Do you take your professional baggage home?

Marcus Straub
Marcus Straub

In my previous column, I enumerated the problems associated with bringing personal baggage to work. I described how even top performers can stumble and fall when they’re unable to effectively manage their personal issues in the workplace. I also elaborated on the domino effect these uncontrolled issues can have on workplace culture, fellow team members, customers and the business.

In this column, let’s consider the other side of the coin. When people bring their professional baggage home, their personal lives are affected in very real ways. This situation can damage and even destroy marriages; alienate children; and cause others to avoid these unhappy, negative and often angry people. Perhaps you know a spouse, child or the friend of someone who’s unable — or simply lacks the tools — to effectively manage their professional life.

An excessive amount of professional pressure can lead to a whole host of self-sabotaging behaviors that also affect personal lives. Alcohol, prescription medication or illicit drug abuse are more common than you might realize. When people are unhappy at work they don’t sleep well. They might eat poorly or not at all. They stop exercising and in general neglect their well-being. As these compounding factors pile up one on top of another and despair sets in, people could become visibly depressed and withdrawn. If they’re unable or unwilling to get the assistance they need, the overwhelming and negative effects become an unavoidable consequence.

This doesn’t have to be the case, however. As with personal challenges, professional challenges belong solely to the people experiencing them. They have the power to choose, or not, to effectively address the professional stressors with which they’re dealing.

Let’s be clear. I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t talk to your loved ones and friends about the troubling situations you face at work. In fact, trusted, caring and honest family and friends can prove invaluable in choosing to effectively address professional issues. What I’m suggesting — even urging — is those who love you don’t deserve to bear the brunt of your frustrations and unhappiness.

If handled correctly, your home and personal life can offer a safe environment where you can take a welcome break from the stress, frustration and hardships you feel at work. It’s a profound and life-changing choice to leave your professional issues at the office and use your time with family and friends as a healthy “timeout” during which you can refresh and recharge.

Realizing life isn’t all about your work — that work is only a part of your life — will help you strike a successful balance between life and work that leads to greater levels of happiness and success both on and off the job. When you go home, truly go home by leaving work where it belongs — at work. This mindset will serve you, and those around you, well.

In some cases, a different career path or another type of change could be in order. As a coach and consultant, I’ve worked with many business owners and team members who weren’t fulfilled and happy in their professional realities. Their work simply didn’t align with their personal motivations, purpose, behaviors and competencies. These same people also felt trapped by fear of the unknown, finances and a host of other self-imposed limitations. With guidance, they overcame their limitations and created professional lives they now enjoy.

If you find yourself struggling to be happy at work, at home or both, take the empowering step of seeking a qualified coach who can help you understand your situation and make necessary changes. You might think the personal and professional aspects of your life aren’t connected, but they are. In fact, they have profound effects on each other. You want those effects to be positive, not negative. When you’re happy and fulfilled at work, you’ll bring a version of yourself home that enhances your personal life.

Even with the help of family, friends and a qualified coach, there will be days that don’t go well and push you to the limits of you abilities to effectively manage your actions, emotions, thoughts and words. Maintaining your balance in both areas of your life comes down to using self-awareness, self-control and newfound tools to rise above your issues.