Jean Walcher | Crain's San Diego

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Jean Walcher

Background:  

Jean Walcher has more than 30 years of experience in communications and marketing, having worked on both the agency and client side with public relations agencies in San Diego and New York City. In 2001, she launched J. Walcher Communications, a public relations and marketing communications agency that serves local, regional and national clients across a range of industries.

The Mistake:

Not standing up for myself.

Earlier on in my career, I had a boss who was a bully. I wouldn’t say he was abusive, but he was difficult and didn’t treat me well. I was young, so I didn’t really know that I could do anything about it.

Because I let it happen, the behavior continued. I eventually decided to leave – despite the fact that I really liked my job – because I just couldn’t go into that kind of environment every day. It was affecting how I felt, overall.

A similar thing happened with clients who, like my former boss, were disrespectful of me: The behavior continued when I cowered.

When it comes to difficult people, you need to be clear about how you expect to be treated, and you need to be strong about it.

The Lesson:

When it comes to difficult people, you need to be clear about how you expect to be treated, and you need to be strong about it.

My next job was with a corporation’s in-house PR firm, where I held more of a leadership position. One day, my boss completely disparaged me in front of all my staff, so I went into his office later that day and calmly and respectfully said, “Please don’t ever talk to me that way again.” I said it a couple of times, and he was stunned into silence. He never talked to me that way again, and the workplace was a much more pleasant place for me.

The same approach works for clients, who can also be very difficult and bully you about work. When you stick up for yourself and your work, and you don’t let them get away with it, they’ll typically understand and you’ll have a much better relationship with them.

Of course, sticking up for yourself can be hard if the bullies are clients that you really need, or bosses that hold the reins on your employment. But if you do it in a calm, respectful manner, they’ll probably even respect you more because of it.

Jean Walcher is on Twitter at @jwalcher

Photo courtesy of J. Walcher Communications

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