My Home Life is Killing Me at Work – and Vice Versa
Posted April 4, 2019

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Home Life WorkIt’s hard to do it all.

It’s hard to be your best at work when things are hard at home. It’s hard to be your best at home when things are hard at home.

Carol (C-Suite Exec): “I’m thinking about taking this new job. I’m ok in my current job, but the money in this new one is great.”

Coach: “How will that impact your family?”

“I haven’t told my husband I’m even considering the new job.”

“Why not?”

“We’ve always struggled to talk about financial stuff and other big moves.”

“Why is that?”

“I don’t know. Balancing both our careers, the kids, where we live, who makes more money, and such have always been topics that are hard for us to tackle.”

“How has this played out in the past.”

“Sometimes either one of us have moved down the path alone, and it’s too late to turn back and we just cave. Other times I’ve just looked away from opportunities because I can’t see how we would have productive conversations. I’ll probably do that in this case.”

“What would you like it to be like?

“I’d like to have the confidence to bring it up, and to have a plan for how to navigate these tough conversations. Once we talk about it, it’s typically ok. I just put off having the conversations and it stresses me out.”

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James (Business Owner): “Revenue has been down, projections for the new year aren’t good, the Board is all over us, and we have to lay off a bunch of employees in a couple of weeks.

Coach: “That’s a tough spot to be in. No one enjoys that. What are the biggest challenges you see in making those cuts and communicating it to the company?”

“I just have to go ahead and do it, but I’m really stressed and don’t know if I have the energy to handle it well.”

“How come?”

“Things at home have been exhausting and I’m always drained. I’m not spending enough time thinking about the work stuff.”

“What’s going on at home right now?”

“We had to move my dad into a full-time memory care center a couple weeks ago. Mom is struggling with the decision. At the same time we’re trying to get him adjusted, we have to make sure she is doing ok and is able to get to see him. Every time I bring her home from a visit it’s an emotionally devastating for everyone involved.”

“How’s that impacting your wife?”

“She’s super stressed too. And, because of that, I haven’t even told her how bad things are at work. I can’t talk to her about work, and I can’t tell people at the office what’s going on at home. I have to make sure after all these layoffs are made that me and the company are in a good place. I don’t want anyone to think I’m distracted by the personal stuff.”

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This is the reality of being a senior leader. You have a big role and you are human being and a wife, husband, partner, son, daughter, parent, friend, uncle, etc. When you are at the top of the pyramid you don’t have a lot of people to talk to. And you have to be in control of your world personally and professionally.

And it is exhausting.

There are four ways you can find ways to strengthen both parts of your life.

  1. Uncover and align with your core values.

You are typically unhappy with your job or relationships if there is misalignment with your core values. Take time to discover your values, ask yourself how aligned are you with them, and then commit to the steps to honor those values.

Let’s say communication is one of Carol’s core values, and she is really good at it when at work. That’s how she has risen to the top of her company and is in high demand elsewhere. Unfortunately she is not living up to that value at home. The result is a great deal of stress and an inability to discuss important situations with her husband.

Family is certainly one of James’ core values. He cares deeply for his parents and is trying to do the best he can in a difficult situation. His connection with his wife, however, is suffering. He is assuming she can’t handle anything more and therefore is withholding the stress he has at work. He doesn’t need for her to fix anything, but by sharing what is going on he can at least benefit from the support from someone who cares.

  1. Create, Repair, Lean Into relationships with your closest circle of support.

Carol and her husband have work to do to overcome the inability to communicate. It’s time to break old patterns. James is afraid to share his work pressure with his wife. In both cases there is a reality that things are hard, as well as a missed opportunity to gain support from those who care for you the most. It might take professional help (see #4 below) and it can also get started by discovering new ways of communicating around challenging topics.

How is it working for you currently? If the answer is, “not so good” it’s time to mix it up.

  1. Don’t make work your only source of identity.

A recent article in the Atlantic describes how work is no longer just a necessity for successful college-educated leaders, but has become “a kind of religion, promising identity, transcendence, and community.” The result is working more hours and having less satisfaction. Historically the wealthiest worked less and had a life of leisure. Now, they are workaholics and despite the money are unhappy.

Be intentional about finding those other things that give meaning to your life outside of the your title or role. Exercise, engaging with churches or civic organizations, volunteering, committing to hobbies, taking time off, travel, giving your family your full attention, etc. are all ways to help develop a holistic view of you and how you fit into the world.

  1. Seek and commit to the professional support you need.

The three points above are great in theory, and are hard to execute, especially if you’re trying to do it alone.

Finding a counselor or therapist will help when there are addiction problems (drinking, gambling), concerns about depression, grief, marital problems, etc. With their professional expertise they will be able to help you understand and address the challenges and offer direction during the challenging times.

Find a coach. The presence and ROI of coaches in the C-suite continues to grow. Coaches help with creating personal awareness, setting goals, taking action, and the accountability to make things happen. It’s tough going through these challenges alone. A coach is that independent third party not connected to the outcome who can hear everything that’s going on without judgment and help support and assist with a plan forward.

Life is complicated and there are so many stressors we encounter. As a professional you have high expectations for yourself as do others. Personally, you have responsibilities and challenges as well. So much of what you do is going well. Find the strategy and support to address those things that are holding you back from being who you want to be.

Tim Ressmeyer is a professional leadership and life coach. He is also the author of The Impact of Confidence: 7 Secrets of Success for the Human Side of Leadership (2018). Available on Amazon.

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