Those two words appeared in all caps as the subject line of an email sent by safety consultant Caroline Dennett to more than 1,400 employees and contractors of oil and gas company Shell. The email, which Dennett shared on LinkedIn, included her resignation.
Dennett, whose market research firm, Clout, is based in London, says she began working with Shell in 2011, but could “no longer work for a company that ignores all the alarms and dismisses the risks of climate change and ecological collapse.”
“Continued oil and gas extraction is causing extreme harm, to our climate, environment, nature and to people,” Dennett writes. “Contrary to Shell’s public expressions … Shell is not winding down oil and gas, but planning to explore and extract much more.”
“I want Shell Execs and Management to look in the mirror and ask themselves if they really believe their vision for more oil and gas extraction secures a safe future for humanity,” Dennett concludes.
In response to the viral reaction to the accusation, Shell said the company is determined to deliver on its pledge to be a net-zero company by 2050.
Dennett’s email and subsequent actions teach real-life lessons in emotional intelligence, the ability to understand and manage emotions. They also hold important lessons for business owners when it comes to prioritizing personal principles and values over business growth and financial stability.
Let’s break down the lessons, and see how they can help you run a business that’s not only successful, but also that you can be proud of.
“I feel like there is no other choice I can make”
Dennett’s decision couldn’t have been an easy one. In her email and LinkedIn post, she described Shell as “a major client” of her business, and said that it pained her to end a working relationship that she greatly valued, and that led to working with “some really great people.”
Dennett also said that she didn’t know what impact this action would have on her business and career, and that it’s possible her reputation will be damaged in the eyes of former colleagues.
“However,” she continues, “I feel like there is no other choice I can make.”
As a business owner, there’s a big chance that sooner or later you will be faced with the same question that Dennett was, namely: Will working with this client compromise my own personal values and principles?
For example, let’s say that you too own a services business, maybe marketing or copywriting. A cigarette manufacturer approaches you, offering a lucrative, long-term contract. For some, this wouldn’t pose a problem. But you have a relative who suffers from lung cancer, and they’ve admitted to you that they would never have started smoking if they could do it all over again.
Or maybe you own your own executive coaching business. You love helping leaders grow and excel. One day, though, an executive who works in the esports gambling industry emails you seeking your help. You have a close friend who struggles with a gambling addiction, and you’ve seen firsthand the effects on him and his family.
Or, let’s say you’re a web designer, and you’ve recently left an agency to give it a go as a solopreneur. After struggling to build your client base, you get a huge offer, 10 times what you’ve earned with other clients. The problem? The customer is politically driven, and your work will require supporting an agenda you don’t agree with.
These are simple examples; reality is often full of gray areas and will present you with complex challenges on a daily basis. So, how can you manage them?
I recommend using an emotional intelligence tool I refer to as the rule of recentering. To refocus simply means to bring one’s thoughts and emotions back to center–therebear center.
The rule of recentering, then, requires taking time to reaffirm your primary goals, values, and key principles, and to then use these as a center to help focus those thoughts and emotions, and make a decision that will allow you to run your business with peace of mind.
It sounds like Dennett has done something similar.
While it may bring financial and other negative consequences, it’s likely a decision she will be happy she made. And you just can’t put a price on that.