Advice column: My boss expects me to put up with a degree of flirting from clients at social events, but I don't agree. What should I do?

Dear Ash,

I recently had a change of manager. The new one is on a mission to expand our current client base and has embarked on setting up a number of client events. All staff are expected to attend and to wine and dine prospective clients. I don’t mind attending such events, but at a recent dinner, I felt extremely humiliated when an inebriated prospective client began being very suggestive towards me. My boss was within earshot, but seemed to ignore my discomfort. One of my male colleagues eventually intervened by taking the man outside; however, I later discovered that my boss was unhappy at this and had words with my colleague. My boss apparently advised that we had to develop a thick skin and that such flirting from clients was to be expected as par for the course! I don’t agree with such an approach, but don’t want to jeopardise my position in the department.

Ash replies:

Wining and dining of prospective clients is indeed sometimes required, but this does not mean that you require to lose your dignity.

In any case, the genuinely interested prospective client will be looking to check the professionalism and credibility of the host firm at such events. Therefore there is nothing to be gained by mere tokenism or fake interest. In order to secure future business you require to build trust and create an honest professional relationship. Your boss is not helping to promote business by encouraging poor behaviour from prospective clients.

I suggest that you initially try to take steps yourself to maintain your dignity and credibility, as well as a degree of professionalism at such events. You could, for example, ensure that you pair up with a male colleague when promoting the firm. Also try to avoid drinking much alcohol in order to stay more aware and safe. But most of all, try to keep focused on the purpose of the event by highlighting the work of the department and also listening to the client. You could focus on finding out what clients’ interests are, and then think of ways that you might be able to support that interest or show you’ve listened. In the long term, your boss will also be focusing on how many new clients you have managed to secure for the business.

Remember, keeping your dignity in the workplace might not always be easy, but you’ll like yourself better for it and your boss and clients will respect you more for it in the long run.

 

Send your queries to Ash

“Ash” is a solicitor who is willing to answer work-related queries from solicitors and trainees, which can be put to her via the editor: peter@connectcommunications.co.uk, or mail to Studio 2001, Mile End, Paisley PA1 1JS.

Confidence will be respected and any advice published will be anonymised.

Please note that letters to Ash are not received at the Law Society of Scotland. The Society offers a support service for trainees through its Registrar’s Department. For one-to-one advice, contact Katie Wood, Manager in the Registrar’s Department on 0131 476 8105/8200, or katiewood@lawscot.org.uk

Share this article
Add To Favorites