This article is part of a series describing 4 Business Partnering Styles that can have an impact on you and your business. Refer to the article published here  to get a broad overview of these approaches. The 2nd article focused on The Dominant—Non-Dominant Relationship Style #1/4 and can be found here. 

Today’s article describes The Difficulties of Business Partnerships With Undefined Roles # 2/4 and the ramifications of this relationship approach.  Next week we’ll dive deeply into the impacts of Unilateral Decision-Makers #3/4, and finally, the Big Picture Partner approach #4/4.


Partnerships With Undefined Roles

People enter into Undefined Role business relationships under a number of circumstances. One is when they dive right in to the day-to-day demands and assume they will sort out the roles later—or sort them out over time. And often, they never get around to it. Others fall into an Undefined Role style because they have an underlying, often unconscious, desire to share everything. In the beginning stages of start-up this happens frequently and may feel both exciting and supportive as they discuss everything, sometimes ad nauseam. Over time, this need for connection proves to be inefficient and eventually keeps a business from achieving the growth they may or may not have targeted. This style may lead to placing value in interpersonal relationship satisfaction above and beyond business objectives. This can feel satisfying in what is called a “life style business” but it frequently doesn’t lead to successful growth.

Merging or Lack of Boundaries

Another version of owners with Undefined Roles is seen in people who come together unaware of what it means to have a healthy, mature relationship. Often this is seen in all their relationships—professionally as well as personally. These owners have few boundaries and little autonomy. They may not think independently and respond inter-dependently most of the time. It may appear as though they are working in sync, but they are really merged. They function like two halves of a whole versus two independent highly functioning people bringing all their expertise and creativity to the table. Decision-making is a lot of acquiescing or giving in that stems from having to feel connected instead of thoughtful choices for the sake of the business. When both individuals come together this way, growth inter-personally and in the business is difficult to achieve because they cannot think outside one another’s box. While this style is not found full blown very often, many owners exhibit aspects of this style in aspects of their relationship.

Breaking Up is Hard (but Maybe Healthier) To Do

Random events sometimes cause professionals to seek a more mature business relationship.

Otherwise one or both would have to consciously want to learn ways to relate so the business grows. There are owners who, over time, discover they are partnered with an associate who is merged with them. This power can be manipulated, it can also feel cloying or claustrophobic once awareness sets in. In the personal setting this discovery frequently leads to divorce. In business, this will eventually feel like a need to break out of the box—totally evaluating roles and responsibilities or ending a partnership.

Engaging the help of a business coach for entrepreneurs, a coach for business partners in trouble, can be beneficial in understanding the dynamic between you. While an undefined role relating style is difficult to change, gaining perspective on your part in the dynamic will benefit you in your entire life. And should the discomfort and learning lead to a break up having professional help will hopefully assist you both.


Pitfalls to Running a Successful Business Together as Business Partners

Business Partners: The Dominant—Non-Dominant Relationship Style 1/4

Business Partnerships With Undefined Roles 2/4

Coming soon:

Unilateral Decision-Making Relationship Style in Business Partnerships 3/4

The Big Picture Partner Relationship Style 4/4

For more on impacts of break ups and divorce in business partnerships and couple relationships please refer to the articles under the Blog category “Business, Careers, and Divorce.”

Dr. Jan Hoistad

Business Coach for Entrepreneurs/Business Transformation Consultant/ Career Coach/Executive Coach Relationship Expert, Blogger, Author

When a business partnership is going well, it’s great. There’s energy, creativity, productivity. Differences put partnership stability to the test. Coming together as business partners pools connections, spreads financial risk, may increase the employee base, and expand the marketplace. Difference can feel like something resolvable together. But when experienced as threatening, it creates disconnection. If there is out-and-out conflict, a business partnership can quickly deteriorate and spread negativity like a virus throughout a team or company. Having the mindset, tools, and skills to navigate together is a necessity for a smooth functioning business and long-lasting partnership.