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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

More by this author

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 March 25, 2020

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

How Do You Change a Habit (According to Psychology)

Habits are hard to kill, and rightly so. They are a part and parcel of your personality traits and mold your character.

However, habits are not always something over-the-top and quirky enough to get noticed. Think of subtle habits like tapping fingers when you are nervous and humming songs while you drive. These are nothing but ingrained habits that you may not realize easily.

Just take a few minutes and think of something specific that you do all the time. You will notice how it has become a habit for you without any explicit realization. Everything you do on a daily basis starting with your morning routine, lunch preferences to exercise routines are all habits.

Habits mostly form from life experiences and certain observed behaviors, not all of them are healthy. Habitual smoking can be dangerous to your health. Similarly, a habit could also make you lose out on enjoying something to its best – like how some people just cannot stop swaying their bodies when delivering a speech.

Thus, there could be a few habits that you would want to change about yourself. But changing habits is not as easy as it seems.

In this article, you will learn why it isn’t easy to build new habits, and how to change habits.

What Makes It Hard To Change A Habit?

To want to change a particular habit means to change something very fundamental about your behavior.[1] Hence, it’s necessary to understand how habits actually form and why they are so difficult to actually get out of.

The Biology

Habits form in a place what we call the subconscious mind in our brain.[2]

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Our brains have two modes of operation. The first one is an automatic pilot kind of system that is fast and works on reflexes often. It is what we call the subconscious part. This is the part that is associated with everything that comes naturally to you.

The second mode is the conscious mode where every action and decision is well thought out and follows a controlled way of thinking.

A fine example to distinguish both would be to consider yourself learning to drive or play an instrument. For the first time you try learning, you think before every movement you make. But once you have got the hang of it, you might drive without applying much thought into it.

Both systems work together in our brains at all times. When a habit is formed, it moves from the conscious part to the subconscious making it difficult to control.

So, the key idea in deconstructing a habit is to go from the subconscious to the conscious.

Another thing you have to understand about habits is that they can be conscious or hidden.

Conscious habits are those that require active input from your side. For instance, if you stop setting your alarm in the morning, you will stop waking up at the same time.

Hidden habits, on the other hand, are habits that we do without realizing. These make up the majority of our habits and we wouldn’t even know them until someone pointed them out. So the first difficulty in breaking these habits is to actually identify them. As they are internalized, they need a lot of attention to detail for self-identification. That’s not all.

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Habits can be physical, social, and mental, energy-based and even be particular to productivity. Understanding them is necessary to know why they are difficult to break and what can be done about them.

The Psychology

Habits get engraved into our memories depending on the way we think, feel and act over a particular period of time. The procedural part of memory deals with habit formation and studies have observed that various types of conditioning of behavior could affect your habit formations.

Classical conditioning or pavlovian conditioning is when you start associating a memory with reality.[3] A dog that associates ringing bell to food will start salivating. The same external stimuli such as the sound of church bells can make a person want to pray.

Operant conditioning is when experience and the feelings associated with it form a habit.[4] By encouraging or discouraging an act, individuals could either make it a habit or stop doing it.

Observational learning is another way habits could take form. A child may start walking the same way their parent does.

What Can You Do To Change a Habit?

Sure, habits are hard to control but it is not impossible. With a few tips and hard-driven dedication, you can surely get over your nasty habits.

Here are some ways that make use of psychological findings to help you:

1. Identify Your Habits

As mentioned earlier, habits can be quite subtle and hidden from your view. You have to bring your subconscious habits to an aware state of mind. You could do it by self-observation or by asking your friends or family to point out the habit for your sake.

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2. Find out the Impact of Your Habit

Every habit produces an effect – either physical or mental. Find out what exactly it is doing to you. Does it help you relieve stress or does it give you some pain relief?

It could be anything simple. Sometimes biting your nails could be calming your nerves. Understanding the effect of a habit is necessary to control it.

3. Apply Logic

You don’t need to be force-fed with wisdom and advice to know what an unhealthy habit could do to you.

Late-night binge-watching just before an important presentation is not going to help you. Take a moment and apply your own wisdom and logic to control your seemingly nastily habits.

4. Choose an Alternative

As I said, every habit induces some feeling. So, it could be quite difficult to get over it unless you find something else that can replace it. It can be a simple non-harming new habit that you can cultivate to get over a bad habit.

Say you have the habit of banging your head hard when you are angry. That’s going to be bad for you. Instead, the next time you are angry, just take a deep breath and count to 10. Or maybe start imagining yourself on a luxury yacht. Just think of something that will work for you.

5. Remove Triggers

Get rid of items and situations that can trigger your bad habit.

Stay away from smoke breaks if you are trying to quit it. Remove all those candy bars from the fridge if you want to control your sweet cravings.

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6. Visualize Change

Our brains can be trained to forget a habit if we start visualizing the change. Serious visualization is retained and helps as a motivator in breaking the habit loop.

For instance, to replace your habit of waking up late, visualize yourself waking up early and enjoying the early morning jog every day. By continuing this, you would naturally feel better to wake up early and do your new hobby.

7. Avoid Negative Talks and Thinking

Just as how our brain is trained to accept a change in habit, continuous negative talk and thinking could hamper your efforts put into breaking a habit.

Believe you can get out of it and assert yourself the same.

Final Thoughts

Changing habits isn’t easy, so do not expect an overnight change!

Habits took a long time to form. It could take a while to completely break out of it. You will have to accept that sometimes you may falter in your efforts. Don’t let negativity seep in when it seems hard. Keep going at it slowly and steadily.

More About Changing Habits

Featured photo credit: Mel via unsplash.com

Reference

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