Does your professional baggage follow you home?

Marcus Straub
Marcus Straub

In my last column, I elaborated on a number of potential negative outcomes associated with bringing personal baggage to work. I described the fall even long-term top performers experience when they’re unable to effectively manage their personal issues. I also explored the domino effect these uncontrolled issues can inflict on fellow team members, customers and the business as a whole. In case you missed it, the column appears on the Business Times website at

In this column, I’ll explore the opposite situation. When one brings professional baggage home, personal life is impacted in very real ways. This creates ripple effects felt far and wide. Just ask the spouse, child or friend of people who’re unable — or simply lacks the tools — to manage their professional lives effectively. The adverse effects of this situation can damage and even destroy marriages, alienate children and cause others to avoid these unhappy, and often angry, people all together.

In addition, enduring an excessive amount of professional pressure can lead to a whole host of self-sabotaging behaviors that also affect personal life. Alcohol, prescription medication or illicit drug abuse is quite common when people are unhappy at work. They might have trouble sleeping, eat poorly or not at all and generally neglect their overall well-being. As these contributing factors pile up, one on top of another, and despair sets in, they’re likely to become visibly depressed and withdrawn.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.

Just like personal challenges, professional challenges belong solely to the person experiencing them. Professional challenges aren’t the responsibility of family, friends or anyone else.

I’m not suggesting you should avoid talking to your friends and loved ones about the troubling situations you face at work. In fact, trusted and caring family and friends can prove invaluable in learning to cope with workplace stressors. What I am suggesting — even urging  — is that those who love you don’t deserve to bear the brunt of your frustrations.

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 time spent with family and friends as a healthy “timeout” during which you can refresh and recharge.

Realizing life isn’t all about your work will position you to strike a successful balance between life and work that leads to greater levels of happiness and success. This mindset will serve you, and those around you, well.

If you find yourself struggling to be happy at work, at home or both, take the proactive step of seeking out a qualified coach who can help you understand the situation and how to make necessary changes. You might think the professional and personal 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.

Perhaps a different career path or another type of change is in order. I’ve worked with many business owners and team members who simply weren’t happy and fulfilled in their vocations. Their work simply didn’t align with their personal motivations and purposes. These very same people also felt trapped by finances, fear of the unknown and a host of other self-imposed limitations. With guidance, they were able to overcome their limitations and have gone on to create exciting professional lives they enjoy.

Once you get back on track, both personally and professionally, it comes down to using your awareness and new-found tools to stay in balance. Even with the help of family, friends and a qualified coach, there still could be days that don’t go well that take you to the limits of being able to manage your thoughts, actions, words and emotions effectively. Just understand this. In the end, it really comes down to your attitude: When you’re happy and fulfilled at work, this is the very same person you bring home to those you love and care about.