It’s not personal, it’s just business… but is it, really?

a scene from the movie THE GODFATHER which shows marlon brando

There is a good chance you know what I am talking about. Great chance if you are a movie buff or an avid reader. 

The Godfather.

Now I must admit, I never read the book myself, but the movies were so good that I thought the book wouldn’t be able to beat the charm – especially the magic that Marlon Brando and Al Pacino created in The Godfather

The movies are practically loaded with worldly wisdom.

When negotiating: make them an offer they can’t refuse

When confused about the choice to make: leave the gun, take the cannoli.

When faced with an all-out war: go to the mattresses.

When pestered to reveal something you don’t want to: Don’t ask me about my business, Kaye.

It has priceless advice for almost every major imaginable life scenario, but the one that I have heard most out of a cinematic setting is:

It’s not personal; it’s just business.

The funny thing is I have heard this in informal settings as much as in formal ones. I have seen it used at work and at parties. And almost always, it describes a scenario where someone seemed to have been stabbed in the back. 

Not to say that the victim didn’t deserve it, but the perpetrator, the stabber in the case, could easily justify doing what they did because it wasn’t personal hatred; it was something that just needed to be handled for them to be able to afford a smooth “sailing” experience.

Now it may not be personal, it really may be purely business, but I always have trouble digesting that. 

How is it possible? 

Maybe in a day and age where machines have risen, and humans are already a relic. 

But human beings are emotional creatures. With this flawed design in our making, can there be a clear distinction? Doesn’t our personality influence everything we do, work or otherwise?

Corporate literature is ripe with examples of founders chucked out of their own companies; maybe the company board went with ” it’s not personal, it’s business.” 

But I bet the fired founder didn’t feel the same way. 

Kevin Spacey’s character in Horrible Bosses didn’t feel like promoting Jason Bateman’s, despite him proving time and again that he was deserving. 

a scene from HORRIBLE BOSSES which shows kevin spacey and jason bateman facing each other
Kevin Spacey (L) and Jason Bateman in Horrible Bosses.

For a minute, forget about the movie and look around your workplace, I am sure you know of one or two occasions where someone you know, if not you, was told by their boss that the reason for no promotion was strictly business. 

Our work is a reflection of the people we are. Our experiences – personal and business – shape our personalities. One to exist in isolation, without the other, is impossible unless you are a robot. 



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