The Jinxed Client Phenomenon-how to know it’s time to hang it up


You know what a Jinxed Client is. We’ve all had them. Nothing seems to go right with them no matter what you do. In his blog, I’ll outline what I think is happening with these disaster magnets and how to deal with them.

You know the wind-up – but only after the fact. Things start off slightly weird, a little rocky. Something is off but we’re not entirely sure what. Like a stone in the shoe. So we carry on. We persevere. And whether it’s pride, fear, or some sense of obligation, it doesn’t matter; this one client has the mark of the devil on them.

And so everything possible goes wrong.

It’s almost like the universe itself is conspiring against you. No matter what you do, the name on some deliverable is misspelled or wrong entirely, timelines are botched, files are misplaced; from the most mundane to the most calamitous.   Somehow, for some inexplicable reason, this ONE client seems to be attracting all the worst aspects of your client experience. They catch every single process gap, they snare every single possible goof up. They snatch failure from the jaws of success. And the more we work to resolve the issues and pacify them, the deeper we go.

My belief is that this Jinxed Client Phenomenon is created, in large part, by the client. Whether or not they are consciously aware, my experience is that this is a by-product of buyer’s remorse but the client is passing the responsibility of failure on to you.

Once they feel the regret they sort of attract negativity in order to validate their perceptions.   They need to be proven right so they literally seek out the problems, wait for them to happen, or hyper-focus on small things to catch a mistake. It’s a form of bias confirmation (the idea that we seek out validation for our preconceived ideas) and you’re on the poopy end of it.

Here’s what we do about it. 

Lock up your systems. The less confident you feel about your procedures the easier it is to take a simple human error and allow it get to you. We all make mistakes but when you know your process is mostly lumpy it’s easier to get emotional, blame yourself or your team, and spiral into self-doubt.

Tell the truth. Instead of getting caught up in the drama, get some distance, look objectively at the situation and ask yourself these questions:

Are more mistakes happening with this one client than normal?

Does the client seem to feel vindicated or justified whenever a mistake is made (almost like they want you to fail)?

Do you feel fear, anger, or resentment?   Those are dangerous emotions to have for someone you’re supposed to be helping.

Come clean. You can have a few minutes worth of pain by exiting the relationship, or you can have months…maybe years of it. What’s the true cost of not addressing this on your terms? Do you really think things will improve? Will this client refer? Could they ever sue you? Stop, breathe, think.

Review and revise: Every cycle with a client provides the opportunity to improve your processes. Ask yourself and your team questions about what was positive, what was negative, and what can be done to improve the next encounter. Flow chart the steps and seek out gaps. Try to place bottlenecks at the front of the process and if needed, get some outside help. Fresh eyes can make a difference.

The Jinxed Client Phenomenon isn’t just something you’ve had to face. Everyone has been there from time to time. Don’t allow these toxic relationships to fester and transform into something lethal. Just be honest with yourself, your team and most importantly, your client and move on.