“Although we have a mess of problems, we have great capacity, intellect and resources to do some thing about them.” – Henry Ford
In Brazen Careerist, Penelope Trunk states that if you’re a mess at home it going to show at work. Under the heading “Manage Your Personal Life” she writes, “You’re kidding yourself if you think people don’t see what’s going on with you at home. Are you getting drunk every night? Are your finances a mess? You might live a fantasy that you’re hiding bad behavior from co-workers, but stress shows up in nonverbal, unexpected ways that make people uncomfortable being with you and worried about your competence.”
“People who seem to have shaky lives at home seem like time bombs at work. So instead of trying to hide your personal life, redirect that energy toward improving your personal life. You might not have as much focus for work in the short term, but in the long term you’ll be in better shape to manage effectively.”
Let’s focus on her money question since Queercents is a personal finance blog: Are your finances a mess? Perhaps you’ve spotted co-workers with money issues. Some telltale signs: they lag behind in submitting expense reports, spend money on liabilities and not assets, max out their credit cards, unable to contribute to the 401(k) plan, drive leased luxury automobiles and live larger than others making the same amount of money. Listen closely and it’s not hard to hear clues about financial mistakes and careless behaviors.
An academic article published by Virginia Tech called, The Negative Impact of Employee Poor Personal Financial Behaviors on Employers, explores the above observation. They write, “According to a survey conducted among corporate human resource executives, the financial illiteracy of workers is considered the most critical unaddressed workplace issue. Thirty-two percent of the executives ranked the toll on productivity caused by personal financial problems as the most pressing overlooked workplace issue.”
Although the article was written in 1996, I doubt much has changed in the last several years. In fact, it’s likely worse. They provide a list of personal finance mistakes and suggest that when an excessive number of these occur or accumulate in combination, they lead to serious problems and can negatively impact the employer. At a minimum, it’s certain to influence the employee’s day-to-day performance.
Here’s the list:
1. Occasionally spending too much money
2. Occasionally overusing credit
3. Occasionally reaching the maximum limit on a credit card
4. Occasionally running out of money
5. Occasionally writing a check with insufficient funds
6. Occasionally having a low or non-existent emergency fund
7. Occasionally being unable to pay due bills (e.g., utilities, rent, child care, credit cards)
8. Occasionally being unable to repay installment debts
9. Occasionally receiving “overdue notices” from creditors
10. Occasionally paying late some due bills and installment debts
11. Occasionally relying on a second income to pay living expenses and debts
12. Occasionally being denied additional credit, perhaps because of a lack of a sufficient positive credit history
13. Occasionally borrowing, perhaps by obtaining a cash advance from a line of credit on a credit card or advance pay from an employer, to pay for living expenses and/or other debts
14. Occasionally obtaining a debt-consolidation loan
15. Occasionally having liabilities in excess of assets
16. Occasionally not contributing to a pension plan
17. Occasionally losing money to ripoffs and frauds
18. Occasionally losing money by gambling or buying lottery tickets
19. Allowing an insurance policy to lapse (e.g., vehicle, renter’s/homeowner’s, medical, life)
20. Occasionally making a request for welfare (e.g., cash grants, food stamps, subsidized housing)
21. Occasionally feeling emotionally stressed about money matters
22. Occasionally worrying about the security of one’s job
Money problems cause stress and as Trunk indicates, “stress shows up in nonverbal, unexpected ways.” Work is challenging enough… who needs to compound it with personal problems. There isn’t a quick fix if you’re living beyond your means and burdened with debt. But ask John… he’s Almost Debt Free and proof that it can be done with newfound discipline, a plan to reduce bad debt by creating a functional budget and tracking expenses. You can get your personal finances in order!
When the money stress is eliminated, you can focus on building wealth and this enables you to project a different perception with your personal life. When people ask about my interests, I often talk about real estate projects and investing in rental properties. It gives me the opportunity to share details about my long term goals, values and a host of other smart choices that reinforce I’ve got my life together outside of work. I would argue this subtlety has helped my career since perception spurs on the reality in every facet of life… work included!