The Dangers of Compartmentalizing

Xperience Growthblogposts

On a coaching call this week, a client told me how they were compartmentalizing a problem in their business.

They said it with such ease, so matter-of-factly. They didn’t see how it could be a problem. In fact, they seemed proud of themselves for this strategy.

“When my colleague doesn’t do what they say they’re going to, I get irritated… but I compartmentalize that and work with them on getting it done.”

In fairness, it almost sounds good. They feel irritated with someone and they don’t want that to show. To move forward, they mentally move that frustration to a “compartment” and get back to work.

Danger #1
The Negative Emotion Continues to Affect You

It sounds fine enough just to shove the feeling aside. But it still affects you. According to my client this week, that irritation sucked energy and took time away from them long after they finished with their colleague.

They expended mental & emotional energy dealing with the frustration. “Why can’t they just do it?” “What does this say about my leadership?” You will not grow your business with those thoughts. The energy you need to tackle your job is depleted.

My client spent time wondering out how to fix the problem. That frustration led them to wanting to focus our coaching call on fixing the problem. A full hour – not to mention the cost of a coaching call – because the irritation was still eating at them.

Danger #2
You Hold the Negative Emotion

When you compartmentalize, you mentally move that stressor to the side and focus on something else. But, you don’t let it go. So it lingers.

You might think it’s just a little irritation. It’s not even frustration and certainly not anger. And you’re right. However, by compartmentalizing, you sweep that bit of negative “dust” under the rug. Out of sight, out mind. So you do it again & again & again… until one day you have a mound of dust under the rug, which you trip on and fall on your face.

Holding onto the negative emotion through compartmentalizing is the reason that Danger #1 above happens.

What to do Instead

Instead of compartmentalizing the irritation, my client and I worked on strategies for releasing the negative emotion. We also worked on not allowing the negative emotion to happen in the first place.

When they came on the call, they felt irritated. We shifted the frame of reference from their colleague to them. When we focus our emotions on what other people do or don’t do, we give up control. Yet, when we focus on ourselves and our response, we take back control of our emotions.

My client realized that they didn’t ultimately have control over their colleague. Influence, yes; control, no. That helped them let go of being irritated at something out of their control. They were able to distance themselves from the situation far enough to where they didn’t have need for irritation any longer.

Armed with a new perspective on the situation, my client felt more empowered to handle the situation. The colleague did break an agreement, which needs to be addressed. Now, my client can deal with it without being guided by their irritation.

*Note, story shared with permission from the client.