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I have a colleague in a different department that I perceive to be rude and unnecessarily confrontational in customer interactions. A representative of this department has to be present in customer meetings and will usually chair them. It is not on me (or anyone in my department) to decide who from the other department will participate in these customer meetings.

I feel that the behaviour of this particular colleague leaves a bad impression with the customer due to creating an unnecessarily hostile atmosphere.

Are there any strategies to improve the situation, when I find myself in a customer meeting chaired by him? How do I avoid that we, as a company, leave a bad impression with the customer?

Note: Escalating to management will not solve the problem immediately, since this is a different department. I am hence looking for ideas what I personally can do to improve those meetings while my manager is dealing with it. For the sake of the question, please assume that my perception of these meetings is correct and it is indeed not in my company's interest to behave like that towards the customer.

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    @JoeStrazzere The problem is that my work includes more of these meetings, before my manager has had a chance to deal with this. Dealing with it will most likely take a rather large amount of time, given the fact that different departments are involved. I have to behave in some way during these meetings in the mean time. This is a choice I (certainly after discussion with my manager) have to make, unfortunately. – Johanna Mar 20 '17 at 16:58
  • Sorry for being dense, but had you also said that you had also tried talking to the colleague directly? In situations like these, I usually go the apologetic route, "Hey, I'm sorry to mention this to you, but do you think maybe we could...." The use of "we" as a company (as you have mentioned), is very important so that the colleague does not feel attacked and feels like responsibility (and blame) is shared. "I-messages" could also be effective, but I think the "we" would cover things well enough. – Teacher KSHuang Mar 23 '17 at 11:50
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    @TeacherKSHuang I dont see where she mention talking to the colleague. I think she should try to talk to him and establish some ground rules for those meetings – Juan Carlos Oropeza Mar 24 '17 at 19:59
  • I agree with Juan Carlos Oropeza's comment and want to add that as with all solutions, our approach should be double-pronged: trying to handle it on our own and approaching management regarding the issue (as you have mentioned is already happening). – Teacher KSHuang Mar 25 '17 at 1:36
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Are there any strategies to improve the situation, when I find myself in a customer meeting chaired by him? How do I avoid that we, as a company, leave a bad impression with the customer?

You wrote earlier "This issue has already been addressed with my manager, who will deal with it."

So let your manager deal with it.

If necessary ask your manager how you should act in a customer meeting should this happen again.

The last thing you want to do would be to take action on your own that would undermine your manager. It's possible your manager and your rude colleague's manager are already handling the situation and anything you do on your own might make things worse.

You have already addressed the issue properly (with your manager). Don't overstep your bounds here.

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This issue has already been addressed with my manager, who will deal with.

There's nothing more to be done on your behalf. You can only control how professional you act and those who you have authority over.

His authority has been notified, you can only hope that it will be tackled there.

Giving it any more thoughts is simply a waste of time since you have no authority over this person. However, if you were to encounter a similar scenario in the future and you think it's critical to have something done right away you can always try to request a five minute break during the meeting and during that break talk to this co-worker in private and point out to him that you have a feeling that the current conversation is dangerous towards the company's business relationship with this customer.

You should probably only do this if you think this person will respect your opinion and take you seriously and hope it gets fixed right there. If in doubt, let your manager handle the situation.

Whatever you do, don't make a scene in front of the customer. Act professional at all cost.

  • Thanks for your answer. As also commented on the question, part of the problem is that there will be more of these meetings, before my manager will have had a chance to deal with this. Acting professional is what I attempt to do, but I am unsure what exactly this means in these situations. – Johanna Mar 20 '17 at 21:15
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    What you can do is very limited, unfortunately. You can try to 1 on 1 with this college and hope that he becomes reasonable and make him understand the potential damage that he could be causing when not treating the customer as a valued customer who you respect. This will probably do more harm than good, however, if he does not care about your opinion. You probably got bigger issues at stake if he does not respect your opinion. What I'm trying to say is that you can try to fix this problem if you think it's crucial. and you have interests in doing so, but you don't want to enrage him. – Jonast92 Mar 21 '17 at 9:47
  • You can try to feel him out and sort of find out how much feedback he's capable of taking and take it from there. If he can take some hints then do so, if not then wait for management to settle the things and remember that you're not the problem here. I wish I could give you more details but it's so very dependent on the situation. – Jonast92 Mar 21 '17 at 9:49
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Take lead if you can. Publish an agenda.

Tell a customer to cancel a request?

A much better approach is "At this point we are not able to reproduce the bug. We cannot fix it until we can reproduce it."

It is frustrating when a user just says wrong answer and does not give you the steps to reproduce it. But need to work through it. Some times it is environmental.

Start some informal chit chat before the meeting. Sit near the customer.

  • Down vote do you care to comment. – paparazzo Mar 20 '17 at 16:14
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    I am not your down voter, but my guess is its because the issue has been addressed by the OP's manager.. ( only a guess on my part ) – Mister Positive Mar 20 '17 at 16:35
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    @MisterPositive There is not one issue. The behavior of lead is something the manager will address. Not yet addressed. Getting through the meeting with least customer damage is what the OP is asking for help on. – paparazzo Mar 20 '17 at 16:38

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