by Kellie Straub

We travel between two connected worlds — personal and professional. When there’s balance, contentment, purpose, and success in life outside of business, the versions of themselves people bring to the workplace are different than if that’s not their reality.

Some people believe there’s a distinctive barrier between personal and professional lives that keeps the two separate. If you step back and take an honest and discerning look at your own experiences and those of others with whom you have worked, you’ll recognize that’s not the case.

In fact, it’s common for people to carry their personal baggage through the front door of the business, unpack, and spread it throughout the workplace.

Family matters, parenting challenges, and relationship issues often weigh heavily on the hearts and minds of those affected. When not managed effectively, they can have negative and lasting effects on attitude; morale; performance; and, ultimately,  the business.

Compound this with such additional circumstances as financial troubles, health problems, lack of purpose, and the despair that often accompanies them, and you have a recipe for disaster through dysfunctional behaviors.

Who you are at work affects team members, customers, and the bottom line in profound ways.

As a business coach and consultant, I’ve witnessed top performers lose all sense of direction and focus due to mounting personal issues and their inability to deal with them in constructive ways. Even after years of dedicated work, it can be a quick slide from the top when personal challenges overwhelm the ability to function at the high levels to which these people and others have grown accustomed.

Business owners, managers, and anyone else in leadership roles exert the largest effects, positive and negative, on the work environment. Team members look to these individuals for guidance and stability. When leaders are lost in their personal issues or unable to separate from them on the job, the entire team is affected to some degree. A noticeable funk can overcome the department or entire business.

Errors and customer dissatisfaction — often due to a lack of focus and disengagement — coupled with the loss of revenue and the negative effects on the work environment can only be tolerated for so long before a team member must be let go.

This doesn’t have to be the case.

Personal challenges belong solely to the person experiencing them — not everyone at work and certainly not the customers patronizing the business. One successful strategy is to view work as a timeout — an escape — from personal challenges. By focusing attention and energy squarely on the work at hand, you give yourself a much-needed break from the painful reality of your personal circumstances as well as an opportunity to feel better as you excel professionally.

I’m in no way suggesting people should deny or avoid the challenging realities of their lives. My position is quite the opposite. My approach simply suggests there’s an appropriate time and place for dealing with the difficulties in one’s life. But that place is not at work.

People often believe they should pull themselves up by the bootstraps because seeking assistance with life challenges constitutes a sign of weakness. This can be a difficult, lonely and unsuccessful route, however.

If you find yourself challenged to take back your life on your own, there’s no shame in that. Seeking the professional help of a qualified coach to get yourself and your life in balance and on track offers a wise choice, indeed. It’s amazing what can be accomplished with increased awareness, simple changes in perspective, goal setting and accountability provided through the unbiased support of a competent coach.

Unwanted, unexpected and truly challenging situations are part of life for each of us. They can be difficult and daunting. But they don’t have to damage or destroy a career or business. If your ability to function at a high level and enjoy happiness and success is compromised by issues in your personal life, make the strong choice to get the assistance you need so you can bring your best to work.