The Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde Syndrome

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Seriously, don’t be that guy. You know who I’m talking about – the client who strokes their writers’ egos so much they need to drag second chairs to their desks to support them. Then, at the first sign of a disconnect, the client lashes out.

Of course, equally as dangerous is the oh-so-agreeable writer that responds with indignant rage at the mere thought of a revision.

Why do seemingly nice people transform into frothing savages over the course of a few emails? It could be that the writer or client is just a jerk. Most of the time, though, these breakdowns happen over a simple – and preventable – misunderstanding.

Assumptions: Making an Ass Out of You and Me

If you’ve ever been burned – by either a client or a writer – it’s all too easy to make assumptions like:

  • Most clients are soulless monsters bent on crushing my self-worth.
  • Most writers are money grubbers who don’t care about my content.

When hiring a writer or accepting a job, expecting the worst will poison the writer-client relationship from the very start. While there’s no denying that there are a few bad eggs, the rate of monsters and grubbers compared to decent human beings is actually very low.

If you’re struggling with trust issues, think about this: the world of content creation is self-curating. Word of bad behavior spreads like wildfire among writing communities. Difficult clients soon find that they can’t pay enough to hire writers willing to take the flack, while unprofessional writers quickly find themselves blacklisted out of a career.

Context is King

Email and messaging, by its very nature, is a casual form of communication. It’s easy to type out a quick remark and hit the send button. It’s also easy for those on the other end to spend hours mulling over that email, reading all sorts of bad intentions into it that don’t actually exist.

Rather than examining an email like it’s a code that needs to be broken, take it at face value. That is, unless the message contains a direct insult, it’s likely that the person who wrote it meant no harm. The absence of cute smileys doesn’t necessarily indicate malice.

Dealing With Mr. Hyde

Though it’s rare, even the friendliest writers and clients do sometimes transform into rage-filled beasts. If you just can’t make Mr. Hyde see reason, there are three ways to tackle the problem:

  • Be Dr. Jekyll and vanish into your laboratory, never to be heard from again. (Bad idea)
  • Become an even bigger and meaner Mr. Hyde and do battle. (Worse idea)
  • Be a professional and make a clean break.

Being a jerk makes you look just as bad as the jerk you’re dealing with, and refusing to address the problem won’t make it go away. Take the high road and say something like: “I don’t think we share the same vision for this project. Thank you for your time and effort.”

Most of the time, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde syndrome can be cured with kindness and understanding. And if the bad attitude is incurable, just remember that trading nastygrams all afternoon isn’t productive either.

Amber K enjoys writing about home improvement, gardening, and the great outdoors. When she’s not sitting in front of a computer, she can be found developing strategies to conquer the world -– or at least her own little piece of it!


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