Whether we have children or not, we all have parents; some we revere, some we revile, and some play a minimal role in our lives. So what does this have to do with business? The original organization we all joined was the family and the remnants of our experiences there are replicated in our present work organization. Whether we like it or not, there are parent figures that were beloved or bedeviled us, who haunt us, as well as siblings, older or younger to contend with.
What does this mean in real-time terms in a day-to-day work setting? Simply that if you are a boss, you need to expect that the projections of your direct reports are unconsciously imbedded in your communications. It does not matter if you want this or not, like gravity, it exists and we have to deal with it.
Take Joanne, for example. She had a tempestuous relationship with her father who would “take the strap” to her when she misbehaved. He was an authoritarian, angry sort who hated his own job, his own life and took it out on the family.
Fast forward and you can hear Joanne warning her co-workers to “be careful lest you upset the boss”. She warns everyone to be on alert because you will “hurt” them eventually. You, being the boss, a kind and gentle sort, have no idea what she is talking about. You are not Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wears Prada”. So, what is going on and more importantly, what do you do about it?
Another example is Dan, a super achiever, who forever wants your attention and special favors. Did you know that he grew up much like Tiger Woods, an only child of multiracial parents except he never played golf? His parents, like Tiger’s, were determined to make him a star. His game was tennis and while good, he was no Andre Agassi and had to find another avenue for success.
So here he is reporting to you and proving to you every single day that he is the most valued high potential you ever met. Except, you are not so sure he is super talented and it is upsetting how he keeps telling everyone how great he is and how the team finds him offensive. So, what are you going to do about it?
These are the underlying emotional issues at work that take the steadiness of a surgeon to alleviate. In “Don’t Bring It to Work” there are 13 major patterns that we all bring into the work place in one form or another. The good news about these patterns is that with some skin in the game, it is possible to transform them to their healthy opposites. Once this happens, and those who report to you can begin to see the overlay of past family behaviors in present time work, they no longer have the deep hold anymore.
It is worth the brief time for you and your direct reports to take the pattern aware quiz at www.sylvialafair.com that could be the entry into meaningful and important conversations about how you and your employees can work more effectively and productively. This little known fact about how family patterns lie at the core of ineffective work relationships and at the tip of all office politics is important to know so you can learn how to navigate the subtle, yet, real realm of emotions in the workplace.