Shikha Bhatnagar

Global Social Impact Consultant

Over seventeen years of programming, policy analysis, advocacy, and business development experience across sectors with stakeholders on critical global issues such as economic & political development, education, health, security, diversity & inclusion, and civil society (including women's rights). 

Taking it Personally

Last week, this happened:  Michael Strahan, the popular co-host of Live! With Kelly & Michael on ABC, had announced a week earlier that he was leaving the show to join Good Morning America (GMA) full time. Kelly Ripa, his co-host, was not pleased for two reasons - one, there were apparently rumors that GMA was adding a third hour that would essentially kill her show since it immediately follows GMA AND more importantly, Ripa was not informed of this very significant change until the last minute. She took a very public break from the show for several days, and when she came back on Tuesday, she received a standing ovation from the audience and delivered a pretty powerful speech about respect in the workplace.  You can see it here. 

There was one part of the speech that struck me as especially poignant- when she said, “And since we’re being honest, I don’t consider this just a workplace. This is my second home. This is a place that I’ve devoted myself to...” 

How many times have you been told not to take work personally? I certainly have, even with organizations I helped build. How can you NOT take what happens at work personally - you spend 40, often many more, hours in that environment.  You depend on the income for your livelihood in the present and in the future. And, if you’re in the social impact space, your work affects real people. Heck, even in corporate America, your work can affect real people. 

I really liked this article published on HBR.com by Duncan Coombe, titled “Don’t Take It Personally” Is Terrible Work Advice.” As Coombe argues, we SHOULD take work personally. He also makes an ethics argument to support this assertion:  

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.

As we continue to re-evaluate the modern workplace and restructure it to make it more inclusive and dynamic - I hope that we also get rid of these old masculine ideologies of separating work from one’s emotions.  We’ll all be healthier, happier and likely more productive (!) for it. 

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