How do you keep your personal feelings out of your professional life?

I work in the mental health field and come in contact with people from all walks of life. When people come to me, they’ve been through a lot. Things can get heavy and it’s the type of job where you need to practice detachment and not take things too personally. It’s hard.

I recently had a client ask me for a little extra help, but he has a lot of views I disagree with. He’s super Christian and he’s made it clear that he doesn’t support the LGBTQ+ community. I even heard him dead name a trans woman who lives in the same building as him. He claims to be one of those “live and let live” Christians – if you don’t bother me I won’t bother you – but then I hear some pretty vile, judgemental things coming out of his mouth. 

I’m scared of a lot of the Christians at work – both staff and clients – because they can be pretty intense. I’m uncomfortable in many different situations and feel I have to hide who I really am. You would think in this day and age religion wouldn’t come up as much, but it does – a lot. It hasn’t been quite as bad at other jobs I’ve had. I should mention that I work for a nonprofit that is not a religious organization. 

So back to this client who needs help, it’s difficult to advocate for someone you don’t like, but I do it because it’s my job. I’m just curious if any of you have been in a similar situation. Do you have any advice? How do you keep your personal feelings out of your professional life? All the religion at work may be a different issue, but I wish it didn’t bother me as much. 


  1. robert79 says

    I teach, at a college level, so I teach adults. Many of my students hold different political views from my own (I’m far left wing even by European standards…) Since politics has *nothing* to do with the subject matter I teach (mathematics) I try to keep politics out of my lectures. Indirectly, I of course hope that, through my teaching, my students learn to recognise bad arguments and/or bad data-analysis when used to further a political argument! But I think it would be wrong for me to politicise mathematics… I’ll always leave that choice to my students.

    In a sense this is a similar situation to what you describe. You have a client who needs help, just as I have students who need help. I’m not sure exactly what help they need, they probably don’t need help solving an equation! But since they asked you “for a little extra help”, it’s clear they value your opinion! Give them the help they need, and hope that, indirectly, some of your values rub off.

  2. Jazzlet says

    I used to work in Housing Benefits – Government funded, local Council administered assistance with rent for people with very low incomes – and came across all sorts. Liking or not didn’t come into it, it was my job to get them the money they needed. However if they tried to game the system I admit I would de-prioritise the assessment, for instance claimants who always informed us of income decreases, but never mentioned income increases. Now in part this was because the claims were more complicated, I’d have to work out what they should have been getting on the higher income, and deduct over-payments which usually took a while as they were rarely on a single weekly rate. I could deal with a dozen simple claims in the time it took me to deal with their claim, but they did get assessed within the legal minimum time. I guess I’m saying you do what you are paid to do, you don’t have to do “extra” whatever that means in this context unless that is something that could happen for other people too.

  3. robert79 says

    @2 Jazzlet

    Right after I graduated I briefly worked for the division of the Dutch tax agency which dealt with rent subsidies. Part of the problem is that the people who need rent subsidies are… I don’t want to say “barely literate” but that is what it boils down to… they have trouble with tax forms.

    These people can typically get help to fill out these forms when the need is dire, as when they have an income decrease, but not when they get an income decrease.

    I’d be quite hesitant in calling this “gaming the system”.

  4. sonofrojblake says

    How do you keep your personal feelings out of your professional life?

    By being professional. To a large extent, that’s what that phrase means.

    Easy for me to say, of course – I rather deliberately chose a profession where I have absolutely no contact with the public, a profession where the vast, overwhelming majority of the people I come into contact with are also professionals – process plant operators, other engineers and project managers, scientists, accountants, that sort. As a result, in a career spanning thirty-plus years, I can count on my fingers the number of people I’ve interacted with whose opinions on e.g. gay rights or trans people ever came up, in any context at all. It’s one of the best things about my job, I think. I have absolutely no idea what basically anyone I’ve ever worked with thinks about anything, no need to know and no inclination to find out. Bliss. I’ve found it most uncomfortable on the very rare occasions when someone has been crass and unprofessional enough to voice a position on something like that.

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