Today I felt the wrath of mixing business and pleasure. I don’t often have a problem with it, but once in a while, it comes to bite me in the ass. And while I sat there ruefully rubbing my sore bottom, I started to think whether or not combining friendship and business can be fatal to the friendship, particularly when the business aspect goes sour.

The scenario was quite simple and rather commonplace  – I was forced to choose between two friends to be my partner for a big project, and due to both a lack of communication between the two partners and myself, as well as a lack of a concrete decision on my part, the decision came in late, and the person I didn’t pick was understandably upset. It took me a long time to make a decision because I had a lot of trouble deciding against her, but in the end, I make a decision on objective criteria that I felt was best for me.

Simply put, it was a business move.

The problem is, “it was a business move” doesn’t always fly – that is to say, there is a level of loyalty devoted to your friends and family that make it challenging to cast them aside for a logical career move. Unfortunately, here I was stuck rather angrily while both talented partners (and personal friends!) who said “you choose”. Choosing at all is never good, and of course, between two friends is even worse.

How can we tackle this?

Know the context and pick a philosophy: For me, I believe that business and pleasure can mix without any problem, as long as both parties know that no loyalties are owed, and that the business is conducted in a fair and honest manner. Making a business move doesn’t mean you get to “screw” the other person over, it just means that when the last remaining reason for holding out is “but she’s my friend”, then that’s no longer a good enough reason not to  make the move.

You can apply this logic to a number of different scenarios – from making a personal career decision to leave a firm in which you have a partnership although the co-partner is your best friend, to going after a guy your best friend broke-up with. In both cases, making a “business move” doesn’t mean you should go behind their back and see the guy, or break off the partnership unexpectedly, but that you talk openly about a decision or move, and decide whether this decision will take friendship into account, or not.

Some people put friendship as an ultimate deal-breaker, and will sacrifice other aspects of their to preserve their friendship. I think that really depends on the quality and strength of your friendship, and whether or not the two friends come together in a personal or business context. Context is important – maybe when you enter as co-partners in a firm, you recognize that each person will ultimately look out for their own business interests, but in a personal playing field like dating a guy, loyalties are owed. It’s really important to know the context and discuss the philosophy openly so no one is caught off-guard.

Don’t get stuck in the”you choose” corner: I made this mistake big time – both my friends politely said to me “you choose” and in doing so, I felt like they backed me into a corner, which made me very upset at both of them. Any attempts to reconcile this situation didn’t help and I felt cornered. When you get placed in the corner, any decision you make will be fateful – no matter who you choose, the other person will be upset at you, and only you – even though the person you select may have been active in helping you make your decision.

Choosing between two friends is unpleasant for everyone and…

Being backed into a corner allows for blame to be put on you, which puts tension on the friendship. Even if the other person gets over your decision, you will still be upset because you recognize that the other person blamed you for something you didn’t deserve to be blamed for, especially when all parties decided before-hand that this was a business move.

… generally results in this, no matter what your decision is.

Don’t use your decision as an escape route: In the end, take pride in your decision. Whether you made a decision personally or as a business move, it should be logical and fair. If you have kept to your principles, then take pride in your decision, and don’t shirk it or minimize it to appease the other person, regardless of what scenario you make a decision. If its choosing a partner, for example, as in my case – take pride in choosing the right person, and get your partner to take pride as well, so the left-over person realizes it was a joint decision rather than one-sided, and doesn’t place unnecessary blame on you. Don’t let your decision be a non-impactful one; that is, for example, don’t let the person you choose pretend to be a passive player so they don’t ruffle any feathers, don’t jump out of a business partnership quickly because your partner is pissed, and don’t be upset that you went after a guy when your girlfriend told you it would be fine, and then she changed her mind.

Take pride in the decision, and you can take pride in yourself.

Lastly, but most importantly, apologize if you make a mistake. Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, we hurt the ones we love. We don’t mean to, but when they get upset, it’s easier to just say sorry, even if you don’t agree with all of their complaints. In the end, they are getting the short end of the stick, and they deserve to know that you sincerely didn’t mean to hurt them, and you will give them space or do whatever else you need to, to remind them that they are an important part of your life – whether business or pleasure.

Anyone else struggling with mixing business and pleasure? How do you handle it?!

Looking forward to your comments!

The Wonders of Womanhood