It’s Not Personal, It’s Just Business

We have heard this line a million times, the godfather movie even made it famous. But my question tonight is Why?

What I am talking about is business. Why isn’t it personal. Lets face it, we take most things at work very personally. A questionable performance review…personal. Being talked down to by a boss…personal. In fact all of our interactions are personal. So why do we blow it off and say it’s not? Most decisions have an emotional element to them, and if there is emotion than there is a personal element too.

Maybe it is rationalizing outcomes, ignoring the fact that most decisions are not objective.

And why has work become so impersonal lately? Way back when we used to have company picnics (with family members), Holiday parties (with family members), even an occassional baptism, communion and bar mitzvah…yes with family members invited. Not so many years ago my entire HR team got together with family for an evening of food and laughs. AT LEVITON we had a difficult to pull off company picnic with family and friends at a local community park every summer, it was my job to hang out with Harold Leviton, our CEO and introduce him to all the family members that came each year. Harold loved kids and nothing made him happier, well into his eighties, then to see a child or grand child grown a little bit bigger each year. In fact our corporate take your child to work day exceeded 100 children the last 3 years I worked at Leviton. Every child and parent took a picture with Harold  and eventually with Don (his son-in-law and successor as CEO). Desks and work areas around our corporate office were found to proudly sport pictures from take your child to work day.

Recently I asked my graduate school HR students to do a short essay on one great HR innovation for the work place. One of my students suggested placing family and friend pictures in frames in a common area or conference room so that employees could feel more comfortable and relax at work. At first I thought that’s not new, its old school. However if you were 23 years old you would never think of the work place as having a personal side to it. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that to a millennial it was innovative, creating a personal aspect to the work environment.

When did we stop blending personal with business?  Was it the last recession or maybe earlier when being too close to folks was a concern just in case they were fired or downsized? I am not sure  exactly when this inflection point reared its ugly head. It seems like forever since personal at work was a good thing.

So tonight I say lets turn back the clocks, drop the pretentious attitudes and bring a little personal back to the work place. With all the talk of engagement and trust, I think we are forgetting a small ingredient. Lets bring PERSONAL back.



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