Healing Corporate Relationships

“All tragedies are finished by a death, All comedies are ended by a marriage.” Lord Byron wrote that in Don Juan.   Great quote, especially when you think about it beyond a theatrical context (but then all the world’s a stage, isn’t it).    I think about this quote sometimes as a way to evaluate my life when it is all said and done.  Will I have lived a life of selfishness and distance from others, dying alone after a lifetime of sowing dissonance and death in others? Or will my life end as a small, but miraculous, divine comedy, one that involves building relationships with others that are bigger than me, while growing and giving back to the world a love greater than death?

Lord Byron painted by Marie Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

Lord Byron painted by Marie Louise Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun

I don’t know the answer to that.  I hope for the second choice, but fear the first.  How would Lord Byron answer that question, I wonder.  With his work he gave us astonishing poetry that defies the shackles of a conventional existence, but with his personal life he left passion, yes, but also chaos and sorrow with his wandering, profligate ways.   I’m not judging; I don’t know that I can do better with my personal life, at least not on my own.  But, I must hope and pray that it is still a possibility, even for me.

By now, you may be thinking, “well that is very nice, but what does this commentary have to do with making my business less corporate.”   Actually, I have no idea about what you’re thinking, so I have to guess.  (Perhaps you are actually thinking about the delciious bologna sandwich you will make for yourself very soon.  If that’s the case, go make that sandwich and come back when you’re ready.)

This determination to keep our personal lives separate from our business lives is part of the problem. In earlier days, people lived in more tightly-knit communities and they had some sense of each other’s personalities and characters.   You did business with the baker because you knew him and knew his personal reputation.  If he wronged the town in his personal life, then that would be something that the sensible townspeople would address before continuing with business as usual.

I’m generalizing, I know.  I’m not trying to suggest that everything was as it should be in the past, but I just want to call attention to the strange modern idea of severing the business life from the personal one.   That’s why we hear so many more business consultants talk about improving business through better public relations or better marketing.  It is  less popular to talk about improving business by becoming a more caring, less broken person (although there are people out there like Zig Ziglar who do this well).

It’s like Tolstoy said, “everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” But if we want to change the things in business that don’t work, the stuff that leaves others discouraged and demoralized, we have to change the things in ourselves that cause the problems.   I’m writing this first and foremost to myself.

I have corporate interactions with people too often. Sometimes it’s because I want something out of them instead of valuing them as wondrous individuals worthy of affection and respect simply because they exist.   Sometimes it’s because being honest and facing the truth of the moment is hard, because it’s safer to prevent anyone from getting too close. (But, the same distance that prevents someone from stabbing another also prevents him from offering a hug.) Sometimes I don’t trust in a decency greater than myself or in a sense of self-correcting harmony that transcends the threat of easily observable punishment.

I want to change these things.  Talking about them helps.  So does prayer.  So does art and genuine friendship and playtime. Yes I really believe that even finding a sense of playfulness in the most mundane or painful of moments can make a big difference.   (That’s my justification for planning to buy myself a wii, by the way!)

I’ve been to awful business networking events where I’ve been encouraged to see other people as mere business opportunities.  Those things are proof enough that I’m not the only one who’s been tempted to see others as means to an end.

I’m sharing my personal struggles for my sake and for yours. If we all aim to be less corporate, even in our business relationships, then we’ll make the world a little better.  And maybe just maybe we can make those business meetings less about schmoozing to expand your brand and to maximize the power of your network (just the thought of that makes me want to throw up or get drunk) and more about meeting, appreciating and learning from interesting people.

Do you have any thoughts about how to turn corporate interactions into authentic ones?  If you do, I  hope you’ll share them.  Sharing honestly is one way to wish that it ends as a comedy for each of us. So, here’s hoping for a divine comedy to one and all.

Lord Byron by Richard Westall

Lord Byron painted by Richard Westall


1 Response to “Healing Corporate Relationships”

  1. 1 asexualmystique November 6, 2008 at 6:21 pm

    I am so humbled by this; it’s precise and full of pathos.

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