“Break-ups are never easy, but sometimes we need to sever ties with a toxic client or team member in order to keep our sanity.”

Break-ups are easy peasy … said no one EVER!

We’ve all had them – that one person (client or team member) who made us question if we really wanted to continue to do what we do. The person who kept us from getting much needed Zzzz’s.

The individual who gave us knots in our stomachs.

The creature that caused us to lash out unnecessarily at our loved ones after work hours.

Parting ways with someone – a partner, a friend, a client, a co-worker, is hard. It’s especially traumatizing if you’ve invested a lot of time in building the relationship and trying to make it work.

Disclaimer: I am NOT an expert on break-ups – I’ve stumbled along with this throughout my life like everyone else.

In fact, I remember postponing an inevitable break-up with someone who I considered to be a close friend and colleague for years! I had it in my head that I possessed too many photos of her taken at major milestones in my life (graduation, wedding, vacations) to just cut her out.

The best advice on this ridiculous excuse of mine came from my sister. She said “That’s what Photoshop is for”. Eventually I did have that difficult conversation, and, quite honestly, I think we were both relieved to acknowledge that we had outgrown each other.

Female Entrepreneurs – We’re too nice.

I attended a fabulous leadership workshop that presented evidence that female entrepreneurs are more likely to avoid ending a relationship with troublesome clients or a problematic team member than their male counterparts. The major stumbling block for women is that we’re just too nice.

Get’er Done

Whenever I’m being wishy washy on something, I try to remember the wise words of my best friend, Pam, a social worker, who makes life changing decisions on behalf of her clients and their families every single day. She says you just gotta get ‘er done.

Severing the Relationship | 3 Tactics

Here are 3 tactics that I have successfully used in the past:

1.  Approach it gradually – Slowly manage them out by reducing the workload, scope of work, or downsizing the project.

2. Break the project into phases with an ‘out’ clause at the end of each ‘phase’ – If you have structured the contract in phases, you give proper notice that you’re not moving on with the relationship in the next phase and it won’t necessarily come as a surprise to anyone.

3. Offer other options – Recommend another freelancer or agency to your client (and help transition the work to the new hire). In the case of a team member, find him/her a new contract gig that suits them better and helps them shift into a new role elsewhere that might be a better fit.

Covering Your A*S

When the dirty deed is done, you need to take the next steps to formalize things by putting it in writing (via email or a letter), and then creating a plan and timeline to wrap things up. I highly recommend keeping this process as efficient as possible. Dragging it out is unpleasant for everyone.

It’s very important for the future of your business to avoid burning bridges. Be professional, conciliatory and avoid complex, drama-filled discussions on what went wrong. This will not only save your sanity, but also preserve your reputation in your industry.

Consult a Friend

Finally, when I do sometimes find myself in these unpleasant situations, I always consult a friend on the situation before taking any action. I am fortunate to have several friends/colleagues who are self-employed entrepreneurs and consultants and small business owners. We bounce things around, play out different scenarios, and talk each other off the ledge when needed. There is no better support system.

If you have any tips to share with me on how you’d approach breaking-up with a client or parting ways with a team member, please pass them along. Let’s support each other in our entrepreneurship and leadership journey!