I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve encountered people in business relationships they just don’t want.
From the entrepreneur who needed an investor early on, only to resent him later; to the investor who backed a horse who turned out to be considerably different from what was advertised, these unwelcome relationships are the stone in the shoe of many in business. To these people I say:
You simply cannot afford such a relationship.
When I share this blunt news, heads invariably bob in agreement. The more decisive take action, but all too many make no changes, just like someone in a bad marriage. This ignores the fact that the costs of unwelcome relationships aren’t just nuisances, they have material impact on business and on quality of life. They can destroy value, take down businesses, and even spill over into personal life, affecting marriages and key family relationships.
In my advisory practice, I’m often called in to resolve conflicts, and when those conflicts have a bad relationship at their center, there are but two rational options: Exit the relationship or improve it.
Why then, do so many people persist in bad relationships? The answers are deceptively simple:
1. They believe the other party will change. They won’t. Not unless their counterparty requires it.
2. They think they are responsible for the bad behavior of the other party. Guess what? It’s true. By not insisting on change or separation, dysfunctional patterns are reinforced and effectively rewarded.
3. There are social and business pressures to be in a “good” relationship. The fear of losing face is a real one, but the cost of admitting to a mistake or fixing the problem is far less than the ongoing costs of a dysfunctional relationship.
If you’re stuck in an unwelcome relationship, consider how much it costs you. How much more valuable would your business be were it not for the dysfunctional relationship? How would your personal and family relationships be different? If you’re in a position of responsibility in your business and a bad relationship takes up more than ten percent of your thinking, you have a serious problem. That’s too much of your mind that’s not being invested in the challenges and opportunities of the business, which is not only irresponsible, it’s dangerous.
It is possible to improve dysfunctional relationships. It is possible to leave them. Stop fearing the costs of making things better or leaving and take action now.