Who to harm first in VET? – “It’s nothing personal, it’s just business”


Part One

Otto Berman coined the term ‘it’s just business’, using it regularly as he laid out the situation to those who came before him.

Berman was an accountant for the mob in the 1930s, a business where distancing yourself from the human impact was a pretty imperative requirement.

Berman would say it – “it’s just business, nothing personal” as the Mob representatives took the month’s protection money or dealt out punishment.

The phrase did not come from corporate flyer or successful business man. It comes from a petty criminal, a man who had no problem taking whatever he could from whomever he could get it.

The problem with “it’s just business” is that the ethos of “it’s just business” clashes hard against the rising imperative of business ethics, individual and group harm, social justice and morality (as distinct from legality).

Reality check: Managers have the primary role responsibility to protect and promote the economic viability of their organisations.

Managers are sometimes put in a position where adjustments may result in harming people (e.g., trainers, trainees) perhaps to re-establish the equilibrium necessary to remain viable.

As human beings are not products (“widgets”):

Who is going to be harmed first?

How is the harm morally justified?

Can utilising traditional business methods associated with our common morality solve the issue of who is going to be harmed?

Do the traditional methods for re-establishing business equilibrium promote a distribution of harm that cannot be justified from a rationally defensible moral point of view.

What decision is the rationally defensible one?

Part Two

by Ramli John, It’s NOT Just Business, It IS Personal, (Slightly adapted),  http://bit.ly/1gn8SeM

The Godfather is one of my favorite movies. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a pilot, astronaut, F1 formula racer and Michael Corleone. He’s such a badass. When he walks in a room, everyone respects him.

But I don’t agree with everything he does or say. One of the things I vehemently disagree with is when he said “It’s not personal. It’s just business.”

What’s wrong with it?

First, it denies reality. The famous marketer, Seth Godin, also said that contrary to popular belief, it’s not just “business,” it’s personal. Think about it. Is there anything more personal than your work or startup? Your money, your blood, sweat and tears? Your time away from those you love?

We are not emotionless robots. Why are we trying to separate humanity from our work, our team, our startup? It simply makes no sense to deny what is real in life to justify our behaviour in the business world.

Second,  …… separating your ….. organisation identity and your personal identity is impossible. You have to pour all your blood, sweat and tears into it. You give it your all. You think about it when you wake up in the morning and when you go to bed. It becomes your obsession. It consumes you. …..

Finally, a lot of people just use this phrase as an easy way out. It’s just like saying “it’s not you, it’s me” when breaking up with someone.

What that really means is, “You are the reason why we’re breaking up. I just don’t have the guts to tell you.”

That’s exactly how I take “it’s just business nothing personal.” It’s a cowards way to do something you don’t really want to.

When you separate business and personal realms, you encourage a dangerous dissociation between individual morality and corporate behaviour.

Instead of owning up to your actions, you deflect responsibility and accountability to the business.

If you asked Bernie Madoff why he swindled so much money from his clients, he would say “it’s not personal. It’s just business.”

And if you asked Michael Corleone why he’d be willing to kill a cop, he would say “it’s not personal. It’s just business.”

NO. It is personal. It has to be personal.

Own up to your actions. Life is too short….



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