Chapter 27My Worst Consulting Nightmare

Amy Katz

Our worst nightmares (especially the ones that occur during the day) are opportunities for learning and remind us of our humanity and vulnerability. This story shows the risks we run when we collude with our clients and delude ourselves that we are managing the business of each phase of our consulting work. It also shows that our failures are important teachers, if we have Amy’s kind of courage to see them clearly.

My worst consulting nightmare had to do with a situation involving sexual harassment. My client was the head of a twenty-person department who asked me to investigate complaints that one of his senior male employees was making inappropriate sexual overtures to some of the women in lower-level positions. The central personnel department of his organization had advised him that it was his job to document behavior of this kind and that, without documentation, it would be difficult to build a case. While describing the situation, my client gave me the impression that he wanted the problem solved quickly, because there could be significant legal ramifications.

I did not feel comfortable with this client. In our initial meeting he seemed to diminish the importance of the alleged violations. He was also flirtatious with me, and I felt immediately thrown off guard, trying to be social and professional at the same time. I had considerable difficulty keeping the discussion on track, and the conversation went on for far too long. ...

Get The Flawless Consulting Fieldbook & Companion, 2nd Edition now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.