Do you bring your personal baggage to work?

Marcus Straub
Marcus Straub

Some people believe a distinctive barrier separates personal and professional lives. An honest and discerning look at your experiences and those of others reveals that’s not the case, however.

It’s common, in fact, for people to carry their personal baggage through the front door of a business, unpack and spread the contents throughout the workplace.

We travel between personal and professional words. When there’s balance, contentment, purpose and success in life outside business, the version of themselves people take to work is different than if this isn’t their reality. Relationship concerns, parenting challenges and extended family matters are common occurrences. These are 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, performance, morale and the overall business. Who we are at work affects team members, customers and the bottom line in profound ways.

Add such factors as health problems, financial troubles, lack of purpose and fulfillment and the despair that often accompanies them, and the likelihood for dysfunctional behaviors increases.

Business owners, managers and others in leadership roles exert the greatest influences — positive or negative —  on the work environment. Team members look to these individuals for guidance and stability. When a leader is lost in their personal issues or unable to separate from them while on the job, they affect the entire team. A noticeable funk can overcome the entire department or business.

As a business coach and consultant, I’ve seen top performers lose all sense of direction and focus because of 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 the ability to function at the high levels at which they and others had grown accustomed.

An increase in errors and customer dissatisfaction — often a result of lack of focus or disengagement — coupled with a decrease in revenue and the negative effects on the work environment can only be tolerated for so long before a team member must be let go.

This doesn’t have to be the case, however.

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

I’m in no way suggesting people should deny or avoid the challenging realities of their personal lives. Just the opposite. My approach suggests there’s an appropriate time and place for dealing with the difficulties of personal lives, but that place is not work.

People often believe they should just  “pull themselves up by their bootstraps” because asking for help with life challenges constitutes a sign of weakness. This is a difficult, lonely and usually unsuccessful route. If you find yourself challenged to take back your life, there’s no shame in that.

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

Unexpected, unwanted and truly challenging situations are part of life. They can be difficult, but don’t have to damage a career or business. If your ability to function at a high level and 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.