It Is Personal and It Is Business


Perhaps 50 years ago the phrase “it’s not personal, it’s business” made sense.  Hell even 20 years ago you could probably get away with it.  But today?  Not a chance.  The notion that business isn’t personal is incredibly antiquated and it shouldn’t even be part of the discussion.  If you fire someone, how does it get more personal than that?  Seriously.  You are affecting every single facet of their lives with that one act.  If you’re asking a person to come in on weekends to work their asses off, what’s more personal than that?  It affects their entire lives.  You can’t just chop off “personal” because it’s convenient.  Anything that takes up a minimum of a third of your physical life is personal.  That doesn’t include mental time as well.  If you’re telling me that you work a 60 hour a week job and you’re not thinking about it outside of your job, you are likely lying to me.  In total, I would think between physical and mental time, our jobs or careers easily take up 50% of our lives.  So then why would anyone push that notion that “personal” shouldn’t be part of it?  It makes absolutely zero sense to me.  In fact, I’m going to take it a step further, make it personal.  That’s right make it personal.  Here’s why:

Better for everything

Yes, I know this sounds pretty broad but let me break it down simply.  A personal relationship is always a good reflection of a business relationship.  And that cuts both ways.  Not only does it mean something for the boss but also for the employee.  And not only that, it applies to both positive and negative situations. Let’s say you have an employee who’s constantly whining about their personal lives.  Is it a surprise that they whine about work related tasks too?  Probably not.  But that’s OK.  It means you know this person and you can adjust to them.  Same goes for a positive attitude.  Folks that have positive personal lives could very well bring that into the office.  Knowing someone on a personal level can only be better for a business relationship, not worse.  Let me give you a couple of examples:

Employee not doing a good job

Let’s say you’ve got an employee and they’re doing a horrible job.  One might argue that it’s best to not have a personal relationship with this person for fear you’ll hurt their feelings when you have that talk with them.  But there’s a major flip side to that.  If you’re not connected to that employee from a personal level, how effective is that talk going to be?  Employees respond to bosses they like and respect a hell of a lot better than to those they feel no relationship or connection to.  Friendships go through ups and downs and so should business relationships.  A good friendship is one where both parties need to be open and honest with each other.  It’s no different in a business relationship.  Sure, it might sting a little but the honesty is way better for the long run.  And let’s say the extreme has to happen.  What if you actually have to fire someone.  I know that I’d rather hear about being fired from someone I was close with than a ruthless tyrant with no feelings whatsoever.

Yes, there are boundaries

I’m not saying that you need to be best friends with your boss or your employees.  Do you have to invite your employees to all of your kids’ soccer games?  Of course not.  Do you have to tell them you have a drinking problem?  Maybe.  You treat that as you would any other friend.  But that’s the point I’m making here.  You don’t treat them as an employee or even a boss for that matter.  You treat them as a person.  And people should be treated with kindness, respect, and most importantly, honesty.

Separate the two when appropriate

I touched on this a bit earlier but it bears repeating.  Work is work and personal is personal.  But there’s certainly a time and place for both.  If you and your boss are out getting a drink after work, what’s wrong with discussing work? What’s wrong with light hearted humor about your jobs?  Absolutely nothing.  But there’s also absolutely nothing wrong with mixing in conversation about your interests, your life, your friends, your family, and anything else you’d talk about with anyone else.  Like I said, this is a human relationship, so be human.

On the flip side, if you have an open relationship such as this, that means it should be that way in business.  It cuts both ways.  Let me give you an example.  My best friends are the ones I can argue with, cry with, laugh with, and they’re definitely the ones that call me out on my bullshit if they see it.  Why in the world shouldn’t a working relationship be the exact same way?  It should be.  When it’s time for work.  It’s time for work.  And if someone isn’t doing a good job, they need to be reminded of that.  If the relationship is on solid ground then that openness should be appreciated, not feared.

Business is personal, period

The quicker we realize that business is personal the better off companies will be.  Why shouldn’t a business be like friendship?  Why shouldn’t businesses be like family?  After all, they are that way, we just simply don’t acknowledge it.  It’s one thing if an entire business is run remotely with employees all over the world working in their own homes.  But even then, with the advent of video facetime technology, we can still be personal, we can still care about our people.   I just don’t think that’s something that should be avoided.  It’s the opposite.  It should be encouraged.  It should be fostered as a culture.  Most people would agree with the phrase “treat people how you’d want to be treated.”  Shouldn’t this include the workplace?  You’re damned right it should.

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