Beware the business trolls

“A psychopath will enter everyone’s lives at one time. When yours arrives, your job is to get them out of your life as quickly as possible.”

That little gem was handed down to me before the internet gave everyone a global megaphone to entertain themselves with. Today it’s likely a dozen psychopaths a week could enter your life through the web or social media.

One of the manifestations of this ability for anyone to post to the web regardless of merit or sanity has given rise to the phenomenon of “trolling”, of which there has been much recent media attention.

At its most basic, trolling is about getting attention. The troll hopes to get a reaction from something outrageous they’ve said or done. In that respect they aren’t too different to radio talk back hosts or SmartCompany editors.

Business has its own types of trolls: the ‘squeaky wheel’ who hopes that by making a complete pain of themselves you’ll succumb to their unreasonable demands; the perennial tyre kicker who wastes your sales staff’s time; or the late payer who enjoys toying with you and your accounts people but has no intention of ever paying the bill.

The effects of these business trolls can be just as debilitating as an online troll, with the added bonus that they distract you and your employees from getting work done.

Sometimes the business owner makes the mistake of taking things personally. This often happens when a bad debtor upsets us so much we make it our life mission to get what we deserve to be paid.

Hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars later we surrender and accept we were never really going to get that relatively trivial sum.

The worst of all the business trolls is the recreational debtor. These business psychopaths take delight in ringing up debts they have no intention of paying and then treating your attempts to get the money back as a type of game where they will thoroughly mess with your mind.

These are the people to get out of your life as quickly as possible. It could be writing off the debt, giving them the refund or just kicking them out of the store.

So beware of the business trolls, they are as likely to appear in your outstandings file as on your Facebook page.

Paul Wallbank is one of Australia’s leading experts on how industries and societies are changing in this connected, globalised era. When he isn’t explaining technology issues, he helps businesses and community organisations find opportunities in the new economy.

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