Interpersonal Edge: Here’s how not to exit business relationships

By Dr. Daneen Skube
Tribune Content Agency

Q: I have a long-term business associate and am thinking of just sending an email terminating him. I don't want to damage my reputation but it's uncomfortable to talk to people about issues. Besides I shouldn't have to justify. Is there?

A: Yes, important business relationships warrant a conversation about what you want, and the issues at play when you're thinking of terminating a professional relationship.

Think of the word “terminate.” The word brings up assassination. Do you really want to end any professional relationship by “terminating” it?

In additional to harming your reputation consider the career upside of practical empathy. How do you expect to be treated in professional relationships? Would you want someone to send you a text or just break up with you via email?

Most of us only invest in important business relationships because we have a large element of trust the relationship will continue. We deliver high performance to others when we experience loyalty and low anxiety about the relationship continuing.

Few of us would give much, if anything, to people prepared to terminate professional relationships last minute with no conversation. If you want to receive quality services from others commit to diplomatic conversations about what you want and no abrupt exits.

In my work I often find people feel slighted or angry about things that when discussions have occurred. These misunderstandings only occur because one or both people lack the courage or skills to have an actual conversation.

If you want to receive high performance from people with whom you have business relationships ask yourself if you are willing to discuss issues and needs. Are you willing to provide the same level of courtesy and communication that you yourself want?

In our planned obsolescence world we can treat others like disposable Kleenex. Once other people realize we have no loyalty they will dump us if they are smart. They'll also warn everyone in our business circle to avoid us.

All good things do come to an end. How you want to leave a business relationship is with advance notice, discussion about issues, and gratitude for everything done for you.

How you don't want to leave a business relationship is abruptly, with no conversation, and not enough notice so the other person can accept new work. Be aware the person you terminate may have turned down other projects or customers for the express purpose of serving your needs.

We all know the golden rule that we ought to treat others as we wish to be treated. If you leave business relationships with zero empathy for the impact you have on others few people will want to work with you. We only receive loyalty and empathy if we offer it to others.

In business empathy is a critical career skill. You will be expected to negotiate problems. Obviously no one that works with you can solve problems they have no opportunity to discuss.

Lastly, if you leave a professional relationship badly you burn that bridge forever. If the day comes you need that person's help and want to walk over that bridge you will find it no longer exists.

The last word(s)

Q: Is it my imagination or are people behaving worse than usual these days. Is there a best way to cope with so much upsetting behavior?

A: Yes, people are flooded with stress which increases everyone's struggle with their inner self-destructiveness and self-hatred. You'll cope better if you're aware the origin of the bad behavior of others is their own self-loathing rather than a reaction deserved by you.

Daneen Skube, Ph.D., executive coach, trainer, therapist and speaker, also appears as the FOX Channel's “Workplace Guru.”. She's the author of “Interpersonal Edge: Breakthrough Tools for Talking to Anyone, Anywhere, About Anything” (Hay House, 2006).