In my representation work I have seen many members who, when struggling in a particular area of their lives, have imported their troubles from one sphere of life into another. The most common scenario is that the member is going through personal or relationship difficulties and then allows those difficulties to affect their work performance. Invariably, this results in what one would call cross-contamination. Before long, the member now has trouble at home and trouble at work.
We’re all at risk of making the same mistake. The scenario can easily be the reverse, in that work troubles get imported into the household, resulting in strained relationships. Whichever direction the contamination flows, the cost can be high and the increased stress difficult to bear.
As a union representative, I have seen countless situations where members were subject to discipline at their workplace because of non-conforming behaviour, which was to an extent related to difficulties the member encountered in his or her personal life.
The workplace is a very special zone in a person’s life. It is made up of the work itself and the work community. Employees who have become separated from their work community—for example, through illness, injury, or retirement—often emphasize how they miss their work and their coworkers. Ideally, the workplace and work community give us a sense of belonging and purpose.
To see members of a workplace care for each other is particularly enriching. Recently, at a metal fabrication plant, an employee become seriously ill. Out of concern and love for him, his coworkers donated very generously to a fund set up in his name. I was called on to count the donations and was humbled by the large bills deposited by hourly paid employees. The company matched the donations and CLAC also added a contribution. Although in the midst of difficulty, these are beautiful moments in the life of a workplace.
Anything that is special in this life is also fragile. The workplace is no exception. The beauty of the work community can be dimmed or defeated by internal strife, disrespect, jealousy, and anger. To prevent this and to achieve and maintain a healthy workplace community, it is necessary to contribute positively and stay away from gossip and internal politics.
And be sure to keep personal problems at home as much as possible and away from your workplace. Allow your workplace to be a safe zone for you, and everyone else.