Personal Problems Plummet Job Performance

Posted by on Sep 1, 2003 in Success!Ezine For You



E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Original Copyright © 2003

The performance of high achieving, successful people can begin to decline when personal problems get in the way. No one intends to allow this intrusion and, indeed, most argue that they are working very hard to keep their troubles to themselves and out of the workplace. But reality is that worries about finances, unhappy relationships, dysfunctional relatives, legal woes, and other such difficulties force telltale signs onto the job. Personal problems have a way of occupying your focus and draining emotional energy causing performance difficulties, such as not making it into the office on time, losing track of important papers and responsibilities, missing critical deadlines, and becoming more unmotivated and testy with colleagues. Unhappiness in your life can stem from many sources, but troubled relationships and problems with children often top the list.

  • Troubled Relationships

When you are unhappy in your relationship with your spouse or significant other, it is hard to stay on top of your game at work. Constant arguments and conflict keep you tense and on edge, making it difficult to project an energized and upbeat image on the job. You may painfully discover that you’ve outgrown your mate and this can leave you feeling unloved, alone, and not sure of what you’re going to do next. Being caught in the throes of infidelity, problems with in-laws, chronic spousal unemployment, or other such problems can quickly take their toll as well. You are likely to feel very depressed and uninterested in dealing with others, and may find it tough to motivate yourself to meet all your required timelines and obligations both in your personal life and at work.

Negative ruminations about your problems and what you’re going to do about them can wreak havoc with your concentration and contribute to workplace lapses such as forgetting important information, misplacing things, and needing to have instructions repeated because you’re really not listening well in the first place. As you receive criticism and negative feedback about your performance, you may retreat even further into skipping meetings, leaving early, and taking time off because you’re finding it harder to cope. Some people close their doors and hide out in their offices, often avoiding going home because they don’t want to confront the discord, possible domestic violence, and other problems that await them. Relationship problems contribute tremendous stress and sooner or later will demand that you get help.

  • Problem Children

The stresses of dealing with troubled children can disrupt the performance of even the highest achiever on a job. Constant telephone calls from your child’s school or others to report academic and/or behavior problems will quickly overshadow any success you may be experiencing at work. They can cause great feelings of frustration, anger, and even shame that though you are a capable person, your child is a mess. Often children are responding to unhappiness that is brewing at home and are responding by acting out in a negative manner. Further, people frequently misunderstand that even children who may not be getting into trouble in school or in the community can cause tremendous stress for you in the workplace when they are overindulged and expect you to address their needs immediately. Repeated calls to your office or cell phone demanding this and that, expectations from your mate that you’re the only one who can take care of these demands can evoke a lot of guilt and absorb more time than you can afford to take at work to deal with it all. If you are a single parent, this stress remains magnified until you learn how to build an effective support network. Indeed, you generally may feel guilty about working instead of dedicating yourself to the children and may overcompensate to appease your uncomfortable feelings.

Rather than indulge this daily barrage of interruptions on the job, it is essential to determine what constitutes an “emergency” versus other issues and requests that can be handled on your lunch break or when you get home from work. You must learn how to control all these stressors and your mate and children’s behavior must change too. Both you and they have to understand that you are at work and that you’re being paid to do a job, not to spend a day of the company’s time and resources absorbed with your personal problems. Fortunately, many employers are more understanding of your needs than ever before and may approve flexible work schedules and other accommodations to help you deal with your situation. But, it’s essential to realize that high-level executives who ccontrol their own time and can leave the office when they want are often inappropriately dropping what they have to do at work to run around in response to their children’s issues and then are playing catch up into the wee hours of the night. This is not necessarily good either. Similarly, working from home can be just as much of a nightmare if can’t get anything done because of your family problems and constant interruptions. Getting more time off and flexibility in your schedule won’t be very effective if you don’t get help to control the root problems.

  • Take Action. Take Control. Get Help

Personal problems of any severity rarely improve on their own. You have to take some action to find effective solutions to address them. Help is available in many forms:

Employee Assistance Program

Contact your company EAP. Therapists are available to help you deal with your relationship and parenting issues. Information about resources in the community, including those to help with financial, juvenile and other legal problems, can be provided to you as well. This is particularly important if you have developed additional difficulties, such as excessive drinking or using other drugs in an effort to cope, and expanded support services or support groups may be helpful.

Private Therapy Services

Contact a licensed mental health professional such as a psychologist, psychiatrist, social worker, marriage and family therapist, or mental health counselor. These individuals are trained to help you resolve relationship and family problems, as well as any emotional illness that you may have begun to experience so that you can regain your focus and the level of achievement you are accustomed to displaying at work.


You can learn a lot about yourself, your relationships, and more effective parenting by reading, visiting related web sites online, and by participating in workshops and seminars that teach strategies for coping with these issues. Gaining knowledge helps you to feel empowered and in control, and this will help you feel better overall.

Personal problems can be more damaging to your job performance than you realize, so get the help you need. You deserve to be in a positive, nurturing relationship that is supportive of you and your career. Your mate and children can learn to understand that you have a job to do so get professional help to make this message clear if you’re not succeeding in doing so on your own.


About the Author:

Dr. E. Carol Webster is a clinical psychologist consultant in Fort Lauderdale, FL.
She is author of the book for those dealing with the stress of success ―
Success Management: How to Get to the Top and Keep Your Sanity Once You Get There,

The Fear of Success: Stop It From Stopping You! ―
the book to help you overcome fears that may be holding you back in your life and career
The Private Practice of Clinical Psychology in: Voices of Historical & Contemporary Black American Pioneers
To contact Dr. Webster visit online at or call 954.797.9766.

E. Carol Webster, Ph.D.
Clinical Psychology Consulting
Mailing Address: 7027 West Broward Boulevard, #262  Fort Lauderdale, FL 33317

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