What's your problem?

My business partner refuses to adapt - how should I handle it?

by Jeremy Bullmore

Q: I am a director sharing a small business 50/50. Times have changed over the years, and I have developed skills to remain productive. Unfortunately, my business partner seems stuck in a rut and unable to apply himself. He is also spending long periods of time on the internet, private eBay bidding and viewing pornographic content. I have worked with him for nearly 18 years (not on equal terms) and find I cannot approach him to discuss my disapproval and disappointment at his lack of interest in adapting to survive. How would you handle this?

A: What's happened, of course - which I'm sure you realise - is that you've postponed making an issue of your partner's inadequacies for so long that you now find it absolutely impossible to raise the subject. Meanwhile, he goes blithely on, presumably choosing to be unaware of your dissatisfaction, while your own frustration and sense of injustice continue to fester.

The risk is that you'll finally snap and accuse him of something that seems relatively trivial - his use of pornography, for example - when the malaise is far deeper than that. It's like the old story of the deeply unhappy wife who, after years of silent misery, finally loses patience with her husband for leaving the top off the toothpaste. The result: instead of making a reasoned and entirely justified case for change, the complainant emerges as petty and vengeful. The argument is lost before it has been put.

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