Are We Destined to Be Disappointed?

As stakeholders, we can expect companies to be honest & truthful with us, but we cannot expect to be "first among equals"

Businesses owe their success to the fact that they are able to manage a plethora of relationships - with their employees, customers, suppliers, communities, regulators, legislators, opinion leaders, etc. The ability to maximize those relationships is essential if a business is going to be sustainable - that is to maximize its business in both the short-term and over the long-term.

Of course, we intrinsically know it is a balancing act. And yet it is quintessentially human to want to be the 'most important' among the many stakeholders. In fact, there have been exhaustive discussions about to which stakeholder groups organizations are - and ought to be - most accountable.

Many of us go through the same thing with our peers growing up. At some point we are confronted with the reality that even those we may consider to be our 'best' friends have other friends as well. And sometimes those other friends, and their common interests with our friends, differ from our own.


Stakeholders must accept the fact that businesses are not exclusive or monogamous in their relationships.

While we may hope that their brand promise is a long-term relationship rather than a one-night-stand, as stakeholders we must also accept the fact that businesses do not owe us exclusivity, or monogamy in their relationship with us. Even if we remain fiercely loyal to an organization (as customers, employees, shareholders, etc.) there is no"forsaking all others until death do us part" in return.

That said, we all like to feel special and important. That sometimes becomes the false impression that we are 'first' or 'first among equals' but that is not always going to be the case. That 'secret smile' that the waitress at your favorite local restaurant gives you may not be reserved just-for-you.

But as long as business are honest and faithful in their relationships with us, what more can we reasonably expect? We have to accept that they have other stakeholders and, just like on that school playground, we need to face the reality that sometimes those other relationships may be just as - or let's be really honest - even more important to them.

Otherwise, we're being naïve and setting ourselves us to be perpetually disappointed.