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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

Freelance writer

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How to Fight Information Overload

How to Fight Information Overload

Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

What you need to do is focus on these 4 steps:

  1. Set your goals.
  2. Decide whether you really need the information.
  3. Consume only the minimal effective dose.
  4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming too much information.

But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

The Nature of the Problem

The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem. This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

When we see some half-baked blog post we don’t even consider reading it, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it. We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

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No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on. The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control. Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it. But first…

Why information overload is bad

It stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here. When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work, or enjoy your passion.

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So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with your goals.

1. Set your goals

If you don’t have your goals put in place you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

2. What to do when facing new information

Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans then skip it. You don’t need it.

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If it does then it’s time for another question. Will you be able to put this information into action immediately? Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks? Or is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away? If the information is not actionable in a day or two (!) then skip it. (You’ll forget about it anyway.)

And that’s basically it. Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant. Self-control comes handy too … it’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future then SKIP IT.

3. Minimal Effective Dose

There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour Body,Tim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs. Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life. Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

4. Don’t procrastinate by consuming more information

Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

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Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

In Closing

As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance. I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over. I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

Feel free to shoot me a comment below and share your own story of fighting information overload. What are you doing to keep it from sabotaging your life?

(Photo credit: Businessman with a Lot of Discarded Paper via Shutterstock)

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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