Fearful Avoidant Attachment at Work: Causes, Signs & Overcoming It

Developing Your Full Leadership Potential

Fearful avoidant attachment at work is one of the emotional characters that may harm your ability to lead. It affects your behavior, and tends to become more obstructive to your performance the higher up the ladder your career takes you.+

Is your leadership career suffering because of fearful-avoidant attachment? How do you know? And if this is your dominant character trait, how can you overcome it?

What is fearful-avoidant attachment at work?

Research has shown that fearful-avoidant attachment affects around 7% of the population. It causes you to be both anxious and avoidant. You have a deep need to have meaningful relationships, but at the same time, you push people away. You find it hard to trust others, and you probably have the most psychological and relational risks. 

Research into fearful-avoidant attachment has mostly concentrated on its impacts on personal relationships and its effects on partnerships and marriage. However, with increasing realization that successful leadership is highly dependent on relationship building, it is apparent that those who exhibit the behaviors of fearful-avoidant attachment may have less-rewarding careers in leadership.

In the worst cases, attachment disorders can cause you to have low self-esteem, suffer from jealousy and trust issues, are unable to show empathy and support others, and react impulsively with uncertain temperament.


10 signs of fearful-avoidant attachment at work

Attachment disorders often cause few issues in the early stages of a career heading toward leadership. Your focus is likely to be narrow. 

As your sphere of responsibility widens and you become more senior, you will be expected to be more proactive. Especially, you will be called upon to motivate and inspire others, perhaps coaching and mentoring younger executives. 

You will take on larger projects, and be expected to lead them without direction from above. As you climb the ladder, you may begin to exhibit the behavior characteristics associated with attachment disorders. The following are 10 signs of having fearful-avoidant attachment:

  1. You look for clues that others are upset with you.

  2. If you are worried about something, you plan what you will say but don’t say it.

  3. Your close workplace relationships are blighted by different moods – when you talk with someone, your moods always seem to clash.

  4. You take actions by others as directed personally toward you.

  5. You feel as if you have little control over your future, and that you just can’t win.

  6. You find it difficult to disagree with peers. When you do, you usually do so angrily.

  7. You are uncomfortable with forming close, open relationships at work.

  8. You try to avoid conflict and showing vulnerability.

  9. You want to build strong relationships with others at work, but close down when you get ‘too close’.

  10. You miss a close colleague when they are away from work, but argue with them when they return.

In short, if you tend to pick faults in others, are fearful of forming close relationships, are anxious about your own relational inadequacies, or withdraw from a relationship because you are getting too close, then you may have fearful avoidant tendencies.

What causes fearful-avoidant attachment?

Scientific research has shown that fearful-avoidant attachment is highly linked to childhood – especially under the age of two. Exposure to neglect or abuse can cause long-term damage to how the brain regulates emotions. 

Those with fearful avoidant attachment have usually experienced difficult childhoods, perhaps in fear of their parents, guardians, or caregivers. When care and love was sought by the child, the person they approached for care and love made them fearful or confused.

Overcoming fearful-avoidant attachment is hard, but not impossible

It is difficult to overcome attachment disorders, but not impossible. Therapy can help you understand your personality and emotional style, and help you to develop recognition techniques and positive behaviors. A good therapist will help you uncover the underlying issues that have caused your attachment style.

Of course, the first step is to recognize your personality style and how it affects your leadership style and ability. Acting to improve your emotional intelligence and increase your self-awareness is a critical enabling strategy to realizing your full potential in leadership.

Our leadership assessments will help you determine your strengths and weaknesses, and your coaching needs.


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