It’s Not Personal, It’s Business

We’ve all heard that one before right.  In fact, I bet most of us have heard it so many times we’re inclined to grant it without merit.  You know, someone does something (or gets ready to do something) and they quietly remind themselves, “It’s not personal, it’s just business…”

Or is it.  What if we stopped for a moment to consider the validity of this time-honored expression.  What does it really mean?  Does it mean anything at all?  On its surface, it appears to suggest, I think…this:  It doesn’t matter what I do to another person, or group of persons, so long as I am acting in the interest of this business or its shareholders.

Hmm.  That’s strange.  Sounds a bit like rationalization to me.  Maybe there’s something to this (sort of like that little tinge one gets when reciting this old expression, just as they’re about to do something knowingly and instinctively wrong).  It’s like the old ethical dilemma faced by every business.  Just because something isn’t explicitly illegal, does that make it right?  Can morality and ethics even be legislated in the first place?  Whose shoulders then does it fall upon to make moral and ethical decisions?  What should guide those decisions?

That is the question.  But what I strongly suspect is that it isn’t (or ought not be) this largely meaningless yet sadly popular expression.  Why?  Because it is personal.  Everything we do in this life is personal, because everything we do ultimately affects, one way or another, a person or group of persons.  This is why it’s called ‘Humanity’  rather than ‘Shareholder-i-ty.’  Maybe one day when the world is run by robot overlords and we are all assimilated into a single vast human-powered mainframe, will there be room for the cold utilitarian ethic espoused by this popular phrase, ‘It’s just business.’  But until then, let’s try to remember what each of us already instinctively knows…every thing we do, be it for ourselves or on behalf of an organization, has (ultimately) human – and therefore personal – consequences.  Because there’s really no such thing as ‘just business.’

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Published in: on November 23, 2009 at 1:05 pm  Leave a Comment  
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