Why It Makes Sense to Know Your Attachment Style

As noted in a previous post, attachment styles are persistent patterns of perceiving and participating in social interactions.

    • One dimension of attachment is anxiety that includes worrying about being too close as well as worrying about being deserted. Relationships provide diverse opportunities for worry.

    • The second dimension is avoidance that covers the amount of emotional distance people prefer in their social relationships. Regarding worklife, some people strive to have a best friend at work while others prefer to maintain an emotional distance from other people at work.

It is valuable for leaders at all levels of an organization to understand their own attachment style. The core insight from the attachment framework is that people differ in their experience of relationships. Some people thrive in a social context while others are wracked with anxiety. Some people value close working partnerships while others feel crowded by close contact with others.

What Is the Difference?

Leaders with a secure attachment style can be effective in close working relationships. Close contact with others provides an opportunity to extend their range of options and their access to the talents and insights of colleagues. They are free from anxiety when working with people. This style works great when working with employees with a similar approach to relationships. However, it can clash seriously when working with employees who are dominated by social anxiety or for whom closeness is problematic.

Our surveys show that the happiest employees are those with a secure attachment style that matches the secure attachment style of their first line manager. The least happy employees were high on avoidance, anxiety, or both who reported to a secure manager.

This pattern suggests that having a secure approach to working relationships is not enough to assure effective leadership. It is also essential for leaders to perceive the attachment style of employees and for leaders to adapt their social interactions to accommodate these employees’ different way of being.

Bottom Line

A deep appreciation of diverse relationship styles assures a more engaged and resilient workgroup.

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