Myth: It Isn't Personal, It's Just Business


One of the first professional lessons I remember was that "work wasn't personal, it is business". You may have heard similar phrases such as "leave your personal life at the door". The point is that I was taught that your work self and your personal self were two different things.

Malarkey.

As humans, both our professional and personal lives meld together. We are one person and can't always separate into discrete boxes.

That is one of the challenges for a manager. The employee brings their whole self to work - which means a manager has to deal with conflict, emotions, and stress. We've been talking about the holidays and year end planning in this week's blog posts, but the same applies to the recently completed election. Emotions may be raw depending on the outcome. People don't just stop thinking or feeling because they've come through your front door.

As a manager, all you can do is be human yourself and listen and be empathetic. You don't have to agree, but you do need to validate the employee's human right to feel. If it is impacting performance, provide that feedback. Work with the employee to find solutions if you need to (which may include some time off).

This creates two clear and essential benefits. First, it creates a consistency in your effort to build relationships. If building relationships is only being done when things are fine, the employees quickly determine you can't be trusted. Second, it shows appreciation for the employee as an individual. Appreciation builds trust, which in turn builds the relationship, which in turn builds engagement.

The key: you don't have to agree with anything the employee does or believes. Empathy is different than agreement.

NOTE: Employees who have beliefs or opinions that are detrimental to the team should be addressed. This is done through feedback and coaching.