Stockholm Syndrome

A few months ago, Judy had the honor to speak at the SLAM! (Scandinavian Language Associations' Meeting) conference in Malmö, Sweden. It was a fantastic event, and after it ended, Judy treated herself to some R&R in gorgeous Stockholm, Sweden. There she learned that the term "Stockholm Syndrome" derives from an actual bank robbery in Sweden in the 1970s. It makes absolute sense that it's based on a real event, but for some reason Judy had thought that the psychologist who coined the term was from Stockholm. Now that this had been cleared up, we started thinking about how oftentimes as linguists and small business owners, we may have the tendency to develop Stockholm syndrome with subpar clients. Of course we are exaggerating a bit here for the sake of the argument and we are not implying that your clients are holding you hostage, but allow us to expand (and you can read up on Stockholm syndrome here):
Stockholm in September. Photo by Judy.

  • Some clients are just not good clients.
    If you have a client who repeatedly does not pay you and keeps on asking you to take on more work, either politely decline or ask for payment up front. No need to feel bad for them. You need to look out for your business interests, which mainly include getting paid for services rendered.
  • Some clients are abusive. We've all heard the stories: there are clients who are so unreasonable that they are having a negative effect on your mental health. These are few and far between, but if this ever happens to you, you need to walk away without feeling bad. You should actually feel very good about the fact that you are not an employee but a contractor or freelancer, which means you are free to work or not work with whoever you choose. We agree that walking away from good work can be hard, but even if the work is good, there's no reason you should put up with an abusive client. Of course there's no one definition of what "abusive" means, as we all have different levels of tolerance, but in our book if you are thinking about a specific client more than you want and those thoughts are stressful, it's time to say good-bye, in a very professional and friendly way.
  • Speaking of saying good-bye: We oftentimes get the question about how to exactly phrase it. You need to use your own style and tone when drafting these messages, but here are some ideas. You don't necessarily have to give a reason, but you certainly can if you would like to (we prefer to keep things very short and spend as little time on it as possible to cut our losses).
    • "Thank you very much for your interest in my services. I hereby kindly inform you that I will not be working with your firm/company in the future."
    • "Thank you for your past business. It's been my pleasure to provide top-notch services for your firm/company, but I will not continue to do so in the future. Kindly remove me from your list."
    • Option 3: Do nothing, don't respond, and perhaps (in extreme cases) block the sender. This is not an option we would go with, but it certainly might be an idea.
What do you think, dear colleagues? Have you suffered from Stockholm syndrome? If yes, how did you resolve it? We'd love to hear from you.


EP on December 22, 2018 at 6:18 AM said...

That is a very good analogy indeed. Some clients are just bad news and have no right to take one hostage. Very good points made there. Have a great Xmas!

Judy Jenner and Dagmar Jenner on December 26, 2018 at 10:14 AM said...

@EP: Many thanks! Merry Christmas/happy holidays to you as well. Most clients are amazing, but occassionally there are some not-so-great ones. :) May you not have any of those in 2019!

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