Think before you react: How to prevent yourself from taking things personally at work

Professional wellbeing is important. If events in the workplace are impacting you personally, it may be time to take a step back, consider a range of factors and think about the right approach to take before acting.

At Ellevate Network, author Solange Lopes, CPA, writes that “after years of taking things personally at work”, she “realised how much of an emotional and mental toll” it had taken on her and her professional wellbeing.

“The more I’d take things personally, the more difficult it would be to objectively assess the various situations I’d encounter at work, and the more challenging it would be to build authentic, fruitful professional relationships,” Lopes writes.

“The lines between the personal and the professional, although intertwined in the day-to-day work life, now became so blurred it was literally impossible to work through them.”

Think before you react

Reacting in the moment can lead to negative outcomes, and it may be best to pause for breath before deciding upon the best course of action.

Lopes recommends taking “some time out when facing a situation you risk to take personally at work”.

“Whether it’s a day off, or even a few minutes locked in the bathroom stall, hold off on reacting at first,” she advises.

“Instead, step away, take a breather and evaluate the situation.”

Perspective is important

In the grand scheme of things how important is a situation to you? What may seem important in the moment may ultimately mean little in the long run.

“Evaluate what that means to you, and if you should put so much mental and emotional energy into it,” Lopes writes.

“If it won’t matter to you next year, then why take it personally?”

Be informed before responding

Being in possession of all the relevant information will help you gain perspective and form opinions about what is happening in the workplace.

Lopes recommends asking questions before responding to what is happening.

“After taking time out and asking yourself what the situation at hand really means to you, seek to clarify it first,” she writes.

“Ask your co-worker, team or boss the necessary questions to clarify what’s happening.

“Once you get enough information, then you can decide on the course of action to follow.”

NOW READ: Three ways businesses can put a focus on employee mental wellbeing, from SEEK and Sportsbet’s HR managers


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