MT Expert - People: Bringing business into the bedroom

The idea that keeping business and pleasure separate may be outmoded, says Big Brother body-language expert Judi James.

Last Updated: 18 Mar 2011
While many of us were able to escape our jobs completely at Christmas, returning to the office can bring with it familiar stresses and strains. Many will have worked late to meet pressing deadlines, or perhaps left the office in a hurry knowing there are stacks of tasks left undone. Whatever the reasons, the arrival of the New Year workload is sometimes just too much to allow us to switch off at the end of a busy day.

That’s why many of us will be looking to our nearest and dearest to offload and discuss these issues out of hours. In fact, in a national survey of 2,000 small business owners by T-Mobile, 51% of respondents stated that they see their partner as their most trusted business advisor, with partners being favoured over friends, accountants, colleagues, trade bodies and parents.

If we’re on the receiving end of our partner’s offloading sessions, they may be the last thing that we want to listen to at the start of a new year, but we should be supportive and try and listen if work is on their mind. And here’s why: psychologically, talking to our partner can be the closest thing to talking to ourselves. By discussing a problem out loud we manage to do what we fail to when it’s spiraling around in our head. But as well as this, often talking to a spouse is valuable because they become a vital sounding-board as well as a giver of actual advice. A spouse tends to listen and speak without prejudice, meaning they’ll fillet out the real problem without all the murkiness of office politics and power-play. If there is a case of taking sides they’re also the one person you know who will be in your army no matter what happens.

In fact, without realising it, our partner is usually more than just an ideal marriage companion; they’re probably also the idea business partner as well. When we marry we tend to pick someone who makes a complimentary psychological ‘fit’ in terms of personality balance and this should work in business as well as in the marriage. So if you’re the dramatic panic-merchant, your partner will often be calm and reassuring, or if you tend to intellectualise they’ll often be the one to bring humour to the discussion. This can make them the ideal person to turn to for a straight, honest but also balanced view of any work-related problems.

There are, clearly, some potential drawbacks to bringing business back to the home, so it’s worth bearing in mind the below to avoid any negative impact the discussions could bring:
•    When you bottle-up problems, or discuss them with people you feel lack integrity or who add to your confusion by giving advice you distrust, your stress levels can rise as a result. Therefore, treat your partner’s choice to admit their business worries to you as a compliment.

•    Be truthful. If your partner is a boss or a senior level executive, they’ll often get skewed advice from people they employ who will tend to avoid straight-talking and open disagreement or challenge of your ideas - either because they’re intimidated or worried about sounding negative which could be seen as a bad career move. The classic ‘Yes men’ syndrome has brought many businesses to their knees. The last thing a spouse should be is a sycophant.

•    Finally, if your partner turns to you for business advice, don’t be too surprised or upset. It is likely that they are just looking for some independent and honest advice from their most trusted advisor. If you can help them through a tricky time in their career you’ll both be better off for it in the long term.

Judi James is a behavioural expert, well-know for her stint analysing residents of the Big Brother house.

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