It's just business

Our founder Joel reflects on the trouble with business personas, the importance of allowing an employee’s true self to shine through, and why this matters to our workplace at Cliniko.

Joel Friedlaender·

A photo of Joel Friedlaender speaking at a public event

“It's just business” is possibly my most hated phrase. It's an excuse for bad integrity and to do wrong by people, as well as a way to not be personally accountable for your actions. The funny thing is, no matter how hard we pretend, it's not just business. We're real people, dealing with other real people. How you behave in business is still who you are.

I think part of this comes from our business personas that we develop. I was never told to create one, so I'm not sure why I did, but it happened. It took me a long time to realise – and get rid of it. You can tell it's your business persona when you don't talk like you normally would with friends. You don't make decisions like you would in your personal life. Perhaps you're more ruthless, less compassionate, and maybe even a little more boring. Another common trait is saying things to make yourself look better, rather than to add value and give your real thoughts.

It makes hiring difficult for us. We always encounter people's business personas when we hear from them. And understandably so, it's what we've all learned is appropriate. But when someone joins our team, we want the real them rather than their business persona, so we really strive to look deeper during the hiring process. And this is ongoing. We also continue to work hard to encourage authenticity after someone joins our workplace and there are often lots of “old work habits” to undo.

I personally don't want to check myself in at the door when I get to work – to leave the real me there and send in my business version. I don't enjoy my work when I do, and I don't get to act in the way I feel is appropriate. Maybe I'd even be making decisions I'm not proud of. I'd much rather be who I am, and either that's okay for the job or it's not. Better to find out than always be pretending.

It also means I'm very happy for people to judge me as a person by the way I do business. Because there's no disconnect. If you deal with me in a work environment, that's who I am. I hate the phrase “it's just business” because it's a poorly guised attempt to remove accountability from the decisions people are making. Perhaps without that safety net, we might see more people in business behaving in a more ethical way.

Author information

Joel Friedlaender is the founder of Cliniko. He writes about productivity, team-work, and how we do things differently. Follow him on Twitter at @jfriedlaender.

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