One of the lessons I was taught early on in my career was to always remember, “it’s not personal, it’s business.” It was well intended advice that generally comes in handy whenever a nasty customer rears their head or you get in a major disagreement with a colleague or boss at work. In these situations, nasty things are frequently said and done. And, telling ourselves that it’s not personal is supposed to help us to not internalize the experience and to keep us from getting frustrated or demoralized. I’ve used this tactic many times and it works, usually.
Business is Always Personal
But, it’s all an illusion. The separation of business and personal is artificial. Most business and all work involves at least one person which makes it personal. Business is personal. Our work is very personal. In my career, the times when I am most fulfilled by my work is when it is most personal and intimately connected to who I am. We spend more time working on most weeks than we do with our family or friends. The only thing we do more than work is sleep (at least most people). Work is where most of us gain our identity. It’s one of the first questions we ask when we meet a new person (What do you do for a living?). Our work defines much of who we are.
You can’t separate work from the person. And to my knowledge, business still happens between people. It’s all personal. And we need to treat it as such, both individually and when we are responsible for the work of others.