(DO NOT) Check Your Personal Baggage at the Door

Many years ago during the course of a performance review discussion, a manager at a previous employer told me that I needed to “check my personal baggage at the door.” Apparently my life was getting in the way of my work.

As a young man relatively new to the workforce, the statement made a lot of sense. I was dealing with some personal issues that, at that time, felt overwhelming and highly stressful. The unintended consequence was that this impacted my attitude and availability. Therefore, the only logical solution was for me to pretend that my issues didn’t exist the minute that I walked in the door to start my work day. And then when I left work, I could pick up my life-luggage that had been waiting for me at the door.

Makes perfect sense…right?

Fast forward a few years, and a couple like-minded employers later, and I found myself here. It was a strange new world. Suddenly, I was working for an organization and managers that actually seemed to care about the personal well-being of their employees. After years of on-the-job training learning NOT to discuss my personal issues, I was inexplicably partnering with people who took an active interest in me “the person,” not just in me “the hired help.”

For the first time in my professional life, I had managers who understood that it’s unrealistic and unreasonable to simply pretend that your personal life will vanish for the magical eight hours that you’re in the office. Not only did they understand this, they wanted to know how they could support you and accommodate your needs. As a side note, I pinched myself and was able to confirm that yes I was in fact awake.

I’ve now been here seven years and still am not completely deprogrammed from my old way of thinking. After all, my problems are MY problems. But it’s comforting to know that when I need to open up about a personal situation and ask for help, I’m in a safe environment to do so.

Generally speaking, if there is one simple takeaway that I’ve had over these last several years it’s that if you’re happy and healthy in your personal life, you’re much more likely to be positive and productive in your professional life.

Now THAT makes perfect sense.

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  • Comments (2)
    • Scott Patchin
    • November 22nd, 2010

    Adam,
    I love the post – especially because I had a similar discussion with a friend this weekend. I was sharing with him about a similar thing I just blogged about – Why the comment “There is not I in team” is wrong, and he shared his story about young manager coming up to him and saying “The problems of my people are driving me crazy”. He listened and then shared back that knowing what is going on with your team is your job.

    I still share Ken’s definition of leadership (Working with people to accomplish their goals and the goals of the organization) because it stresses how important it is to know what our people want. I would add that many of the generational issues might even go away if people would just listen a little bit more and ‘seek to understand’ versus ‘seek to convince others why they are wrong’.

  1. I dont disagree with this article.

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