Take Control of your Career! Emotional Detachment at Work

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“I can leave work at the office”. That statement is far easier said than done. Emotional detachment at work falls into that same category, but if you can do it, you can take control of your career. I would love to say it’s like a light switch, you just detach and it all falls together. I can’t honestly say it’s that easy, but learning this skill is well worth your time for a number of reasons.

Constructive Criticism

Once you can take your emotions out of your work, constructive criticism can actually be constructive to you. Both short term and long term. Once you understand that constructive criticism has nothing to do with you personally, you can actually use it to improve your performance. This will help you grow your career in the long term. That’s not to say all criticism is warranted and helpful. If the criticism is not backed up by facts, simply disregard it. It may be emotionally driven. Constructive criticism will focus on facts, and on the work itself.  However, it should also be followed up by an action plan for improvement to help you succeed.

Having a Back Up Plan

If you are to emotionally invested in something, it is difficult to see what all your options are. It is difficult to objectively analyze the facts, and make a decision with a clear head. If you have a back up plan, just knowing you have options will allow you to think things through more clearly. If you are unhappy in your job, the ball is in your court. What better time to start looking for another position? On top of that having a current job gives your leverage when you receive that better offer. You can easily make a decision based on numbers and facts. It helps you avoid taking a position because you need to pay the bills. If you choose to look for new work; you are less likely accept a bad job ‘because anything is better than your current job’.

How can I detach from work, I spend 40+ hours a week there?!?

There in lies the kicker! You spend a third of your life at work, how can you possibly detach emotionally from it? It starts to define you after a while. I mean, what is one of the most common questions a stranger making small talk will ask you? ‘So, what do you do for a living?’ How can I not define myself by my job? Well, you spend a 1/3 of your life at work (theoretically) 1/3 sleeping, that still leaves you with 1/3 of your time that is all yours. This article by Harvard Business Review has some really great insights; I’ll touch on a few of them.

Do not define yourself by your job

If you have a job you love, that is fantastic! Very few really love their job. But you still shouldn’t define yourself by it. When push comes to shove you ultimately have your job to pay for your needs and wants. The job is a tool to earn money. The money is a tool to use to improve your quality of life. It’s all about you. The job (and money) is just a tool you use.

For example…

A guy who really loves the outdoors opens up a business as a pooper scooper. He sets his own hours, he only works 40 hours a week, and he makes $100,000 per year. Is this guy poop for being a pooper scooper? No, he is a entrepreneur who is earning bank only working 40 hours a week, and has achieved an excellent work life balance. He opened a business doing something no one else wants to do, thus he solved a problem for all his clients. Business will always be coming in for this guy. He will always be in demand. That is what he does. He happens to do all that by performing the task of scooping poop.


I know this one has been said many times, but it bears repeating. You really should have hobbies outside of work. What do you enjoy other than work? If you are an outdoorsy type, do you like hiking and biking? If you are more creative, do you have diy, craft, or art projects you can work on? Are you part of a social group? You are more than just your job. Hobbies are an awesome way to unwind.

You have to set boundaries

In order to detach from work, and continue to thrive, you have to set your boundaries. If you don’t you are on the road to burnout. If you love your job and career, why watch is go down the drain due to burnout? I know first hand how easy it is to take ‘just one more email’ or do ‘just one more thing’. But those one things can nickel and dime you out of your time.  Before you know it it’s midnight and your still at the office. You don’t want that if you are going to continue to enjoy your work. Everyone needs the opportunity to refresh. This isn’t just a work thing either. Psychology today recommends it for your own health and sanity. It’s the best way to thrive and grow in your career.

I know for me emotionally detaching from work was always very difficult. I had a tendency to define myself by my job, so it was emotional for me. That did me no favors, and it won’t do you any either. Learning to detach will help you so much in the personal and professional life. Good Luck to you!