Saturday, November 29, 2008

What's the Song? - Breaking Up Is Hard to Do!

Breaking up shouldn't be so hard to do
from our friends at The Apathy Myth: A Blog for America's Student Leaders

We ended our relationship with one of our speakers this week. No surprise... I'd had an icky feeling about the relationship for a while. I've been in my business long enough to know when things aren't a win-win, and this one had been circling the drain for weeks.

But, like many of us, I let it go on too long. I let it play its course until we reached a point where a toxic cloud was hanging over all of us.

I admit it. I hate the "breaking up" feeling. I'm getting better at it, but I'm not sure it's ever going to come easy for me. I'm willing to tolerate a lot of crap before I get to the point where I overcome my discomfort and have "the conversation." I feel like Sex and the City's Carrie Bradshaw when I ask:

Why does breaking up feel harder than staying in?

Sometimes in student leadership, you have break-ups that you see coming a mile away, as well. Perhaps it's that officer who started off well but has become a total drag on your organization. Perhaps it's an advisor who no longer adds anything positive. Perhaps it's that member or teammate who's making too many bad decisions. Maybe it's the student worker who has screwed up so many times that he simply needs to go.

We delay the agony of the conversation. We keep thinking that perhaps the other person is going to step up and set things right. Maybe he will just quit on his own. We think that the annoyance is tolerable, even though very little "good" is coming out of the situation at all. We procrastinate, even though we know exactly where this dysfunctional relationship is headed.

All because the potential of that 10-minute conversation is so dreadful. Or, because we worry they will lash out at us and make it our fault. They will probably hate our guts for a long, long time, and it's going to be terribly awkward when you inevitably cross paths.

Go and Google "How to Break Up With Someone." The tips there are obviously for personal relationships, but you can take a lot of those tips and apply them to business or student-leadership breakups as well.

The one I struggle with the most is "doing it in person." I like to end relationships by email, which is a terrible way to do it. Hell, I'd do these breakups (firings, whatever) by carrier pigeon, if I could. I'm working on that.

Bottom line is that when things have gotten to a dysfunctional, harmful point, it's better to bite the bullet, confront the inevitable end of the relationship, and just do it. "Man up!" as my jock friends say. Face the ugly moments of the conversation with a mind toward the better situation that lives on the other side.

Is there a relationship in your student organization that is dragging you down? Then, it's time to employ the four most useful words in the English language: We need to talk...