Denial: How It’s Holding Your Business Back and How To Spot It

Picture of by Ros Jones

by Ros Jones

Business coach and author

In business, denial can be a tough adversary.

Denial is an unconscious defence mechanism that can be difficult to recognise. It will prevent us from facing uncomfortable truths and taking necessary action.

While denial can sometimes provide temporary relief from facing up to the harsh truth, ultimately it hinders growth and success.

Below are 7 reasons why being in denial could be holding our business back and 5 ways to notice when we’re in denial.

  1. Ineffective problem solving

One of the most significant ways denial impacts our business is by hindering effective problem-solving. When business leaders or teams deny issues, whether it’s financial problems, operational inefficiencies, or market changes, they miss the opportunity to find proactive solutions. Ignoring problems often results in these issues escalating, becoming more challenging and expensive to resolve in the long run.

  1. Lost opportunities

Denial can blind businesses to valuable opportunities. Whether it’s a new market trend, emerging technology, or an untapped customer segment, being in denial about these changes can prevent a business from adapting and seizing the chance for growth. Embracing change and being open to new ideas is vital for staying competitive in today’s dynamic business landscape.

  1. Low employee morale

In a workplace where denial is pervasive, employees may become disillusioned and demotivated. When leaders avoid acknowledging problems or refuse to address employee concerns, it erodes trust and undermines the overall morale of the workforce. Engaged and motivated employees are essential for a productive and innovative business, and denial can inhibit this vital asset.

  1. Stifled innovation

Denial can crush innovation within a business. Being unwilling to accept new ideas or change can lead to a stagnant business culture that discourages creativity. To embrace innovation, we need to be willing to question the status quo and try new approaches. Denial stifles this essential ingredient for growth and adaptability.

  1. Missed market feedback

In a digital age where customer feedback is readily available, businesses can’t afford to be in denial about customer preferences and concerns. Ignoring feedback or refusing to accept negative reviews can result in a disconnect between your business and its target audience. This can lead to decreased customer loyalty, missed sales opportunities, and damage to your brand reputation.

  1. Financial consequences

It can be tempting to bury our heads in the sand when it comes to business finances. But denial of financial issues can be particularly devastating. Whether it’s poor cash flow management, excessive debt, or declining revenue, failure to acknowledge and address financial problems can result in the demise of a business. Immediate action is needed when financial difficulties arise, and denial can be a significant barrier to making necessary changes.

  1. Risk of legal and regulatory issues

Ignoring legal and regulatory requirements is a common manifestation of denial within a business. Non-compliance can lead to fines, and reputational damage. Businesses that fail to acknowledge these risks and adapt their operations accordingly are placing themselves in jeopardy.

Here are 5 ways to spot denial in a business


  1. We say we’re too busy

When we say we’re too busy we’re really saying that we don’t want to do the thing someone invited us to do. We will ALWAYS make time to do the stuff we want to do.

  1. Procrastination or putting things off

Procrastination is when we distract ourselves from the things we really need to do by getting involved in trivial activities. Having wasted time procrastinating we no longer have time to do the things that needed doing. Or we put stuff off until [insert excuse here].

  1. “I know”

There is often a big gap between knowing something and actually doing it. When we say “I know” we are usually in denial. We need to catch ourselves saying those two words and then check in with “But have I actually done it?”

  1. Reasons

Coming up with reasons is another form of denial. Reasons deny our personal responsibility for something.

In business we can come up with reasons why something didn’t work, we lost money, a team member screwed up, and so on. But as the business leader, our job is to have considered and planned for all possibilities. That’s impossible you say. Maybe. Things will always go wrong but coming up with reasons does no good. The better response is to ask ourselves what we need to put in place to make sure (as much as we can) that it doesn’t happen again.

  1. Closed mind

Refusing to open our minds to accept new ideas can finish a business.

To survive and grow in business we need to be continually learning and innovating. This can be difficult because most people don’t like change. But change is inevitable so we need to keep an open mind.


Denial may offer temporary relief from discomfort and stress but in the world of business it can be a self-sabotaging defence mechanism. It hinders problem-solving, stifles innovation, and has the potential to lead to financial disaster.

My job as a business coach is to provide a fresh external perspective on your business operations, to ask the questions no one else will, and to be your unreasonable but compassionate friend.

Get in touch for a chat!








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