The Art of Ending a Business Relationship

You plan well in advance, review every detail you possibly can and then ‘things happen’ and you can’t arrive at your intended objective. You’re absolutely stunned. You go home, or perhaps to a bar, or whatever other place that brings you solace and ponder over the same scene and scenario over and over again, in your head and wonder, “What in the world went wrong? What mistake did I make? How did I so royally screw everything up?”

I can still remember the first time I almost got fired. Thankfully, I managed to convince her not to boot me off camp–but I was almost out. And if I hadn’t shaped up and stepped up, I definitely would have felt the hard thud of her high-heeled boot on my bum.

We do have influence, but we do not have control over all–or even a single–outcome. Sometimes you don’t try at all and things work out beautifully, and at other times, you try every possible avenue and absolutely nothing works.

When it comes to the affairs of a business, there are often internal conflicts and unspoken tensions that are not allowing you to move forward. In the case of a job interview, it could be that you neither have neither the expertise nor the experience for the position; or it could be that you simply do not fit into the culture of the organisation. Or you’re just a dumb-dumb that insists on talking back or going against everything your boss tells you.

We live in a world where you never know when you will meet or need someone. In your personal life, you can decide not to meet a said person ever again. But part of being a professional is knowing–and fully understanding–that no matter what happens, you absolutely must leave a door open for doing business together again. You never know when, where or how your paths may cross.

You can only keep an open door if you know how to leave your ego out of the equation. This is not easy. We all have feelings and triggers that cause us to react in certain ways to certain situations. In life, we have to know how to respond to brutal feedback–whether it’s true or untrue, warranted or unwarranted–is entirely besides the point. No matter how ‘unfair’ someone is being to you, sometimes in life the only solution is to keep your cool.

From employees, to customers, to bosses to fellow team members–people think that simply by walking away or creating a huge drama on the way out–that it is all over. It isn’t. Certain incidents, decisions and outbursts ripple through time and space. It doesn’t simply end because you decide to throw in the towel and go off into the wilderness.

Experience has also taught me that if someone has behaved terribly and poorly, you were probably not the first–and nor will you be the last individual who has to contend with that terrible behaviour. In the short-term, it may appear that they have ‘won’ and did not have to face the consequences of their poor behaviour… But over time, that karmic footprint will leave a deeper imprint… and it will eventually be one that neither the professional world nor the universe will ever forget.

Millennials, in particular, have a way of unfriending, unfollowing and unliking people–including their employers and supervisors–whenever they face an issue. I was both startled and humoured when I first experienced this firsthand. Back in the day–I’m in my 40s in case you were wondering–we would still smile and keep some decorum in check no matter how we were feeling on the inside.

When you are a professional, you understand that a certain level of nicety and etiquette have to be maintained–regardless of your own personal feelings on the matter. And sometimes that simply means to say, “Thank you for your time and I wish you all the best in your future endeavours.”

Perhaps you may head home later that day and wallow in your room, but know that tomorrow, the sun will shine again. And when new opportunities do come knocking; which they will–you would not have burned a much-needed bridge that you realised you needed to get to your destination.


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