“It’s not personal – it’s just business.”
Have you gotten that advice from someone? When receiving improvement feedback, involved in friction or conflict, when an organization undergoes a reorganization, a proposal is rejected, a valued employee leaves – lots of things that happen in the workplace are chalked up to ‘just business.’
Wait! Isn’t work where so many of us spend so much of our time? Isn’t the workplace where we spend more time than just about anywhere else? Isn’t the whole engagement campaign that’s so prevalent about connecting all employees to workplace outcomes all about tapping into our personal motivation? Why yes it is.
Not taking something personally implies that you can protect yourself from the hurt and harm that comes from workplace challenges. But there are definite benefits of personal involvement at work.
I’ve met plenty of folks who are energized from the work they do. I think they take their work personally. I also think they are the kind of people that others enjoy working with. It doesn’t make sense that we only take work personally when things are going well.
The entire drive for employee engagement is built on personal involvement being tied to business outcomes. So not taking things personally can result in reals costs to an organization. Personal involvement connects people to the challenge of workplace issues such as safety and ethics. The responsibility for these things at work is ultimately seen as a personal responsibility for our colleagues, our customers, our clients, and our community.
The truth is that work IS personal. That said, work is just one aspect of who you are as a person and only one element of your total self-worth. It’s a good thing to have enthusiasm for work. It’s not a good thing to have work be the sole measure of your value.
The goals is to find some middle ground. Failure at work is not a genuine representation of your value as a person. Defining yourself in terms of work success is severely limiting. So yes – you can be frustrated when things don’t go well at work and unhappy about poor workplace outcomes. You can be disappointed and frustrated. And you can learn from these experiences.
Work is personal because it is an aspect of our endeavors and production professionally, and it’s not fun when things don’t go well at work. But a relationship with work is not unlike other relationships we are involved in. We can be hurt and disillusioned and wonder if it’s really worth it when things don’t go well with friends or partners. But the alternative is to not be involved with other people so we won’t be let down. That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. We learn about others and ourselves with each and every relationship we have and it’s much the same with work.
So think about taking business personally – to a point.