What happens when your business partner or employee is also your friend…but they aren’t good for your business?
Sometimes you don’t realize right away. You want to give them a chance, so you let things slide that you wouldn’t if they were anyone else. Perhaps they used to do a good job but lately things never get done.
Sometimes, when personal and business relationships get mixed, it can be very, very hard to confront this situation and to truly let the person go if it’s needed. But your business suffers if you don’t.
This article, The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, on Practical E-commerce details one business owner’s long road downhill with her employee who was also her best friend. It starts out:
Every business owner needs to ask the question: Are the people I’ve surrounded myself with the best fit for my company? For nearly eight years, I certainly thought I had, until I delved into the books and correspondence and found out my own business was on the brink of disaster.
She goes through round and round with this person, always hoping it will get better, never being willing to really hold them accountable.
What happens that makes it so hard to face and resolve this situation? It’s just business, right? Well, business is made up of relationships, and a lot can happen in relationships that get sticky and enmeshed.
The slippery slope
When we overlook small things, they tend to get bigger over time. Overlooking one small thing sets up an energetic dynamic where it becomes hard to draw a line…because you didn’t draw one last time. Whenever someone has an “out” with us, or we have an “out” with them, it needs to be discussed or cleared. That brings you back to a baseline of clarity each time.
When things go uncleared repeatedly, the baseline starts to shift. Lack of clarity becomes the norm.
What do I mean by “things” and “outs”? The most common are:
- broken agreements
- emotional upsets that aren’t resolved to clarity
- not taking responsibility for a mistake
- lies or withholds (not disclosing something important)
Usually when these happen, we can feel it in our bodies as the relationship being “off-kilter”.
The role of our personal history…and theirs.
If we’ve grown up in an abusive environment or one with addiction or where our boundaries were repeatedly violated (either with too much closeness or too much distance), then we can have ingrained patterns of reacting (habits) that can be unhealthy and unconscious.
These dynamics can show up as trying to change the situation by trying to get the other person to change. This sets up a parent/child dynamic where they act out or “misbehave” and you correct them. Sometimes they are a needy child, sometimes a rebellious teenager. Either way, it’s not a relationship between adults.
Part of fixing someone is trying to “figure it out” – why is this person doing this? Why are they not acting the way we want? Is it because of their childhood? Perhaps they just don’t know any better? Maybe it’s a karmic thing? Sometimes we try to work out their internal issues for them and “teach” them.
If we grew up in a home where healthy relationships were not the norm, then we may unconsciously go into these kinds of dynamics without realizing it. We may even attract people or be attracted to people who are like our family members because it feels familiar.
Getting clear and letting go.
The truth is that healthy relationships can only occur between people who are choosing to show up as adults. Showing up as an adult means being responsible for your own behavior, and your own growth. A healthy relationship (business or personal) means both people willingly take care of their side of the relationship.
If a person is not doing this, that is their choice, and there is nothing you can do about it. It is not up to you. You can’t change it, and you can’t fix it.
They are freely choosing to act the way they act. And like it or not, your choice is to change the relationship and get free, or to stick with it and be miserable. If someone is not demonstrating responsibility, then negotiating and working on it is impossible, because you cannot trust them to show up in that.
This attitude may seem harsh, or mean, or like you are “giving up on them”. But all you are saying is the truth: “This doesn’t work for me”. You don’t have to blame them or be vindictive or angry (although feeling your anger internally is healthy). What you are doing is making decisions that are in integrity with who you are and what is best for your business.
You are also accepting the person where they are at. Ultimately trying to change someone, even “for their own good”, is a violent act.
Here are some steps:
- Decide to be honest with yourself. Accept the situation as it is.
- Grieve the loss. This person or relationship was something you wanted to work out. It would have been good if it had worked. All the potential, the promise, the hope needs to be grieved. Also, any time you put into trying to change things to no avail needs to be grieved and let go of. Sometimes people hang on even though they know it won’t work because they don’t want to feel the disappointment. There is always a grieving period when you thought you could count on someone, when you trusted and engaged in a relationship from a genuine place, and were not met. It’s hard. But choosing to feel it is choosing to heal it.
- Make a clear decision and stick by it. This can be hard, especially if you have responded with threats in the past and then not followed through on them. Get support if you need it.
- Open up the space for a mutually responsible and reciprocal relationship to enter the picture.
- Be cautious and discerning when starting new business relationships.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Having been through experiences like this, you learn. You see that your time and your life matters, and who you spend it with matters. Your business is doing good in the world, and that good won’t get done if the people within it aren’t showing up fully.
The opportunity is to get very clear that you want people in your life that can meet you and who are showing up as responsible.
When you can be that clear, and just let go of the situations and people in your life that are draining because they just don’t change, you are expanding your playing field. New people will enter, people who also want to play at that level. And that is where you want to be.