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Your relationship with your parents has everything to do with your career success

by | 22 Jun, 2015

As much as you might want to forget you ever read this sentence, the truth is that whatever unresolved dynamics you have in your relationship with your parents will come to haunt you in your work life.

This is particularly relevant to you if:
– Your frustration with your boss is out of proportion to what is going on
– You have noticed a pattern is emerging because you don’t get along with any of your bosses
– You feel trapped in your relationship with you boss like you don’t have enough freedom
– You clash with your boss and none of the rational solutions you have tried so far are making a difference

But if you really want to excel in your career and fast-track your way up the corporate ladder we need to look at your family of origin and specifically your parents:

  1. Our mum and dad were the first authority figures in our lives and when we later get a boss we tend to (unconsciously) play out the same dynamic we had with our parents.
  2. If you haven’t got a great relationship with your parents, it is likely that you have tried to cut them off on some level. But to be a great leader you need to be really grounded, and when you cut off your parents it is like cutting off your roots. And we can all imagine how exhausting it is for a tree to try stand up tall without roots when the wind starts blowing.

In this post I will focus on reason number 1.

Here is the good news: You don’t need to even speak with your parents to sort this out. I am going to share a simple process that can make a a powerful difference for your current and future success.

First, let’s look at this a little closer.

Your parents were the first people “managing” you. So when you as an adult get other managers your relationship with them will tend be similar to the one you had with one or both of your parents.

The similarity will show up in the emotional reaction patterns. So if your father was absent and you will feel like you never got enough attention, you are likely to either assume that your boss won’t give you the time that you require or end up being needing chasing after your boss’ attention. See as human being we repeat experiences we haven’t fully processed and made peace with and the most important dynamic in our life is the one we are born into with our parents.

Completely unconsciously we project our childhood experiences of dealing with “authority” onto our boss.

So of course we cannot go back and change our childhood or our parents, and I am not asking you to look at the psychological history of your life. But what I can help you get is a better relationship with you manager. I will show you how to officially separate your relationship with your boss from your dynamics with your parents.

Exercise: How to officially separate your relationship with your boss from the dynamics your have with your parents

This exercise only takes a couple of minutes but can have an immediate impact on how you experience work and particularly your interactions with your boss.

1. Get yourself into a private room. You will need 10 mins on your own. Make sure you turn off your phone.

2. Close your eyes and imagine your boss in front of you (if you are the CEO imagine an investor / shareholder). Look at them in your imagination and notice what feelings come up.

 3. When you feel ready, say these words out loud to them:

“I think I got a little confused. There have been times where I mistook you for my mum/my dad and that made things a little clumsy. I am sorry for my part in this, and whatever unfinished business I have with my mum and dad I will deal with outside of work. I now I see that you are just my boss. And I am just your team member. And that makes everything much simpler.”

 4.  Breathe. Notice if you feel anything different. If you don’t, say the full sentences again exactly as they are written above giving yourself space to breathe fully in between each sentence.

It really works to say these words out loud because it helps release blocked energy and enables you to let go of the old pattern and get a new more productive relationship with you boss.

If you enjoyed this post you might really like to join The Constellations for Leadership and Change Program – you can read more here. It is an online program that is right for you if you are looking for an approach to leadership and organisational dynamics that works with the way human beings are naturally wired. Go here for more.


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