a fine line we walk in this business. You become very personal with your clients and they with you because of the type of work you do. I don’t doubt it is similar to the type of relationship a nanny has with the family s/he serves. On the other hand, friendship and business mix about as well as oil and water.
I’d love to hear how others have or would handle such a situation?