Separate Personal from Business

6 mins read

This article is written to bring awareness to separating personal influences when it comes to business.

Working in business can teach you some valuable lessons, and if you are open to it, you can learn from those lessons and integrate them into your professional life, how you conduct business, and even in your personal life.

Perhaps one of the most fundamental lessons when it comes to the workplace is that there is little room for personal influences in business.

What does this mean? Simply put, there needs to be a clear separation between personal and business. Taking this further, do not take business personally or involve personal influences (feelings, emotions, or opinions) when making business decisions or dealing with challenging situations.

Now, this does not mean that you are checking your humanity at the door and proceed to handle business as if you are a robot. In retrospect, it is important that you bring your humanity in with you, however, it is equally important to separate that from business. Separating the two requires you to be aware of your personal influences and which situations could trigger them, or when they might already be at play.

As you work towards developing this skill, you will become aware that your humanity is the foundation which your professional conduct is built on and you do not need to dismiss your human elements.

For example, as a boss: Sarah Beth is a new team member, and her performance is not what you expected. Within the first 3 weeks of her employment, Sarah Beth misses her first deadline on a project and when you have a conversation with her about it, she begins pointing fingers and not taking accountability.

During this conversation you coach her and put thoughtful consideration into the matter, and Sarah Beth tells you that she will have everything submitted to you by the end of the day. Throughout the day you see that Sarah Beth is hard at work, however, at the end of the day you receive no submission. The next morning you receive an email from her stating that she is not coming in to work and is taking a sick day.

When you read this email, you are ready to terminate her as you recall her past performance issues. You are frustrated that she has missed another deadline, and then tells you that she is not coming in because she is sick.

In this current state of heightened emotion, you are making a subjective decision by taking the matter personally, which is understandable, because you feel that you are being taken advantage of. However, an employee’s misconduct is considered unacceptable professional behaviour, which should not be taken personally.

Instead of reacting on this initial impulse, take a moment to pause. Think, how does this affect you personally, did they behave this way to purposefully hurt you or to make you look bad? In most instances like this, the answer is no, but you still need to correct the behaviour. Just remember when you create a disciplinary plan that you should remove all personal influences. Maybe she doesn’t even realize that her behaviour is unacceptable, which is why you need to think objectively on the work performance and come up with a solution for the problem.

For example, as an employee: Say you spend countless hours working on a workbook, putting your personal everything into the project only for your hard work to be criticized by your boss. The criticism can feel like a punch as you put your everything into this project, but instead of reacting, take a moment to pause. Think, did your boss criticize you personally, did they criticize your characteristics, or did they criticize your work based on business? In most instances, it will relate to the business directly, not you personally… even if it did not get communicated as such.

Business is business. Business decisions are made daily which may or may not impact you on a personal level. If a decision was made, it is crucial to remember that the business made a call which is determined on the needs of the business and not on you personally.

Developing the skill of separating personal from business takes time and committed effort, however, the change in how you handle situations will be noticed shortly. You will also begin to notice the change in your ability to make objective business decisions that are not affected by personal influences and in your capacity to handle and react constructively to unfavourable business situations or news that you encounter. In short, this skill strengthens your emotional intelligence and allows you to have a clear vision that is not clouded by personal influences.

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