When an abusive home life spills over into work

Question:

I work in sales. The economy is sluggish and I know layoffs are coming. I can’t afford to lose my job, and to keep it, I need to be upbeat every day.

The problem — I’m married to an emotionally abusive husband and stay with him for the sake of my kids. He stomps around the house every morning cussing out everything and everyone, including me. I feel like I’ve been through the wringer before I leave for the office at 7:30. Once I get to work, I try to put a smile on my face, but it’s hard.

This morning, I snapped at a customer who was being difficult. My boss pulled me aside and asked, “What’s up? You’re not yourself.” I didn’t dare answer that “myself” is an abused woman.

My co-workers also ask questions when they see me on edge, and I pretend I’m OK, because I’m afraid that if I let my guard down, I won’t be able to put it back up.

Any suggestions for how to pull it together at work — other than getting a divorce?

Answer:

When you arrive at work each day, mentally leave your husband at home and rejoice with the thought that you’re on an eight-hour vacation from your home life. When you’re on a great vacation, you focus on only what’s in front of you for the next hour or day, and leave home worries behind. This allows you to mentally renew yourself — critical because your husband depletes your energy reserves.

This strategy for preventing emotional transference from your morning into your work life can work well as a short-term fix. You’re probably aware, however, that what happened this morning with the customer was a delayed reaction to your home life frustration. In the long run you may need to make other decisions.

© Dr. Lynne Curry is author of ”Beating the Workplace Bully” and ”Solutions” as well as owner of the management/HR consulting/training firm The Growth Company Inc. Follow her on Twitter @lynnecury10 or at www.bullywhisperer.com

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