Do personal issues inhibit professional performance?

Marcus Straub
Marcus Straub

Business owners, managers and anyone else in leadership roles exert the largest influence — positive or negative — in the workplace.

Team members look to these individuals for direction and guidance. When leaders become lost in their own personal issues or are unable to separate from them on the job, teams are affected to some degree, and a noticeable funk can easily overcome entire departments or businesses.

We like to believe there’s a distinctive barrier between our personal and professional lives that keeps the two separate. When you step back and take an honest look at your own experiences and those of others with which you’ve worked, you’ll realize this isn’t the case. In fact, it’s common for people to carry their personal baggage right through the front door and unpack in the workplace.

Each of us travels between two interconnected worlds — personal and professional. When there’s balance, contentment, happiness and purpose outside business, the person people bring into the workplace is very different than if this is not their reality.

Challenges with extended families, parenting and relationships are common. They’re real issues that often weigh heavily on the hearts and minds of those affected. When not managed effectively, they can have negative and even lasting effects on attitude, morale and performance and, in turn, the business.

When you add such additional circumstances as financial troubles, health problems, lack of purpose and fulfillment and the despair that often accompanies them, you have a recipe for disaster through dysfunctional behaviors. Who you are at work directly affects team members, customers and the bottom line in profound ways.

As a business coach and consultant, I’ve witnessed many top performers lose all sense of direction and focus due to mounting personal issues and their inability to deal with them in constructive ways. Even after years of dedicated work, it can be a quick slide from the top when personal challenges overwhelm one’s ability to function at the high levels to which they and others have grown accustomed. An increase in errors and customer dissatisfaction — often due to a lack of focus and disengagement — coupled with a loss of revenue and the effect on the work environment can only be tolerated for so long before they must be let go. But this doesn’t have to be the case.

Personal life challenges belong solely to the person experiencing them — not everyone at work and certainly not to the customers patronizing the business. One powerful strategy is to view work as a “timeout” or getaway from personal challenges. By devoting your attention and energy squarely to the task at hand, you give yourself a much-needed break from the painful reality of your personal circumstances as well as the opportunity to feel better as you excel professionally.

I’m not suggesting one should deny or avoid the challenging realities of their personal life. In fact, my position is quite the opposite. My approach simply suggests there’s an appropriate time and place for dealing with difficulties in life, but that place is not at work.

Seeking out the professional help of a qualified coach to get yourself  and your life in balance and on track is a wise choice indeed. It’s amazing what can be accomplished with simple changes in perspective, increased awareness, goal setting and accountability supplied through the unbiased support of a competent coach.

People often believe they should just “pull themselves up by the bootstraps” because getting assistance with their life challenges constitutes a sign of weakness. This is often a difficult, lonely and unsuccessful route. If you find yourself challenged to take back your life on your own, there’s no shame in that. Just be open to help and get the assistance you need.

Life comes with all kinds of unexpected, unwanted and truly challenging situations. They can be difficult, but they don’t have to damage or destroy a career or business. If your ability to function at a high level and to be successful and happy is compromised by issues in your personal life, get the assistance you need so you can bring your best — not your baggage — to work. You, your team members and your customers deserve nothing less.