Emerge and Spread Your Wings

Switching off Sticky Clients

As you think back over your work life does your mind linger on certain clients?

Maybe a client who you worked with for a long time and got to know well, or one who left suddenly and whose future you wonder about? Perhaps a very successful outcome with a client that reminds you why you do the work you do? What about those challenging clients that didn’t get the outcome you or they wanted despite trying your hardest. For me those are often the ones who stick in my mind, who make me second guess myself, or keep me awake at night.

Those cases that stick for me are often when my judgment has been questioned, and I worry that in a full accounting I might be found wanting, that I have missed a step, or been unfair. My take on it is that when a situation challenges our personal beliefs about something at our core (such as our honesty, or fairness or competence or lack of bias) that “painful ouch” we experience is why some past events in our work lives become hard to process objectively. They are simply too close.

So what can we do about it?

In supervision we can use a reflective cycle model to analyse our actions, the context, the outcome and seek some objectivity about the situation. We can identify what, if any, actions we could take to resolve the situation given the new information available. We can consider what we might do differently if encountering the situation in the future. By allowing ourselves to analyse our beliefs and actions we remain flexible in our thinking and we grow our skills to become better practitioners.

We can also explore other ways of thinking about the outcome, for instance there is often a mismatch between our client’s expectations and what our service can offer. This can cause us some ethical angst, and we can “unpack” this challenge in supervision. We can explore what it is about our values that “pinched” in this situation. Do we hold ourselves to unrealistically high standards in our practice, and forget that like our clients we are human too?

How can we let go?

When our mind keeps coming back to a past situation, and we’ve reflected on it and learnt from it, what then? A few ideas for you……..Some people create a symbolic process to let go, such as journalling, or writing on a piece of paper and burning the paper. Our mind can be a tricky tool when it comes to directing our attention. The more we focus on something the more our brain looks for evidence to confirm what we believe. Instead of looking for justifications or beating ourselves up about a “sticking client” we can try practicing a non-judgmental response such as “hmmm” which signals to our brain “nothing to analyse here, move on”. Another blogger Christina Desmarais writes these tips on “switching off work”.