A common defense mechanism for coping with the complexity of modern life is compartmentalization. Simply put, we may mentally and emotionally divide the parts of our lives into neat little boxes or compartments, allowing ourselves to feel as though each piece is actually separate and distinct from the others.
This is a logical and natural phenomenon in many respects. Think about it: Do your parents even know the people in your office? Does your significant other have a true grasp of what you do all day? Are your co-workers aware of your favorite hobbies or your most personal dreams? These worlds may rarely or never intersect. Does that mean that one “you” goes to work and another “you” interacts with family and close friends?
Actually….you take all of you with you wherever you go. Even if you maintain total separation between the various worlds in which you move about in your life, you cannot prevent your experiences, behaviors, thoughts and feelings in one setting from becoming part of the “you” that goes into another setting. An example:
You are a manager within your company, a rising star. While you have always considered yourself to be a nice person, you have recently begun to think that getting ahead in the work world means that you should put your own interests above those of others. If you have to step on a few people along the way, that’s just business, right?
The real question for you to ponder is whether that kind of thinking is something that you want to carry to the other “parts” of your life (home, family, friends, groups you value); behaviors that you sanction for yourself in one situation will be demonstrated to some extent wherever you go. Do you imagine yourself being able to be a jerk at the office with your staff and co-workers and being a model spouse, partner, or parent at home? Really?
The reality for each of us is that the environment we create around ourselves at work (or in any “compartment” of our lives) is just a microcosm of the total world that we are building for ourselves. If we value integrity , it will be expressed in our business dealings and not just when we have interactions with friends or neighborhood groups we support. On the other hand, if we are manipulative in our behaviors with staff and co-workers, we will unfortunately find ourselves employing some of the same “techniques” with loved ones.
Bottom Line: Even if it seems that your life includes many completely separate parts and pieces, remember that it’s all “you.” Bring your best self to work and you’ll take a better self home.