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Take Charge of Your Personal Life!
by Jean Gatz

When I talk about “the employee’s personal life” in my workshops, someone always asks: “What does my personal life have to do with work? It’s personal because it’s private and nobody else’s business!” And I totally agree – your personal life IS private – IF you leave it at home. One of the major complaints I hear from my clients - business owners, CEOs, managers, supervisors and HR directors – is that many employees do not keep their personal lives private. Instead, they bring their personal problems into the workplace. And when they bring their personal life to work, they negatively impact their own productivity and the productivity of the entire team. Maybe there are some employees in your workplace who act like their life is a soap opera. They come to work every day and manage to involve you and others in the latest episode. Their constant whining and complaining about small issues impacts their ability to do their job and also distracts others from doing theirs. As one store manager shared:

Every day one employee or another seems to be going through a major life crisis that not only affects their work, but everyone else’s work, too. To be a successful manager these days, you almost have to be a counselor, pastor, therapist, parent and financial advisor. I spend more time consoling, cajoling, sympathizing, and listening to my employees’ problems that I do planning more effective ways to do my job. I have my share of problems but I don’t bring them to work and dump them on my coworkers.

A manager is not supposed to serve as a counselor, therapist, parent or pastor. First, they may not have the knowledge or experience to take on those roles. And second, it is not their job.

The future will require more focus on work, more flexibility, more willingness to work as a team, more risk-taking, and more energy. Employees who cannot find the courage, strength, willpower, or assertiveness to work on resolving personal problems usually have a difficult time coping with the overwhelming changes and demands of the workplace today.

Here's what today’s organizations expect from their employees:
  1. Separate the “big stuff” from the “little stuff”.
    When a major personal crisis occurs, you should be able to count on your company for understanding and support. But coming to work every day depressed, angry, upset, or stressed about small, petty inconveniences wears out everyone's patience. Many of your coworkers are dealing with their own challenges, including maintaining healthy relationships, keeping their children safe, caring for their aging parents, financial problems, death, illness, separation, divorce - the list is endless. No company should be expected to accept a drop in work performance every time a minor stressful event comes along in an employee’s life. They count on employees to deal with most situations on their own, most of the time, without allowing the situation to affect their ability to do their jobs.
  2. Get help if you need it.
    When tragedy or difficult times strike, some people think asking for help to get through the grief, pain, sadness or depression is a sign of weakness. But weak people rarely ask for help. It's the strong people who may be going through tough times but refuse to be a victim of circumstances beyond their control. Those are the ones who seek help and actively search for ways to cope - even with the "big stuff" going on in their personal lives. They may have been momentarily weakened by a specific event, but their strength of purpose and character lead them to seek the help and support to allow them to heal and move on.

    The hardest thing for many of us to do is admit we need help. What about you? Are you a person who can ask for help when you need it? Are you unwilling to be a victim of circumstance and actively search for ways to cope with even the “big stuff” that comes your way? If your personal life is in trouble or out of control, then perhaps you could benefit from some of the many excellent services available in your community or through your own company.

  3. Work with your company to find a solution.
    Even though your company may sympathize and want to help in times of serious personal crisis, it is not your company's responsibility to fix the problem. It is your responsibility to find a way to deal with the problem in the best way for both you and your employer. Suppose you temporarily need a more flexible schedule because of a serious situation at home. Don’t storm into your boss’ office and issue an ultimatum: “I can't work these hours right now because of (whatever the personal problem is), so you’ll just have to find someone else to work my shift.” A more effective approach would be to find a coworker willing to trade schedules with you until your situation improves. Then you can go to your boss, explain the problem and offer a solution for the short term. For example: “I can’t work my regular shift for (state the time frame as best you can) because of (state the problem). But I’ve found someone on my team to trade shifts with me during this time. We’ve worked it out and nothing in our department should be interrupted until things return to normal.” Put yourself in your boss’ place. Which statement would you rather hear? Which is a better solution so that your customers and coworkers will not suffer during this time? And, of course, you should be willing to return the favor to the person who helped you if/when they need your help. (Or perhaps you’ve already helped them out, and now it’s their turn to help you!)

    Today’s organizations need employees who can come to work ready to put their full effort and energy into the task at hand. Of course no one’s personal life is ever perfectly in order because we live in such an imperfect world. As quickly as we resolve one problem, another one appears. That’s why it’s important to have good, solid, loving relationships in other areas of our lives to help us through the tough times. What about you? What needs to happen in your personal life to give you a calm center from which to function effectively on the job? Is there a decision about something in your personal life that you’ve been putting off? What is stopping you? Who is stopping you? How much longer can you afford to wait? Can you separate the “big stuff” from the “little stuff”? Are you confident enough even to admit you have a problem? Are you strong enough to ask for help if you cannot resolve the problem yourself? Will your future employability be at risk?

If you haven’t done so already, you may want to take the Positive Impact Quiz on my website. Look at the specific questions relating to your personal life and answer them honestly. As you read the interpretation of your score, ask yourself this question:
“How is my personal life impacting my ability to do my job?”

Copyright Jean Gatz. All Rights Reserved.

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