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AZRIELA JAFFE

12.2.98  
Is Your Spouse or Partner Panicked Over Y2K?
If so, keep calm and come to a reasonable compromise

After a few years of collective denial, lots of folks are waking up to the potential problems that could occur on January 1, 2000, if computer systems are not upgraded to handle the rollover from 1999. Opinions on the magnitude of the problem span from insistence that it's a lot of hype to fear of global recession and riots. In the midst of this, some entrepreneurs are becoming very worried. They fear that banks' financial records will be fouled up, and they won't be able to get their money out. Others are worried that the Internet and telecommunications systems will break down.

What do you do when you and your spouse or business partner feel differently about how to prepare for Y2K? My husband, Stephen, and I are resolving this very conflict.

I noticed several months ago that my husband seemed a bit more withdrawn and preoccupied than usual. He acknowledged that he was beginning to read up on Y2K and was very concerned about protecting our family from its potential threat to our livelihood. At that time, I fell in the camp of people who assumed the "experts" would take care of it.

As I listened to what Stephen felt compelled to do to prepare for a worst-case scenario, I knew that it was no use trying to convince him he was overreacting. So he and I agreed that we would choose a prudent approach that we both could live with. Stephen presented me with his ideal plan and what it would cost, and we negotiated a compromise.

If you are in a similar Y2K situation with your spouse or business partner, I urge the following:

1. Choose a moderate approach, but one that addresses the issue. In doing so, try not to make the less concerned individual feel that he or she is living with a lunatic -- who is about to sell the house, the business, and all the assets, and go live in the woods. Karen Anderson, founder of Y2K Women (www.Y2Kwomen.com), started one of the most helpful Web sites to address the Y2K phenomenon.

Anderson says: "Men were reading about Y2K, overreacting, coming home, and telling their wives, 'Honey, we're putting the house on the market' -- without giving them time to look into Y2K for themselves and understand the problem. In their zeal to convince their loved ones that the risk is real, and because of the obvious time pressures inherent in Y2K, many men pushed too hard and ended up with the other person digging their heels in and not wanting to discuss Y2K at all." Of course, it's not only men who get worked up over the issue.

2. My advice to the more skeptical person is: Agree to the minimum response your partner or spouse needs to calm down. Robert Sullivan, a small-business and E-commerce consultant in Great Falls, Va., was among the first experts to educate the U.S. public about Y2K. At one point, two partners came to him for advice. One wanted to pull out all of their investments because of the potential Y2K problems. The other wanted Sullivan to "help his partner get a grip." Sullivan helped the panicking one to see how expensive it could be to close all their money-management accounts, especially if their stocks were up and selling would mean they would have to pay capital gains. He outlined for the partners some reasonable steps that they could take, and the two found a middle ground.

3. If you are the more zealous person over Y2K, network with others who are as concerned as you for support. Anderson advises: "Don't try to be the one to convince your spouse that it's real. Often, a friend or neighbor can convince your spouse much easier than you can." (One word of caution: If you spend all your free time surfing Y2K sites and talking to Y2K buddies, your spouse will feel left out and will start to worry that you are developing a cultish mentality.)

4. Even if you aren't convinced that Y2K is a real threat, you can see the wisdom in preparing for a potential tornado, hurricane, ice storm, loss of power, or other possible catastrophe. If you are the skeptical one, recognize your partner's good intentions -- to protect the family and the business. Don't turn this into a power struggle. Find a way to address the Y2K issue as a team, and you will both be happier.
 
 

Have a question on how to handle the pressures of running a business and the impact on your personal life, marriage, and family? Contact Azriela Jaffe at AZ@azriela.com. Please put "BW Online question" in the subject field. Your real name will be kept confidential if you request, but please give an E-mail address, phone number, and your hometown so she can contact you for more information. Because of heavy volume, Azriela cannot guarantee that she will answer every query.

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