Do you bring your personal baggage to work?

Marcus Straub
Marcus Straub

Who you are at work directly affects team members, customers and your bottom line in profound ways. Each of us travels between two worlds — personal and professional. When there’s balance, contentment, purpose, success and happiness in life outside of business, the person people take to work is very different than if this  isn’t their reality.

Business owners, managers and anyone else in leadership roles have the largest impact — positive or negative — in the closed environment at work. These are people team members look to for direction and guidance. When a leader is lost in his or her own personal issues or unable to separate from them while on the job, the entire team will be affected to some degree, and a noticeable funk can easily overcome the entire department or business.

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

Relationship issues, parenting challenges and extended family matters are common occurrences in the lives of all people. These are real issues that often weigh heavily on the hearts and minds of those affected.

When they’re not managed effectively, these issues can have lasting and negative effects on attitude and performance. When you add in such additional circumstances as health problems, money difficulties, lack of purpose and fulfillment and the despair that often accompanies them, you have a recipe for disaster through dysfunctional behaviors.

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 a constructive way. Even after years of dedicated work, it can be a quick slide from the top to the bottom when personal challenges overwhelm the 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 — coupled with a loss of revenue and the negative impact 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 customers patronizing the business. One powerful strategy is to view work as a “timeout” — a getaway —from personal challenges. By focusing your attention and energy squarely on the work at hand, you give yourself a much-needed break from the harsh reality of your personal circumstances.

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 a place for dealing with the difficulties in one’s life, but that place is not at work.

Seeking out the professional help of qualified coach to get yourself and your life in order and on track is a wise choice. 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.” This is often a difficult and lonely task, however. And if you find yourself challenged to do this on your own, there’s no shame in that. There’s nothing wrong with you. Just seek out assistance.

Life comes with all kinds of unexpected, unwanted and downright challenging situations. They can be difficult, no doubt, but don’t have to damage or destroy a career or business. If you find yourself living a personal reality that’s challenging your ability to function and be successful and happy, get the help you need. Bring your best — not your baggage — to work. You, your team members and your customers deserve nothing less.