Nov 2, 2012

Should Your Personal Life Matter at Work?

I have a law school classmate I’ll call Jim. His personal life is a wreck.  He’s been married and divorced a couple of times, and he cheats on his current wife. Jim can’t say no to a beautiful woman or a martini, and he tends to run in fast circles, both on and off the clock. Everyone at his work office knows about his recreational habits...but with a nod and a wink, they turn a blind eye. 

Let’s just say they know better than to walk into his office without knocking first.  

But here’s the thing about Jim. He’s a brilliant lawyer. He’s at the top of his game, and so far as I can tell, his personal life doesn’t appear to compromise the quality of his work. Sure, his closest friends worry that he’s going to have one martini (or one woman) too many and really get into trouble, but most of his friends and colleagues defend his lifestyle.

“Jim is a fantastic lawyer. What he does in private is nobody’s business!”

Maybe they’re right. After all, who am I to judge Jim? So what if he lies to his wife? So what if he’s regularly hung over in the office? He’s still passionate about his work, and he’s more talented (and more effective) than most lawyers I know. 

Yet something about this logic just doesn’t resonate. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against Jim. He has many qualities I admire—like passion, skill, and zeal for life. I just have a hard time believing that his personal life is completely separate from his work. Can he really have a different set of values at home and at work? Can he lead a life of dualism, in which his spiritual life and moral life have no bearing on his professional integrity and ethics?

While we try to neatly compartmentalize our home from our work, we are who we are. For better or for worse, my strengths and my weaknesses make up my character—and my character transcends my home and my work. If I’m going to compromise my values at home, why wouldn’t I likewise compromise my values at work? What I do when nobody’s watching is the real me, and it’s pretty hard to tell the real me not to come to work.

Yet I too fight against a life of dualism. Many days, I don’t have a spiritual thought in the office.  And I certainly don’t view my professional life as an extension of my personal life. It’s just easier to keep things separate. But the same God who redeems my personal failures redeems my professional mistakes. The same God who cares about my home cares deeply about my work. The same God who calls me to live a life of purpose and meaning at home offers me purpose and meaning at work.

Post by Susan DiMickele, author of Chasing Superwoman.

Image by Carmella Fernando. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr.

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