There’s a difference between respect and servitude.
A CEO friend and I recently had a beer, and he updated me on his kids. His daughter worked in sales for a large, well-known company and had been promoted to a “major accounts” position, in charge of relationships with two other large organizations.
One of her clients is delightful, profitable and appreciative of her efforts. The other is a pain in the ass, abusive and threatening. It’s not just her; they do it to everyone (there’s a 100 percent chance that the CEO is an asshole). Consequently, she wants to leave and start over somewhere else so that she isn’t forced to work with jerks.
I’ve pointed out to people who are young in their career that they should approach life as though they’re self-employed and that they must occasionally be willing to risk their current employment status to maintain their self-respect.
Serving others is noble work and requires some sacrifice, but when people frequently treat you like a rented mule, you should change that relationship or leave. As the saying goes, “If you aren’t happy, move! You aren’t a tree!”
The fact that others have positional authority or apparent monetary leverage over you doesn’t justify a peer-to-peon relationship! You should look for the best elements of a peer-to-peer relationship, regardless of your age or experience level. This doesn’t mean you’re disrespectful; there’s a difference between respect and servitude.
Whether you are self-employed or run a large organization, I believe it’s a fool’s errand to take revenue from assholes. The revenue is easy to count, but what’s not so easy to calculate is the cost of stress, delayed payments (yes, they’re the ones who always pay late), additional hand holding, rumination, self-doubt, lack of a referral and burnout of your best employees.
Suggest that they contact one of your competitors, explaining that, “They might be a better fit for your unique needs.”
In my son’s first sales job, he had an abusive client. He’d quickly had enough. On his next visit, he walked into the guy’s office, shut the door and said, “We need to rethink our relationship.” The guy became a good client (my son is a former Marine and built like a brick wall, which may have helped). You might not want to go that far, but don’t work with assholes — at least for very long.