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How do you navigate a toxic business relationship?

How do you navigate a toxic business relationship?

Sooner or later, we all find ourselves in a partnership, team, or company where something isn’t quite gelling.

But sometimes, that situation turns from uncomfortable to toxic when there’s a conflict in values.

In her episode of the Toughest Call podcast, Dr. Dianne Tyers, the Dean of the Faculty of Open Learning and Career Development at Dalhousie University, talks about her experience confronting this situation as a partner in a consulting business. After years of cultivating clients and achieving financial success, she found herself grappling with the strain the partnership was putting on her values.

As a strategic planner, I’ve seen that organizations have no problem coming up with a list of stated values.

The challenge is that sticking to them means some very real short or medium-term pain.

Despite the enormous financial hit, Dianne stuck with her gut and her values and ended the partnership.

Though the road back to success was rough, it was one she is glad she took.

Four ways organizational leaders can rebound from toxic business relationships

Here are four things organizational leaders can learn from Dianne’s experience about dealing with toxic partnerships.

  1. Don’t let exhaustion stop you from making tough choices. When you’ve spent years working around the clock to build your business or position within an organization, it can feel overwhelming to find the energy to take a few steps back or even start over. But exhaustion works both ways. If you’re in a toxic relationship with a partner, team member, client, or employer, the emotional component is likely taking a more considerable toll than you think. So, don’t just focus on the energy it takes to climb your way back up; think of the energy you’ll save by ending that relationship.
  2. Every decision based on fear is also powered by hope. One of the main reasons people stay in bad professional arrangements is because they’re afraid of the consequences and the unknown. But that fear also comes with the hope that things will get better if you make the tough call. While acknowledging the fear is okay, don’t let it blind you to the possibilities of a better future by leaving this unhelpful relationship behind.
  3. Sometimes, good choices look bad on paper. Have you ever made a list of pros and cons that was lopsided only to make a decision that went in the opposite direction? Not all decisions can be measured in a way that fits into a chart. Sometimes you have to scrap the analytics and follow your moral compass instead.
  4. Find your sounding board. Making a significant decision is tough when you’re in the throes of it. Especially when you’re facing a challenge that’s running high on emotion. That’s when it pays to tap into the experience of others. Aligning yourself with an advisor or mentor is not just a good idea for your career; it’s a good idea for your sanity too. So, reach out to someone in your network who’s been there / done that and can provide an objective perspective when you can’t.

Dianne’s story is another excellent example of how standing up for your values inevitably comes at a cost. But it also comes with its rewards.

Like most tough calls, there’s pain that comes with every potential solution, as well as potential rewards.

It’s up to you to decide which ones you want to live with and which genuinely matter.

To hear more about how Dianne met the challenge of living up to her values, listen to Toughest Call wherever you get your podcasts or listen to the 22-minute episode now, “A strategy for vetting business partnerships.”

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