Ever been told, “Don’t take it personal, it’s just business” after someone made a cutthroat move?
Let’s dissect that statement a bit further. Business is all about the bottom line. Business is also about relationships. Relationships and the bottom line are interdependent. When relationships are broken, the bottom line can be affected. When the bottom line is affected, relationships can be broken. Ignoring one for the other will only be a detriment in the long run.
There are times when the phrase, “don’t take it personal, it’s just business” can be used accurately. For example, when an entire satellite office closes or a client is lost and an entire business unit is let go. In that case, it absolutely is just business. No CEO enjoys disrupting the lives of a significant amount of their employees.
Unfortunately, this term has become a catchall for any disingenuous behavior in the workplace. If two out of three employees are being promoted because there is only a headcount for two promotions, one person will be left behind. In cases like this, it is personal. There are personal factors that lead to the decision of who is left behind.
When an SVP doesn’t like working with another department and decides to hire their own staff under different titles, then tells the other SVP, “don’t take it personal, it’s just business” that is also improper use of the phrase. Behavior like this destroys relationships and is a sign of inadequate communication skills or a lack of conflict resolution. Such behavior creates a toxic work environment.
Positive relationships drive successful business results. You don’t close a deal with facts alone, you close by developing a relationship with your potential buyer. Similarly, when working with another department, your success is dependent on how well you work together. If you work well together, it will drive innovation and better outcomes.
If you are one to use the phrase, “don’t take it personal, it’s just business” I urge you to take a step back and think of a few factors. First, practice empathy, how does it look on the other end? How can you better phrase that with fewer trigger words? Perhaps you can brainstorm together to improve the situation. Secondly, is this decision out of your control? If not, it is likely a personally biased decision and maybe something to examine more deeply.
In the case of two promotions and three staff, approach the conversation honestly. Yes, it is personal. It’s unfortunate. The other two built stronger relationships and better showed their value. Life is about relationships, how can we improve yours?
At the end of the day relationships are an important part of running a business and critical to driving a successful and positive work environment.