Nothing personal. It’s just business.
This statement has never sat well with me. How can behaviours and actions in business not be personal? Are we not people? Do the results of business not affect me and any dependants I may have?
I wanted to know more about this statement which makes me uncomfortable. I wanted to know where it came from, when and indeed who came up with it. I discovered that the statement is attributed to a man called Otto Berman. Otto was an accountant who lived in New York in the 1920-30’s. Otto was not an ordinary accountant, though. He was an accountant who was very skilled at complex mathematical equation without the use of pen and paper. This skill was put to good use as he was an accountant for a well-known mobster. Otto was a mafia accountant.
I suppose this is no surprise when you look at the statement in a slightly different way. Energetically it is dis-empowering us. It seeks to excuse the actions of ‘business’ and make it an inevitable - a reality that is non-changing. Business has the power and you must follow its rules of operation. Our realities are perception, created by ego. So in this way, it seems that business has sought to control our perception to ensure we operate in the reality it has created.
I am sure any of us who has ever worked for a business can attest to seeing this statement in action. It often excuses the most terrible behaviours that simply would not be acceptable outside of the place of business. Ruthless psychopathic behaviours are even encouraged and sought when positions are recruited for. Professor Robert Hare, of the University Of Columbia, created the Psychopathy Checklist - revised (PCL-R). This checklist aims to determine psychopathic tendency and even severity. The checklist gives a score out of 40. Scores over 25 indicate the potential for psychopathic behaviour. Interestingly the position in business with the highest potential of being filled by a psychopath is the CEO. That certainly is a chilling thought and perhaps goes to explain why ‘It’s not personal. It’s just business’ is so pervasive. What are the top characteristics of psychopathic behaviour? Here are the top 6 (there are 20 in total):
Now, of course, not everyone in business is psychopathic. I am highlighting these top behaviours as they are so familiar in a business sense. Can you see how the above behaviours can be utilised in many different fields? They have become almost a given and are actively celebrated as must have skill sets.
Is it not the time to take back our power? To change the reality of business? Perhaps a good starting point is to always make business decisions based on compassion and empathy? Sounds strange reading that does't it? Does this sentence sound passive and not aggressive enough to ruthlessly achieve results? Compassion and empathy are extremely powerful when used in a business environment. It is all about perception. Change your perception and you change the reality.