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The One Professional Platitude You Should Never Subscribe To               

It seems that every time you see some famously rich person being interviewed, they almost always have to give some type of inspirational speech about money and success as if they have mastered the formula to obtaining it.  And, usually, within their soliloquy, they douse you with a bunch of platitudes that may have been relevant at one point in time, but probably are not universally applicable today.  You know the platitudes, you’ve got to pull yourself up by your bootstraps, luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity, failure to plan is planning to fail, and a host of other regurgitative sayings that are meant to inspire us to perform at our most optimal levels.

But, of all of the platitudes that I have come to loathe, the one that gets to me the most is "it’s not personal; it’s business."

Newsflash people, everything is personal.  The reason why we conduct business is, mostly, for personal gain.  We accomplish business-related matters so that our lives become easier in some capacity such as the invention of the wheel.  The wheel was not created for business purposes, it was created so that early man could haul goods or transport themselves somewhere while reducing wear-and-tear on their bodily joints.  We conduct business activities because we live in a society where we must earn wages to buy resources and necessities so that we can uphold the first law of nature - self preservation, and to preserve our loved ones and offspring.  We conduct business for vanity reasons, such as to gain the admiration and affection of others, and to etch our names in the history books.  Almost everything that humankind does is for personal, or communal, good; business is just the medium in which we go about achieving personal goals.

I have had a personal experience that proves this platitude is nonsensical.  In the early 2000s, my federal job had issued an adverse action to my division.  They told us that our jobs were being transferred from Washington, DC to another state about a 14-hour drive away.  However, the organization immediately created a new division and assigned all of the managers and executives that were affected by the adverse action to the new organization; thus, allowing them to stay at the Washington, DC area building while the lower-level employees were moved to the other state.  Additionally, other divisions within the DC area office started extending jobs to employees they knew and had relationships with.  They did not base the hirings on business-related principles, such as skills, academic credentials, or professional accomplishments.  They based their hirings on personal feelings - their affection towards another person in a predicament.

I can assure you, when a manager belittles an employee in front of staff, the manager will justify it by saying they deserved the rebuke, should not take it personally, and should get over it.  However, if an employee rebukes a manager, I’m willing to surmise that the manager will, more than likely, take it personally and retaliate against the employee by way of finding a justification to fire them, give them a poor performance rating, or just make their life hell within the workforce through crappy assignments or unrealistic deadlines for assignments.  I have also had experience with this.

Once, a former manager of mine erroneously gave a business customer that we partnered with some bad procurement guidance.  When I spoke out about it, my manager directed that I handle the procurement action.  However, when I followed up with them to inquire about certain tasks involving the contract, my manager would delay email responses by 2 business days or just not respond at all.  Then, when the contract was in jeopardy of falling through, I was informed by this manager that they were putting a notice in my personnel file that my actions almost caused the contract to not go through.  Again, another instance where personal issues trumps a business necessity.

The saying “It’s business, never personal”, or any permutation of that phrase, is merely an idiotic rambling that was made up by someone to justify a cruel and malicious act that they probably commited against said listener.  It is used to keep the power structure intact.  It is used against subordinates to keep them subservient to their “superiors”; thus, keeping the power structure in place and the operation moving along as desired - no matter how detrimental those business actions were to the impacted person.  I’d surmise that this phrase was devised to Jedi mind-trick the receiver of said saying from finding the strength, motivation, and wherewithal to retaliate against the utterer of this asinine phrase.

So, the next time some corporation puts another company out of business, or sends thousands of jobs to another country because the cost is cheaper for the organization, think about how personal it was for the owner of that now defunct business entity and the employees who lost their jobs to their employer being dissolved, or their job being outsourced.  Think about how personal those business actions are to them, personally speaking.

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