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Anxious-Avoidant Attachment Style at Work

Updated: Mar 11

Next up in the Attachment Series, we take a deep dive into how someone with an anxious-avoidant attachment styles shows up in the workplace. Do they interact with others? Are they easy to get along with? Are the accepting or dismissive of feedback? Read on to learn more, and find out if this is you at work.


FYI- about 50% of children have secure attachment. Of the other 50%, nearly 15% have been categorized as having an anxious-avoidant attachment.


How Anxious-Avoidant Attachment Shows Up At Work


Although attachment styles are mostly discussed in the context of parent/child, romantic, or friend relationships, attachment patterns can impact relationships with colleagues and supervisors in the workplace. A recent study (by Yip and colleagues) has found the influence of attachment theory on organizations expanding as more articles have been published on this subject in the past 5 years than in the previous 25 years. That is quite interesting, isn’t it? It’s about time to recognize that our human stuff shows up at work! In 1990, researchers Cindy Hazan and Phillip Shaver were one of the first teams to apply attachment theory to how we act and manage relationships in the workplace. The research has consistently shown that how you attach in your personal relationships directly relates to how you attach in your work relationships. These styles reflect deep personality disposition which are the building blocks on which thoughts, behaviors, and interpersonal relationships are founded.


As a quick reminder, our attachment styles develop as a result of our first primary relationship and this serves as a template for all future relationships. The attachment project states it like this, “if we – as children – perceived that our needs cannot and will not be met by others (especially, the ones closest to us), we are likely to exhibit attachment issues throughout our lives.” If we had secure attachments growing up, we will feel safe and comfortable in social situations later on. However, to briefly mention last month’s topic, anxious-insecure attachment can be characterized by the following: analyzing and overthinking the meaning behind what others say and do, and these folks are usually anxious and stressed about how they are perceived, not secure. Whereas anxious-avoidant attachment is characterized by being distant and being aloof in relationships, also not secure. In addition, they are unlikely to open up to others, especially when it comes to expressing private thoughts or emotions. Those with anxious-avoidant attachment do not want to need others and have difficulty asking for help.


Working models of attachment are comprised of three elements: (1) who the attachment figure is, (2) how the attachment figure is expected to respond, and (3) how acceptable the self is in the eyes of the attachment figure (Bowlby, 1973). These working mental models represent an individual's attachment. So, this subconscious programming — developed through our youth and on into adulthood — plays a huge role in how we survive or thrive at work.


Insights for Employees


Trust and Time Management

Those with anxious-avoidance attachment are likely to view work negatively when it comes to their boss or coworkers or even the type of work done at their organization. They often don’t respect others or think negatively about co-workers and leaders. The anxious-avoidant employee is distrusting of other people’s judgment and approach. They may even think that tasks or people at work are beneath them. The anxious-avoidant person (also known as the dismissive-avoidant) appears to be independent, confident, and self-sufficient. People with this attachment style don’t want to rely on others. They want to be in control. They also want to appear in control, even if they aren’t. They certainly do not want others, especially at work, to know they are not in control, or have a need for assistance or support.


These characteristics could cause problems for the supervisor at work. The anxiously-avoidant employee might decide that they know better and push the boundaries to make things work for themselves, especially if they already hold a view that others don’t know as much as they do. The anxious-avoidant attached person might not go along with group norms, which can lead to coworkers complaining to the boss that it seems like they are exempt from certain things or getting special treatment. Anxious-avoidant individuals tend to have a negative view of others and a mostly positive view of themselves at work. They believe other people are untrustworthy and dishonest, whereas they themselves are self-assured and capable and do not need the support of anyone else. This doesn’t faire well when it comes to colleague relationships and interactions. This is how the anxious-avoidant person keeps others at arm’s length to avoid any closeness. And this level of mistrust is unhealthy for the workplace as a whole.


Those with anxious-avoidant attachment most likely decide what they should do and then ignore what others want, at work. This leads to conflict and lack of trust all around for everyone. This mistrust can lead to others attempting to micromanage and monitor the anxiously-avoidant employee, which likely leads to them feeling more annoyed and more likely to dismiss input in the future, further moving away from others at work. Not only does the anxious-avoidant attached person mistrust co-workers, their automatic behaviors in relationships due to their attachment style can also lead co-workers and/or boss to mistrust them.


For the anxious-avoidant attached person, patterns of thought, feeling, and behavior are mostly automatic and subconscious, including this tendency for mistrust. This attachment style usually develops as a result of emotional rejection and neglect from primary caregivers in early childhood. If the child’s bids for closeness, comfort, and safety were rejected and their emotional expression was punished or shamed, they likely developed an anxious-avoidant attachment style. To say it a little differently, adults with an anxious-avoidant attachment experienced a lack of emotional or physical responsiveness from their caregivers. When they sought comfort or connection, their needs were consistently dismissed or ignored, leading them to believe that reaching out for closeness is pointless anyway, or even met with rejection. They resist and avoid close contact with others, because they learned that doing this in childhood would please their caregivers, therefore, preventing further rejection. They learned if they don’t express needs, then they can’t be rejected for having those needs in the first place. This behavior and the sense of emptiness can make them seem aloof, unemotional, and precociously autonomous, and ultimately misunderstood at work.


For individuals with this attachment style, avoidance and withdraw becomes their strategy to protect themselves from experiencing more pain and abandonment. Yes, even at work. Anyone could feel vulnerable to experiencing more pain and suffering at work because there are other people there. Any place there are other people opens to door to potential harm, or a triggering scenario for our attachment style. These folks tend to become self-reliant and develop a strong desire for autonomy, again, this is to protect themselves from experiencing further harm or rejection. Some key characteristics of anxious-avoidant individuals include valuing independence over emotional closeness, distrusting others, and relying on themself for emotional support, as we’ve discussed. While outwardly these individuals often come across as self-confident, fun-loving, social, and easy-going, they tend to have acquaintances rather than close friendships and committed relationships. They may be liked by others, they may want to be liked by others, but they do not want close connection to or with others.




Those with anxious-avoidant attachment might be friendly with coworkers but feel no need to turn those relationships into friendships inside or outside of work. These folks prefer to be on their own and work on their own. Many with anxious-avoidant attachment were pleased when working from home became a thing! No longer having to interact with people at the office, safely hiding at home, just plugging away at the work, doing their best not to interact if they don’t have to. Our attachment style dictates how we relate to other people, particularly in situations that trigger stress. If you identify as someone with an anxious-avoidant attachment style, take time and observe what is happening in your mind and body before reacting automatically with an urge to avoid dependence on others at work, or asking for help at work.


Because of their subconscious mistrust of others, individuals with anxious-avoidant attachment struggle with effective time management at work. They often will work late when fixated on doing a particular task or project well. Time management also becomes an issue when this anxious-avoidant person wants to work on what they find important first, then try to complete the work they need to do for others. They also can be major procrastinators with work assignments or projects, particularly if they don’t like the task or find it unimportant and/or if they have to work with others to accomplish whatever needed. The anxious-avoidant attached employee may be, or feel, stuck, desiring to do better but unsure that trying to do better would make any difference, so instead they do nothing, or severely procrastinate. They also become uncomfortable when others depend on them. They really don’t want to need others, and they don’t want others to need them. They are very comfortable in their world, gatekeeping who gets close to them and allowing very few the privilege.


Communication

Engaging in clear and effective communication is not a strength for the anxious-avoidant attached employee. Let’s keep in mind, this person likely has not learned effective communication, due to being dismissed and ignored as a child. Learning to not ask for anything and not share anything, easily translates into not communicating well. Those with anxious-avoidant attachment also struggle to share their thoughts, feelings, and opinions with others. They have not practiced effectively conveying emotions and needs, so it makes sense this is an area in which they struggle. The anxious-avoidant attached employee may have difficulty being assertive and, naturally, want to avoid confrontation or difficult conversations. So, this can also mean they have limited conflict resolution skills, which require validating each other’s emotions and needs while collaboratively problem-solving the issue.


In addition to the difficulty with verbal communication and assertiveness, those with anxious-avoidant attachment struggle with active listening. They don’t want to listen to someone else’s sentiments, at work or elsewhere, as they don’t want to establish an emotional connection. As well, displaying empathy, which requires validating others’ emotions while comfortably expressing your own, is also not readily available to those with anxious-avoidant attachment styles. Empathy creates an environment for emotional intimacy, or closeness—the very thing these folks are trying to avoid. Setting, and communicating, boundaries could be difficult for this employee. Boundaries ensures for safety and trust to exist in the relationship, and tells us what we’re willing to accept and not accept in relationships. If you’re anxious-avoidant attached, then sharing your own and respecting others’ boundaries doesn’t come easily, you would need to be willing and motivated to step into this. Open communication and expression are hard for the anxious-avoidant attached employee because they prefer to be in control and they prefer to be disconnected, rather than involved in teamwork, which likely requires greater efforts in open communication. Something else for the employee with anxious-avoidant attachment style to consider is if they're not communicating well and not asking for support well because of fear of rejection. Also, those with anxious-avoidant attachment might be more negative than most at work, which can hinder effective communication.


Deactivating Strategies

Folks possess internalized representations of frustrating attachment figures. These insecure individuals rely on what Mikulincer and Shaver (2003) called secondary attachment strategies, which involve either deactivating or hyperactivating the attachment system in an attempt to cope with insecurities, anxieties, and stress. High scores on anxious-avoidance attachment indicate reliance on deactivating strategies which are strategies that foster inhibition of proximity-seeking and instead trying to handle stressors alone. In contrast, high scores on anxious-insecure attachment (as discussed in last month’s blog) reflect hyperactivating strategies which are energetic attempts to attain greater proximity, support, and love combined with a lack of confidence that it will be provided. These variations along the dimensions of anxious-insecure and anxious-avoidant attachment reflect both a person’s sense of attachment security and the ways in which he or she or they deals with distress.

 

What is this saying exactly? Well, those with anxious-insecure attachment will activate their attachment system (seeking out others, asking for support, trying to find closeness with others to feel calm and safe) while those with anxious-avoidant attachment will deactivate their attachment system (move away from others, hide, isolate, work on solving the issue themselves) in times of stress. These are learned responses as a result of their early childhood relationships. One learned to move towards others when in distress, and the other learned to move away from others when in distress.

 

Why does this happen? The child who develops an anxious-avoidant attachment style has learned that it is best to suppress or minimize their needs and emotions to avoid disappointment or rejection. They have learned in times of their distress that their caretaker was not interested in supporting or soothing them and often would ignore or reject the child if they showed up with needs. As a result, the adult who came from this type of early environment may feel uncomfortable with intimacy, fear dependence on others, and have a strong desire for independence and self-reliance, especially if they find themselves in distress. Because when distressed, they are most vulnerable and the least likely to reach out. These folks are highly sensitive and dismiss the importance of intimate relationships, and end up isolating themselves from others, both in personal and professional settings, often as a self-protective measure. As a result, they suppress or downplay emotions, both internally to themselves and externally to others. This downplay of emotions is a deactivating strategy.


Individuals with anxious-avoidant attachment struggle with low self-worth. In addition, they often display symptoms of poor mental health, such as depression and anxiety. They have difficulty managing these feelings and symptoms effectively, are often found to stuff down their experience because they 1) don’t know how to communicate about it 2) they don’t have communication skills to ask for help 3) they fear asking for help 4) so they avoid asking for help 5) they avoid self-reflection and ultimately struggle with effective and healthy management of themselves and their symptoms. Others looking for support from a person with anxious-avoidant attachment will often be met with rejection. Some examples include: a person calling or texting them often, demanding of their attention, when they feel criticized, making plans for future commitments, and someone asking for emotional support. In these circumstances, folks with anxious-avoidant attachment use these deactivating strategies to serve the function of sustaining a comfortable space between themselves and other people. Use of deactivating strategies helps distance themselves from other people, because, in essence, they are strategies for protecting themselves from re-experiencing the pain and disappointment they experienced early in life, which occurred with people in whom they had closeness. As well, under stressful conditions, adults generally turn to others for support rather than thinking first about providing assistance and comfort to others, anyway. Only when they feel reasonably secure themselves can people invest time and energy to deal with others’ needs and suffering. And the person with anxious-avoidant attachment does not feel secure, and feels even less secure around other people. And even less secure in closeness with other people. With this in mind, it makes sense then that people with an anxious-avoidant attachment style are not equipped to invest time or energy into other people and their needs.






Insights for Leaders


Leaders with an Anxious-Avoidant Attachment Style

Since we’ve established (many times over now) that work evokes attachment themes, it seems likely that it does so for employees, as well as, leaders. Early childhood experiences also impact leadership schemas. Leaders’ attachment behaviors toward their employees function the same as attachment styles to people outside of work. The Experiences in Close Relationships Scale was adapted to apply to workplaces. Examples of adapted questions include (but certainly not limited to): 1) I get uncomfortable when my direct reports want to share their feelings with me. 2) I need reassurance that I am respected and valued by my direct reports.


Executives and leaders who have an anxious-avoidant attachment style are not comfortable being emotionally close with their employees.  They often prefer to put achievement ahead of relationships. These leaders are not likely to seek out approval or worry about their interpersonal relationships. Leaders with anxious-avoidant attachment report lower levels of emotional self-awareness and struggle with maintaining positive relationships. They struggle with being empathic and expressing an interest in social responsibility. They are likely to be somewhat introverted, not particularly assertive, and may have difficulty experiencing positive emotions or expressing warmth toward others. As a result, these leaders appear more negative and harder to approach.


If you are a supervisor or boss and have an anxious-avoidant attachment style, it’s likely that anxious people will make you more activated, including anxious employees that you supervise. This activation could lend itself to more harsh reactions from the anxious-avoidant boss toward anxious employees. This can lead to dissatisfaction and mistrust on the part of the employee. And this will certainly degrade a workplace setting over time. Employees want (and need) to feel safe and comfortable with their boss, and if they don’t, negative outcomes are likely to follow. Anxious-avoidant leaders are more likely to be considered callus and demeaning, making no efforts to hide that they don’t care. They tend to have high expectations and demand excellence from employees but do not provide a warm, stable, and supportive workplace environment. Other ways the anxious-avoidant leader may inadvertently contribute to a negative work environment are being demanding and dictatorial (the “I-know-better-than-these-people" phenomenon discussed earlier). They could have a strong need to be admired and liked, yet express strong disapproval of others and/or of their actions or accomplishments at work. This leader may seem anxious and unsure of themselves, even though they are demanding high performance from staff, and uncomfortable with others’ anxiety.


Leaders of Others with an Anxious-Avoidant Attachment Style

For leaders of others, consider if you have ever had a boss who you admired? Someone who you felt loyal to, who made you feel part of the team, and who motivated you to put forth extra effort and achieve more? Can you think of someone you’ve worked for in the past that exuded these qualities? If not, can you imagine what it might be like to have a boss like this? These types of leaders 1) provide a consistently warm, stable and supportive environment and 2) hold high expectations for achievement while providing employees with the resources and guidance (support at work) to get the job done. If you, the employee, fall short of expectations, you are advised and guided on how to do better next time without being shamed and ridiculed with this type of attentive leader. If you lead others who have anxious-avoidant attachment, it is extremely important you are mindful not to reject any need for support expressed by employees. If you react poorly or aggressively, this employee will likely never ask for support again, which could mean sometime later they are struggling with work and refuse to ask for help, therefore, quality of work suffers, as well as that employee’s satisfaction about work.


Current research has actually demonstrated a link between attachment styles and leadership, trust, satisfaction, performance and other outcomes. Like I said previously, more research has been done on workplace and attachment in the past 5 years than we’ve ever seen before! It’s really interesting that attachment style translates into a certain kind of leadership and that leadership style then has major impacts on employee trust, satisfaction, and performance. Leaders play a huge role in the overall temperature and feel at work. Leaders need to be aware of things like differences in behavior and responses according to attachment style, as well as, understanding themselves and their choices based on their attachment style, to really be an effective leader in today’s changing landscape. Considering employees as people, with behaviors, responses, and needs that won’t directly relate to work, is imperative to be an effective leader. There has to be room for nuance and accessing safety and allowing for personal agency, both for staff and leaders in a workplace. People don’t stop being people, with people (humanness) things going on just because they have shown up to work. They will still be a person, and allowing for their full human self to be supported and guided in healthy and effective ways at work will improve so many pieces and parts to the dynamics of a work environment.


Some key elements to foster if you are leader of those with anxious-avoidant attachment are focusing on cultivating trust between you and staff. You can do this by demonstrating honesty, transparency, and dependability. When you behave in ways that are open and predictable, those who work for you likely will feel more comfortable overall at work, and certainly comfortable at work even if they become distressed. Establishing this trust creates an environment for all parties to articulate needs, desires, problems, or concerns without hesitation. Transparency in a workplace setting is one of the best ways to foster an environment of trust.


Cons of Anxious-Avoidant Attachment at Work

It could be difficult to work with someone who has anxious-avoidant attachment because this employee is not the social type at work. They do not seek closeness with colleagues or leaders and do not rely on social support. Individuals with an anxious-avoidant attachment style might even have a negative perception of the people in their work environments, including the boss. They tend to view group activities as challenging, and beneath their level, and exhibit an overall distrust towards others. They also could be hard to work with because they prefer to work on their own. Sometimes, they might use work as an excuse to socialize with the group. They don’t want to establish strong bonds with co-workers and tend to put independence at the top of their priorities.


In addition, a potential threat to the atmosphere in the workplace is that anxious-avoidant employees might be resistant to leadership, critical of their supervisors or leaders, and unlikely to conform to the group. For these reasons, unlike anxious-insecure employees, anxious-avoidant individuals might be, to some extent, ‘troublemakers’ in the workplace.


A person with anxious-avoidant attachment may exhibit the following behaviors at work:

  • Less positivity and more negative emotions

  • Avoid interpersonal closeness and group tasks; prefer to work alone

  • Distant; use work commitment to avoid socializing

  • Negative view of and criticism towards the leader

  • Resistant to leadership and new information (when forming judgments)

  • Distrust towards others in general and towards the leader

  • Seek less support from others

  • Not conforming to groups wishes, not easy to work with on group tasks or projects

  • Withdrawing, or tuning out, from unpleasant conversations or insights

  • Fear of rejection

  • Strong sense of independence

  • Feelings of high self-esteem (in abilities, not necessarily self-view/worth) while having a negative view of others

  • Being overly focused on their own needs and comforts or projects at work

  • Change topics when someone else is sharing something


Distinction between anxious-insecure and anxious-avoidant attachment style at play in a work setting: Someone with anxious-insecure attachment would quickly open a potentially ‘threatening’ email and reply to it as quickly as possible to avert danger. Someone with an anxious-avoidant attachment style would see the email, freak out about it and then never open it (procrastinating to avoid rejection). Never reading the email creates a compounding paralyzing dread (less desire to address the situation the more feelings that arise about the situation). They fear bad outcomes so strongly they never discover if the email from a client was simply an F.Y.I. or a full-out tirade.

Pros of Anxious-Avoidant Attachment at Work


Even if the avoidant employee can sometimes be a ‘lone ranger’, they could still be a great asset to the group. According to Lavy, Bareli, and Ein-Dor (2014), avoidant employees can be superheroes when it comes to reacting quickly, effectively, and without hesitation – especially in threatening and dangerous situations. They can detect threats quickly and deal with danger efficiently. People with an anxious-avoidant attachment style are usually the quickest to act. They can also contribute to the productivity and overall focus of the group. When a deadline is upcoming, they are the most likely to get the job done. Furthermore, the avoidant colleague prefers to work independently and is good at doing so. They do not need extensive supervision or ‘micromanaging’ in order to complete their tasks.

 

In the right environment or on the right project, having someone who can work so independently and who is a self-starter can be a huge advantage. Because avoidants aren’t worried about people pleasing, they can be very quick to act and efficient when it comes to dealing with problems at work. If there’s a deadline, this is the person who will make sure the job is done, draw boundaries, focus, and be clear with others in what they should be doing. They are good at this when there is a clear objective.

A person with anxious-insecure attachment may exhibit the following behaviors at work:

 

  • Work well independently

  • Better capacity to sustain a focus on the tasks at hand

  • More likely to finish their work (as long as they find it important or interesting for them)

  • The quickest to act in times of danger (effectively, without hesitation)

  • Promote focusing on the task(s)

  • Adopt a result orientation in the workplace


Conclusion: What now?


Trauma-Informed Leadership

Ultimately, attachment styles are not just theories. They're a practical way to understand why and how we relate to our coworkers and leaders the way we do. As a leader, by acknowledging and respecting these diverse styles as a result of diverse human lived experiences, you can create a work environment that is more inclusive and accepting of differences and this type of environment nurtures everyone's potential.


Attachment dynamics in leader–follower (or supervisor—employee) relationships require special attention. In situations where leaders take on multiple roles, their time may need to be adjusted so that they can develop strong relationships with employees. A willingness to examine one's assumptions about the nature and dynamics of the leader–follower relationships is important. As noted by Kets de Vries (1978), only executives with the willingness for self-examination have the ability to create a healthy organizational climate. This falls right in line with where we are nearly 50 years later and the current discussion around trauma-informed leadership and the hallmark pillar of TI leadership is self-awareness. Without awareness of your own attachment style, and other behaviors and responses, the odds of you being a really good, effective, and respected leader are slim. It’s crazy to me that this concept was clearly considered and named important 50 years ago in the research about workplaces, however, we have yet, as a society, moved to adopting those practices today. Leaders are still not held accountable for this stuff, and really, they should be.


Interestingly, the research shows that those with anxious-avoidant styles are also over represented (relative to their proportion in the general population) among the ranks of leaders. This is because our society generally values their hard-charging, goal-directed, charismatic attitudes. But their charisma is usually self-serving, and research has shown that they often put achievement ahead of the welfare of their teams. In addition, people with anxious-insecure attachment styles may actually become more anxious and depressed under the leadership of an anxious-avoidant person.

Some traits and actions to consider to become a better, more informed leader include striving for clear and effective communication, both from you and from staff. Both parties should be able to voice concerns without fear of judgment or retaliation. The ever-insightful Brene Brown says, “Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.” and I couldn’t agree more! So, make your needs and expectations known clearly and in detail to prevent misunderstandings. Utilize specific wording and steer clear of vague or unclear statements. This clarity feels good for everyone’s nervous system. When expressing expectations of your team, avoid using an accusatory or confrontational tone. This will assist with the other party fully hearing and fully comprehending what you are asking of them. While articulating your expectations of employees and/or of their work, be receptive to feedback and be ready to participate in constructive discussions. This encourages you and your staff to discover solutions that are satisfactory to all parties involved. Learning to have open, transparent conversations in a relationship, any relationship, even work ones, is the cornerstone of effective emotion regulation. And as a leader, if you can’t effectively regulate your own emotions, then relationships at work are likely to suffer. Your ability to lead well is less likely, and your ability to lead with trauma-informed principles and practices is non-existent. Take time to understand attachments, trauma, and activations and then you’ll be a more trauma-informed leader, and this type of leadership results in better outcomes.


Practical steps

Addressing (and healing from) an anxious-avoidant attachment style involves self-reflection, self-awareness, and actively working on developing healthier patterns of relating to others. This may demand time, effort, and help from others, but change is possible. Pay close attention to situations that make you feel uncomfortable and provoke a need to shut down, run away, procrastinate, or avoid. Change lies in transforming your unconscious beliefs and assumptions underpinning your anxious-avoidant attachment behavior. Examine and challenge any negative beliefs or expectations you hold about relationships, intimacy, and vulnerability and replace them with more realistic and positive beliefs that promote healthy connections. This takes work, and may require scheduling with a mental health therapist to get to this transformational change. Those with anxious-avoidant attachment style unconsciously fear that their emotional needs or requests will lead to rejection. To operate differently, these expectations must be contested through new experiences that correct past childhood experiences. This may involve sharing your fears, desires, and insecurities with trusted individuals. Practice being present and open to emotional sharing and closeness.

 

How will addressing, healing from, and making behavioral adjustments to automatic attachment behaviors positively impact work environments? By addressing your anxious-avoidant tendencies, you can move towards a more satisfying, interconnected, and well-deserved work life. By learning to 1) identify and 2) express your emotions there’s greater chance for acceptance, both within yourself acceptance of your emotions, and with others' acceptance of your emotions. You must practice (again) to gain a new response from others that is not rejection to rewire your automatic assumptions and actions. So far, all of these suggestions hinge on increasing self-awareness so that you can make more intentional choices. Doing your own work to become more self-aware enables you, the anxious-avoidant person, to handle emotional challenges without harming relationships. And this is important for both leaders and employees with an anxious-avoidant attachment style.

 

What else can you address to change attachment behaviors? Improving your communication skills. Addressing ineffective and unhealthy communication is fundamental to overcoming anxious-avoidant attachment. By creating a channel for yourself, and others, to effectively convey emotions and needs, you will foster more meaningful conversations which will increase connectivity to others and improve satisfaction in the workplace. The development of active listening skills and assertiveness plays an integral part in this process. Active listening involves engaging in conversations and accurately interpreting the speaker’s sentiments. This establishes trust and human connection. Trust is a necessary component of a healthy work environment. Assertiveness is another healthy communication skill to grow. Assertiveness pertains to the direct and clear articulation of emotions and expectations while respecting others’ feelings and boundaries. This is a delicate balancing act that prevents avoidance of difficult discussions and promotes mutual understanding, care and respect among people.

 

Doing your own work raises your emotional intelligence quotient, and not just for you, but also for your ability to see and understand the emotions of others. Whether an employee or boss, this is necessary to achieve harmony in your workplace. In addition, recognizing and valuing your own personal emotions and needs increases self-respect, and reduces shame and self-doubt. Reducing shame and self-doubt will improve outlook and performance for any person. Without doing your own work, you may not be aware of why you think, feel, and behave the way you do. In order to create change, you must first become aware of what is happening within you when it comes to interactions with others. These practical steps are about learning to sit with your emotions by becoming conscious of their existence, observing them, and then challenging them with compassion. Learning to manage attachment insecurities is a process that takes time and patience, and may require guidance and accountability from a mental health professional. It’s worthwhile to do this self-work if you want to feel better and function better in your roles. It’s important to do this self-work if you want to be an effective leader. It’s absolutely necessary to do this self-work if you want to be a trauma-informed leader.

 

Ways to personally address your anxious-avoidant attachment:

  • Allowing yourself to receive emotional support from someone

  • Asking for help when you are feeling low or stressed (e.g., telling someone what you are feeling and ask them for advice)

  • Talking to someone about difficult experiences you have had

  • Listening to the concerns of someone else without withdrawing or changing topics

  • Making a list of things you like about another person

  • Keeping a gratitude diary in which you focus on the positives of the day, making a list of your strengths, and writing down when other people have been kind and supportive

 

Ways to professionally address your anxious-avoidant attachment:

  • Acknowledging that other people may have a point (even if you may not agree with their stated priorities, you may think you know better, and you may even think that the work is unimportant)

  • Listen to (and do) what your teammates ask of you (This requires self-work in recognizing that an idea different from yours is not necessarily wrong and that there is value in working harmoniously with others)

  • Stop fighting with what your supervisor wants, do tasks that are assigned

  • Pause when someone at work offers input; Don’t automatically dismiss it

  • Work on being more mindful (and self-aware) so you can notice when you are being dismissive or too focused on what you want to get done versus doing what’s been tasked to you

  • Start addressing your mistrust of others. Find ways to increase trust in other people

  • If you are procrastinating at a very high level, consider tackling things head-on consistently, schedule the scariest thing as the very first thing you do every day

  • If your supervisor has anxious-avoidant attachment, consider how you can clearly present data in an organized way and keep discussion about your feelings to a minimum

  • If you have anxious-insecure attachment, and your boss has anxious-avoidant attachment, try to calm and level yourself before addressing an issue, reporting a problem, or asking for support



For more, check out these resources:


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