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In my work environment I interact on a daily basis with people who are not as technically strong as they should be. Who do not have the necessary managerial and administrative skills to run teams or departments (those are the negatives, there are also a lot of positives too - the inverse of my prior statement). Who interfere in the daily tasks or do not supply adequate information for the work to progress. In other words the average British workplace - this does cause me a lot of frustration as well as inferiority and anxiety issues, which I bring home and talk to my spouse about.

Now, the thing is my spouse is very technically competent as well as being a good administrator and managerial team leader and is very helpful is supplying advice and solutions which get me through work. I end up discussing these issues with my her on a daily basis. It's driving her nuts! She has her own work issues to deal with! I end up getting told - "This is like having two jobs: Yours and mine."

My spouse has advised me to leave work at work and use the commute home to straighten out my thoughts, clarify what has gone on, decide what is of value or what may be red herrings and to lessen the interpersonal workplace conversations and not to take what people say to heart, but I find it difficult to do so. It helps relive the work stresses but places stresses on the home which then feed into the work stresses, becoming almost circular

So to flesh out my initial title question more:

Are there effective strategies or methodologies to stop bringing work issues home and to balance my work, family, spouse.

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    Yes, have kids. – user8365 Apr 23 '13 at 12:16
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    @JeffO: To give yourself an even bigger problem to moan about? – pdr Apr 23 '13 at 13:00
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    @pdr sure, if you have a paper cut then someone shoots you, you soon forget about the paper cut – Rhys Apr 23 '13 at 13:48
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    @JenniferS: Pfft. I have cats for all that. And they'll listen to my work problems. – pdr Apr 23 '13 at 14:11
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    The job doesn't suck. We have both children and cats – Ourjamie Apr 23 '13 at 16:21
19

Critically, the issue here is not "How do I stop bringing work issues home", as much as:

  • How do I cope with the frustration of dealing with flaws in the people I work with?
  • How do I not let the above frustration affect my family?

Saying that you will simply limit this frustration to work is unlikely to be helpful, as you've clearly noticed. Some people can put up very strong "I am out the door" barriers easily, but if you were that person, you'd not be in this situation.

I think @maple_shaft's answer gets to the heart of the frustration with people aspect, what I'm going to focus on is not letting that frustration affect your family.

What I found most helpful to building those barriers was simply to spend the time coming home thinking about home. If you're mulling over the issues of work, you're being diligent to them, but as your spouse has stated, you're not being diligent to them. Instead, focus on what you've done with them recently, stuff they've stated they'd like to do soon, problems you've encountered around the house, TV shows you both like watching. Basically, context-switch to a new set of issues, that involve them and your family, not your work.

If you find you can't do this because "work needs thinking about", it's a sign that, as Maple indicated, you've taken on too much to try and compensate for weaknesses elsewhere, and "to prove your worth". This is a habit you get into when time spent at work produces more personal value than time spent at home (which is often true for all single working 20-30 year olds), and as such requires a critical shift in thinking when you enter a long-term relationship, at least if you want that relationship to remain long-term.

Critically, if this feeling is reaching unmanageable levels, see your GP, and take time off. A week away from the frustrations of work recuperating can have a very positive effect, as well as helping you to come back more able to make positive changes. At the same time, it will give you some confidence that, while you're of value, you are not required every minute of every day.

  • I think everything you've said is exceptionally good and hitting the nail directly on the head, but I have a problem with the last paragraph. I took a week off and came back to a (co-worker and team members induced) disaster zone where I was very nearly dismissed, instead I was removed from that particular project. Even taking two days sick last week, appeared to cause "while the cat's away" mayhem (no stories, tasks, work items done) - caused in part by my line manager's seeming inability to steer the ship even though he was directly supervising them on my behalf. – Ourjamie Apr 23 '13 at 12:28
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    @Ourjamie if you can't take 2 days off without your organization falling apart, you have significantly more systemic problems than "how do I not bring work home." If this is really the case, your question should be - "how do I manage a team where the bus factor = 1 and it's me" because realistically your core problem is that, not having a problem talking about work to the spouse. – enderland Apr 23 '13 at 13:14
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    @Ourjamie Okay, that's another question, "How can I make myself less indispensable?", because there's something wrong there. Your absence shouldn't cause anything more than the slight confusion and slowdown of losing any manpower. Edit: enderland, you ninja. -_- – deworde Apr 23 '13 at 13:16
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    @Ourjamie you might find this question relevant, as it seems you taking a day off is even worse than the situation I pose in the question... – enderland Apr 23 '13 at 13:18
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Your spouse doesn't want to hear about it, but I think the advise for you to work it out on your own is not going to help. People are intelligent and very social creatures and need the interaction and feedback. There are a lot of stack sites that could help you solve problem, but they're not the place to vent.

If you can't find a local user group or some technical friends to meet at the bar, you may want to work out some compromises with your spouse:

  1. Have a specific day where talking about work is not allowed. Make it a date night.
  2. Restrict talking about work to a limited time. Talking about it first thing when you get home may not be giving your spouse time to get away from work. Find out what can be tolerated.
  3. Make sure you are allowing your spouse to talk about things your spouse wants to. It's very easy to fall into a trap when you're frustrated and ignore everyone else's problem.
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    +1, Especially point 3. My first thought, reading "it's like having two jobs yours and mine" was to wonder if she gets chance to vent her frustrations or if she feels she'd be adding to his burden by doing so. – pdr Apr 23 '13 at 13:05
  • @deworde the alternative is to say that the wife is right and the OP is wrong. Why is that better? why does it matter? Regardless of who said the advice, if its a bad idea its bad idea. – Rhys Apr 23 '13 at 13:53
  • Think we should take that discussion to chat. – deworde Apr 23 '13 at 14:04
  • @deworde - I agree there's no reason to blame the spouse, so I reworded it a little bit. The key to her solution is to stop bugging her; solving it in private just may be her personal strategy. – user8365 Apr 23 '13 at 14:49
  • @JeffO I lightly edited your answer to make it gender-neutral. The original question is gender-neutral. – mkennedy Apr 23 '13 at 16:25
5

First of all, you are not alone. There are many people in the same boat. I am glad you have someone to talk to about these things.
To answer your question of how to stop bringing work issues to home, based on personal experience, there are many things. So you will have to see which one helps you the best.

  • Visualization helps. Two techniques which I read about somewhere
    a) When you are nearing home, you have to make an effort to tune out work. Imagine it to be a TV channel and think of coming back home as switching to another TV channel. Enjoy the show on the current channel. When you are tuned in to one channel, what is the point of thinking about what is going on in other channels.
    b)Imagine a tree just outside your house and upon returning home, you can visualize to take off your work coat and hang it on this tree. So you aren't taking home the work coat.
  • Exercise helps. Do you get to move around a lot ? A lot of people go for a run to free their minds. Stretching and relaxing with Yoga helps too.
  • Meditation, perhaps ?

  • Diet Do you get enough vitamins and minerals in your diet ? Do you get enough sunshine ? Deficiency of B12 and vitamin D are known factors for gloomy moods.

Hope this helps.

  • These are great tips to be a healthier person and alleviate depression, but it doesn't really address the heart of the problem. It is still excellent advice though. – maple_shaft Apr 23 '13 at 14:07
5

I have been both the frustrated employee and the partner in your situation. Here are some things I've (a) done and (b) observed.

  1. As others have said, use the commute to transition. One answer here suggested non-technical reading; I find that listening to music does it for me. I particularly listen to music that my spouse also likes; it may give me something to talk about when I walk in the door, or perhaps it subconsciously throws the "home now" switch.

  2. Write about your frustrations instead of talking about them. Use a paper journal, a local file on your computer, a locked-down blog, email that you write and never actually send... whatever works for you. If your need is to recount the problem, you don't necessarily actually need somebody to be listening in real time. (Note about blogs: even with security, you have to assume that what you write could find its way out. Be careful.)

  3. Have a "no talking about work until after dinner" rule (for both of you). Cook and eat dinner together, do some personal reading, watch some TV together, whatever... by the time you're "allowed" to talk about work, the need might have died down.

  4. If you can't completely leave work at work, negotiate a quota of work rants per {week, month}. When you've used it up, your spouse gets to tell you you're done -- fall back on #2 or some other method of venting it instead.

Of course any arrangements with your spouse need to be mutual. Your spouse also has bad days at work, and if you want to be able to bring yours home occasionally, you need to be present and attentive when your spouse needs you to listen.

4

I relate to your situation as I struggle with an anxiety disorder and it can sometimes negatively affect both my work and personal life. Let me give you a few things that help me "deal" with some of the stress you point out.

Recognize Fear

A state of anxiety is a state of not being sure or not having enough information at hand. This is rooted in an underlying fear that may or may not be rational. Think long and hard about what fear is at the root of your anxiety. Just evaluating yourself in these terms make the consequences of a bad situation possibly occurring no longer so scary. It also helps you uncover more information about what to do.

Accept your limitations

You can't be all things for all people, and you can't be a Superman at work all the time. Know what is an acceptable involvement in work activities and that if it fails have the pride to know that you did your best. There is no need to put the stress of a constant Herculean effort to try and overcome the fact that sometimes not everybody on the team did a good job.

Accept the limitations of others

You must recognize the inherent strengths and limitations of those you work with, including your managers. We are not all created equal when it comes to our ability to do our job well.

This is okay

It is also not your problem because you are not the manager. I struggle with this a lot because my devotion to the success of a project is so strong that I often find myself doing other peoples jobs just so the project won't fall apart. This isn't good and prevents a long term solution from ever occurring.

If the project fails it is not because of you, and that is something you should take pride in.

By addressing your anxiety you will find yourself a happier person at home and at work.

4

If you just want to treat symptoms, this answer does a wonderful job.


What is the root cause?

The root cause requires a different approach - figure our your priorities in life. This answer to a different question might be helpful. But you need to spend some time thinking about:

  • What do I want to do with my life? Your job will slowly take over your life (which it sounds like it has) if you let it. This is even more likely if you enjoy it. Do you want this? Make a list of what you want to do with your life. This is not easy but it is necessary to avoid these sorts of situations.
  • Spend serious time reflecting. "Does what I do with my time/energy/effort match what I want my life to look like?" Many people, if you ask them "what is important to you" would give a completely different answer than what their calendar says is important to them.

This thinking is super important if you want to maintain work/life balance, because if you don't define what work/life balance looks like to you, how can you expect to maintain it!

How do you address what you find from the root cause?

After doing this, you likely will realize that your job/career is less important to you than you are are living (and your spouse/family more so). At least I've never heard of someone coming to the opposite conclusion. Which means you will need to:

  • Talk with your manager about this. Approach it like, "I need to take some time off to spend time with my spouse because the stress of this job is seriously affecting my marriage."
    • Only have this conversation if you figure out your priorities! Or else your boss will walk all over you if they present "but the team needs you!" or "how about (this time far in the future instead)" types of arguments. You must know your priorities in this conversation.
    • Most managers will be receptive to this and probably even feel terrible. If not, well, since you clearly figured out your priorities and they no longer align to your manager's expectations... and you are apparently wonderful at managing a team, start seriously considering finding a job which matches your priorities in life
  • Start loving your spouse in one specific way each day (which is unrelated to work).
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    +1: Yup. It's amazing how many people will say "Of course my wife and kids mean more", but see nothing amiss with working hours of unpaid uncalled for overtime on a non-"life's work" project. I mean, been there, done that, but eventually... – deworde Apr 23 '13 at 14:40
0

This is a really good question. It speaks to a problem that many people face.

Here is my advice:

  1. Embrace the fact that you will be taking some work home with you. Most senior technical workers do.
  2. Eliminate or avoid activities which tend to waste your time. Office chit-chat and help vampires tend to be habitual offenders. If this is the case, you may want to begin and end your day a bit earlier than everyone else so that you can maximize your daily productivity. Otherwise, you may need to dodge or confront these coworkers who consume a disproportionate amount of your time.
  3. Define boundaries for yourself. These may include but are not limited to: Do not compromise extremely important family/friend commitments; Do not work overtime unless a deadline is at risk.
  4. Promise yourself (and your family) that if your self-defined boundaries are violated, you will seek new employment as soon as it is expedient to do so.

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