Natalie Lue has written guest posts for us on a number of occasions on the subject of blogging, but today she is writing with her relationship hat on, talking about the emotional impact of being betrayed in business by a friend.
I met up with a friend a few months ago. She’s ballsy, outgoing, highly creative, loyal, inspiring and so many wonderful things but she’d become a shadow of her former self after a number of startlingly bitchy experiences in business…from women she regarded as friends.
I’ve seen it numerous times and unfortunately when you mix certain types of people that you regard as friends and your business, you will see who they really are and discover that they were:
1) Never really your friend or,
2) They were your friend but greed, jealousy and envy clouded the friendship – ‘Frienvy’, or that,
3) They were the type of person who they could be your friend but they’re a ruthless business person.
What type of stuff do these people do?
– Nick ideas and play copycat.
– Pilfer clients.
– Sabotage relationships and deals.
While there are clearly ways that you can deal with the betrayal from a business perspective, what isn’t talked about often enough is the emotional experience of losing a friend that’s double crossed you.
You see it’s one thing when some mysterious person tries to screw you over or it’s a competitor, because while it still feels personal, it doesn’t feel like a ‘loss’ because to be fair, you haven’t placed your trust in them and don’t have shared history. However, when a friend betrays you in business, it feels like a double kick in the teeth.
You may become paranoid about what people may or may not be doing, angry and distrusting even when people mean you no harm, you may close off and pile yourself up in work because you’re afraid to trust yourself to work with people, and it can even affect how you feel about the business.
The latter happens because particularly as women, we can have some hidden beliefs about being in business and making money and be worried about how friends, family, and peers may perceive us, which means that when we are crossed by a friend, it can feel like being in business and making money has cost you friendship.
What tends to happen when we discover unpleasant things about someone that we’ve trusted is we find it difficult to accept and may even blame ourselves for their actions, plus we question our judgement and are fearful of trusting again.
It’s important to be real about the situation you’ve been in because it will help you ‘mourn’ the loss of the friendship a lot quicker, get to acceptance, and more importantly put you in the position of taking action.
Just like a breakup it’s important to accept what has happened even if all the nitty gritties don’t all make sense – some will in time, and some won’t. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of rationalising the irrational or trying to work out what was real and what was fake but what really matters now is the ‘top line data’ – your friend has betrayed you and tried to impact you in business which is distinctly unfriendly behaviour which demonstrates that even if they were your friend before, they’re certainly not your friend now.
Actions speak louder than words and it doesn’t matter what has been said; someone can claim to be your friend till the cows come home but if they treat you otherwise, that’s what you have to judge them on.
The key thing you need to realise which will help to put things into perspective and get into action mode is:
Generally speaking, these types of people were never a true friend. There have always been red flags that indicated that they would cross the line and abuse your boundaries, both personally and in business, it’s just you either didn’t see them for what they were or you may have ignored them and thought you knew better. In other instances, it can be that you’re involved with someone who is basically a confidence trickster, faking a friendship to get what they wanted.
Either way – you’re not responsible for the other person’s behaviour. You can be accountable for the things that in retrospect you realise you could have done differently but that doesn’t make you to blame for the wholly inappropriate, dishonest actions of another person.
When someone lacks integrity and feels inclined to betray a friend and attempt to damage their business, they’re going to attempt to do what they’re going to do anyway – you’d have fallen out one day and you’d have seen them for what they are, whether that’s because they still screwed you over or they screwed over someone else.
Whatever ‘good times’ you experienced with them, ultimately when it came down to it, betraying you in business was more important than the friendship – this isn’t a reflection on you; it’s a reflection on them.
Again, much like being in a dysfunctional relationship, we can wonder what we did to ’cause’ them to behave as they did, wonder how we could have done things differently, and feel like it’s something to do with us as a person.
This is about business. OK, and greed and envy. Friendship is not part of the equation in this situation.
Don’t obsess about them, blame yourself, and derail your business – really, they’re not worth it and you’d be giving them too much power.
The best way to start getting over the betrayal is to let go of the friendship and accept that it is over. Don’t mentally fight what has happened and try to ‘come up with another explanation’ or berate yourself constantly – accept that it is what it is and that at the end of the day, your friendship is over and you have a business you need to deal with.
Don’t be afraid to trust yourself or others or think of yourself as a poor judge of character – not all your friends are shady so it’s unfair to tarnish all of your judgement over one person. Instead, heed the lessons.
Trust in friendship is no similar to how it works in dating. You start out with a reasonable level of trust and as you engage with your friend, it acts like a series of checks and balances. Based on their actions and words matching, you increase your trust and if they are doing shady stuff that crosses your boundaries, you pull back your trust.
Just like in dating, what I see happen with friendships that has big consequences for business is that there is trusting blindly even when there are signals and evidence that suggest you should proceed with caution.
Even if you truly do believe you have a very strong friendship, when it comes to business, hard as it may be for you to hear, you do have to be businesslike and ensure that you assess the risk in divulging information that has the potential to do you and your business harm if the recipient at best takes advantage of it, or at its worst, abuses it.
You can mix business and friendship, but you need to have a very solid friendship built on healthy foundations and healthy boundaries for it to work. Even with the strongest of friendships, working together will put pressure on it.
If you are going to get a friend involved in your business, keep everything above board and legit. You wouldn’t just tell some random person details or hand over the empire to a new staff member – proceed with caution and listen to yourself if at any point you feel uncomfortable.
Don’t overshare. Tough as it may be, you have to be businesslike and recognise that when it comes to business, it is best not to spill every little detail about it unless it is to your nearest and dearest. I know people who have their friends sign confidentiality/non disclosure agreements. Tough, yes, but it when it comes to business, they do everything above board and in a professional manner so that they don’t jeopardise the business.
Don’t retaliate. You maintaining dignity and professionalism will say a hell of a lot more than you going to, for instance clients that they’ve nicked or slagged you off to and basically nicking them back and slagging them off. Your clients don’t want that kind of detail and it’ll reflect badly on you.
Remember that in any other circumstance, there is always the possibility of losing clients to competitors or having competitors appear on the horizon. Yes it would be ideal if they weren’t your friend, but don’t get things twisted and get too obsessed about it.
Use this experience as a time to tighten up and innovate. Get your paperwork up to date, visit clients or get in touch with them, tighten up agreements and contracts, and most importantly, remember not to rest on your laurels and to keep your business one foot ahead.
I know that you may be feeling hurt by the betrayal but don’t let the experience rob your faith in yourself, other people, or your ability to run your business. Your friend may well be a jackass who lacks enough originality to do her own thing, but the one thing she can’t be is you. Feel sorry for them that they lack so much integrity – karma does bite, even in business.
To read more of Natalie’s relationship advice please visit www.baggagereclaim.co.uk