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All Business Is Personal - Lessons From An Outplacement Consultant

How many times have we heard the following statement used – “It’s Not Personal, It’s Just Business” to rationalize the vast spectrum of business behaviors and practices ranging from the "difficult but necessary" to the "unethical and illegal". 

The phrase helps to objectify the action and avoid taking into consideration the personal impact.

At The Frontier Group, we provide outplacement services and are routinely engaged with displaced employees who are trying their best to get their lives and careers back on track. 

Believe me, when it comes to layoffs or downsizing, it is personal.

I am not entirely certain what is the origin of the phrase "It's not personal, It's just business" but I can think back to when the concept was romanticized.

Believers in the "It's Just Business" line of thinking believe that there can be clear lines of distinction.

However, we know that the truth is that everything is personal.

What do I mean by this?

Everything that we do – business, family, social – is a personal reflection of our values, ethics, spirituality, and beliefs. There are no boundaries or barriers when it comes to this.

You cannot have one set of beliefs at work and another when you are at home.

Think what business would be like if we all could live by one guiding set of principles. We would become business people that would be admired rather than scorned, trusted rather than doubted, roles models rather than cautionary tales.

I do not think that this is too utopian a belief to become a reality. I had my revelation on this when I became the leader of my company six years ago. It was at that point that I realized that every action taken by my company was now a reflection on me and my reputation. It definitely became personal from that point forward.

Have I been perfect during my tenure as a leader?

Easy answer - no.

I have made "business" decisions that were in fact personal ones because they impacted people that I respected and cared for. While the decisions were necessary from the business point of view, the personal impact on myself and others was significant.

I see this played out in my business when we provide outplacement services. The business decision to reduce headcount or to terminate based on performance was fact based and rational but the human impact on the individuals involved was major.

This has shaped how we deliver outplacement services because empathy is needed as much as career management services.

Everything is personal.