A lot of people tell me that they would like to work with corporate clients but they don’t want to play office politics.
This always puzzles me because there is a simple answer to this; you don’t need to! What you do need is a robust process to find and convert only those types of clients that are a joy to work with.
One time a student on my course asked me how I would deal with a corporate client who had a culture of back-stabbing and rumour-mongering.
My short answer was that I wouldn’t deal with them full stop.
Office politics in short
Office politics is generally a symptom of a culture where individuals try to grow their influence and power at the expense of others – maybe even harm others’ careers or positioning for their own gain.
Those are the worst places to work and I am not surprised that many want no part of it as a coach or independent consultant.
I wouldn’t either!
As an independent coach or consultant, your goal is to help improve aspects of an organization depending on the topic. But that does NOT mean you have to work with toxic clients or join in with unhealthy office politics.
Why you don’t need to settle for toxic work cultures
First of all, critically, you are NOT an employee. You have the freedom to choose who you work with.
You have the freedom to work on your own terms (after all, that is why you set up your own business, right?). And you have the freedom to walk away if you don’t like a client or prospect.
Years ago, early in my business, I found myself working for a client delivering training on how to use storytelling with number-heavy data. This client’s culture was deeply broken. It was ultra hierarchical, with 10 layers of management for 80 people and as a result, employees were super disengaged and not interested in my training at all.
It’s safe to say I delivered the training anyway but hated every minute of it – and then declined to do more work with them when they asked.
I declined because I knew that there are literally thousands of companies that I would be excited about working with and where I could deliver my best work (this is almost never possible in toxic workplaces).
Don’t let the thought of toxic workplaces stop you from working with corporates – there are plenty that are a delight!
PS: I’ll write about how to identify who NOT to work with in my next post