Here is a shocking statistic for you. It is estimated that between 20 to 50 percent of people’s time at work is completely wasted on trivial and unproductive squabbling!  Guess what the cause of all this is? It is mainly because people carry their emotional baggage into the workplace. It is like a virus, infects the whole office and there is no easy vaccination or cure.

But what is all this baggage and why can’t we leave it at home?

It would be impossible not to carry the emotional scars of your childhood upbringing and broken relationships into the workplace. You cannot be a split personality but there are ways of recognizing that you may have this problem. You can stand back and assess whether this is really affecting your productivity and relationships with your coworkers.

Henry Ford once complained that all he wanted was a pair of hands to do the work but unfortunately, he had to also deal with the whole person. Look at the following types of baggage that you could carry into the workplace:

  • Insecurity from childhood where you could not rely on your siblings and parents. This is revealed as a lack of trust in the workplace and results in being a control freak.
  • Viewing suggestions and criticism as if it was from your mother-in-law, rather than from your own mother. You tend to use too many filters in interpreting comments on your work.
  • Personal problems and a sense of being a victim or loser are affecting your own morale and those in your team. Negativity oozes out. It is not a pretty sight.
  • Bitterness, resentment and frustration are affecting your productivity.
  • Inability to separate in our minds a coworker from a competitive sibling or a boss from an unsympathetic parent.

Watch the video which explains the most common types of emotional baggage in the workplace, in addition to the pet peeves.

If you are empathetic, supportive, bossy, confrontational or just miserable at home, then you are very likely to carry all these into the workplace and they may be a help or a hindrance. The secret is to exploit your best qualities and leave the worst ones at the door. Easier said than done!

When you have a personal crisis

At some point you may have to face illness, the death of a loved one or go through a difficult break up or divorce. In these cases, it is almost impossible to leave the emotions caused by this suffering at home. This is where the support of colleagues may be invaluable, if you feel that it will help. Your desire for privacy may well prevail and you may wish to go it alone.

If you feel that your work is going to be negatively affected, then you should think seriously about letting your manager or team leader know.  A sympathetic manager will be able to make allowances in the short term and keep a watchful eye.

On the other hand, if you find that the crisis is affecting your performance on a permanent basis, it may be necessary to get professional help so that you can overcome these obstacles.

Many people have found, myself included, that throwing yourself into work and being totally absorbed is an excellent way of getting through a crisis.

Watch for the warning signs that your emotional baggage is becoming excess baggage

Look out for the warning signs that emotional baggage is causing friction and frustration in your work environment. Your coworkers, bosses and CEOs are all doing it, so don’t feel you are the only one!  But before you see the speck, look for the beam in your own eye. One or more of these problems may be blocking your career prospects:

  1. You are feeling insecure and you have a sort of persecution complex in that everyone else is against you.
  2. You are becoming stressed and compulsive about things which never bothered you before.
  3. You are always right and you rarely listen to other people’s opinions.
  4. You are too fond of the blame game. When things go wrong, it is never your fault.
  5. You are always complaining and people secretly think that you are a negatron.
  6. You are in denial about any of the above. You have never realized that these actually are creating conflict and resentment.

What you can do to move forward

“Sometimes the past should be abandoned, yes. Life is a journey and you can’t carry everything with you. Only the usable baggage.”- Ha Jin

If you are aware that you are carrying too much baggage, time to opt for the hand luggage and carry just the essentials:

  • Try not to use your colleagues as sounding boards when you are angry and frustrated.
  • Assess your weaknesses which may well be a product of your upbringing or a difficult previous job.
  • Learn to be more helpful with colleagues.
  • Replace rage and whining with silence as it is not worth wasting your breath on them.
  • Stay away from companies who offer a ‘family’ like atmosphere as you may well find your self embroiled in another family!

Sylvia LaFair, author of ‘Don’t Bring it to Work: Breaking the Family Patterns That Limit Success’, recommends that we must turn all the family baggage into productive and creative energy which will improve working conditions for everyone.

Have you managed to keep your emotional baggage under control at work? Let us know how you did that in the comments below.

Check out 17 Things Emotionally Strong People Don’t Do

Featured photo credit: Emotional baggage/scottnj via flickr.com

Love this article?