How To Handle Guilt In Business

Guilt. I am no expert on this topic. I don’t have all the wisdom; I’m not a master, but I do have some lessons I would like to share. How do we cope with feeling guilty, or how do we resolve the whole issue of guilt?

Guilt is, in my opinion, one of the heaviest and toughest emotions you can have. When you walk around feeling guilty, it is almost impossible to really feel happy. The purpose of life is to eventually feel happy, which is difficult to accomplish when experiencing periods of guilt. Some people even carry around feelings of guilt their whole lives.

In business, especially when you work with a lot of people, it is impossible for everything to go well. There is a great focus on relationships and if one of those relationships goes wrong, most of the time you feel guilty.

Yesterday, I had a meeting with one of my coaching clients. She’s a lawyer in human resources, which means she works for employees but also for entrepreneurs. Her experience is that when something happens with entrepreneurs and employees, they tend to solve it by going into legal areas and all of a sudden it becomes a war, a battle. If either one of the parties wins, then both parties oftentimes lose. Why? Because typically the “winner” will feel a certain amount of guilt about the other person’s loss.

When you win it can make you feel good, but you probably also realize it might have been solved in a better way. It is important to remember that it is not about winning or losing, it’s about solving the problem.

Feeling guilty is a tough thing. For example, if you end up with a legal situation with your employees because things did not work out, you tend to lay all of the blame on the employee, thinking that person just was not a good hire. Oftentimes though, deep down inside, you actually know that you messed up.

You probably noticed something was wrong and you did not take action to resolve it; did not take responsibility for your role in the problem. This is the very thing that makes you feel guilty, and as long as you don’t fix the issue, you’ll probably continue to carry guilt about the situation.

You might not feel guilty all day every day, but it will linger in your mind and maybe pop up in your dreams, even if a lot of time has passed.

Again, I am not an expert; these are just some lessons I have learned over time. I am not offering advice as much as my perspective. People have many ways in which they attempt to deal with stress and guilt.

It is really popular to meditate or go to the gym, but as long as the real issue goes unresolved, it will probably stay with you.

“Set aside your ego and talk about the issue.”

When things go wrong with employees, or even with partners, I think it’s powerful to not think about yourself all the time, but also think about the other person. As long as you can afford it, don’t go into a legal battle to win two or three months salary; settle the contract however it is set up so you don’t have any bad feelings about it. Try to resolve it as smoothly as possible and have a good parting at the end.

I know a lot of people who go into court to save a couple of thousand euros because they think that the employee doesn’t deserve those extra months. I believe that if you just pay what is owed, everyone can move on. Once you pay the money and you get over it, you have the comfort of knowing you solved it the right way and you don’t have to think about it anymore.

It might not be perfect, but good enough is good enough.

EDB Quote #101One of the worst things is when you feel guilty about something that happened between you and another person and that person is no longer there. They have moved on or possibly have even passed away.When that happens, we have to live with it. In that case, learning from it and meditating on it, may help, but remember, as long as you can solve the problem in the here and now, it is worth it to do so. Set aside your ego and talk about the issue.

Even when you mess up, as an entrepreneur or as an employee, and you know deep down inside you didn’t do the right thing, admit it. Say ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t plan for it to go this way.’ That’s solving the issue.

Talk about your mess ups. People respect that. They might not become your friend, but people respect it when you are honest about your part in things.

That’s my perspective. I hope you were able to get something out of this, whether business-wise or personally.

Leave a comment if you can relate to this article or if you have suggestions on this topic. You can also send me a Tweet @eelcodeboer with your comments.

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  • 28 March 2015
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