It is a fact of psychological life that much of our behaviour is based on how we were raised. So like it or not, we all bring parts of our biology and biography with us when we go to work - and that includes elements of our family relationships.

Many of our co-workers remind us of members of our families. So, we relate to them based on this often unconscious dynamic. Why?

As young children we learned to behave in ways that either brought us our parents’ and others’ love, approval, and acceptance and/or kept us safe from harm, trauma or abuse.

Yet all children at some time or other feel hurt or traumatized by parents or primary caregivers, most who are doing their best, but who – however unintentionally – negatively affect the child in some way through their language, judgments, criticisms or emotional or physical reactivity.

For many children, their home environment was wrapped in a mantra of their “never being good enough”.

This dynamic holds true even in households where everything was just beautiful and loving and no one raised their voice. In childhood, wounding on some level is a fact of life.

As a result, the child grows up carrying an emotional make-up that translates into feelings that they are somehow lacking or not good enough.

As the child grows into adolescence, they come to believe they need to think and behave in certain ways to protect their self from another’s real or perceived disapproval and criticism or from verbal or physical harm.

Fast-forward to adult life at work and it’s hardly surprising that adults unwittingly re-create this family dynamic.

Cue individuals often acting out their 3,4 or 5 year-old emotional selves, albeit in adult clothes and in adult bodies (especially those who insist, “I am an adult; I am mature, I am! I’m not being emotional!”).

These adults often see bosses and managers as parents and co-workers as siblings.

It’s not uncommon to witness workplace arguments, for example, that mimic family arguments and fights.

It’s not uncommon to witness workplace dysfunctional relationships, in-fighting, back-stabbing or even bullying traits that mimic sibling rivalries.

When they encounter co-workers or circumstances at work that threaten their sense of emotional safety or that make them feel unaccepted or undeserving of approval and love, their knee-jerk reactivity is to do whatever it takes to regain this acceptance.

Consciously or unconsciously, their fear of rejection and disapproval can lead individuals to resort to lying just as children lie to avoid being punished or losing the love and acceptance they truly want and seek.

• When you experience conflicts at work, are they more professional or personal?

• Do personality conflicts remind you of earlier life conflicts with parents or siblings?

• Do you ever experience hurt, resentment anger or fear at work? Is it “professional” or
“personal”? Are you really sure?

• Do personal issues interfere with your ability to work effectively with others?
Are these “their” issues or “your” issues. Are you really sure?

• Do you have a tendency to take things personally? What would your friends and
colleagues say?

• How have personalised assessments of others, or one another, affected your ability to
resolve conflicts in your workplace relationships?

• You know you have “bad days.” Do you allow others to have “bad days” as well?

• Can you spot ways you bring your “biology” or “biography” (i.e., your “family) to work?

Spending some time on self-awareness work, you may discover ways you have worn masks and put on false personalities to cover up feelings of inadequacy, or the "shadow side" of your personality that serves as the hidden driver of negative reactivity and self-sabotaging beliefs. In turn recognising false self-images allows you to "show up" as authentic, as your true and real self

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