“Don’t take it personally.”

“It is what it is.”

Why are two phrases that suggest reflecting is a waste of time so popular that they can be found embroidered on pillows and readily rolling off people’s lips across the country?

I hadn’t thought about how these two phrases play a role in the business world until I read a Harvard Business Review article entitled “Don’t Take It Personally” Is Terrible Work Advice. Among the article’s many interesting points, it points out that although you don’t want to take anything so personally that your self-esteem or psyche is negatively affected, it is unwise not to take work personally. After all, as Forbes points out, the average person devotes 90,000 hours of time to work over their lifetime.

You Should Take It Personally

If we’re being honest, we often spend more waking hours with coworkers than we do the people we chose to marry and our children. To think that all those hours spent without our loved ones are spent in an environment that we are so unconnected to that we nonchalantly say “it is what it is” and never take anything personally is disheartening. You should take it personally. When a talented employee leaves for another place of employment, you should contemplate why… not just shrug your shoulders and think “it is what it is.”

Care why an employee leaves. Contemplate why another place of employment is more enticing than staying with the one where relationships are already cultivated and the parking pass is already hung on the rearview mirror. Whether the conversation is about being passed over for promotion, not getting the lead on a project, an employee leaving, or anything else, reflect on why an unwelcome outcome occurred at work and what you can learn from that outcome.

Connecting Taking it Personally & Pride In One’s Work

The people who take pride in their work, in other words, they do take it personally, are often the coworkers others want to be around and are the people responsible for energizing the team. The people who do not take pride in their work and don’t take anything personally are often the coworkers who do just enough to get by and who aren’t people energizing fellow coworkers and bonding with the team. From a business perspective, the highest levels of productivity can be found most often in those who take work personally and are never exuding an “it is what it is” attitude.

Scandal, Embezzlement, Fraud, & Misplaced Ethics

The Harvard Business Review article points out that “not taking it personally lies at the heart of many corporate ethics scandals, from embezzling and accounting fraud to issues of worker safety and environmental protection. It’s when executives and teams adopt the mindless notion of ‘it’s not personal, it’s business’ that they absolve themselves of their responsibilities as social actors, custodians of the planet, and guardians of the well-being of their employees, customers, and communities.” Wow. Absorb that. Let those words sink into the core of your being. When we do not approach things personally in the business setting, we take acting like human beings who care about other human beings out of the equation.

Life is already short. To live without passion, pride, and connection to your work is a disservice to both yourself and your place of employment.

Stop using the phrases “don’t take it personally” and “it is what it is” as readily as you breathe. If you want your employer to treat you as a person and not a number, then you need to treat you work as something you take personally too. And if an employer wants employees who take things personally so they reflect and improve and constantly accent the workforce, then employers need to treat their employees in a personal way as well. In essence, in all aspects of business and life in general, it’s always wiser to care about your actions and how those affect others and to be brave enough to reflect on all your decisions and outcomes than it is to believe “it is what it is.”

Author: Evelyn Lindell