Dear unfettered —

I used to sell insurance and stopped due to kids, life, etc. I was well loved at the place I worked because I gave my customers a lot of extra time and explained in detail what they were getting. I have recently started up again on my own and many of the old clients, who I am friends with (small town), wanted to switch to me rather than the old company. I did not solicit. They just like the way I work and feel more comfortable with me. A friend at the old firm who is not even impacted by this sent me a scathing letter. I am beside myself. I’m a people pleaser and hate having people mad at me, but I didn’t do anything wrong.  How can I reconcile this?


Relieve My Angst


It seems that a situation has been sent along to make you take a long, hard look at your inclination to try to please others. It’s an impossible task. While it is admirable to want to be delightful and popular and be on the receiving end of a smile, it doesn’t mean that if a frown comes your way you’re responsible for it.

This scenario is tricky in the sense that you are essentially a competitor to a former employer. You are secure in the knowledge that you didn’t solicit these clients and that’s central here. Let’s even give your friend and former co-worker the benefit of the doubt and say it’s understandable he or she is uncomfortable with the new situation.

However, let’s look at it from the client’s standpoint for a moment. You are talking to someone who stuck with a particular hair stylist through his employment at three different salons. If he didn’t move five states away I might still be going to him. In many cases it is not the particular company that we feel loyal to, it’s the person we’re dealing with directly. It’s the rapport and the quality of service with and from that person.

You have apparently delivered quality service and some have enjoyed the rapport they had with you. That is vital in an industry like insurance where one’s most intimate life details are on the table. In addition, clients who are coming back to you have likely also had a point of comparison because they were working with another agent in your absence. This likely only reinforced for them how much better their chemistry and/or service was with you.

I don’t advocate we take our friendships lightly, but in this case I believe all you can do is be who you are and stand in your decision to be ethical and do quality work. If you can forgive the scathing letter and chalk it up to a friend being fearful in the moment, perhaps this will work itself out organically. But if you find yourself on the receiving end of sustained hostility, I’m afraid you are getting a clear sign you’re better off moving on.