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Why Bringing Your Baggage to Work Hurts You

Why Bringing Your Baggage to Work Hurts You

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:

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  • 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.

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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.

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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:

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  • 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.

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

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Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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